Why is Christian media bad?

Media that is specifically branded as Christian—such as Christian rock, or any movies that appear on PureFlix—has a reputation for being bad, to put it lightly. Why is that?

To contextualize this question, I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with producing, consuming, or enjoying “bad” media. You could say I’m antagonistic to Christianity and Christian values, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that their media must be bad too.  And saying that Christian media is bad does not necessarily argue that Christianity itself is bad. We can imagine a possible world where atheists didn’t like Christianity but had to begrudgingly admit that Christian media was high quality. In fact, atheists do tend to say positive things about a few specific Christian works, such as Jesus Christ Superstar.

To further motivate the question, I think a lot of media geared towards queer audiences is bad. I’ve watched quite a number of LGBT movies, and not only do they get lower review scores on average, I also have a subjective experience of lower quality. I accept the lower quality, because I’m interested in the genre and representation.  But why is it bad?  Could Christian media be following similar dynamics, or is it an entirely different beast?

Putting this upfront, I don’t really know much about Christian media. What we call Christian media might more properly be called Evangelical Christian media, and I experienced none of it when I grew up Catholic. All that I have are some questions and speculation.

The first major question is, how does the target audience of Christian media perceive its quality? Do they begrudgingly tolerate low quality media as the price of media that caters to their needs; or do they think that Christian media is great actually?

If Evangelicals truly perceive Christian media as high quality, here are a few possibilities as to why their perception differs so much from our own:

  • Our perception of Christian media is colored by our disagreements with the Evangelical values they present.
  • Our perception of Christian media is disproportionately influenced by a few particularly bad examples that have been cherry-picked.
  • Evangelical Christians have blocked out mainstream media, so they don’t have the same reference point for good quality that we do.
  • Or it could just be a true disagreement in aesthetics.

On the other hand, presume that we all agree that Christian media is of low quality. How does the low quality come to be? Here are a few possibilities:

  • Christian media just doesn’t have the budget of mainstream media
  • Christian media doesn’t need to meet the same standards because there isn’t much competition and Evangelical Christians will consume it regardless.
  • The kind of people who are interested in making Christian media come from backgrounds that are unfavorable to quality. For example, they may have less money to finance the media, or less education in acting.

I asked this question earlier on Pillowfort, and the most common answer was that Christian media suffers from very strict genre constraints. Specifically, Christian media needs to rigidly promote wholesome Evangelical values.

Genre constraints aren’t necessarily bad. You could say that LGBT media has the constraint that it must include LGBT characters and have LGBT-positive values. The romance genre of novels is constrained to have happy endings where the romantic couple ends up together. However, it seems that Christian media suffers from far more severe constraints than I had imagined, and might indeed be a different beast from other genres.

To illustrate this, somebody posted an excerpt from The Complete Guide to Writing & Selling the Christian Novel by Penelope J. Stokes in 1998. It describes how Christian publishers started out publishing fiction from all sorts of Christian perspectives, but the audience for Christian fiction narrowed down to primarily conservative Christian perspectives. Then the excerpt describes a series of expectations from publishers, including:

A clearly articulated Christian worldview. A Christian worldview is based on the assumption that God is in control of the universe, and that true meaning and fulfillment life are based on a relationship with the Almighty. This does not mean that bad things never happen, but that evil will be punished in the end, and good will prevail–either in this world or in the world to come. A Christian worldview offers a perspective of a universe that includes spiritual vision, order and moral resolution. Christian writers do not have to blind themselves to reality, but their writing must hold out the possibility of hope.

A familiar but intriguing setting and/or time frame. According to a survey conducted by a major [Christian Booksellers’ Association] publisher, readers are most often drawn to settings they feel comfortable with or that are familiar: American rural/small-town environments (as in Janette Oke’s nostalgia novels), and well-known historical time frames such as World War II, the Civil War or Victorian England. These settings and time frames attract audiences because readers feel they already know something about the era and the environment.

With constraints like those, it’s easy to see how Christian novels might become stagnant. But it raises the question of why publishers have such constraints in the first place. Do Evangelical Christians prefer their books that way, and why?

So that’s all I have, questions without answers. Feel free to add your answers or speculation in the comments.


