I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Christian vs. CHRISTIAN!

For those of you concerned that Fox’s new “religious oriented” division FoxFaith is planning to release sensitive and thoughtful works of art that examine and celebrate the complexity of the diverse faith landscape that we call the United States of America, you can relax. When they say "religious" or "faith-based" they mean one particular branch of one particular religion. It looks like their first movie is a western by Christian writer Janette Oke. For the rest of us there’s still the occasional documentary or newsmagazine on PBS.

Needless to say, this project came out of the enormous success of movies like the Passion of the Christ, which brought out a great many people curious both about the Bible and about how Mel Gibson would work out as a director. This is somewhat dubious if what you are looking for is nuanced social commentary but, no doubt, Fox will be outrageously successful. The special effects for the next Left Behind movie will, I am sure, be jaw-dropping.

One thing that concerns me in this new urge to define a “Christian” market group in a country where most people (churched and unchurched) identify as Christian is the fact that it makes little or no sense religiously. Am I really less of a Christian than Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins? Golly, I hope not. Do I really need to see these movies or buy the books (other than the Good Book, of course) that are geared to the Madison Avenue Christian? Again, they are not my bag. Yet they—like those fish thingys—are becoming part of the “must have” gear for the well-equipped person of faith.

My biggest problem is that this new target group isn’t one I am in and I don’t intend to change my lifestyle so I can fit it. There are few, if any members of my church who would feel comfortable in that “Christian audience” that Fox and others describe. This seems to me and, I suspect, to other Liberal Christians to be another circle drawn to keep us out. I am reminded of those covenant marriages, which somehow make people “more married”. In this case it probably wasn’t intentional so much as an accidental result of a chance to make some cash...

Fox and others have managed to label some Christians as CHRISTIANS, as have some of those CHRISTIANS themselves. The rest—based on their artistic, political, and consumer tendencies—apparently are something else. I guess we need to draw another bigger circle to keep us all part of that movement founded (not sold) by a guy named Jesus so long ago. Keep the faith, people!

Rulers take pleasure in honest lips; they value one who speaks the truth. Proverbs 16:13