LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently made the decision to ban the movie Blind Side from their shelves because it contains “explicit profanity, God’s name in vain, and racial slurs.” The reaction has been swift and predominately furious. Rachel Held Evans penned a passionate piece describing the strangling chokehold Christian bookstores have on the publishing industry, and how that in turn impacts our ability to produce and appreciate true art. Eric Metaxes got upset, saying that “If we Christians can’t get this, then maybe we really should refrain from commenting on culture in the first place.” Virtually everyone has pointed out that if LifeWay was to enforce this policy blindly (lame pun intended) then the Bible should be the first book to go.
I understand the outrage–especially Evans’ point about the undue influence of the bookstores and publishers. I think she’s right that the ‘Christian’ publishing system is broken. I also doubt that the Holy Spirit is telling people not to watch The Blind Side. But…
…this was entirely “in-house.” No protests, no boycotts, not even an admonition t0 the faithful to throw away DVDs. Just a bunch of SBC stores deciding to pull a three-year old movie from their SBC shelves.
Sure, I personally disagree. I regret their reductionistic, sanitized understanding of the gospel, and I cringe at how silly this three-years-in-the-making decision makes the content curators at LifeWay look. (Ok, one dig: apparently the Holy Spirit didn’t mind the profanity when the ‘new release’ DVDs were selling like hotcakes!)
But c’mon! This is what the SBC does. No one expects them to lead the charge to produce substantial, beautiful art! No one really expects them to do be on the cutting edge of cultural relevance! Everyone expects them to be extremely conservative.
Here’s the point: is this really going to create some sort of huge cultural explosion? Is LifeWay really the vanguard of art, ethics, or profundity? I don’t know anyone who thinks the SBC speaks for all of Christendom, or even for all Evangelicals, or even my church. I’ve also lived, acted, and taught in such a way that I’m not too concerned that anyone who knows me will associate me with the ban.
So let’s live and let live. Rather than rearing up in arms to angrily denounce our brothers and sisters because they make Christians look angry, let’s just let them work out their faith with fear and trembling. And we’ll work out ours with fear and trembling. And when they do something like this, let’s just smile and wink, enjoying our freedom to take a different path, and hopefully they’ll do the same when we do things that seem a bit off to them (like ordain women).
The best thing about a smile and a wink is that both are possible to do while simultaneously keeping arms locked in unity.
I think I’m going to go watch ‘The Blind Side.’