  1. says

    For movies, both Christian and LGBTQ+, I suspect a lot of it boils down to budget. A lower budget means fewer reshoots and less time filming period, less time in editing, and having to go with who you can afford for actors and directors. If these movies could get even Hollywood prestige Oscar bait money and talent they would be so much better. Not to say you can’t make a terrific film on a shoestring budget, but that requires someone (usually a writer/director) having the talent and the movie being a passion project.

    There isn’t really an excuse for Christian rock unless those with talent going for a more mainstream audience and getting the more mainstream money.

  2. Some Old Programmer says

    I feel that Christian media suffers from a number of problems that are tied to the audience–although I should preface all of my remarks with the disclaimer that I actively avoid Christian media. The bits I’ve seen have been, in main, execrable, but could easily have been cherry picked without me detecting it.

    The target audience for Christian media seeks it out, possibly because they view the mainstream offerings irredeemably wicked. They have determined that there is one–and only one–way to be a Good Person(TM). And that Good People admit no fundamental character flaws. This creates two problems for me, in that it’s wrong (presumably I don’t have to cite examples of fundamentalist Christians who are deeply flawed), and it’s boring. The only character arc that seems to be available is the sinner redeemed by faith. The viewer’s faith. Chick tracts have sufficiently plumbed the depths of sinner-brought-to-perfection.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Decades ago, I read about Christian Broadcasting Network (aka Pat Robertson) and its failed attempt to create a “Christian soap opera.”

    The article didn’t give details, but I couldn’t help imagining how it went. Start with a typical soap crisis: e.g., housewife discovers husband’s adulterous affair. In this context, she would have to pray about it. And (in this context, and probably only in this context) the husband would then come home chastened and the happy marriage would continue – so there goes all incentive to tune-in-tomorrow-folks!

    Imagining myself given that script assignment, I’d have the husband dump the other woman because he’d turned gay – but I’d never land a job at Pat Robertson Enterprises® even if I tried. An interventionist god in a soap opera could stir up more mischief than Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but casting Yahweh in that role would necessitate stocking up on blood and tear props by the barrel.

  4. brucegee1962 says

    My response to the question would definitely fall back on “Not all Christians.” If you delve a bit further back in the past in my field of English literature, there are plenty of folks like John Donne and George Herbert who wrote quite beautiful poetry from an explicitly Christian perspective.

    In this century, there are books like the Narnia series (controversial, I know, but even if you can’t stand them yourself, you have to admit they’re widely beloved) and A Wrinkle in Time. The movies those books spawned, also, may not have been Greatest of All Time level, but were fairly solid entries of family entertainment.

    A bit about my own background — I grew up in the 70s tradition of left-wing Christianity. L’Engle also belongs to that tradition; I wouldn’t classify Lewis there, but I can’t imagine him being sympathetic to modern Evangelicals either if he came shuffling out of his tomb. And of course, the OP mentions Jesus Christ Superstar which came out of that tradition, as did Godspell which also has some terrific songs and a good movie version.

    All of those works, I think, came before the cultural divide opened up that has set us all against one another. As others have noted, the recent cultural and aesthetic gap between even secular conservatives and liberals is far greater than the gap that exists between Christian and atheist liberals. The conservative worldview is so foreign to our side that it’s much harder to bridge the gap. And alas, the tradition of liberal Christianity seems to be a spent force in the economic media landscape.

  5. says


    I agree, there are a lot of complications that come up when we delve into the definition of Christian media. In the OP, I referred to media that is “branded” as Christian, but we could come up with other related definitions: media that is targeted at Christian audiences, or perhaps more specifically evangelical audiences; media that is promoted by Christian-branded publishers, media that is widely recognized as Christian.

    Penelope J. Stokes had this to say about Christian book stores:

    For the record, let me begin by saying that the so-called “secular” market includes countless numbers of fine novels written by authors who obviously hold their own personal faith in high regard. The thrillers of John Grisham, the mysteries of Mary Higgins Clark and the character novels of Gail Godwin, Maeve Binchy, Jon Hassler, Andrew Greeley, Chaim Potok and John Irving cannot be found in most “Christian” bookstores, and yet their books reflect the reality of God and the depth of their own spiritual experience in ways often untouched by current “Christian” fiction. By the same token, certain “Christian” bookstores do not carry the works of acknowledged spiritual leaders such as Madeleine L’Engle and Frederick Beuchner because their books are not sufficiently evangelical in nature.

