Strange Bedfellows

One of my favorite Simpson's episode is one where the church is destroyed. Reverend Lovejoy, facing the fact that there isn't enough money to rebuild the church, takes the advice of a marketing expert to seek corporate sponsorships for the church. The result is money changers in the lobby and a homily by The Noid.

Fortunately, in these my post-megachurch days, I was able to avoid the church mass-marketing campaign that Disney created for the new Narnia movie. Following in the footsteps of The Passion Of The Christ, Disney partnered with Outreach Marketing to get churches to encourage their parishioners [love that word] to go see the movie. Churches throughout the country participated, renting out theaters and preaching sermon series about the movie based on C.S. Lewis' literary masterpiece. It seemed like a win-win situation.

I hate to break ranks here, but I find it frightening that churches are now consistently partnering with movie studios to market movies to their congregation. It all started innocently enough with The Passion of The Christ. This opportunity presented itself and churches everywhere embraced it. I mean, it was a movie all about Jesus' death. Why wouldn't churches be into it? One pastor went as far to proclaim it "one of the greatest evangelistic tools in modern day history." While many would claim this partnership a success, I think we need to objectively evaluate how all these marketing efforts movie payed off. Were masses won to Christ because of this movie? Not that I remember. But the one undeniable success was the take at the box office: Mel Gibson The Passion grossed over $600 million worldwide.

To be fair, Gibson produced The Passion with an independent production company, fronting his own money see it become a reality. It was a major risk. I honestly don't believe that Gibson did it for money's sake. Fast forward to today as multiple movie studios are trying to follow The Passion path. But there are some major differences between marketing of The Passion and Narnia. First, The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe was made by a major movie studio. Also, there was some major money on the film. Disney dropped over $250 million to make and market the flick, compared to Gibson's $45 million for The Passion.

And is it just me, or does anyone find it ironic that the producers of this film embraced by Christians everywhere is the same conglomerate that Southern Baptists voted to boycott eight years ago? Interesting . . .

Friends, let's not fool ourselves here: ultimately these movies aren't about faith, it's about business. The purpose of a motion picture is not to be faithful to a book, nor is it to proselytize. The purpose of a movie is to make money. I highly doubt that the movie adaptation of Wardrobe would've been created had it not been for the highly successful Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter franchises. This quote from a Yahoo News article explained it all, "Disney's fantasy came true with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The film debuted as the top weekend film with $65.6 million." The only sacred verse that rules Hollywood is found in the gospel according to Jerry Maguire, spoken by Brother Rod Tidwell: "Show Me The Money."

I'm not saying that churches shouldn't use movies as an opportunity to illustrate and teach Biblical concepts; we should be all about using culture for good. But it seems icky to me that churches work for the studios and do marketing for them. We pastors need to be careful what we peddle to our people, and avoid the Noid.