One of my favorite comedians, Brad Stine, joins the show this week fresh off the heels of being featured in the movie Persecuted with stars James Remar, Bruce Davison, and Dean Stockwell – just one more contribution to 2014’s “Year of Bible Movies”, including Noah, Son of God, Heaven Is For Real, and many others. One of Brad’s highlights of making the film was picking the brain of Producer Gray Frederickson of Godfather and Apocalypse Now fame. But even more importantly, Brad sees a huge need for Christians to create compelling and well done God-centered and God-inspired movies if for nothing else to bring glory to Him through the arts.
Now, as for me, I can take dark colors, what some may consider questionable material, and salty language, so long as it’s within context and not gratuitous. A perfect example was when my wife and I watched the season premiere of Sons of Anarchy recently and had to turn it off, as we felt that the violence, language, and overall tone of the show was simply too much and beyond what was needed to set the context of the story. On the other hand, I remember seeing a faith-based film with a scene involving some gang-bangers that were practically hanging around saying “gosh, golly, gee-whiz”. Basically, I feel like Hollywood has lost touch with what makes us human. Personally, I go back to when I saw the Bourne Identity and I remember when Matt Damon’s character was betrayed and his story arc changed… and I simply didn’t care. I remember sitting there thinking, “C’mon guys… even if it’s something bad, make me care! Make me, the viewer, feel something!”
It’s in response to this, that I feel that the faith-based community has an opportunity to create the types of dramas that can make audiences feel something that they long to feel: sympathy and empathy for characters, redeeming story lines, and true heroes.
Or, as Brad puts it, we need to get back to the classic goal of the arts: to drive artists to transcendence. Art was supposed to show us that there is something greater than just us and uplift us. We see this in classic architecture, music, design, and the visual arts. Yet, somewhere along the road, art changed. “Artists” now seem like they’re just pretending to create art as they dehumanize and degrade what once was beautiful and admirable. And what’s worse is that they’ve convinced themselves that their efforts actually make us better people.
But, what Brad finds most interesting and ironic in regards to entertainment and American Christianity is the fact that we’ve never been oppressed (until now); we’ve never had anything at stake for our faith (until now); we’ve never been maligned or attacked (until now); so, as a reaction, we became soft, safe, compromising cowards. You see, Jesus didn’t die so that we can be happy when we’re happy. Real life is messy. And God wants to show us what we can be when things straight up suck.
Imagine Brad pitching this as a “faith-based” film: A guy voyeuristically watches his neighbor’s wife shower, then he has sex with her, and then he kills her husband. It’s a phenomenal faith-based story!! Brad would get laughed out of Hollywood! (or Toronto, or Vancouver, or wherever Christian studios are making their movies these days). I mean, how do are he even suggest that something that evil could be faith-based and God-inspired. That is, until you realize that Brad just summarized act two of King David’s life.
What Brad really wants to know is why is it that so many Christian film makers today are afraid of telling certain stories because they might be “inappropriate”, when God Himself chose so many incredibly “inappropriate” stories to share with us throughout His Word! Aren’t we headed in a bad direction when we become more stringent censors that God?
Brad boils it down to the point that in America, we have trained ourselves to judge content over context, and that is where we have lost proper perspective. God says that He judges our hearts. Therefore, what is it that we are trying to accomplish with this mode of conversation? Is it redeeming? Does it talk about evil properly and show that light will conquer over darkness? Does it relate God’s truth or does it merely glorify man?
Now, I believe that if you look at a show like Game of Thrones, you can see God in its stories by looking at His absence. You can clearly see what life was like for a group of people in a time and culture when darkness ruled in the hearts of the people and instead of choosing to seek out God, they only served themselves and wound up in ever darker and darker situations to the point where human life meant nothing.
I mean art – all art – should feed something in your soul. Whether it’s rap music, violent movies, feel-good comedies, or Christian-fiction novels, it should feed you in some way.
Now, in addition to stand up comedy and movie acting, Brad has also been busy developing a curriculum based on a Christian worldview. Basically, life is very simple: you either believe in God or you don’t. But, how you answer the question of whether or not you believe in Him will effect every answer you will have for the rest of your life. Brad has tackled this and other deep and consequential questions throughout his comedy career, but recently, he has begun work on an honest to goodness Bible Study / DVD series.
To find out more about what Brad’s up to, check out www.BradStine.com.