    Arguably, a lot of Christian media that is considered “good” among secular audiences, such as L’Engle, C. S. Lewis, Jesus Christ Superstar belong in a different category from the Evangelical media that we’re focusing on. On the other hand, that raises the possibility that Christian genres are bad because we’ve gerrymandered the category to exclude its best examples.

  6. DonDueed says

    It might be worth contrasting current Christian media with earlier works that were created in a time of near-universal Christian hegemony (in the US and Europe, at least).
    Consider a film like “The Ten Commandments”. Overblown and pretentious as it certainly is, it does boast an A-list roster of stars, a huge budget, outstanding special effects (for its time), and considerable mainstream success.
    There are many other examples — The Robe, Ben Hur, A Man For All Seasons… the list is endless. Quality varied, of course, but few would fall into the “execrable” category. But in those days, the Christian audience WAS the mainstream audience.

  7. brucegee1962 says

    Wishful thinking, perhaps, but this MSNBC article
    suggests that younger people are getting turned off by the Evangelical churches morphing into Trump personality cult rallies and are heading towards the exits. Perhaps the unholy marriage between right-wing politics and Big Religion may finally be starting to trend downwards again — doubtless to reemerge in the future as it has so many times previously in US history.

  8. Anonymous Owl says

    IMO the primary factor is simple: (evangelical) Christian media is Christian first, media second. It doesn’t just have genre constraints like romance/mysteries/etc, the bulk of its effort budget is invested in maintaining doctrinal purity and putting the Christian message up front. Contrast that with even overtly Christian creators like C. S. Lewis who still prioritized making quality media that happened to contain a message with Christian elements. And TBH it doesn’t help that it’s a niche market where the effort budget available for a work is already low, when you spend 95% of that budget on making sure the message is ideologically correct there isn’t enough left to make a quality work.

    It’s the same reason why right-wing comedy is so often terrible. They’re so busy making sure that every word is ideologically correct that they forget to tell an actual joke.

  9. PaulBC says

    Pierce R. Butler@3 If they wanted to go with Old Testament biblical soap opera (rather than specifically Christian) there is plenty of material. I would start with Genesis 30: trading mandrakes for stud services rather shamelessly. Nobody is praying for forgiveness. It is treated as be a totally normal way to get what’s owed to you. Then there’s Samson and Delilah or David and Bathsheba, total soap opera material though already done to death in classic Hollywood productions.

    The New Testament is tame by comparison, unless I’m missing something. There are adulterers and so forth, but you don’t really get their story.

    I agree that if their goal is to tie it all up in a moral that fits supposed “Christian” values, you will wind up with lousy entertainment.

    I don’t think “Christian entertainment” has to be bad. “Christian music” can be quite good if you extend it to include, say, Handel’s Messiah. Also the catchy 90s hit Kiss Me is by Sixpence None the Richer an ostensibly Christian band that takes its name from C. S. Lewis’s misunderstanding of the function of utility in economics.

    OK, but Christian movies, not music. There are old movies (noted above) with biblical themes that were simply marketed as entertainment to an audience that considered the bible part of shared cultural. There are religious comedies like… well with lots of nuns: Trouble with Angels, The Flying Nun (TV series), much later Sister Act. While these are “irreverent” they ultimately portray religion in a positive light. There’s the science fiction series Quantum Leap, which while not explicitly Christian, became unbearably religious as it progressed.

    Granted, I’m only going up to about 30 years ago, even if that seems recent to me. There may have been a change, but it strikes me that a lot of non-genre entertainment is implicitly religious, and often assumes that religion means Christianity. So maybe (key take-away here): We already have plenty of Christian entertainment, just like we already have plenty of white entertainment, and plenty of cis-hetero entertainment.

    If so, the reason Christian entertainment in a stricter sense is so terrible is just that the people making it aren’t very good at producing an entertaining storyline. They also have a captive audience, or one that will watch it preferentially. They lack the incentive to do any better, and they are not really filling an actual gap in entertainment.

