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November 30, 2000
Greetings from David Bruce, Web Master
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Why do you think Christians resist the visual image?

-Visual language is extremely popular and effective.
-But where is the Church?
What do you think is going on here?

I thought this was a good family film and I highly recommend it.
-It is a feel good film.
-My son Cris has another view.
I am wondering what you think?

-Producer Drew Barrymore takes an anti-gun violence stance.

Where do you stand on the issue of destiny and free will?

-Visual language is extremely popular and effective.
-But where is the Church?

Click to go to UNBREAKABLEIn the movie UNBREAKABLE, Samuel L Jackson plays Elijah, a collector of comic books and comic art. His character believes that comic books are an extension of ancient mythological stories concerning the ongoing battle between good and evil. He believes that comics contain profound truth in exaggerated form.

UNBREAKABLE director and writer M. Night Shyamalan has touched on the most important and most read cultural form of literature.

Every day hundreds of MILLIONS of people worldwide read and understand the visual-story medium which is known as "COMICS" in the western world. In other countries and cultures they're called manga, manhwa, bande dessinee or BD, komiks, bilderstreifen or bildergeschichter, historietas, quadrinhos or HQ, tabeos, foto novela, fumetti, or by some other term . But no matter the name, are the world's most widely read and popular form of literature! Visual language is the language of the world.

Fifteen million Spider-Man comics are sold each year in 75 countries and in 22 languages, and the comic strip appears in 500 newspapers worldwide. The Garfield comic strip is distributed to over 2,600 newspapers worldwide. An estimated 263 million readers see Garfield each day in 63 countries with translations in 23 languages. The most read Christian writer is not C. S. Lewis, Frank Peretti, or Billy Graham. It's someone who has more readers than all of these authors combined. It's Johnny Hart, one of the most widely syndicated cartoonist in the world. He draws two well-known comic strips, B.C. and Wizard of Id, which reach some 100 million readers worldwide every day (data from Rox35).

I was wandering through a comic book store the other day and I could not believe what I saw. There are numbers of comic books with God, angels, demons and other biblical themes. I picked up a comic book entitled, LUCIFER, another was called PREACHER. I was surprised by all the spirituality that these and other comic books contained. Spirituality in visual form is selling at the comic book store just like it is selling at the box office.

It seems, however, Christians are missing the boat!

I recently ordered two big boxes full of the GOOD NEWS BIBLE from the American Bible Society. I liked this Bible because of the hundreds of little line drawings they contained. However, I was greatly disappointed when they arrived -all the pictures have been removed! Just the text remanins! Why?

I attended a certain Protestant Church last Sunday and noticed there was not a single picture or work of art anywhere in their sanctuary. There were Bibles and Hymnals. Lots of printed words. But no visuals. Why?

The Christian Internet Conference in Orlando was sponsored by some of the biggest Christian organizations, like the Billy Graham Organization, Wheaton College, Mission America etc. Less than 200 attended. Why?

There was a Christian Comic Book Art Conference recently given at the Southern Baptist Golden Gate Seminary in California, only six people showed up. Why?

The City of Angels Film Festival failed to attract significant numbers of Evangelical Christians. Lots of Catholic Christians -however. Why?

The number #1 best seller LEFT BEHIND was made into a motion picture by an Evangelical Christian Film Studio and it went straight to video -yes, that's right, straight to video! The production is low on visual and heavy in dialogue. Why?
(The authors have filed law suits -can you guess why?)

The 20th century failed to produce a single significant Evangelical master painter artist. Try going to a Bible Book store to purchase fine art prints by a contemporary master artist. There is no such item. Why?

In the seminary that I attended there were NO religious art classes offered. No media classes. No classes on icons, images, statues, symbols, film ...in fact no classes on anything visual. Why?

I bought an Protestant book the other day entitled the Dictionary of Biblical Images, and guess what? There are no illustrations! Why?

I think there is a serious problem here.
What do you think?
And why do you think the visual arts are so shunned by Protestant Evangelical Christians?
And yet Protestant Christians are attending secular movies by the droves.
But, hey, they would not dare show those films they watch at church!
Is there some hypocracy going on here?
Can you make any sense of this?

I came away from the the movie UNBREAKABLE feeling sad for the Church that I love so much. I felt sad because we live in a very visual world.

