Friday, 30 December 2011
Christ and the media
The new Sherlock Holmes film was enjoyable, in a kind of top-hatted swashbuckling way, and it made me think how much media such as film and TV influence us. Messages inside film can be powerful and a popular film may even be culturally influential, so to people who are sensitive about the spiritual temperature of society, it does matter what kind of things we are watching. Downton Abbey (much as I love it, especially that kiss in the snow) is really just escapism with a lot of nice frocks thrown in. Reading an Arthur Conan Doyle short story does a lot more for me than seeing 117 highly choreographed shots of Victorian men beating the living daylights out of each other. On the other hand, the recent BBC adaptation of Great Expectations was brilliant and thoughtful - being steeped in the Christian faith, Dickens' writing shows a deep understanding of the human condition which he lays bare inside a fantastic story, infused with the biblical motif of the Prodigal Son. So why aren't we praying for and encouraging more writers who are Christians to use their creative talents in the world of the media? We pray for teachers and vicars, nurses and maybe policemen, but when were you last in church when a Christian screenwriter or advertiser was mentioned? One such is Rhidian Brook, whose TV drama Mr Harvey Lights a Candle (2005) was one of the best written, most thought-provoking and surprising successes that year. The gospel was hidden right in there inside the brilliant script about a has-been RE teacher (Timothy Spall) who takes a group of ungrateful teenagers to Salisbury Cathedral for the day. Brook has since released an uplifting and positive film - Africa United (2010) - about a group of African children who walk 3000 miles to see the World Cup. Rev Richard Coles, Anglican priest, musician and journalist, writing about the influence of Christianity in pop music in last week's Big Issue is another example of someone who's 'in there' making a difference. To fulfil the Christian vocation to be 'salt and light' in the world, we could do with a lot more like them.