  10. PaulBC says


    George Herbert

    Funny, I have been thinking over the past week about Herbert’s The Call simply as an amazing use of language. All but one word is a monosyllable, and the grammatical structure is repeated throughout, but it captures a great deal within those constraints. It also varies a lot in poetic device, rhyming inconsistently and finding other similarities and repetition. I don’t believe, but I feel the intended meditative state.

    But modern “Christian entertainment” by and large is something very different. It is tacky and ingratiating when it’s not overtly threatening with apocalyptic themes.

  11. PaulBC says

    me@9 Actually, maybe Herbert’s rhyming is stricter than I think, though I would not rhyme “love” and “move”. I am not sure how he pronounced them. What I meant by “inconsistent” it that he he follows “breath” with “truth”, though he follows “feast” with a repetition of “feast”. I don’t think “breath” would ever rhyme with “truth” (I could be wrong). but they agree on the final consonant sounds. (I also really like the reuse of “joy” as a verb in the final line.)

    OT literature question for brucegee1962. The only other place I can think of that uses a repetition of final consonants is Mervyn Peake’s poem in Gormenghast:

    And the least
    Of the past
    Is dust
    And the dust
    Is lost.
    Hold fast

    Is there a name for this? Are there other well-known examples?

  12. says

    I feel like Gospel music should be mentioned as another example of good Christian media. A theory should be able to explain why it’s better than Christian Rock.

  13. says

    Anonymous Owl #8

    IMO the primary factor is simple: (evangelical) Christian media is Christian first, media second.

    That’s where my head went, as well. What little I’ve watched of stereotypically Christian movies, they all suffered from the same problems: Boring storyline, cardboard characters, cliched dialogue.

    Frankly, you can see the same phenomenon in big Hollywood movies, where somebody thought that just having a big name star and 20 minutes of non-stop CGI means you get a hit. No, you need an actual story and characters I give a shit about.

    PaulBC #9

    The New Testament is tame by comparison, unless I’m missing something. There are adulterers and so forth, but you don’t really get their story.

    Is this then the first example of crappy Christian media?

  14. says

    For an example of good media: Prince of Egypt. While not exactly Christian, it is biblical and does a wonderful job of humanizing both Moses and Rameses.
    And it has great music.

  15. flex says

    After reading the OP and comments. it sounds like the question is largely related to American evangelical churches.

    So, while there is wide variation in the quality of other media portraying Christian’s and the message of Christianity, media designed for the evangelical market is considered consistently poor.

    To the first point, there is a lot of media which depict Christian messages. From the type where the message is embedded culturally, which has been common in European literature from Cervantes, to Wodehouse, and beyond. To the more explicit like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, or musically like Handel’s Messiah, the various Masses from hundreds of composers, Gospel music, and even Dave Brubeck’s Gates of Justice. But while the quality of these varies, these appear to be excluded from the question.

    I agree with many of the reasons given above; smaller budget, less skilled writers/performers/directors/support staff, and tight constraints on the subject. I have a couple additional thoughts.

    Motivation. The motivation for media producers is to make money. This may be the same for the producers which are backing evangelical media. The evangelical market is a closed market. My understanding is that producers are not looking to make their profits by selling tickets to individuals, but to churches. How the churches collect the money is up to the individual churches. I suspect most parishioners are not going out of their way to seek out and consume this media, but the producers don’t care. If they can sell their poor quality movie/music to a thousand churches, at a rate based on the size of the congregation (which we know the churches inflate), they make money. They make more money if they don’t worry about quality. I suspect that most of the individuals who make up these churches are still buying tickets to the latest Marvel movie or Metallica album. Although every congregation has a few holier-than-thou people who will limit their media consumption to ‘approved’ sources, I know a number of co-workers who go to the evangelical mega-churches and they are not limiting their media consumption to approved media.