Email me your thoughts.

Also did you see the movie UNBREAKABLE?
What was your take on it.

See review here


I thought this was a good family film and I highly recommend it.
It is a feel good film.
My son Cris has another view.
I am wondering what you think?

Click to go to THE GRINCHHe says:
"The problem with this shallow film is the bad aftertaste that lingers afterwards. This film is the antithesis of what Dr. Seuss preached to little kids in his timeless children books. The late Theodore Giesel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) was very critical of consumerism and waste. His controversial book, "The Lorax", is a seering criticism of this country's wasteful ways. It told the story of how an entire forest and its denizens were destroyed by corporations making "Wuzzits". (This book was banned by many Oregon school districts because of its anti-logging stance.) Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" follows this vein.

"The Grinch, more than anyone in the film, is appalled by the amount of garbage generated every year by the Whos. His mountain lair serves as a land-fill for the consumer Whos and all their waste. A good message but a very hypocritical one; this is a merchandising movie. A trip to a toy or grocery store right now will find you being peered at by hundreds of grinning Grinches whose image can be found on everything from wrapping paper to napkins to stockings to nail clippers to stuffed dolls and even (uggh!!) credit cards. Is there a more apt symbol of American consumerism than the credit card? It is doubtful that Seuss would appreciate the image of the Grinch being used to sell more wuzzits and whozits to the American Whoville, especially at Christmas time. Where is Christmas indeed?"

So, what do you think?
Email me your thoughts.

See review here


-Producer Drew Barrymore takes an antigun violence stance.

Go to CHARLIE'S ANGELSThe disappearance of gun violence is very apparent in the new logo design. Drew Barrymore pulls on a strong World War II image of women, who served the cause of justice with their body strength and abilities rather than with guns. Kudos to Drew Barrymore.

To really make her point, Drew has a scene where she takes on four bad guys with her hands tied together. Young women today have so many images of strength and can-do confidence. It is a new day. And I welcome this new self assured "We Can Do It" and "I Will Be A Victim Any More" image for women. Did you see the film?

I would be interested in your views.
Email me your thoughts.

See review here


Where do you stand on the issue of destiny and free will?

Click to go to  BOUNCEBuddy Amaral (Ben Affleck) is a partner in a hip L.A. ad agency who has it all: confidence, charm, women, money. He makes things happen. Even when he's stuck in a snowstorm one late December night at Chicago's O'Hare airport, he makes the most of it -- giving up his seat to a man who wants to be home with his family, and scoring a night with a woman he's just met.

But the next morning, Buddy learns that the plane he should have been on has crashed, and for the first time in his life, the guy with all the answers is at a loss.

Compelled to make things right, Buddy sets out to find the wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) of the man who took his seat. It's a bold move that changes the lives of two people who never in a million years would have met, in very surprising, unpredictable and ultimately unforgettable ways.

The movie deals with the interplay between free will and predistination (destiny). For me I believe in both. I am convinced that God has given us freedom (the ability to chart our course) and destiny (the unchangeable course of predetermined events). In the last analysis, the way in which God's guidance of his creation interfaces with human freedom is unknown to us -or at least to me. And, there is a mysterious interplay between the two.

Did you see the film?
If not, I am still interested in your ideas of the relationship between Free Will and Destiny.
Email me your thoughts.

See review here

May God continue to bless you.
David Bruce
Web Master, Hollywood Jesus.

PS To chat directly to me, email: Private 2 David

Respond here: Newsletter_20_E-mail


Subject: Christian Herald Article
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001
From: Tim Ellison

Hi Dave, Just read your article in Christian Herald about visual language and I could not agree with you more. I work with kids and with my groups I try each week very hard for them to have something visual to take home with them each week that points to the truth we are trying to teach them about that week. Can you recommend Christian websites/ministries who take this visual culture seriously?
Thanks Tim Ellison

Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001
From: Fred

I enjoyed your article -item 1 in your newsletter which was published in the Christian Herald in Britain 20/1/01. I am a Christian who is hoping to get a message over through film - BBC films are interested in one of my screenplays at the moment. It's difficult to get Christian people to see working in the media as a mission - seems too 'worldly' to many yet they complain about the standards of films currently available! Christian Herald also introduced me to your website for which I'm very grateful.
God bless you and your ministry, Fred

