Friday, July 14, 2006

'Spiritainment' Alternatives

Monday Morning Insight is reporting on George Barna's latest venture. Barna has tracked church trends for years and years and has used his data to predict where the church is or should be headed. Well, in a departure from that project, Barna is now head of a Christian entertainment company called Good News Holdings. Here's what they plan to do together:

“Our objective is to be the forerunner in a new genre of multimedia we are calling spiritainment,” says Good News Chairman George Barna. “Our research has shown that people—especially young people—absorb an amazing degree of their values, beliefs and lifestyle practices from the media content to which they are exposed. Our desire is to raise spiritual questions and draw people closer to God and His truths.”

As I commented there, I'm skeptical about the quality of 'spiritainment' that will come from this project. I've been skeptical of most of most of the Christian subgenre of entertainment for years now. Most Christian music is three chords on an acoustic guitar and a string of pious cliches (Mark Driscoll refers to them as 'prom songs to Jesus,' which I can't help but laugh at), and when I think Christian movies, I think Left Behind, which was a 90-minute video tract with some explosions. If Left Behind-quality stuff is what Good News will produce, I don't expect anyone outside the subgenre to take it seriously.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of non-Christian specific movies that raise good spiritual questions without stopping the story for a Four Spiritual Laws Moment. Of course, not all of these are family-friendly, which is probably another goal for Barna's group. Check out Gattica and I, Robot for themes of human identity. Watch Dogma for a critique of the church. 25th Hour has themes of human community. Pretty much any superhero movie has a Christ figure. Remember how most Christians latched onto The Matrix after it came out? Plus, there are a slew of 'Gospel According To...' books out that explore the likes of Harry Potter, The Simpsons, Peanuts, and The Sopranos. There are Sunday School curricula such as 'Reel to Real' devoted to the same thing.

So I'm not thrilled about 'spiritainment.' A movie with a quality story and strong spiritual themes can be made without painstakingly working in Romans Road. We'll see how Barna and Good News approach it.