- - Wednesday, March 15, 2023

“Hollywood hates Christians.”

That’s a common sentiment regarding Tinseltown‘s treatment of believers, though the reality is likely far more convoluted and intricate than that statement lets on.

The truth is that Hollywood is just not that into authentic biblical Christianity. And there’s very likely a mixed bag of explanations driving the absence of appropriate or flattering faith content on mainstream platforms.

From apathy to overt hostility, faith is far from executives’ and creatives’ minds, being treated as though it’s unworthy of elevating.

Sure, more than 60% of Americans embrace the Christian label, but the catalog of faith-based content is akin to a needle in today’s massive haystack of traditional broadcast, cable and streaming platforms.

For a long time, it seemed only Christians openly complained about their underrepresentation and misrepresentation in these spaces, which isn’t all that surprising.

After all, if you’re not personally the target of disdain or the one being ignored, you’ll likely be silent or ignorant about what’s unfolding. But those tides seem to be shifting, as others are noticing the long-standing lack of representation.

Actor Rainn Wilson, who starred in the TV series “The Office,” unleashed a tweet on March 11 that quickly became front-page news in some sectors, as he acknowledged a bias in our entertainment spheres.

“I do think there is an anti-Christian bias in Hollywood,” Mr. Wilson boldly proclaimed.

He went on to reference a scene from the post-apocalyptic drama “The Last of Us” that showed an apparently diabolical character reading from Scripture.

“As soon as the David character in ‘The Last of Us’ started reading from the Bible, I knew that he was going to be a horrific villain,” Mr. Wilson continued. “Could there be a Bible-reading preacher on a show who is actually loving and kind?”

His point is fascinating. It’s something I’ve often pondered in my work covering faith, politics, media and culture. There once was a Bible-reading preacher whom audiences did, indeed, love. You might remember WB’s “7th Heaven,” a show about a pastor and his family that became the network’s most-watched program and baffled many onlookers.

With other shows on the network such as “Dawson’s Creek” making splashy headlines and getting all the public love, it was the show about a minister and his family that most captivated audiences.

So, where are all the “7th Heavens” today? Nowhere to be found, it seems.

Sure, we have “The Chosen” and other faith-based movies and TV shows, which is amazing. But most of that content — as incredible as it is — comes from crowdfunding and other nontraditional sources.

For whatever reason, mainstream avenues and the newer streamers simply don’t go there.

Consider this: If I asked most people to name three current characters in Hollywood projects who encompass positive portrayals of Christians, most would draw a blank — and that’s deeply troubling. Aside from Barbara Howard, a beloved teacher in the ABC comedy “Abbott Elementary,” I can’t think of anyone else.

Ms. Howard, portrayed by actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, is an outspoken Christian who is filled with wisdom and often helps younger educators on their journeys.

But she is a rarity in Hollywood, where envelope-pushing is much more valued than overt or intentional efforts to frame Christians and their ideals properly.

Mr. Wilson did follow up his initial tweet about bias by lamenting “the evangelical/political coalition,” which he said “is doing a great deal of damage to our country,” accusing them of book and freedom banning, denying science, and “taking a grotesque anti-LGBTQ+ platform.”

The actor then added, “But most Christians that I know are kind, accepting and loving and seeking to make the world a better place. They should also be honored in the media.”

Mr. Wilson’s head-scratching claims about evangelicals aside, he’s correct that Christians deserve to be “honored in the media” and are usually ignored.

Industry insiders will often say, “Hollywood is a business.” And they’re right. But if your business shows a wildly positive yield on something like “7th Heaven,” and if movies such as “The Passion of the Christ” have broken records, but you barely do anything to try and replicate the success, one would be remiss not to question why.

In fairness, that’s a question only Hollywood can answer, but here are some quick and important facts for fans of Christian entertainment and anyone who wants to see more of these movies and TV shows:

1. There are some very positive signs. Sony bought the faith- and family-friendly streamer Pure Flix, showing the value some of our most powerful film and TV companies see in Christian content — and the industry interest in this entertainment only seems to be growing.

Plus, Lionsgate has partnered with Kingdom Story Co. (Erwin brothers) to push out films like “Jesus Revolution,” a movie making history and inspiring audiences across the nation. There are plenty of other examples that show Hollywood is waking up.

2. Showing up is key. We can complain about Hollywood ignoring or misrepresenting us all day long, but Tinseltown is indeed a business. Are there activists? Sure, but what we see from Hollywood’s percolating interest in faith films and TV shows is that studios are willing to dip their toes in if they believe audiences will react positively.

So, if you want more Christian content, start showing up to theaters and supporting faith-based projects. With all the smut and garbage in our entertainment, it’s up to us to nudge Hollywood — or even force its hand — to show we’ll actually support what we claim we so desperately want: positive and uplifting content.

As I conclude, there’s one final point: Another way to nudge Hollywood in the right direction is to laud the work of Angel Studios and its hallmark project “The Chosen.” The series, which has broken crowdfunding records, shows that a massive audience can be built around the Gospel and value-driven content — and that it can be done outside of the traditional studio sphere.

While we should be working to support traditional embraces of faith content, we must also show up for — and support — these projects. After all, souls depend on it.

Billy Hallowell is a digital TV host and interviewer for Faithwire and CBN News and the co-host of CBN’s “Quick Start Podcast.” He is the author of four books, including “Playing With Fire: A Modern Investigation Into Demons, Exorcism and Ghosts,” and “The Armageddon Code: One Journalist’s Quest for End-Times Answers.”

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