That’s for chickens to laugh at…*

Watched Serenity again the other night. (Orson Scott Card agrees with me that it’s the finest sci-fi film ever made. Hate it when he copies me…) There’s no way to over-state Joss Whedon’s skills. Plot, character, action, pace… the film’s a benchmark for shiny sci-fi goodness. The dialogue alone has some of the best one-liners ever uttered, and the scene with the Reaver ships confronting the Alliance in the skies over Mr. Universe’s planet is pure epic.

Watched it last night with a buddy who’d never had the pleasure of seeing it before, and after acknowledging its obvious awesomeness, he said “The guy (J.W.) knows the Bible but doesn’t seem to like Christianity very much. It’s the whole sub-text.”

It’s not my purpose here to dissect the film’s themes with its notions of creating a ‘world without sin’ and faith in faith. I’d be happy to discuss them some other time. Between the hullabaloo over at deCompose on Labeling Christian fiction and my friend’s comment, I was reminded of the obvious fact there’s a worldview driving every bit of media. It’s never really ‘just of movie/song/show/novel….”

“All art is propaganda. It is universally and inescapably propaganda; sometimes unconsciously, but often deliberately, propaganda.”
— Upton Sinclair

I’m not shocked to find that others hold different or opposing worldviews, neither am I sniveled that they would construct and infuse their creations with their perspectives. I expect it. I also hold to the conviction Christian artists shouldn’t use ‘bait and switch’ tactics trying to be clever.

What I do find odd are the shrill accusations of ‘proselytizing’ that come whenever certain folks encounter a novel/art with Christian themes, or the strident calls for warning labels on the same like those on gansta rap cds or household chemicals. Star Wars, Serenity, Avatar, Childhood’s End, Caprica or the new BSG, or (insert your own title) don’t feature lead-ins with “This film contains elements of secular humanism/re-constituted pagan belief systems, and was made in a facility known to hold condescending/denigrating attitudes towards traditional Judeo/Christian values.”

What’s ridiculous* (see below) is the double-standard employed, as if Christians aren’t entitled to the same integrated creative expression as other artists. When I was shopping Running Black around, one editor strongly suggested I lose the ‘definite world-view statement’ (read “Christianity”) to make it more marketable. Apparently, a child going to Heaven is offensive to some people.

As an adult functioning in the Open Marketplace of Ideas, I’m fair game. I’m expected to sort out different truth claims when I meet them, generally without the benefit of a warning shot across my bow. Being a free moral agent in a free society means I encounter those who have made different choices and engage in conduct I disagree with. That’s the burden and benefit of maturity and liberty.

Atheism insists it holds the intellectual high ground; that religious folks lack a chromosome or a matching pair of brain cells, or some equally debilitating condition, but isn’t what’s good for the goose also good for the gander? Don’t like my perspective? Deal with it… Deal with it the same way I deal with yours. Like an adult.

But given the hue and cry, the scorn often heaped on Christians, I’d say those folks are acting in the very manner they accuse believers of: myopia, fear, and shallow conditioned ignorance.

* In the film, the safeword phrase that Simon uses to shut River down, “Eta kuram na smekh”, is a Russian expression (“Это курам на смех”). Literally, it means, “That’s for chickens to laugh at” — a Russian idiom for “That’s ridiculous”.

4 Replies to “That’s for chickens to laugh at…*”

  1. I have lost track of the number of books/movies/Saturday morning cartoons that have tried to shove their ideals down my throat. Everything from socialism to neocommunistic gonzo environmentalism to atheism. One of my favourite performers is Penn Jillette–you can imagine how much of his ReligionisBS I have to tune out.

    Now, I can’t speak for how non-Christians do things; I am not one. In most cases I’m quite happy for the free market to determine the fates of those preachier things.

    As for Christians, though, I think much of our creative works suffer from being stuck in the Medieval Morality Play mode. I completely understand why that meets with objections. I would point to Blue Bloods’ first season as a prime example of how to do Christian and Christian Values-themed entertainment without being strident.

    Yes, there is a certain amount of ridiculousness in Publishing because books are (or were–I think it’s changing) a harder sell. Too many mainstream houses are overly cautious. Then again, a lot of the folks employed in Publishing are from a more humanistic segment of the population. So even something with understated religion like RB is going to run afoul of their ideals. Good news is that the rise in boutique houses like Belle Bridge means that more books with understated Christian themes are trickling into the marketplace.

  2. As for Serenity specifically, I’ve never been offended by the world view presented. I don’t think the world view is all that definitive actually. The fact that they talk about Christianity is a positive, and leaves the viewer more room to come up to their own conclusions about which is the more meaningful perspective.

  3. I don’t know “Running Black”, so I can’t judge it. I do know that when an author with an ideology, be it Bolshevism, communism, libertarianism, Randroidism, Scientology, any of the various Chistianities, u.s.w., makes statements of how people behave that seem realistic only if you believe as they [sic] do, I’m irritated. That goes double for a story in which (for example) the nobility or strength or success or mad fighting skills or sheer sexiness of a character seems completely determined by how well they’d agree with the author…old, very Christian, depictors of Saladin have something to teach the perpetrators of the latter.

    Shorter: Grinding your axe can easily drown-out your story.

    1. Sure. Given we all overtly or obliquely bring our worldviews/truth claims with wherever we go, it’s more a question of how loudly and openly we’re grinding said edged

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