In this age of secular fundamentalism and new media, Christianity Today may not have as much clout as it once had.
But it is still influential in evangelical church circles.
So, when the magazine launches into an unprovoked, undeserved assault on one of my favorite Christian cultural warriors, I take notice.
That’s what happened this week as the latest issue of the magazine offered up what can only be described as a character assassination of Ted Baehr, publisher of MovieGuide and founder of the Christian Film and Television Commission.
Headlined “A Patent Conflict of Interest,” the article explained that this man who has single-handedly led the charge to re-engage the church in the entertainment industry also promotes some movies apart from just reviewing them.
One man – a self-proclaimed “ethicist” – makes the allegation that this is “a patent conflict of interest.” As someone who has been involved in the media for more than 25 years, I say the charge is ridiculous.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me say I am proud to call Ted Baehr my friend. I will quickly add that I have never taken any money from him. On the contrary, I have willingly contributed my own hard-earned dollars to his ministry and wish I could give him more.
More than any other man alive, Ted Baehr, through both his non-profit work and his consulting, has re-engaged the church and the culture, specifically the entertainment industry.
Long before Mel Gibson demonstrated the potential of the church audience with “The Passion of the Christ,” Ted Baehr was working in the trenches of Hollywood explaining this principle to studio executives, movie producers, actors, directors and the general public.
It was Ted Baehr who reminded us all of the enormous positive impact the church had in Hollywood through its golden age – from 1933 through 1966. It was Ted Baehr who took on the mission of the Protestant Church Office and the Catholic Church’s Legion of Decency to work with Hollywood when the mainline denominations abandoned the industry. It was Ted Baehr who led the charge to be the salt and light in an increasingly decadent and dark popular culture.
There is no conflict of interest here. All Ted Baehr tries to do through his work is to clean up Hollywood. Sometimes it is more effective to do this by criticizing what the entertainment industry produces. Other times it is more effective to bring attention to the excellent work that is done by a handful of artists producing wholesome, redemptive art.
Because he is a man of principle and conviction, he would never sell out his promotional talents to back a project that didn’t meet his high standards. So where’s the conflict? With every fiber of his being, and sometimes at great personal sacrifice, Ted Baehr is true to his mission – at all times.
The handful of movie projects he has consulted on are the same kinds of movies he would promote whether or not he was paid a dime.
I have news for the editors of Christianity Today: I notice you take ads from many of the ministries you write about in glowing terms. What’s the difference? Has anyone accused Christianity Today of a “conflict of interest” because it takes money from those it covers?
This is either a case of misplaced piety or a case of Christianity Today adopting the ethics of the world or a case of petty jealousy. Only God can judge.
But, as for me, I consider Ted Baehr a hero. And I urge you to support him by subscribing to his excellent magazine MovieGuide and by contributing your own hard-earned tax dollars to support his wonderful ministry.