Subject: Your article in this week's Christian Herald...
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2001
From: Brad

Hi David, I'm writing to commend you on your article that you wrote in the 20 January 2001 Christian Herald about visual arts and Christianity, and particularly the focus on comics. As someone who has worked in the comics industry for a number of years, both here and in France, and who is slightly obsessed with the comics medium, it was refreshing to see someone writing about comics with an informed perspective. There are comics created by Christians, but as you noted they really haven't entered the mainstream - at least not in the UK. In the States, the Jack Chick pamphlets are very popular and have been read by millions of people -- their content may not be very sound, but they are widespread. In France and Belgium, Christian comics account for about 6% of the total BD market, and have been produced by some of Francophone comics' most famous authors; cartoonists like Jije, Franquin, and many others have produced Biblical comics. So popular are they, that a Belgian organisation called ! CRIABD has been set up to research into the application of the comics artform to Christianity, and they produce a magazine 3 times a year called Coccinelle. They have a stand at the Annual Festival International de la Bande Dessinee in Angouleme, France (taking place next weekend in fact), and present an international prize to the best Christian comic of the year. So the stage really is set for a revival in the world of Christian comics. Thanks again for bringing it to a wider audience.
Best wishes, Yours in Him,
--- Brad Brooks
Design Consultant New Wine Conferences
Equipping Churches to Extend Jesus' Kingdom

Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2001
From: Bill Dalgleish

Dear David, thanks for your article on visual arts in Christian Herald this week. Yea, poor profile in our churches. In 'my' church things are beginning to look up with the efforts of 4 pro. actors who organise near-regular arts cafes where vis. art is displayed, etc. I am a creator not an organiser of creative events so I Keep producing trusting God will open doors.
Thanks again Bill Dalgleish

Subject: Victory Series
Date: 20 Jan 2001
From: Armando Capo capo@victory-series.com

Hi David, I ran across your website today and read with interest your presentation of Jesus in today's pop culture. After a period of intense spiritual growth, I have changed directions in my life and decided to dedicate myself to my art. I feel you will greatly enjoy my first "professional" work as it is about Jesus in particular (my one and only childhood hero). ;-)

You may see it at: http://www.victory-series.com I hope you enjoy it and I thank you in advance for taking the time to visit my site.
Sincerely, Armando Capo capo@victory-series.com

Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2001
From: Dimitri Tsouris

Dear David, In response to your article in the Christian Herald newspaper (UK) re: the churches neglet of the visuals........... I have writen the following with a view of helping the churches to get back on line and fulfil their their God given mandate within ALL the arts.

Counter culture ethics in art practice (Subversive art) Introduction: It is my belief that the purposes of Gods kingdom are directly subversive to many of the prevailing social and economic goals of our dominant modern commercial culture. I believe the kingdom of God is an inverted or upside down way of life in contrast to the usual or prevailing social order.

Luke 3:4-6 : The voice of one crying in the wilderness Prepare the way of the Lord Make his paths straight Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

John the Baptist shouted these words of Isaiah the prophet as a red carpet for the advent of Jesus. The Baptist used four images to describe the coming kingdom: filled valleys, levelled mountains, straightened curves and smooth rough places.

Maryıs song of exaltation - Othe Magnificatı - also announces an upside down inverted way of life to come with many radical consequences.

Luke 1:49-53 : He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts he has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree he has filled the hunger with good things and the rich he has sent away empty

Five types of people are in for a shock of their lives. The positions at the top of the social pyramid occupied by the proud, the rich and the mighty are shattered. Things are not what they appear to be. Patterns of social organisation which are routinely taken for granted in modern culture are questioned be kingdom values.

The dynamics of the social/political and the practice of art making cannot be detached or separated from each other. The need to be aware of these disciplines is required of the Christian mind if our art is to have an influence or impact in our communities. If our art is be God honouring and a blessing, the Christian artist needs be aware of contemporary cultural ethics, come out of isolation and engage with the world in such a way as to have a credible answer for the faith and work. Not some bland evangelical pat answer. If we are to bring about change - then we must turn the tide of Christian art that is mediocre, self-satisfying and lacks any real credibility and says nothing !