    Next, also related to the producers. Let’s say that the producers don’t care about making money, they are not in it for the bucks but because they truly believe in the word of Christ and it’s message. I suspect that gravely limits what the creative people, the writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, sound technicians, musicians, and editors can do. In fact, I expect that a true believer producing media will insist on final editing approval. Which means that a very narrow viewpoint will be approved, likely the viewpoint of a single individual. Being creative within boundaries can be an exhilarating challenge. Having creative works judged against a subjective, and absolute, arbitrator who has the ability to prevent it from ever seeing the light of day is stifling. Why try hard to be original when originality will be rejected?

    Anyway. I find this conversation very interesting. I can’t comment on LGBT media, so I don’t know if shares any of the same issues. I would say that if you are looking for root causes, following the money is often a good start and the money comes from the producers.

    Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here is a question for the thread.

    Would the biblical Book of Job make a good movie for the evangelical market?

  16. says

    With regard to LGBT media, I was mostly thinking of my experience with LGBT films. From this category I would exclude films made for general audiences like Brokeback Mountain or Love, Simon; I’m mostly talking about small indies that see little or no theater release. It’s clear that a lot of the low quality comes from a lack of money.

    But there are a lot of other things going on too. There’s a glut of high school romance/coming out stories. There’s a period of LGBT cinema where they’re all about AIDS. There are low quality sex comedies. There are a lot of writer/directors who appear to be telling their own story, or speaking to their own social context–with mixed results because I’m probably not from the same culture. Lately there seem to be more LGBT movies made for mainstream audiences, so production quality is going up if you include those.

    I’ve also read some novels with asexual characters–and for this I have also tolerated lower quality. There, it doesn’t seem to be a matter of money, but perhaps reduced competition. Also, to read those books I have to go outside my preferred genres (into romance or YA usually).

  17. PaulBC says

    Siggy@16 Would Chuck & Buck (2000) count as general audience or “small indie”? It was a small indie movie, but clearly marketed to a general (indie-liking) audience. Considering it just as an indie movie (I have no opinion on LGBT movies as such) it suffered from low budget, uneven acting, and not the world’s best screenplay. However, this had less to do with the subject matter than the fact that it was an indie. Personally, I enjoyed it and found it memorable in parts (though for all I know, I am the only person who remembers it 22 years on).

    I have a gripe with indie movies and and a complementary gripe with big budget movies. The indie movies tend to treat the small human stories I want to see but leave me feeling “That would be great if some competent director took the idea and ran with it.” and the big budget ones leave me feeling “Wow, great specific effects and A-list actors. But enough with the fucking superheroes, m’kay?” It seems to be impossible to make a movie like Midnight Cowboy today.

  18. says

    I’m not familiar with the film, but it sounds like it fits the category.

    One of the difficulties in judging these categories, for sure, is that it’s not just crossing over from straight into LGBT fiction, it’s simultaneously crossing genre boundaries as well. If I were into indie films more generally, perhaps I wouldn’t notice as much of a drop in quality? If I were into YA more generally, perhaps I would enjoy asexual YA novels more? Hard to say. That’s my subjective experience though.

  19. jenorafeuer says

    ‘Reduced competition’ is definitely a part of it

    I’ve commented before about pornography that it’s not that erotic works of any sorts are inherently worse than non-erotic works; it’s just that once you’re in that category a lot of creators seem to think that they don’t need to do any other work. Basically ‘we’ve ticked the right boxes, we can just phone the rest in’. That applies to a lot of subcategories, and the smaller the subcategory and the more dedicated/desperate the fandom in that subcategory, the more creators feel they can get away with that.

    Sturgeon’s Law still exists, and when you’re publishing 20% of what is created in a desperate attempt to fill your own alternative bookstores and media outlets, that means that at least half of what actually gets published falls into the ‘90% of everything is crap’ category. So at least some of the lower average quality can be blamed on ‘setting up your own alternative ecosystem’ in general.

    That said, for (American evangelical) Christian media, as others have noted, doctrinal requirements have a tendency to seriously stifle any form of creativity anyway. Especially when those doctrinal requirements are really political requirements, which thus have a tendency to be flexible and shifting while at the same time requiring an insistence that they are perpetual truths and any previous perpetual truths that don’t match the current official doctrine need to be memory-holed.

