If Christians are supposed to engage the culture – and they are – it’s important to know what the culture is like. But that’s increasingly difficult when small minds seek to insulate the Body of Christ from the desperation those without Him experience.
One of our favorite adult films of recent years is “The Blind Side,” the 2009 Oscar-nominated story of Michael Oher’s trip from a Memphis ghetto to the University of Mississippi. The catalysts for Oher’s journey were the game of football (he’s now an offensive lineman for the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens) and Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy, the well-to-do couple that adopted him (played in the film by Tim McGraw and Sandra Bullock).
“The Blind Side” became popular among Christian believers for its faith-in-action message, and also drew a wider audience – its domestic box office gross exceeded $250 million, making it the most popular sports movie of all time. And you could buy a copy of the movie on DVD at just about any Christian bookstore, until recently. That’s when LifeWay stores, apparently based on the complaint of one Baptist minister, pulled the video from their shelves.
Rodney Baker, a Baptist pastor from Florida who led the move to get LifeWay to pull the film (LifeWay is the Southern Baptist Convention’s retail affiliate), objected to the film’s realistic portrayal of the environment Oher came from. That portrayal included profanity, violence and racial slurs – enough to earn the film a PG-13 rating. In other words, it shows what the Tuohys saved Michael Oher from – and that makes his story all the more remarkable, in our opinion.
We don’t begrudge Pastor Baker his opinion that Christians shouldn’t see “The Blind Side,” but we’re disappointed that LifeWay succumbed to his pressure. Let’s be clear: the movie would have been a financial success with or without the retail space in a chain of Christian bookstores. And since the DVD release of the movie occurred more than two years ago, it’s no longer a high-demand item. But its removal from LifeWay’s shelves sends an ominous and, we think, unbiblical message: Christians need not only to be “not to be of the world,” but also must be sheltered from the world’s realities.
We’d suggest to Pastor Baker and LifeWay executives that the Church will do a better job of communicating to its mission fields when it’s armed with at least a basic understanding of what those mission fields are like. To draw on one notable scene from the film, we’ll be more likely to understand the importance of buying a young man a bed when we realize that he and many others like him have never their own bed before.
More than many other artistic works we can think of, “The Blind Side demonstrates the truth communicated in John’s gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, ESV). It would be a shame if LifeWay’s clientele became so sheltered that they would lose an appreciation for how dark “the darkness” is for those who don’t have Christ.