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If Catholics Want Good Media, We Have to Pay for Them

Anyone paying attention will have noticed the steady decline of morals and Christian values in mainstream entertainment. Conversation among Christians, in person and online, is filled with statements such as “Don’t give your money to Hollywierd” and that we are “slowly fed poison” by movies and TV. These are too often correct: much in the media is anti-moral and anti-Christian. There is a real war against Christianity and the Catholic Church. We must confront this evil, support the media missionary, and help artists make good content.

We and our children should consume media with consideration. There are topics a young child should not see. Some topics should not be seen unless the viewer — perhaps “consumer” is a better term — is mature enough to handle the topic. Some expand this to never allowing their children to consume modern media. This will lead to problems once a child leaves the home and is surrounded by messaging without the experience and skills to filter and cope.

TV and media aren’t going anywhere. The consumption of media, 12:09 hours per day for adults in the U.S., with something like 67% on small screens, continues to grow. This year, for the first time, more media consumption happens on phones instead of TV. Media are now literally with us all day instead of only when we sit at home and relax.

Instead of avoiding all modern media, choose to consume them with your child. Use the pause or mute button and talk with them about the messaging. Discuss why the story is being told the way it is and why Catholic values and morals may or may not agree. Equip your child to understand the subtext and reject any evil within.

Catholics should create art. TV and movies can be art. Pope John Paul II wrote in his “Letter to Artists”(1999) calling us to create art both for the Church and for the masses. He wrote, “[T]he divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power.”

Some may be called to paint, some to write. Some, such as this author, are called to be filmmakers. None is inherently better or worse art than another form. The ability of art to reach the hearts and minds of the world is an incredible power, and we must participate, with motion pictures being the most powerful to present a message. JPII also wrote, “In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God.” Attractive art is not just overtly spiritual and holy. It must be art the masses will choose to consume. This could be a church scene or a car chase. All topics can be used to present good or evil, and to make truth and beauty, and God, perceptible to all, even the sinner lost in darkness.

Not all media need to be spiritual in order to be Good. In 1973, ultrasound technology was not available to give mothers the view of their unborn. Now, with “4D” ultrasound, a mother can see her child in the womb and watch a video of him moving around — Not a grainy blur, but the clear face and fingers and smiles of the child. This is the picture of media as an incredibly powerful tool, causing many to rethink abortion. Media showing the horror of the abortion process are also changing minds, as we see and hear the terror, not some sterile and pleasant “procedure.” Media are saving lives, even when not inherently spiritual.

There is no requirement that good media be overtly Catholic or Christian. While there is nothing wrong with creating faith-based movies, they tend to be aimed at those already leading Christian lives. Should the priest preach to the choir or to the sinner in sitting in the last pew — perhaps the sinner who has not made it to church at all? Many of these faith-focused stories have protagonists who go from being good to being great. These stories are not equipping us, or our children, for the trials they will face in life or the road back from sin. The points that will stick with the viewer long-term are those they come to themselves — the subtext, not the obvious.

The media we create must be high-quality, to honor God and reach the masses. Quality is a function of many things, including practice and the proper tools. Media production, especially content like feature films, is incredibly expensive. If we do not support content creation, the only content created will be low-quality, laughed at, and scorned. It will fail to reach those most in need.

Good Christian people write, shoot, edit, and produce good and moral content every day. They suffer constant discrimination and harassment for their efforts and beliefs. Hollywood is a mission field, with our missionaries creating good content and building other Christian content-creators. They are the ones fighting the battles, and every concerned Christian should support them with prayer, encouragement, and money. Their work reaches every corner of the world, and we should honor them for their evangelism.

“You can’t win if you don’t play” remains an ongoing truism. In today’s culture, everyone with a cell phone, a TV, or a computer is playing, or consuming the product of Hollywood. As the culture war rages, leaving the field is abandoning our brothers and sisters in combat.

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