In her short story "The Displaced Person," Flannery O'Connor had a character for whom "Christ in the conversation embarrassed her the way sex did her mother."
In many circles, talking about sex is no longer taboo, but talking about Christianity is taboo. Many secularists have no problem with explicit sex and violence, but they find explicit Christianity terribly offensive.
Now Christianity is joining bad language, nudity, and gore as an element that movie ratings warn us against.
Facing the Giants is an evangelistic movie made by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the "associate pastors of media" at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. The story of the spiritual life of a football coach includes miracles, prayer, and a gospel presentation.
Distributor Provident Films picked up the movie for a limited release next fall. The filmmakers expected the Motion Picture Association of America to give the film a G rating. After all, the movie has no profanity, no sex, no violence, and wholesome messages.
But instead, the MPAA rated Facing the Giants PG, meaning children need "parental guidance" to see it. The panel "decided that the movie was heavily laden with messages from one religion and that this might offend people from other religions," said Kris Fuhr, vice president for marketing at Provident Films, to columnist Terry Mattingly. "It's important that they used the word proselytizing when they talked about giving this movie a PG."
Christianity may become the next sex and violence. The day may come when a movie will get an R for Religion.
Why are references to Christ so offensive? In today's climate, religion is relative. According to the conventional wisdom, no one religion is true for everyone, and all religions are equally valid. Mention of a generic "God" is acceptable, as long as He is not defined. So is invocation of other concepts common to various religions, such as prayer, spirituality, mystical experiences, and salvation by good works.
But Jesus Christ is too specific. God in the flesh is too tangible. And He says, "No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). That Jesus-despite His goodness and love-offends people is simply more evidence that the Bible is true. He is "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" (1 Peter 2:8). That He died on the cross for our sins is especially offensive (Galatians 5:11).
So no one should be surprised when secularists react to Jesus with shock and outrage. But "blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (Matthew 11:6).
Editor's Note: Gene Edward Veith joined WORLD a decade ago while teaching at Concordia University in Wisconsin, became a full-time staffer in 2004, and will now be part-time again as he resumes his primary calling as Academic Dean of Patrick Henry College in Virginia. Ed has produced over the years not only thoughtful columns but meaty books such as Loving God with All Your Mind. He'll continue with us as a senior writer producing a monthly column.