  20. PaulBC says

    Siggy@18 I should note (since I didn’t realize this before checking) that Mike White, creator of Chuck & Buck went on to bigger budget successes such as School of Rock (2003). His bio is also somewhat relevant here:

    Son of Mel White. Until the early 1990s. Mel White was a speech and ghostwriter for such evangelical, far-right Christian figures as Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham. When Mel finally accepted his long-repressed homosexuality, he and his wife, Lyla, divorced amicably and Mel started a gay-rights organization called “Soulforce”. Mike’s mother, Lyla, later became executive director of the historic performing arts venue, Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California.

    I wonder, if you took any “subculture” media whether it is Christian, LGBT, or other and looked at the careers of the creators, you might be able to connect it with the quality of their early work. My hunch is that people who start in “Christian media” are less likely to make a transition to broader entertainment. Entertainment may not have been their goal in the first place.

  21. PaulBC says

    And I’m just going to blurt it out here though I’ve been holding back. Maybe modern American evangelical Christians just have atrocious taste in art and entertainment and that’s why if you put them in charge, you get crap. It’s not a grand unified theory, but rings true for me.

    Historically, some of the best art has been religious, and in fact it may be recent for art and religion to be teased apart at all. Even today, religious art does not necessarily have to be bad. I’m sure there are people writing new hymns or producing sacred art for churches. It’s when the goal is to make something that looks like mass entertainment but isn’t really entertaining that you get crap as a result (and now I’m converging back into the more general genre theory, but I really would leave it at the first paragraph.)

  22. Pierce R. Butler says

    PaulBC @ # 9 – Biblical stories have, at least, the traditional virtues of a beginning, a middle, and an end. Soap opera stories lack that third bit. (And the “historical” stuff costs a lot more in sets and costumes.)

    Oscar Cunningham @ # 12 makes a good point about the quality of gospel music.

    I would add Deborah Harry’s “Communion” to the relatively short list of good contemporary Christian music.

  23. K.S. Eingang says

    I think I would agree with Anonymous Owl@8 and jejenorafeuer@19… They’ve set up a marketplace where quality largely doesn’t matter, you’ve got a sort of built-in audience ready to feed at the trough no matter what slop you’re serving up (within the defined parameters of course). I suspect that a big portion of the paying audience is going to be mass buyers who aren’t really concerned with the quality of what’s between the pages – churches stocking up their reading rooms or whatever. There’s no incentive to do better.

    Even worse, your audience is culturally opposed to exactly the sort of things I suspect many of us would consider marks of quality. Evangelicism is fundamentally anti-intellectual and morally black-and-white. Therefore, the product cannot be particularly deep, challenging or thought-provoking; it has to reaffirm the reader’s worldview at every turn. Any questions raised must have clear right and wrong answers, and they’re most likely made obvious from the start. Heroes and villains alike have to be uncomplicated and easy to root for or against. Certainly there’s room in the storytelling for salvation, or a fall from grace, but it’s like pro wrestling – a main character is either face or heel at any given time, there’s no middle ground.

    Long ago some friends and I were mildly obsessed with the “Left Behind” books and movies and just how hilariously bad they are (“they’re not just awful.. they’re GOD-awful”), and one of us made an observation that I think cuts to the heart of a lot of the problems here – “it’s like scenes from the Bible translated into the modern world by somebody who doesn’t understand the Bible or the modern world.” Evangelistic Christianity enforces a dogmatic, incurious worldview that all but guarantees that the people creating media for it are terrible at the sort of basic observation of humanity that makes for good storytelling.

  24. brucegee1962 says

    Here’s something else to consider. I’ve read C.S. Lewis’ autobiography, and he grew up intensely interested in Norse and Greek mythology — a love that comes through in Narnia. L’Engle was evidently fascinated with science and theoretical physics. Handel (and perhaps some Christian contemporary musicians, to be fair) was clearly interested in the intricacies of musical composition. Donne wrote about sex using religious terminology and religion using sexual terminology. Webber and Rice — well, we can see from their opus all the things that interested them.

    Maybe the quickest path to mediocracy is when you’re intested in one particuar subject and nothing else. Filmmaking technique, storytelling, suspense — what does any of that matter when you have a message that you need to club people with?

