Finding Truth in Unlikely Places
This is probably going to seem like a strange post, but bear with me, I do have a point. Sort of.
Recently I’ve been watching “Desperate Housewives” on DVD from the 2007-08 season. Now, that probably surprises some of you. I gather from fellow Christians that we’re not “supposed” to watch and enjoy shows like that. But I’ve found the show to be extremely well-written, laugh-out-loud funny, and to top it off, surprisingly deep. It explores human truth at its essence, and is constantly pointing out how we all have so much good inside, but we all have a dark side too. The show dares to point out the difficulty of accepting that we aren’t all bad or all good. We have both.
How many Christians can deal with that? How many people can deal with that?
One of the biggest themes on the program is secrets. Characters are always hiding things from each other – and often from themselves – but never without consequence. The pitfalls of secret-keeping and living a double life are made abundantly clear. Over and over the characters learn that it’s best to live in the light rather than the dark.
Even though Desperate Housewives has a reputation for being raunchy (and parts of it definitely are), the themes are solidly on the side of good morals. Characters don’t have affairs without major negative repercussions. They don’t lie without it coming back to bite them. They don’t embezzle millions of dollars and then go on to enjoy living off the money. They don’t screw up as parents without learning their lessons and having broken hearts over it. The show consistently delivers the message that being married and having an intact family is better than divorce or promiscuous singlehood. It also repeatedly portrays the significance of the family in shaping children’s lives and futures. Most of all, the show is built on the friendships between these women, always coming back to the theme that we all need each other, we’re not meant to be alone.
I was particularly impressed with the show’s handling of faith in a couple of the episodes. One of the housewives, Lynette, has no heritage of religion, but has been through countless traumas. One Sunday morning she suddenly decides, “We need to go to church!” She realizes she can no longer handle life on her own. She wants help, and she wants answers. What transpires is a funny but insightful series of attempts to find a church and find faith.
Most of the other characters on the show are regular churchgoers; Lynette’s struggle exposes the roteness of this, and encourages at least one other character to examine her faith more deeply. Viewers see the difference between religion and real faith. We hear a minister explaining, “Faith is not about answers; it’s about the questions.” In the touching conclusion to one of the episodes, we see Lynette and another housewife sitting on the porch, heads together, sticky-note-laden Bible between them, deep in conversation.
It gave me chills to watch it. This writing comes from the “secular” world but reinforces that the divisions we Christians create between “religious” and “secular” are artificial.
Here are some of the things I’ve been pondering while watching Desperate Housewives:
1. Christians may rob themselves of potentially life-altering insights (and possibly some worthwhile entertainment) when they try to insulate themselves from the secular world of art, television, movies, and books.
2. As writers, we should be paying attention to the best writing wherever we can find it – television, books, movies – and examining how and why it works.
3. As writers, we can’t be afraid of the truth. Sometimes it feels too messy for Christian writing. Sometimes it may seem too dark. But we must grapple with human experience as it actually exists, not as we wish it were. That’s where our best writing will come from.
4. We might shake our heads at the portrayal of upscale, spoiled housewives as desperate. But that’s the point of the show. The outer trappings of our lives are unimportant; inside, we’re all humans, we all struggle with faith and friendship and marriage and living lives of integrity. In our quiet moments, every single one of us has moments where we feel desperate. (If you haven’t yet, perhaps you are not old enough or have not experienced enough of life’s hardship.)
5. Finally, as Christians, it’s important to be discerning about what kinds of entertainment we allow into our lives. But we need to be careful that our discernment doesn’t turn into fear. We can’t be afraid of the world. God has a way of making Himself seen and known in the most unlikely places.
So what about you? Found any spiritual truths in unlikely places lately? I’d love to hear about it.
Hey Admin,This is an awesome blog. If you might ever need any backlinks vist the following link ( http://marketingyourbusiness-mike1242.blogspot.com/ ) .
>Holy smoke Rachelle…81 comments!I couldn’t agree with your post more. Whenever I saw parts of the show I would quickly turn the channel and declare it “trash” that I wanted no part of.But then a few summers ago my daughter brought home the first season and asked me to watch it with her. I forced myself to sit down, keenly aware she would be a thousand miles away in just a few weeks.After the first one or two episodes I was howling with laughter. I got it. This show was all about real life taken to the extreme. And isn’t that what Christ was all about as well? He used hyperbole in the most perfect ways.I’m not saying there aren’t moments when I cringe and think, “Oy, this is is on prime-time TV?!” but I overall I learned to appreciate how witty and talented the writing was, as you mentioned. I was able to see how the show was tapping real themes in our lives.
>I may sound old-fashioned but I have always believed that what we watch on t.v. goes into our heart and will eventually come out into our lives. I didn't grow up in a Christian home and we were allowed to watch whatever we wanted. Out of the 4 children in our home I'm the only one to ever become a Christian. Sadly, I see my siblings living out the things they watched on t.v. growing up and I honestly believe I battle with a lot of temptation because of things I've watched. I'm not blaming the world's problems on "Desperate Housewives" or other "questionable" shows but I think it might have a huge influence on people.
