Christian entertainment is made in 2 basic forms nowadays: direct evangelism, and children’s entertainment. It seems as though regular plots in which the characters ultimately succeed in overcoming their challenges by responding from a Christian worldview don’t exist. Recently Straight works differently, weaving the truth of Christianity throughout its content and production.
Direct evangelistic entertainment is any entertainment in which the primary cathartic moment is a character’s acceptance of Christ as savior. I don’t have any problem with evangelistic entertainment, in fact I think it can be effective. On the other hand, having every ‘christian’ movie have the same plot twist does get a little monotonous. Do we never get to see the sanctification portion of life? Paul altered his approach depending on what the people he preached to believed, but in something like a feature-length film, it also ends up being a bit of a hard sell. Without the ability to adjust it’s pacing and approach live with feedback from the viewer, pre-recorded content doesn’t respond to the fears and concerns of the individual.
On the other side, “Christian” entertainment frequently takes the form of children’s entertainment. In fact, “family” entertainment has almost become synonymous with “children’s” entertainment, and “adult” entertainment has become synonymous with entertainment against the morality of Christianity. Again, I’m not in any way against children’s entertainment existing, but there is some content that adults need to master which is inappropriate for children, homosexuality is one of those topics, which meant writing a “children’s'” version of the Recently Straight series was not an option. Re-enacting these true stories gives us many challenges of what and how we portray content. More articles on that here. My guiding principle has been that while characters’ sins are portrayed, we should not sin by portraying them, so many events are simulated, just implied, and in some cases, we do only describe what happened.
The vast majority of modern entertainment is what I classify as “non-Christian”, meaning it is based on a worldview contrary to the Biblical worldview, but does not challenge (by name) the Bible. In many situations, it is not readily apparent that the story is based on a non-biblical worldview, especially when we don’t know whether the writer likes or dislikes what the characters are doing until a final moment, and someone apologizes, or the music swells expressing either joy or anger.
Something which directly calls out uniquely Christian doctrine, history or symbolism and alters its meaning to an anti-Christian meaning is what I call “anti-Christian” entertainment. While it may seem that this is far worse than non-Christian entertainment, I think it’s not as effective at actually leading people away from the gospel as non-Christian entertainment because Christians know that it is opposed to what they believe. It’s easy to recognize and counter anti-Christian movies and TV shows, such as the recent “Noah” movie. Whereas a generically secular production doesn’t elicit such a response from the Church. Instead, it’s presuppositions sink in to the minds of believers in the background, unnoticed.
Stories as a Godly teaching tool.
God uses stories as a teaching tool, and in contrast to everything that shows up on TV, His stories are all true. While Jesus’s parables jump out as a shining example, I see nearly the entire Old Testament as a recounting in story form.
Why recently straight breaks out of the box
Back in the real world, without the saturation of meticulously tweaked stories leading us into an unreality, we experience what Alfred Hitchcock calls the “boring bits”. Yet, it’s this dismissal of our own peaceful thought life which causes us to miss the goal of our continued existence here: living out the intention to love each other. In some ways, I’d say what I’d like to see as the results of inspiration of entertainment is for each person to write their own triumph story: a story of love, in which the individual considers and plans out how they can love someone. Seeing all the intention, all the forethought, all the consideration of the other, all the empathy, this is a fullness of life. It’s these stories we emphasize. Each man is working out the details in his on life, in his own relationships. He must learn to love God, himself, and others. Just as Jesus used stories to teach patterns of how we can fulfill our intentions to love, how to recognize when we fail, and as metaphors for spiritual truths, so we use our dramatic reenactments of the lives of men on their journeys to inspire those patterns and recognition in the Church.