It is also my belief that we are first called to be culture makers, to be leaders in our field, to be God honouring stewards which runs against the grain of our modern consumerist society, so that the Christian creative might touch the heart of the corner newspaper seller or so inspire the sinful character into effective and transforming nature, so that this action and execution becomes the divine model for societal preparation of the establishment of Gods kingdom on earth.

Stewardship of all things involves everything in God's created order, means to lay hold of whatever discipline there is and apply God honouring work practice. The Christian creative person is one who works and shapes and forms with materials out of the ground, builds and constructs, but one who applies a different mind set and one who has a different view of life.

The calling of man to be a steward does not simply mean to be 'green' and environmental, but has a plethora application of cultivating and giving shape and form to the creation structure, all within the God given covenanted task. What does this mean? It means to apply acceptance and appreciative worth to the things we can see and the things we cannot see and to work in whatever field of talent and expertise with all good workmanship. We have, therefore, been called to be 'culture makers'.

Today, what is lacking, is not the expertise or technical skills of the artist, but the enthusiasm that gives light and life to the vision of a Biblical mandate for the arts. Vision is so important. Vision goes beyond the spirit of utilitarianism to freedom of the artform, which transcends self and piety to bring about God honouring fulfilment in art practice that changes the world. The church has fufilled this task many times before - and it can be done again.

Counter Culture Ethics:

As we enter the 21st century I perceive a certain trait within the church; that is, that much of the churches lifestyle and spirituality is privately engaging but at the same time socially irrelevant. While there are some wonderful social and political engagements with the world today, there is the vibrant and caring nature in the growth of the church, but on the other hand, what we observe is that, far from being a counter-culture, the churchıs lifestyle appears to be the same as that of the rest of the world in itıs outworking in relational, ethical, business and social structures and realities. Rather than leading in the major disciplines of life, the church seems to be led through all manner of unbiblical legislation. By our mere absence and non-involvement in the world, (retreating from the 'inful and evil worldı) we not only endorse but give credence to non biblical cultural traits. The influence ought to be from the Christian sector in our society with Biblical counter-culture ethics and standards.

Despite the Christian church's many interactions within our communities, towns and cities, overall, we can say the church has little or no effect at the end of the twentieth century, (or so it would seem) as the faith of the people within it is so individual and personal, that it has no social relevance whatsoever. That great institution of the 'Christian social interactionı of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which gave rise to many child, family, educational institutions hospitals, care centres, Sunday schools, ethical work practices etc have all but disappeared. The same powerhouse that led those great movements is still the same and remains at the churches disposal. The difference today, is that we have relegated so much of that needy work to the state and have washed our hands of the outworking of the true gospel and all itıs implications, and the arts are no exception to this ruinous road. The question therefore needs to be asked is - why the church of late does not live out itıs confession. Like wise with the arts, the church gave rise to so many aspects of the artist and craftspeople over the centuries that began great and wonderful artistic creations throughout Europe. From stain glass windows to stone carvings, from frescoes and icons to beautiful ornamented wooden structures and exquisitely executed embroideries. Past history shows us that during the Renaissance and the ensuing Reformation and Barooque eras, the church led in so many art forms that this gave rise to an incredible leap forward with new, vibrant expressions of art. Handelıs Messiah, Bachıs Ayre in G, Miltonıs Paradise Lost. The Renaissance of the 1400 to 1600s saw such great artist as Dante, Giotto and Cimabue as part of the great Christian tradition in the arts that eventually led the world.

Christian leadership carried forward into the Reformation with believers such as Handel, Bach, Rembrandt, Milton, Vermeer and many others. It here interesting to note that many of these Christian artists were supported by Christian patrons of the arts. They were willing to invest in the giftings and talents of so many of the artists at that time, that gave rise to this extraordinary push forward in the world of the arts. Great emphasis was made with tremendous sacrifices inorder to nurture and promote their artists. Overall, this support undergirded these great artist which in turn allowed them to grow in maturity in their art and go on to lead the world.

Today the patrons have all but gone, the artist left to their own devices and the consequence of art practice remains singular in its complacency, with much of the work nothing but shallow and mediocre, nestling in its non-confrontational security. If this description and view of the state of Christian arts as perceived by myself (and many others) is offending and cruel - it is not ment to be but rather a warning shout from high on the walls of this world, that the Christian artist has to think more than how they will make their money and enter into dialogue and art practice with a prophetic and challenging practice.

