Christians, You Don't Owe Christian Media Any Loyalty

(AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

“The Chosen” is an objectively good show whether you’re a Christian or not. It’s binge-worthy television that is just as well written as it is performed. I don’t find myself getting any urges to look at my phone while it’s on my screen and I’m absolutely engrossed in what is being said. It has plotlines within plotlines and realistic character development.

The fascinating thing about “The Chosen” is that the entirety of the show revolves around a message given to us by Jesus Christ, and yet, it’s not something I’ve come to revile in this day and age; “message-first storytelling.” It builds and flows naturally, and allows the story to get the point across. The message is there, but it’s told through the story first.

Watch this clip of Jesus talking to the woman at the well, which the show took time to establish as a recognizable character. The scene takes its time, a relationship is established, points are made, and all in a way that looks like it could be a conversation that could happen right in front of you au natural for all its supernaturality. The message is delivered, but it’s done so seamlessly that you absorb it through the story without a note of preachiness that takes you out of the scene.

At one point, the woman says “I am rejected by others” and Jesus responds “I know, but not by the messiah” and you feel it because the scene allowed you to relate to the woman. She’s no longer some distant figure from an old story, she’s you, and the message from Christ that was written down ages ago hits you like a freshly thrown punch.

“The Chosen” avoids one of the biggest mistakes made in Christian media today.

Going back over my writing on where we are as a culture, you’ll see me bring this phrase up a lot. “Message-first storytelling” is a descriptive way of saying “propaganda” and I’ve made it pretty clear that propaganda is not entertainment. It’s a lesson that various mainstream studios are having a hard time learning, especially Disney. They want to sell you a socio-political idea so badly that they sacrifice story and character development for it.

We often look down on mainstream culture for it lately, but the people who do that far worse than anyone else are Christian creators. “The Chosen” is the exception, not the rule. It’s the oasis in a desert of what I’ve openly said is very bad Christian media.

(READ: Christian Film is Garbage and We Have to Take a Different Approach)

Christian filmmaking is generally hollow, uninspired despite what it’s inspired by, and so obsessed with getting the message across that it forgets to worry about the delivery system for the message. If you have the cure for a sickness that must be injected into the arm, then you’ll do the patient no good by loading it into a squirt gun and soaking his shirt with it. He’ll just be annoyed as well as sick.

That’s Christian media in a nutshell, and for all intents and purposes, this kind of thing should have died long ago. The problem is that it hasn’t and Christians share a large portion of the blame, though it’s through a well-meaning fault being exploited by Christian media creators.

There’s an episode of South Park where Eric Cartman decides to create a Christian music band in order to spite his friends, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny, who kicked him out of their band. Cartman’s aim is to sell more albums than the other boys, and despite not being a Christian, he leans into that genre because, as he reasons, Christian music has a built-in audience of millions who will buy his stuff whether it’s good or not. He’s very quickly proven right.

While I’m not accusing Christian media creators of being as evil as Cartman, I do accuse many of them of having that same reasoning. They know they can churn out half-assed garbage and it’ll sell because their audience truly loves Jesus and wants to spread the word, so they’ll buy this product made by Christians in hopes of bolstering the gospel and establishing an entertainment infrastructure that will reach out and touch non-believers too.

What they actually do is exacerbate the problem. They encourage more message-first storytelling that’s so bad that most Christians won’t even watch it unless they’re obligated to. The money comes in and from there it goes to various places but rarely where it needs to, which is the hiring of better talent, better writers, and a more experienced crew.

“The Chosen” is a rarity that deserves praise, attention, and your money. It earns it through the hard work and dedication of the cast and crew who care enough about the show to not let it devolve into something as shallow as Christian propaganda, but an elegantly told story that lets no scene or line go to waste and delivers an impactful statement through setting, character, and dialogue.

However, much of the Christian media landscape does not take this level of care, and I’m here to tell you that you owe them nothing. Not your attention or your cash. Being a Christian does not automatically entitle one to Christian money and you need to feel no guilt over turning your back on it.

I don’t say this to be cruel and I absolutely believe in the idea of Christian media, but Christian audiences shouldn’t feel like they have to support it. That kind of thinking will allow mediocrity to thrive.

Reward what deserves rewarding.


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