When I was asked to write this post, my topic was originally going to be How Christians Are Dominating the Media. As a publicist who has booked author interviews with the mainstream media, I had to really think long and hard about the subject. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not Christians actually are dominating in that arena.
After much thought and chatting with some of my fellow publicists in the industry, I would say it’s not so much that we’re dominating, but that our presence has become more noticeable given the increased number of platforms available to authors and artists, especially through social media. So I think the real issue is, How are Christians impacting the media now?
To answer that question I have to start with two Christian products that I believe changed how the modern-day media views Christian topics. The first is the Left Behind® series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The first book was released in 1995, but it wasn’t until seven years later and 62 million in sales that the series made the cover of Newsweek magazine. Compare that timespan to how quickly the magazine covered both the Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Grey phenomena. Harry Potter made the cover in July 2000, just three years after its American debut, while 50 Shades of Grey made an appearance in April 2012, just over one year after it was published.
At the time of the Newsweek article about the Left Behind® series, LaHaye and Jenkins were outselling Stephen King, John Grisham, and every other pop novelist in the country—and the mainstream media was forced to take note. Now Christian books frequently appear on The New York Times Best Sellers list, with authors and musicians being interviewed and performing on national programs. Social media has increased the accessibility and popularity of the works of many artists, creating greater opportunities for them.
The second product is the movie The Passion of the Christ, released in 2004 by Mel Gibson. This movie went on to gross sales of more than $622 million. While the popularity of the movie baffled the mainstream media, it could not be ignored. Since that time we have seen the rise of more faith-based movies, with many trying to mimic the same strategy that Mel Gibson used in the successful marketing promotion of The Passion. Several independent faith-based studios have since been born, producing movies and series like Fireproof, Facing the Giants, Son of God, God’s Not Dead, and The Bible. While many of these do not match the same level of quality as Mel Gibson’s Hollywood blockbuster, these movies put forth Christian values that mean something in an industry that seems more often than not to promote violence, sex, and questionable values.
Hollywood also took notice of the success of The Passion, and has produced Bible-based movies such as Noah and the soon-to-be-released Exodus, with talk of more being planned. While trying to capture the Christian market with these movies, Noah missed the mark for many viewers with the creative license that was taken to enhance the story. The chief complaint with Noah was the lack of biblical integrity through the way both God and Noah were misrepresented. For Exodus, the verdict is still out.
Even if the mainstream media does not understand the appeal of faith-based books, movies, and music, they can no longer totally ignore them. So I believe we should be encouraged whenever God’s name is brought to people's attention. Even when those wins are not personally ours, we should celebrate because Christ is being proclaimed to a lost and dying world. Even if most viewers and listeners don’t “get it,” we should be praying that these opportunities for awareness will continue and ultimately cause more people to come to know Christ.
Christianne Debysingh currently serves as the Senior Publicist for Harvest House Publishers. In her role as lead publicist she works with authors and the media to schedule in-studio, radio, and satellite interviews and media tours around the US and Canada. She has been with Harvest House for more than 9 years.
Curious about the real Noah vs. the Hollywood version? Check out Jeff Kinley's As It Was in the Days of Noah—and get inspired by Jeff's blog post, How Biblical Prophecy Brings Encouragement to Believers.