³We live in the presence of the future² said one commentator regarding Kingdom values. The Christian artist has to live in the coming Kingdom realm, preparing with strong innovative, stirring and provocative and subversive artwork that will not only excite and give honour to the Creator but bring about change in the midst of our society. To be continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dimitri Tsouris is a full time painter of contemporary Ikons, arts co-ordinaotor and speaker on the arts. He is married to professional dancer Vivienne Tsouris. Working together as husband and wife under the title of 'artsWORLD'. Website: appleonline.net/arts/artsword

Subject: Bias against the visual
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001
From: "Margaret FRANKS"

David, I read your article in the Christian Herald with great interest. I couldn't agree more that the church is missing out on a wonderful channel for the grace of God to be revealed in exciting creative visual expression.

You ask why? I think we are still reacting from the Catholic idolatry of a few centuries ago. A local, Free Evangelical Church had a long, anguished debate as to whether to put up a plain wooden cross on the back wall of the Church! Would that be distracting from the "pure" spirituality of the Gospel? That was a few years ago. I do see signs of change. In many Churches homemade banners, of varying quality it is true, are appearing. Some of these are gorgeous collages and/or embroidered texts which are a delight to look at and inspiring. I have an artist friend who has had exhibitions of her Christian art in churches and conducted workshops for the congregations. But it's slow work. Many older people have no confidence in themselves that they could produce anything worthwhile. But the youngsters are having better training in schools and are more willing to tackle creative work. Drama now seems to be welcomed in churches - but dance(!) especially here in conservative rural England is another matter!!

But there is another side to this question. Protestant England at least finds a lot of the baroque decoration in continental European churches grotesque, sentimental BAD taste! I went to Santiago de Compostella, the wonderful pilgrim Church in Northern Spain. The church was a beautiful buillding; the atmosphere among the packed expectant congregation of thousands was electric! It was a marvellous experience to be there. However the High Altar was a monument to incredible bad taste. It looked like a fairground organ! Huge ugly grotesque cherubs and nasty looking angels and St James covered in gaudy gold leaf!! Ugh! Am I just showing my middle England prejudices?

I am delighted to have discovered your web site.
Yours sincerely Margaret Franks.
P.S. How dare the American Bible Society omit those wonderful illustrations from the Good News Bible???!!! What were they thinking about? What possible reason could they have had for doing that?

Subject: Why do Protestant Christians Reject the Visual Image?
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2001
From: Neil

Hello my name is Neil, and I'm one of those protestant christians, but let me explain. There are serveral stand points to why many protestants don't watch movies. Some have heard it was bad, because of the large amount of immorality that is shown on the screen, others are justashamed of the fact that they do watch movies and TV and don't want people to condem them of this desire.

Well, I don't watch movies, or even own a TV for many reason, that I can show you through scripture and opinion, so let me begin. I was never a Christian all my life, and was an athiest for most of my life. I saw and heard the expression of let's spend family time together, and it was in front of the TV. This alone produced a hole in families. Because, there are so many other things, that can be done in a more productive way. Some say you can limit you viewing time, and limit what you watch, then thats great, but a magority of people can't, which explain why the average americain spend 4 hours a day watching Televison, and that ever house has 2.1 Television in it. (I have read these stats, and will try to get them if needed). Thats is 1/6 of a day is spend in ones home watch TV, 2/6 for sleep, 2/6 for work or school, 1/6 to eat, shop, travel from different places. But I ask this, Where is time to PRAY, READ THE BIBLE, CHURCH TIME, AND TELL PEOPLE ABOUT GOD. I feel that is a major reason why most protestant don't watch visual imagery.
(Do you really think Protestant Christians spend all their available time in devotional and evangelistic endeavors?)

But, that isn't good enough to base a spiritual or church reasoning of my we shouldn't. SO let's see what the Bible say about these isssues. This one does it for me, and isn't just for Tv, but many forms of media. "Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." Romans 1:29-32 The King James Version. The verse state that they which do these things are worthy of death, but we stop there.
(The stories in the Bible is filled with such things too. But I think I understand your point)

The verse continues and say them that have pleasure in them also. So the pleasure or enjoyment of the action expressed in themare wrong also. I agree, that not every TV show, and movie has, them but a large majority does, so I don't care to watch. Some will say, but I don't the movie for those reasons, I ask, what better things can you do for Christ with that time. Also I shall share a true story at the end.

