Thursday, July 12, 2012

In the World

Lifeway’s recent decision to pull “The Blind Side” from their shelves has been troubling me since it started showing up in the press last week.  There have been varied numbers of people within the Christian community who have shared their views on this issue.  They have expressed themselves well and I would encourage you, if you are so inclined, to read them.  I have put links below:

If you are not familiar with what happened, here’s the brief story.  The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) recently resolved at their convention meeting at the end of June to remove the movie, “The Blind Side” from their denomination’s bookstore’s (LIfeway) shelves.  As soon as the press got a hold of it, they all told the story, painting Lifeway and Southern Baptists as ignorant prudes who miss the point of a good, redemptive story by focusing on the “impure” aspects of it.

After doing some research on this whole story, I’ve discovered a different side of this story.  Turns out that the pastor who made a big deal about the movie, although I still don’t agree with him, began a resolution within his own state’s Southern Baptist Convention back in 2010, the same year that Lifeway began selling the movie.  So, in fairness to him, his objections to the film’s sales seem to have occurred fairly quickly after the chain began selling the movie.  But why did it take two years for it to get to the national level?  Other than selling tons of copies of the film, what else occurred during this time within Lifeway?

Like I said, I don’t have a problem if people choose to filter the things that they watch, listen to, and read.  In my opinion, we need to be careful about doing this as it can certainly promote a very one-sided viewpoint of issues.  But the removable of objectionable material within stores and especially homes, I understand and even support that.  To that end though, I question as to what caused Lifeway to have allowed the film to be sold in the first place.  If someone within the organization had viewed it prior to the chain agreeing to sell the film, would this whole situation have been eliminated?  Did someone watch it?  I would hope that Lifeway has learned a valuable lesson through all of this: monitor and approve what you are selling to avoid embarrassments like this in the future.

As I stewed over this situation and this post, I began to think about the things that the chain sells.  To be honest, there are things that are being sold in there every day that are objectionable to me.  Some of the T-shirts, bumper stickers, movies, and books are downright offensive to me as a follower of Jesus Christ, but that’s really another post.  Part of this Florida pastor’s objection was probably due to the store’s association with his denomination, which I can somewhat understand, but don’t be surprised when a world that desperately needs to hear about Jesus turns a deaf ear to Christ followers after instances like this.  While I’m not encouraging us to all go out and watch films depicting gratuitous amounts of sex, violence, and language, anyone who steps into a mall, a school, or even a place of business knows that things are far from sanitary in those places.  Depending on the neighborhoods where you reside, it might just be a matter of stepping out your front door to hear things that you don’t necessarily promote within the confines or your house.

My biggest struggle with this is that it comes across as a promotion for a “better time” when Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best ruled the airwaves, when family conflicts were resolved in half an hour.  Life can be very messy, I have experienced that firsthand over the last 18 months.  Things don’t always fit neatly into a box.  Sometimes things spill over and they’re not pleasant, they offend, they hurt.  Sometimes, while attempting to filter out certain offensive aspects of mediums like movies and books, we miss the greater story and the greater good that is being portrayed through it all.  As some of my fellow bloggers have written, there are some fairly objectionable stories within the Bible that could easily be sanitized and actually have been.  How much of the story of Jonah do kids really get?  It usually has a happy ending.  Ever read the end of the Book of Jonah?  It’s far from a happy ending?  Ever read the Book of Judges?  Tent stakes through a man’s head.  A knife thrust into the obese belly of a king and the fact closing in over it.  I just wonder what happens with these stories.

Throughout the narrative of Scripture, the people of God are called to be different, to act differently, to speak differently, and to live differently.  The New Testament writers speak of not being conformed to the pattern of this world.  Theologians have written books about Christ and culture.  There is to be a difference between those who consider themselves followers of Jesus and those who don’t.  My concern is that sometimes those differences look foolish not because of Jesus but because of us.  It’s one thing to look foolish over the radical and reckless message of the Cross, it’s another thing to look foolish because, well, we just look foolish.

There’s so much more to say on this and I hope to in days to come.  In the meantime, there are a few takeaways that I see from all of this.  First of all, be informed.  Make sure that you do your best to get the whole picture of the story.  It’s easy to think that everything I need to know I can learn from Fox News, CNN, CNBC, or even Yahoo! News, but we really need to explore further to get a broader picture.  If you own a store or promote something, make sure you are informed as possible about it.  Second of all, think about your reactions to things, they may look perfectly acceptable to you, but think about the message that might be conveyed through you reactions.  Not to say that you back down from reactions based upon how others view them, but there might be a different way of conveying it that maintains a witness without losing face with those who we are trying to be a witness to.

As long as we live in this world, we will constantly struggle with how to live.  I am sure that many of us will have our differences in this area.  The key in all of it is to try to keep the conversation going, we can all learn from each other in the midst of it all.


  1. I knew there was a post coming....

    I need to read through these links; thanks for putting them out there. From a strictly PR perspective, it wouldn't surprise me if Lifeway didn't want to do anything. Popular movie, popular stars. Maybe they didn't see the need to address the concerns of one person or contingent in the presence of solid sales and the possibility of bringing in a non-Christian buying audience.

    But, the larger question, which you asked, is why did Lifeway go ahead with selling this from the beginning? What are their standards for items featured in their stores? What was the lobbying point that made the tables turn?

    Denominations owning bookstores. There's probably a book in that, too....

  2. Dare I say this, but this controversy does seem a little like "holier than thou." Granted, the man who first objected is well within his SB right to motion for it, but to call for it to be removed on the basis of illogical principles escapes me. It does not follow that seeing or hearing profanities will produce the will to act in kind.

  3. Objectionable content in the Bible that I'd rather not explain to my girls:
    - Cain kills Abel
    - The rape of Tamar
    - Lot sleeps with his daughters
    - Jacob cheats his brother; has two wives
    - Potiphar's wife tries to seduce Joseph

    And that's just in the first book of the Bible! But as Genesis ends off, I'm reminded that what is abrasive and harsh in the text - the things I'd rather not read about - God uses it and even intendeds it all for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.