But even so, the movie-makers did not, as yet, tap into this vast and constantly growing market with films containing a specifically "Christian" content (or what passes for such). After all, the millions of so-called "Christians" attending the movies, and buying up or renting the videos or DVDs, were just as content as those who made no profession of Christianity to watch whatever Hollywood vomited out! They didn't care if the movies glorified violence, or were filled with sexual immorality of all kinds, or foul language and blasphemy. Every so often a prominent "Christian" commentator would take a swipe at the filth being glorified in the movies, but hardly any of them ever advocated the only biblical response: staying away from them. They would bemoan the filth, but continue to go and watch it, along with the millions of others who would be found sitting in churches on Sunday mornings, even though their Friday and Saturday nights were taken up with watching ungodly movies, and the rest of the nights in the week were given over to soaking in the same from their TV screens at home. A study by a leading Hollywood marketing firm, MarketCast, suggested that "Christians", in addition to readily watching mainstream "entertainment", were also drawn to violent fare – even the most conservative among them! Joseph Helfgot, president of MarketCast, said, "There's a wind going through the production community about responding to religion. But when it comes to movies, people distinguish between moral issues and entertainment issues. And most people, even the very religious, are very happy with their movies."
What an indictment of those calling themselves Christians! Most people, even the very religious, are very happy with the movies that are churned out. They will watch precisely the same movies as those who make no profession of faith in Christ!
But of course, being religious, they would also love to watch "religious" movies; and Hollywood did not cater for this. It was in fact very anti-religious.
Until, that is, The Passion of the Christ.
Mel Gibson's Roman Catholic splatter-movie took the world by storm. Purporting to be an accurate, authentic depiction of the crucifixion of Christ, it was nothing of the sort. It was made by a devout Roman Catholic; it promoted Roman Catholic doctrine; it had a man depicting Christ, contrary to the Word of God; it was nauseatingly violent, so graphic that people threw up while watching it, or passed out. Not that long ago a film like this would have been shunned by evangelical Protestants. But times had changed. Those calling themselves evangelicals were not what they used to be! They were now avid movie-goers, vast numbers of them, with no qualms about watching scenes of horrific violence. They were also softened up to Roman Catholicism by decades of the ecumenical movement, being told by their own spiritually blind pastors that Romanism was "just another Christian church", Roman Catholics were "brothers and sisters in the Lord", etc. And what's more, the vast majority of them were by now so ignorant of sound biblical truth that they readily embraced Arminianism, shallow counterfeit evangelistic methods such as "movie evangelism", "music evangelism", the "altar call" and the "sinner's prayer", and the lie that they must be "in the world [i.e. part of the world, doing what the world does] to win the world" (so obviously contrary to Jn. 17:14-16, 2 Cor. 6:14-18, etc.).
And so, when The Passion came out, they swarmed into movie theatres by their millions, urged on by their pastors, even at times hiring the entire venue so that the whole church could go to watch the movie. Protestant ministers pronounced this Papist film a "true Christian movie", and a great evangelistic tool, perhaps one of the greatest ever. Mel Gibson, devout Papist and a veteran actor of all kinds of ungodly movies, was praised and honoured by so-called "evangelicals", and called a Christian by them, as he doubtless laughed all the way to the bank. Certainly his supposed "Christianity" did not prevent him getting drunk and spewing forth anti-Jewish remarks when he was arrested. But what of that? As far as blind "evangelicals" were concerned, he had made the greatest Christian movie of all time, and he was their hero.
And now Hollywood woke up to the vast "Christian" market out there. Evangelicals and fundamentalists number tens of millions in the United States alone, and tens of millions more in the rest of the world. Sure, huge numbers of professing "Christians" had for years shown that they were more than willing to watch anything and everything the non-Christians watched; but The Passion proved that they would also flock in huge numbers to a "Christian" movie. But also, such a movie would attract still more "Christians", those somewhat more discerning than the common herd, who still had some standards left and would not go to watch movies which were an overt attack on their morals or their faith. "A segment of the market is starving for this type of content [i.e. religious content]," said Simon Swart, general manager of 20th Century Fox's U.S. home entertainment unit. FoxFaith, Fox's "Christian" division, declared that they were targeting, in particular, evangelical or "born-again Christians", who had often rejected popular entertainment as offensive. In fact, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment built up a network of "evangelical Christian" moviegoers, including 90 000 congregations and a database of over 14 million mainly "evangelical" households.
Hollywood had never taken the "Christian public" seriously, but now, in the wake of the phenomenal runaway success of The Passion, it sat up with a jolt and took notice. Gibson's movie grossed many hundreds of millions of dollars in worldwide box office proceeds. Dollar signs began to flash in producers' eyes. There was a huge untapped – and extremely lucrative – market out there. They now knew that millions of "Christians" would rush to watch "Christian" movies. And they wouldn't even be very discerning – they'd pretty much gobble up any old religious fare that Hollywood served up!
The vice chairman of Universal Pictures, Marc Shmuger, said of the "evangelical" market, "It's a well-formed community, it's identifiable, it has very specific tastes and preferences. In every fashion, you need to customize your message to your audience." This quote shows plainly enough that it's all about making money as far as the movie producers are concerned. Some studios actually began turning to experts in "Christian marketing" to scan their scripts for content that would be objectionable to "Christians", and come up with marketing plans to target the "Christian" audience.
And so the movie-makers began to add things into their movies which they thought would appeal to "Christians", and to take things out which they thought would offend them. An example of adding something in: in a movie called Mr. And Mrs. Smith, which was about professional assassins, when a neighbour's car is stolen a crucifix hangs conspicuously from a rearview mirror, and the actors wear borrowed jackets that read "Jesus Rocks" as they go undercover. And the movie's director said, "We decided to make the next-door neighbour, whose crucifix it is, be hip, young, cool Christians. It's literally in there for no other reason than I thought, This is cool."
And an example of taking something out: during shooting of the movie Flightplan, actor Peter Sarsgaard was instructed to strike the word "Jesus" from his dialogue. "They said: ‘You can't say that. You can't take the Lord's name in vain'," Sarsgaard said of the film's producers.
Well, if such additions and deletions satisfy "Christians", then truly what passes for "Christianity" is shocking! A crucifix in a scene would once upon a time have thrilled no one but a Roman Catholic; and if those calling themselves evangelicals are impressed because some godless movie-maker puts a crucifix in a particular scene, or makes the actors wear jackets with the words "Jesus Rocks", then what passes for "evangelical Christianity" is so far from being biblical that there are no words to adequately describe it. Likewise if the removal of a single use of the Lord's name makes "Christians" assume that the movie is a good one! Is this all it takes now to satisfy "Christians"? Do they justify going to watch ungodly movies merely because of changes like these? Oh what times we live in!