Behind the scenes

"Behind the scenes" Continued...

Issue: "The battle," March 24, 2012

Small things can make a difference. When Larissa Lam was on set for a music video for her husband, rapper Only Won, she took the time to learn the names of the extras: They "are usually treated as discardable, they're seen as props, so we made a direct effort to give people a chance to shine." After the shoot she performed a Christian song and prayed for them. Lam noted that one extra emailed her afterward and wrote that she wanted to get back to church.

Stories to tell

Ceding art and entertainment to unbelievers is a mistake

By John R. Erickson

In 1985 CBS Television made a 30-minute animated cartoon out of my first Hank the Cowdog book. I was thrilled to get the exposure offered by a Saturday morning cartoon, aired on national television. At least half the population of my Perryton, Texas, hometown watched it. Everyone was proud that a local book had made it to the Big Time.

CBS did a first-class, professional job with the animation, the character voices, and the music-but made subtle changes to my story.

In my books, Hank's ranch is a family cattle operation, involving a husband (Loper), a wife (Sally May), and a hired hand (Slim). Loper and Sally May have two children, two dogs, and a cat. Their ranch is typical of cattle operations in Texas and the Southwest.

The CBS version turned the cattle ranch into a chicken farm, and Sally May had become the boss. Loper and Slim were her hired hands, and there was no suggestion of marriage or a biblical family unit. The children had disappeared from the story, and one assumed that Sally May and the men lived together in the ranch house-one big, happy, postmodern family. CBS used my teacher-trusted, family-tested story as a carrier for its feminist, beef-hating agenda.

On a typical Sunday morning, my pastor preaches a Christian message to 150 people. The CBS cartoon probably entered 10 million to 15 million living rooms, where unsuspecting children absorbed it along with their chips and soda pop.

This is the challenge Christians face in today's media-drenched world. We preach. We present well-reasoned arguments and back them up with Scripture. We organize boycotts and sign petitions. And in the arena of popular culture, we're getting creamed, because we have allowed someone else to tell our stories.

In her powerful study of art and media, Nancy Pearcey notes, "Ideas penetrate our minds most deeply when communicated through the imaginative language of image, story, and symbol" (Saving Leonardo, p. 11). Pearcey urges Christians to stop complaining about rotten art and entertainment, and to start offering an alternative that is better.

Christians often regard entertainment as a second-rate profession, inferior to preaching or missionary work, but storytelling satisfies a deep human need, and we should feel comfortable in the story business. The Old Testament is a collection of stories, and Jesus used parables to reach people of all ages and levels of sophistication.

In the history of our church, storytelling came first. Theology, doctrine, and scholarship came later. Ours is an age of electronic parables. Every movie and TV show presents a worldview, a set of beliefs that tell us who we are, where we came from, and how we're supposed to behave in this life.

If Christians don't present our own version of reality-with a high level of professionalism, and in the media of the times-who will do it?

Angela Lu
Angela Lu

Angela is a reporter for WORLD Magazine who lives and works in Taiwan. She enjoys cooking, reading, and storytelling. Follow Angela on Twitter @angela818.


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