Heres another verse "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." Psalms 101:3 The King James Version

That brings me to the fact that once again, many visual images are contrary to the Word of God.

Heres, a valid point also, Mant christian (An Demonation) don't know there Bible. I have friends that say the weirdest things about why they do or don't do somethings, but don't have any true reason why they believe and do or dont do that something. Many people are religious in that aspect.

We recent showed a christian movie to a group of young people on my request. I meantion at the begin to have an open mind. We watch the mvie, and after, many complained about the effects were bad, the taping was out of a home video camera, and other faults. Out of that group of 40 people, 3 said that the message was good, and it touched there heart. That is what it really is about. What do you see in amovie I ask you?
(Judging from your grammar, and story telling ability, I think you would be served well by viewing movies and reading something besides the King James Bible.)

But finally the brownie story,

There was a single father with two young daughters. The daughters came on day and said, "Dad, I really wanna watch this movie. Everyone else has seen it. There are only a few swear words, and very little voilence. Please Daddy, please." He told her "No.", but she still try to press him. The father said, "Go outside play, and I make you some Brownies, then we can discuss it." She then went outside to play, and after an hour or so, he called them in for the brownies. They ran in and sat at the table, as daddy brought them over. "The smell great daddy, can me have some." she said. He placed them on the table, and they held hands to pray for the food. As they finished then said, "Ohh, before you eat the brownies, I need to let you know I changed the recipe a little. But, don't worry it still smells good. I did put the coco, flour, (and many other ingrediants), and little pinch of dog poo." he told them. The daughter said, "Dad, thats not good. They aren't good anymore." "But why, it's just a little bit of dog poo. I won't hurt you." he replied. She start shaking her head, and say that she wasn't going to eat. He then said, "What about that movie, it only has a little bit of swearing and violence. Isn't that the same thing?"
(Motion Pictures are just that -moving pictures. And some pictures are "good" and some "bad." But, you seem to suggest that film itself as bad is dog poo! -Dog poo?)

Well if you won't more information let me know ok.
Thanks Neil =====

Subject: Newsletter_20
Date: 6 Jan 01
From: Daniel Baer

Hello! I read your article about evangelicals and the visual arts. I wish I had good answers to your query. Alas, I don't. I did want to bring up some points which perhaps might shed some light on the issue, however obliquely.

I have no idea whatsoever why evangelicals haven't produced any great painters. This is a genuine puzzle to me (a puzzle that only entered my mind as I read your article). As to that part in your query-article regarding film and evangelicals, perhaps I might be able to say a word or two . . . .

You mention an evangelical movie (I forget the title--about the end of times) in which there is much dialogue but not much imagery. As a wannabe movie director/screen writer, when I think of plots and then imagine ways to flesh out my plots, I find that dialogue as a method of plot advancement is often what first occurs to me. This first jab at fleshing out my plot, however, is something I often end tossing into my circular file--in short, my first jab is often lousy and unacceptable. So perhaps the lack of visual imagery in the end times movie you mention is more a function of inexperience--not knowing enough to hold out and brain storm longer for a more creative way of depicting--than a shunning of visual imagery per se.

Also, perhaps visual images are something which--because of their power--frighten off many evangelicals. After all, visual images are often used toward bad ends. Think about how much film and television emphasizes hypersexuality through the use of women (and now men) prancing around wearing next to nothing. Think about all the gratuitous violence.

I'm aware that the term "evangelicals" as used in the academy refers to more than just fundamentalists, but even making use of this broader definition of the word I do think that in general evangelicals are hindered by more literal interpretive styles than, say, Catholics or mainline Protestants. (I say this intending no disparagement of evangelicals--I come from an evangelical background and still feel more at home with them than with other Christians.) This might be the reason that evangelical films are not all that metaphoric but rather remain all on one level. Perhaps this somehow ties into visual imagery in that imagery we often consider creative and particularly fascinating depicts something otherworldly--as opposed to the car crashes, sunsets, flora and fauna, etc. of this worldn and time. (Think BLADERUNNER--my favorite film. The visual imagery in Bladerunner is stunning. That the film is set in the future allowed Ridley Scott a lot of play with the sets, costume design, etc. which he otherwise might not have had.)

