Monday, April 16, 2007

Christianity vs. Hollywood: A Brief History

I have a personal interest in tracing and analyzing the history of Christianity’s tumultuous relationship with Hollywood. It’s critical for committed Christians to identify the underlying causes of our inability to have even the slightest effect on the malignancies of today’s film industry.

This is a small excerpt from my ongoing research to attempt to trace and identify the cause of our current impotence:

The splendor and inspiration that line the halls of the Vatican museum witness to the symbiotic relationship that has existed between art and Christianity throughout history, and it’s natural for believers that it should be so, since in exercising our artistic powers we participate in our divine Creator’s image within us. Century upon century, men and women have united their passionate love of divine truth with technical and artistic skill, forging masterworks in painting, sculpture, literature, music, and poetry. Catholicism’s illustrious history with these artistic mediums is well documented, especially as one bewilderedly strolls through the Sistine Chapel.

The twentieth century, however, introduced us to a powerful new artistic medium; one that, as Tolstoy foreshadowed even during his day, would eclipse the others in power in its ability to mirror and illuminate human experience. Our success in film, however, is much less significant, if not completely negligible. The joint role that Christianity has chosen for itself throughout history of film is that of antagonist and propagandist, not artist. I do not deny that there have been notable exceptions, but assert that a defensive and aggressive stance has governed Christianity’s relationship with film throughout its short history. In my personal estimation, it is this stance that is partly responsible for impoverishing our cinematic artistic output.

The Production Code, a set censorship guidelines governing movie content throughout the 20’s and 30’s, used political means to clean Hollywood’s house. The Code, given economic muscle by the Catholic Legion of Decency, was effective. Nostalgic Christians often hearken back to these years as the golden age film, since these movies were swept squeaky clean by censors backed by the economic power of a culture that abhorred glorified depictions of vice.

As the sexual revolution started to permeate the public square, the economic muscle that was wielded so deftly by the Legion of Decency began to atrophy, and Christianity’s ability to prevent the moral decay of this new powerful medium died with it; yet, so often we see Christians flex as if their economic weight still mattered, even though their boycotts are promptly ignored by producers who don’t particularly care for the purity of innocent children.

A far more egregious mistake than engaging in a doomed power struggle with Hollywood has been the use of film to create thinly veiled sermons. The Left Behind series among others hides its artistic impoverishment behind good intentions. This is a destructive development; it results in the Christian film industry confining itself to merely catering to a small Christian ghetto. This propaganda mindset has forged an unwelcome gap between the artistic talents of secular filmmakers and Christian filmmakers. Until we learn to engage the secular media and learn from their artistic and business techniques, we will not impact the industry in any meaningful way.....

As my research progresses, I will post my thoughts on this issue. I would love to hear input from readers. My ideas on this subject are still in their formative stage.


Matheus F. Ticiani said...

Very good insights. But wouldn't be better to put the exclusion of Christianity from Hollywood in the context of the movie industry's overall political and cultural infiltration by Communism, as shown in books such as "Hollywood Party"?

Martin Harold said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin Harold said...

Good Point. I'll look up "Hollywood Party". Thanks for the comment.

Keith Strohm said...


This is a great analysis. I've been doing a lot of reflection on similar things with Christianity and secular speculative fiction publishing. In fact, I've quoted you a bit in my post on Why I Hate Christian SF.

You can see the post by following this url: