Back in February, JCPenney named Ellen DeGeneres as one of its spokespersons. The move sparked some controversy which, frankly, struck me as ridiculous. DeGeneres is openly gay, but her appeal as a talk show host has little if anything to do with her sexual orientation.
I’m afraid the uproar over her selection made the protesters seem, well, petty; and it certainly reinforced the widely held stereotype that Christians’ objections to “gay rights” are a matter of prejudice.
It probably also even emboldened the people at JCPenney to up the ante by running a Father’s Day ad featuring a same-sex couple. The whole thing was pretty counterproductive.
Look, I’m as concerned about cultural messages as anyone. I’m a father. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this — and the wrong way definitely includes the permanent state of umbrage that many Christians seem to exhibit. They seem to have confused being salt and light with being curmudgeons.
Here’s a particularly egregious case in point: the recent campaign to remove a great movie, The Blind Side, from the shelves of LifeWay Christian stores. Remember, The Blind Side was denounced as Christian propaganda by many liberal critics. It explicitly depicts an affluent white Christian family devoting itself to helping an impoverished black kid because it’s the Christian thing to do.
The film’s offense, according to a Florida pastor who started the campaign to have LifeWay stores pull the DVD, is that the movie contains “explicit profanity, God's name in vain, and racial slurs.” It doesn’t seem to matter that the objectionable language is used to depict the palpably unpleasant world from which the young black man, Michael, was rescued by his adoptive family.
What seems to matter to this pastor is that if we “tolerate” the presence of this movie in Christian bookstores, our children and grandchildren will “embrace” this kind of behavior. I’m not making this up – this is the exact reason given by the pastor. And frankly, I think it’s insane. I saw the movie myself. I even let my 12-year-old daughter see it. That’s because it is a great film and I recommend it highly.
But sadly, LifeWay caved in and removed the “offensive” discs from their shelves.
For outsiders looking in, the moral of the story is that “there is no pleasing Christians. They always seem to be looking for something to be mad about.”
We complain about the calumnies and caricatures of Christians on the big screen; and then, when an Academy Award-winning film shows us at our very best, we complain that scenes depicting harsh, inner-city reality are too true to life!
We are, in effect, making our participation contingent on all our possible objections being met beforehand. Since there are many people who would be happy if we stayed within our cultural and religious ghettos, it’s difficult to imagine how we Christians can hope to be taken seriously in cultural discussions and debates with this kind of an approach.
Concerns about the language in the film also miss the larger point: what made the Tuohys — the family depicted in the film — such great Christian exemplars wasn’t their non-use of profanity; it was their willingness to reach out and embrace someone in need.
If we Christians can’t get this, then maybe we really should refrain from commenting on culture in the first place.
For more on this subject of Christians in the arts and culture, visit BreakPoint.org.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: July 5, 2012