Saturday, September 29, 2012

Faith and Artistic Expression - Is "Christian" Synonymous with "Family Friendly"?

Just saw a post for a Christian film festival.  Here's what it said:  
Committed to the highest quality productions in the film industry, The San Diego Christian Film Festival is trying to Change the Face of Film with better stories, exceptional productions, and family friendly movies for the entire world to watch.
(The emphasis on "family friendly" is mine.)

I couldn't help wondering why a Christian film was assumed to be family friendly.  The Bible is filled with violence, and even sex, polygamy and incest.  The Christian story has plenty of room for the dark side.  When we start thinking "Christian" means "whitewashed," I think we've missed something.  The crucifixion, for example, is not family friendly (i.e. I can bring my children).  Wrestling the dark side of human nature, facing down your greatest temptations, aren't necessarily family friendly topics.  But they are, in my opinion, Christian topics.

This bothers me, this implicit assumption of what Christian art or literature may encompass.  It is small.  Narrowing.  The Christianity I learned about was predicated on the notion that human beings are, by nature, flawed, imperfect and incapable of living up to the level of purity required by God.  Part of what makes the gospel powerful is the idea that God came down and lived as a human being, with all the doubt and longing and darkness and grief and misery that implies, thereby creating a bridge between us humans, fallible and flawed creatures, and the divine.  So, an artistic exploration of Christian faith should allow for an exploration of those flaws, imperfections, ugliness.  

If you want a "family friendly" film festival, call it that.  It is, after all, one view of the role of art - to depict something beautiful and transcendent towards which we might strive.  But it's not the only view of art.  The Christianity I know is not necessarily synonymous with "family friendly."  And that's not a bad thing.

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