I think many evangelicals feel very ambivalent about film--perhaps more so than other Christian groups. I can't say I often don't feel the same way. Take my favorite movie, BLADERUNNER. I find some parts of BLADERUNNER objectionable--to the point that I often resist talking it up to those who haven't seen it. There are other parts of the film I find myself puzzled by--gray areas in which I'm not sure whether I should find them objectionable and, if so, to what degree.

Take, for instance, that part in the movie when Priss performs a series of backhandsprings toward Deckard (her intent is to kill him), only to be shot at and killed by Deckard at the last moment. When Priss dies, she convulses uncontrollably--arms, legs, and head boucing up and down at lightning speeds.

On an intellectual level, I just know Ridley Scott included this in the film because of its graphic power. I mean, I can just see the cogs turning in Scott's mind . . . backhandsprings--cool!, a last second gunshot--cool!, wild convulsion--really cool! Also on an intellectual level, I find this scene immature and somewhat ridiculous. Why on earth would Priss decide to kill Deckard by backhandspring-ing after him? Why wouldn't she just run after him in a normal way? Clearly, the backhandsprings were used because of their visual "coolness" as opposed to any requirement of the plot.

On an emotional level, however, I find myself attracted to the backhandspringing. I, too (and particularly when I was younger--I remember seeing the film as a teenager), find myself feeling that the backhandsprings are somehow neat-o. (Incidentally, I suspect many other people like this kind of thing, too--think about all the gymnastics in THE MATRIX--a movie which I consider in large part an excuse for gymnastics and kung fu--which is the most aesthetic form of fighting.) But--and this is important--I also find that my emotional self is experiencing something of possible danger when I watch this scene. The gunshot, the bloody wound, the convulsions--I sense something wrong about using killing to whip up and stir our visual sensations (even if one of the points of the movie is that androids should be treated as humans are treated).

Evangelicals--perhaps more than any other Christian group--place an emphasis on examining and re-examining their purity of heart. (Think Martin Luther--his obsession about his own sin led him to the idea of "grace, not works." Also, think of the Christian Perfectionists (Nazarenes, etc.)--a minority group among evangelicals, to be sure, but nevertheless a group which oftentimes interacts and mingles easily with other evangelicals despite their heterodox belief that humans can obtain moral perfection on this earth. Please note: I'm NOT suggesting that Catholics, mainline Protestants, etc. don't care about their purity of heart or that they don't place a sufficient level of emphasis on this.)

Perhaps, then, the emphasis which evangelicals place on inward purity leads them to shun talking about films which have objectionable components to them. You mentioned that evangelicals go to movies in droves; as you know, however, a difference exists between going to a movie and analysing one.

On a positive note, evangelicals have done wonderful work in Christian music. I listen to Christian radio most of the time and never feel that I'm trading quality of music for Christian lyrical content. Twenty years ago, however, I would have felt otherwise. So there is hope for change!

One last thing--we can't get too frustrated at the lack of quality films made by evangelicals. While things are slowly changing, up to very recently MANY groups hardly had any representatives in the world of film. Women, for example, have been seriously under-represented. Some minority groups have been unrepresented, too. Other minority groups are amazingly over-represented--Jewish men, for example, account for a stunningly high percentage of movie directors and producers. (NOT that, in the latter case, this is due to some anti-Semitic conspiracy.) My point here is simply that the strange levels of representation are indicative that those groups who are under-represented have untapped potential--something which some analyses of the situation might not suggest.

Thanks for your website! I do enjoy it! Take care and have a great New Year! Sincerely, Daniel Baer baerdaniel@netscape.net

Subject: Newsletter_20
Date: Mon, 1 Jan 2001
From: Gary Stokes

Thank you for your newsletter on image and the church. It was very insightful. I agree with you that the church lacks in the area of images and visual arts. I think that the church has associated the arts as being "wordly" and is afraid of being "corrupted". I think the church has lost an edge when it denied it's artistic side. I am finding that there is more truth in "non-christian" things, i.e. music, film. Thanks for your great wedsite and newsletters.
Gary Stokes


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