  25. PaulBC says

    I’m not a fan of CS Lewis. I concede that he wrote a popular and engaging series of children’s books that I enjoyed at one time. I even read his “space trilogy” when I was a little older. I found the final volume to be quite a slog. If I were to reread it, I’d would be certain to find a lot to be angry at, since it’s polemic promoting the paranoid Christian fear of “statism” and seeing every social program as an affront to God and a slippery slope to Stalinism.

    But, no, I guess he was not “bad” in the sense of an incompetent writer, just one who made a lot of smug pronouncements that I disagree with. Like the quote that inspired the band “Sixpence None the Richer.”

    It is like a small child going to its father and saying, ‘Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.’ It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction.

    Only an idiot–or a highly educated person who had skipped introductory economics–would fail to see the added utility here. “Sixpence” is worth very little to an employed adult. If you give it to a young child and say “surprise me” that surprise is itself the added value. Or even if there is no surprise, you get some joy out of your child’s reaction. I mean, what is Lewis trying to say here? Of course the adult is benefiting from this transaction.

    Now an omnipotent God, not so much. The concept of surprising God or fulfilling an emotional need is highly problematic, so Lewis’s analogy falls apart out of the gate. And his writing is full of this kind of trite reasoning that sounds very good if you don’t think too hard.

    Thinking over this thread, I realized I actually like religion in fiction quite bit and would be happy to see more of it, including but not limited to Christianity. Evelyn Waugh, for instance, is able to convey his Catholic faith through skeptical characters such as Charles Ryder. A Canticle for Leibowitz is an explicitly Christian science fiction novel, though I’m not sure of Miller’s beliefs. Clifford Simak and Philip K. Dick also both conveyed their beliefs through fiction.

    Art must come first to be good, though it can include religion. While I don’t dismiss CS Lewis’s talent as a writer, I consider him to have broken this rule.

  26. PaulBC says

    Err… I meant to add this to the above comment, but I also like Orson Scott Card’s The Folk of the Fringe though I am probably unusual in considering it superior to his Ender’s series. I know little about Mormonism so I have to take his word for what it would look like if Mormons were instrumental in restoring civilization after a catastrophe. It’s an intriguing premise and well-executed though.

  27. REBECCA WIESS says

    15 Flex: As a writing exercise, I wrote a modern version of Job, which I called Joe’s Book. Secularist that I am, I left god out of it, otherwise tracked rather closely to the original – guy loses it all, wails and complains to his friends, has a defining experience, emerges a better person, and with the help of his friends is restored. Yes, it could make a good movie in skilled hands.

  28. moarscienceplz says

    I have only skimmed the prior posts, so forgive me if someone else covered this, but I don’t think Christianity per se is the problem. I think it boils down to whether the creators of said media have a liberal mindset or a conservative one. In my experience, conservatives are incapable of making good art of any kind, because they are not open to new ideas. I think conservatism is a form of congenital mental illness. We should treat conservatives kindly, give them mashed potatoes and pot roast three times a week (they would love this), but never, ever, let them touch the reins of power in any country!

  29. says

    I would ask that we not compare conservatism to mental illness here, thanks. Further comments defending or engaging in the comparison will be deleted.

  30. flex says


    I agree that the underlying ideas of the Biblical Book of Job could make a good movie. But could it be made into an evangelical Christian movie?

    I mean, it has the devil, which evangelicals say exist, torturing a person. His friends say he deserves it, offering some explanations which could be comprehensible to humans. God steps in and tells Job that God’s will is not fathomable by humans; God’s desires and tests are beyond human comprehension and Job must simply accept God’s existence and worship them. God can make a covenant and break it.

    On the surface it appears it has all the hallmarks of evangelical belief. But at the same time it undermines the strongly held belief by evangelicals that being a good person, avoiding sin, worshiping like you were taught, and hating as you were taught, isn’t enough to get into heaven. God’s response to Job suggests there is no stairway to heaven, you can’t get to heaven by being good, the only thing a person can do is to submit to God’s will.

    So, could an evangelical movie be made of the biblical Book of Job? If one was, could it be a good movie, or would the message be diced, sliced, sautéed, thrown to the floor for the dogs to eat, and recovered from of their vomit?

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