Few Christians would openly defend viewing a show like Rock of Love, but who doesn’t get teary-eyed watching the final moments of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? Never mind that it’s a spinoff of a show about radical plastic surgery, EMHE pulls together a whole community to give a deserving family a new, grandiose home. Who could argue with that?
Which brings me to the three most disturbing words on television: “Move that bus.”
Again, there’s no arguing with the warmth and altruistic sentiments of the show. The families who have been profiled always seem to be wonderful people, I don’t impugn them or the show’s creators with secret evil intentions. But a disturbing thing happens in the final moments of the show. After profiling the family’s suffering, after talking about hardship and perseverance, after recruiting an army of volunteers, the family is brought in front of the new home, which is hidden from view by a large touring bus. They count down and call out those three words, and the reaction can only be described as worship. There are tears and shouting while people fall to their knees, hands raised in the air.
Here it is on bold display: the ultimate hope of most Americans. It’s as though a phantom voice is responding to their suffering with the words, Well done, good and faithful servant. Here is your reward: dreamy bedrooms, big-screen TVs, privacy fencing, and wireless internet. We watch. We weep. And we hope for ourselves. It’s yet another gospel alternative, this one packaged as a heart-warming vision of the way life is “supposed to be.”
Instead of just asking yourself about lust when you watch a film, ask yourself about hope. What’s the hope being proclaimed? What other desires are being stirred? Does it feed your sense of self-righteousness? Does it give you cause for contempt? Or does it give you a call to worship at the feet of the American dream?
Good art tells the truth, and sometimes the truth is ugly. Sometimes people who suffer don’t receive a reward. Sometimes the truth involves sinful people doing sinful things, and in telling a story (even a redemptive story) it’s necessary to talk about that darkness. Sometimes what appears to be good for the heart and the family is actually an idol in disguise.
Mike Cosper, pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky