Let there be no mistake, I believe that these decisions of Every Tribe Entertainment (ETE), the production company, were at best incomprehensibly foolish and at worst reprehensible. And I lean toward the latter. Therefore, my complaint here is not with the message of these authors or the stand they have taken. In substance, I'm convinced they are dead right.
What crystallized my thinking on this issue was an e-mail from a friend today discussing an article on the controversy that was sent to us by a mutual friend. (By the way, Josh Scheiderer has been a long-time source of wisdom in my life, and he really ought to be blogging.) Here's the first sentence of his e-mail to me today:
I'm sorry, but if this is the where the "Christian worldview" has taken us (movies about the power of the gospel without overtly declaring the gospel, not in sermonic form but in theatric fashion) then Christians have been duped again.Bingo. It clicked.
The source of my sense of unease is that Christians are shooting at the wrong target. The root problem is not Steve Saint or ETE. It is in Christians themselves who have unrealistically optimistic expectations for the redemption of culture. You've heard it all before when evangelical leaders have talked about the newest, biggest victory in the battle to inject Christianity into the culture. I don't need to go through a recital of recent blockbuster movies and religious-themed pop music and sports stars who point at the sky or bow for two seconds to pray when they score a touchdown.
What really seems to be ticking Christians off is that the grand evangelical strategy is blowing up in our faces. We've fought so hard to get a seat at the table, and now we find out that the food stinks. Haven't we gone through this song and dance before? Why are all our eyes bugging out and our chins dragging on the floor as if this were some big surprise?
I realize putting this in bold italics will not make a believer out of anyone, but I'm going to do it anyway: WE ARE NOT GOING TO REDEEM CULTURE. The problem is not that we don't like the movie; it's that we care. The problem is not that the production company blew it; it's that we're surprised. The root problem is not even the production company's choices; it's with those who are foisting this cultural mandate on evangelicalism as if it were the grand pinnacle of the Church's mission.
To my fellow dispensationalists (of whatever stripe ye may be—likely even more of one than I): Your arguments are right, and you're not wrong to take it public. I just don't quite get why it's such a big deal. This is somebody else's mess, and it's a big one. Don't spend too much of your valuable time trying to clean it up. They're just going to start another foodfight sooner or later.