Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Missing Ingredient

Recently, I was invited to speak to the Christian Magician’s Association. We talked about the role and the responsibility of Christian entertainers and performers. How do we communicate Christ to our audience in an effective manner? Of course, one of my favorite topics came up—what is a media missionary?

One of the members of the group asked me if I thought Tyler Perry was a media missionary. He had recently watched “I Can Do Bad All by Myself”. He observed how effortlessly Christian themes and concepts had been woven into the story. I have never met or talked to Tyler Perry. It’s my understanding that he has gone on the record to express his faith and belief in God. Based on his work, I think Tyler Perry is on to something. Yes I would consider him a classic example of a media missionary.

In fact, I think he does it without realizing what he’s doing. Perry writes from his own experiences and observations of the community he grew up in. It’s a diverse community which represents both good and bad. In Tyler Perry’s works you will find the full display of the human condition. That also included those who are struggling with issues of faith and sin. He is not afraid to go to places other people fear to go to. What he does is extraordinary and rare to say the least. Perry has found the missing ingredient.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that an alien from a different world visited our world. What observations and views would our alien friend conclude about our society after a week of watching our mass media, network television programming and feature films? After close analysis and observation, he would probably think that we emphasize wealth, power, money, sex, and possessions. Although he would see isolated pockets of faith, belief, and Christianity being reflected, it would not be much of a factor in his overall conclusions and would consider faith and belief as not important. But we know that’s not true. Christianity is still important in the lives of millions of people in our society.

Although weakened over the past few decades, Christianity, belief and faith are still relevant even though this view is not reflected in our mass media. This leads us to ask the question whether it is possible that mass media is changing our view of faith and Christianity. There are many theories on how media impacts us on an individual and corporate level. One theory states that media does not tell us how to think, but instead tells us what to think about. Our society has concluded on a conscious or subconscious level that Christianity is not important or relevant to our lives. Why? Because it is not represented in our media. As our alien friend has observed, we put enormous value on wealth, money, sex, etc. because they are paramount in our mass media. I argue that media does not reflect at a proper level the importance of faith, belief and Christianity.

By simply taking something out, over time it becomes irrelevant. After a period of time the media  becomes a form of conditioning or mind control. We become what we see and hear—we adapt to it. If we have any hope of changing culture or changing the course of our society, issues of faith, belief and Christianity must be reflected in our mass media, which gets us back to Tyler Perry.

As my friend at the meeting of Christian magicians observed, Tyler Perry is a media missionary. However, Tyler is just one filmmaker. Yes, he is making an impact. But we need hundreds if not thousands of Tyler Perrys if we have any hope of making a significant impact for faith, belief, and Christianity.

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