Dr. Ted Baehr is the founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, and a well-known movie critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit. He also is the author of several books, including "The Culture-Wise Family" with legendary entertainer Pat Boone. For more information, please call 800-899-6684 or go to the MOVIEGUIDE website.More ↓Less ↑
When the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today write major features on the Christian marketplace without the snide remarks that used to accompany such articles, you know that the Christian media marketplace has hit the Big Time.
At the Christian Booksellers’ Convention held recently in Denver, Colo., the major entertainment companies made an expensive, significant push to reach Christian audiences. Time Warner had a big booth. Disney, in conjunction with Zondervan, held a reception for “The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.” Fox screened two movies exclusively for the Christian members of the Christian Booksellers’ Association, and all this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Christian producers who have long labored on the fringes of the entertainment industry now have three-, four-, and five-picture deals with major movie studios. Not to be outdone, Christian publishers are releasing a flood of products tied to movies from major companies.
The biggest movie at the convention was, of course, “The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.” Every publisher had a C.S. Lewis or “Chronicles Of Narnia” tie-in – 167 books in all. Our publisher, Broadman Holman, told us that an expert had ranked these books and said that their four books were at the top of the list. Their four, coming out in November, include my book, “Narnia Beckons.”
Of course, there were also books tied in to “Harry Potter” and even “The Da Vinci Code.” The New York Times pointed out that one of the major Christian marketing companies has been hired to promote “The Da Vinci Code” movie to the church. Even our friends at Christianity Today are doing a whole issue about Christian history as it relates to “The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.”
This is big business. As the newspaper articles note, Christians buy books, music and movies, and, whereas some people steal music and movies, most Christians seek to honor the commandment “Thou shalt not steal.” Therefore, while most of the publishing industry is going soft, USA Today points out that Christian publishing is strong, with “Wal-Mart and other big bookstore chains covering the top titles.”
This leads us to our Media-Wise Moment.
Some of these products that arrive in stores will be very faithful and good – some will be antithetical to the Gospel. “The Da Vinci Code” stands out in this respect – it is a total and complete attack on the person of Jesus and His Body, the Church. Most products, however, will be somewhere in the middle, and we need Christians to bring their discernment and wisdom to their consumption of media products.
We’re all hoping that “The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe” will be a great movie, but no matter how great it is, it may not capture the full resonance of C.S. Lewis’ classic novel. For example, the visual nature of film may distort the novel’s Christian message. If the battle scenes are more fun and exciting than Aslan’s resurrection, viewers may think that the battle is ours, instead of understanding that the battle was won by Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Another scene that could be lost in translation is that in which the children put on the fur coats. Lewis saw this act as not only putting on royal robes, which the children would grow into as they became the kings and queens of Narnia, but also as putting on Christ, which every Christian is called to do. Another opportunity comes at the banquet with Father Christmas, a scene that recalls Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. It was here that the communion table – which was in fact a regular banquet at the early church – became a place where the gifts and fruit of the Spirit were dispensed.
If the book’s message is weakened, it will not be because the filmmakers intentionally diminished it. That process is a consequence of film visualization, and it’s the very reason that C.S. Lewis said he didn’t want the book to be turned into a movie. Even so, I worked on the TV version, and it was a great success. We applaud the making of the movie.
Therefore, to fully understand the movie version, one needs a guide, which we hope will include pastors, teachers, and the many books coming out on the subject, especially, “Narnia Beckons,” which has been ranked in the top four out of 167 books on the topic according to Broadman Holman.
The caveat is biblical: Get wisdom, get understanding, get knowledge and don’t get taken for a ride by the massive marketing of so-called spiritual products.
While we rejoice in the transformation of the mass media, we pray for the Body of Christ, the parents and children who are presented with many great opportunities to go deeper into the truth, as well as the many chances to be deceived.