Simple ways your church can impact Hollywood
As a Christian who works in Hollywood, nothing frustrates me more than seeing the vast chasm separating those two worlds from each other. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.
For too many generations, we who claim the name and the cause of Christ have ceded pop culture to others, walking away years ago in a well-intentioned but ultimately self-defeating attempt to lodge our displeasure. We have all too often allowed ourselves to get involved in harebrained, quixotic efforts (boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, etc.) that have amounted to little more than making us look like a bunch of whiney chumps.
Much of our failure with Hollywood is due to a severe lack of relationship. We demand changes, issue threats and dismiss a whole industry as evil, all without ever trying to build any trust or friendship. It’s like a stranger telling you you’re fat and demanding that you go on a diet. They might be right, but how would you feel?
Grace Hill Media, the company I founded 13 years ago—it wasn’t even a company then, just me—has been trying to change that one project at a time. We’ve worked on more than 350 movie and TV projects now, including Les Misérables, The Hobbit, The Blind Side, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Bible series, The Chronicles of Narnia series, Walk the Line, Man of Steel and 42, to name a few. Our goal is to extract spiritual lessons from secular films, highlighting for the faith community entertainment that shares in our beliefs, explores our values and enhances and elevates our view of the world.
But it’s time for a grander vision for the world’s 2.2 billion Christians to change the future by looking to our past.
There was a time when the Church was a patron of the arts, where we worked in concert with the great artists to create timeless, transcendent beauty. We wanted great art, and we were willing to pay the best artists to make it. I dare you to walk in St. Peter’s Basilica and not be awestruck. Or stand in front of Michelangelo’s Pietà and not be moved by the sacrifice of Mary. I dare you to visit Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” fresco at the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan and not be lured in by the startled reactions of the disciples when Jesus announces that one of them would betray Him.
But the definition of “patron of the arts” has changed over five centuries. No longer a rich aristocrat, a “patron” today is the audience, the ticket-buying consumer. And that’s how we can forever alter the cultural landscape. Christians are a huge demographic in this country and around the world. If only a tiny percentage of us decides to act in unison, we can make any project we want a hit—any time we want. We can turn the game of Hollywood on its ear by making ourselves a desirable, bankable audience.
If we support movies that spotlight and reinforce our biblical values—as we did with the excellent, Oscar-winning Les Misérables—Hollywood will make more. That’s how the industry works; it chases money and momentum. In fact, already in the pipeline are projects like Noah, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and a retelling of the story of Moses being developed by Steven Spielberg. And there are countless others in development: Paradise Lost, Pilate with Brad Pitt, Cain and Abel with Will Smith. The list goes on and on.
Each time one of these projects gets made, it also gets marketed with tens of millions of dollars, both domestically and internationally. That’s a free global advertising campaign for our faith. That means the Bible becomes a staple in pop culture. The gospel gets preached worldwide.
When that happens, we’re looking at another Renaissance. And isn’t that a lot more appealing, and eternally significant, than another boycott?
Jonathan Bock is the president of Grace Hill Media and the founder of As1.org.