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Newbie Christian Media Critics: Your Complaints Are Cliched

Really? Christian books, movies, and music are all terrible and preachy and stupid? Never heard that one before.
| Feb 27, 2019 | No comments |

Do newbie Christian media critics know their complaints can be just as sentimental and hackneyed as some of the stuff they condemn?

Yes, newbie Christian media critic. We know how terrible/preachy/stupid/dumbity stupid dumb dumb you suddenly realize a lot of “Christian” media is. Glad you figured it out. No, really. It’s not unimportant to memorize the multiplication tables.

But. You must be new here.

Of course, plenty of stories, movies, and music by Christians is plenty dumb. Or preachy. Or even (this is less popular to say) plain doctrinally incorrect, or else straight-up heretical.1

But, whenever people say this stuff as if it’s some revolutionary discovery, I’ve often written countless little micro-essays that attempt dual purposes:

  1. Empathize with the person who has suddenly woken up and complains, hey, some of this stuff is really terrible.
  2. Challenge the critic to mature in his response and realize that, really, such complaints are really basic, 101-level stuff.

Sure, we’re all learning. We’re all in process, all on our own journeys.

But: the quicker you can figure out that these complaints are (1) cliche; (2) basic; (3) a very early part of maturing as a Christian creative voice—the better.

Perhaps I can help get this started. Perhaps the newbie Christian media critic simply must begin to feel that all his or her clever criticisms have all been said before, thousands of times, in the great circle of Christian Creative Life.

So this time I’m foregoing my usual micro-essay responses, links to previous articles, etc.

Instead, I’ll just share a few modified quotes. Then I’ll share a few brief replies. Very brief. In fact, they’re mostly animated GIFs.2

After all, newbie Christian media critics often repeat an amazing new concept: “Show, not tell!”

Please note: I’m not making fun of newbie Christian-media critics. My intent is only to challenge them to think beyond the cliches. Try to be more biblical and less reactionary in your criticisms. And also: keep growing.3

1. ‘I don’t read/watch/listen to “Christian” media because it’s all terrible.’

2. ‘Christian stories never show really real life in reality!’

3. ‘God isn’t against sex!’

4. ‘Great stories need to include more swearing!’

5. ‘No one likes preachy stories!’

Let’s go beyond the cliches.

If I missed a newbie Christian media critic cliche, let me know. And I’m curious what your short or animated GIF response would be.

  1. Some Christians who are so embarrassed by Christian stories/movies/music fail to realize this general axiom: The less biblical the media’s creative minds, the lamer the story becomes.
  2. If I think of more basic-level Christian media criticisms, I’ll add them here, and make this article a single repository of my replies.
  3. It also wouldn’t hurt if newbie Christian media critics learned to practice what they proclaim. “Christian media is too preachy!” they exclaimed, pounding their pulpits. “Christian media beats people over the head!” they demanded, in their fiercely worded internet comments void of nuance. “Christian media keeps telling instead of showing!” they insisted, ignoring attractive examples or winsome images, and instead wielding their words as blunt instruments. “Christian media is moralistic and makes people feel unwelcome, so no one should enjoy it ever, and anyone who does is an idiot!”
E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor of a nonfiction book about parenting and popular culture (title TBA), to release spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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