Another big thing…..I have learned a great deal about the man who created this series. Let's just say he's not someone I would want to be my example or someone I would look to for advice.
I am not judging anyone in anyway. Each person can feel very differently about this subject. It's just another one of those things that you must settle between yourself and God.
I do very much agree that when a Christian is being "fake" they're not fooling anyone. My pastor says quite a bit that if you want to know what a Christian is suppose to do or not do, just ask someone who's not a Christian. They can tell you exactly what a Christian is suppose to act like. You'll never win anyone to Christ unless you are genuine!
>Great discussion. I love the image of Jesus hosting a bbq on Wysteria Lane!
It reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day, which some have said is "bad" because it suggests reincarnation as the main character re-lives the same day over and over until he gets it right. But I saw the message of the movie as much more. Each day we start fresh, able to make better choices, forgiven. The movie demonstrated many poorly chosen paths and their consequences. Then it demonstrated the sweetness of the right choices. It may take us a while, but when we take right step after right step, there is joy.
>Just had to point out that this…
"there is a saying that tells of how the creator of the universe that *you* believe in, always seem to agree with you, hate the same people you do, and want the same people dead. Amazing how that is, isn't it?"
…could hardly be more false, especially for most Christians. Heck, I'd love it if God agreed with me, hated my enemies and wanted them dead. That's just not the way it is, though. Thankfully.
>Pete Peterson directed us to your blog from The Rabbit Room. Thanks for this review. I don't if I'll watch the show, but I certainly appreciate the feedbac. I agree with you that we shouldn't dismiss anything like this out of hand because we all bear God's image — whether we follow Christ or not. The common grace of God allows us to find Him everywhere — sometimes in the most unlikely of places. All of our deepest longings point to God, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that His truth would be born out in anyone's art. God uses all these means to draw us to Himself.
In similar way I've enjoyed "House." Its not sexually graphic, but the "good" Doctor fills in the blanks there, eh? But the show, in general is not demeaning to persons of faith and in fact, in some ways champions it. It sounds like some of the writers on “Desperate…” have a similar sense of their audience. Which is much different than someone like Bill Mahar or Anne Coulter who tend toward demonization of those they disagree with. Seems that on TV the fictional characters are more real than the non-fiction ones.
>I'm glad I'm not the only one who immediately thought of Harry Potter when reading this! Awhile ago, I read an evangelical article which advised Christians against reading Harry Potter. One of the threats it claimed was presented by the books was a lack of clarity between good and evil, the presumed existence of gray areas.
Life is full of gray areas, and the Harry Potter series follows good people who do their best to make the right decisions. I'm saddened to think that some people follow advice like that in the article I read, leading them to miss out on a story about friendship, loyalty, courage, and love.
>oooh, this was good to hear, Rachelle. Some of my all-time favorite movies are favorites for precisely the reasons you like "Housewives." They examine truth and life at such deep levels that I can appreciate the art and truth, even if there are certain objectionable parts of that reality.
For example, "Scent of A Woman," with Al Pacino–It makes me wince if our language filter isn't working, but it has some exceptionally wonderful scenes, and an ending scene that is so masterful it makes me tingle.
Another I can think of off-hand, is "As Good As It Gets" with Jack Nicholson. I couldn't call either film "Family Friendly," and I wouldn't recommend in them my monthly newsletter (they wouldn't fit with my other content) but I whole-heartedly say they are both worth watching. More than once.
Great post, thanks.
>Rachelle, This is an excellent post. It helps me, too, because I've been wrestling lately with what it means to be a Christian who wants to write for the secular market. I did come to a couple of conclusions. First, there has to be redemption in the story. Second, there has to be real consequences for people's actions. If we write TRUTH into our fiction, even if it's not "Christian" fiction, He is glorified.
>I haven't watched any of the episodes yet (my writing time usually eats up tv time), but with the seasons on DVD, it might happen 🙂 I love it when I find shows that are great character studies.
>Let's be careful here. I haven't read in a single post in this thread that anyone considers themselves 'righteous' in and of themselves.
So 'self-righteous' is a dangerous term. And easily misapplied, although there are plenty of people who consider themselves 'self-righteous' today.
People who consider that the 'good works' they do are tantamount to 'earning their way into heaven' haven't studied their bible very well. THOSE people consider themselves 'self-righteous' because their righteousness is 'earned' in and of themselves.
Others consider that they are 'above reproach' and should not and MUST not be corrected by others for the sin in their lives.
In a way, THEY are 'self-righteous' too.
Perfect love casts out fear. We shouldn't be 'afraid' of what is in the world, and yet Paul tells us to 'flee' fornication.
I think the confusion here is the difference between being fearful and being 'wary'.
And God tells us quite clearly to 'come apart and be ye separate.'
All of us are fallen sinners, and some of us are saved by grace and not works.
That doesn't make them better than those who missed the boat, just luckier. Or maybe more serious.
There are a lot of people who are going to arrive in front of God to find out the lukewarm pseudo-faith they had was just a lie they told themselves. (Matt 25)
The problem with free grace (and it is free to all who will come) is that it encourages us to take Christ's sacrifice for granted. It didn't come cheap.
>Very nice and thought provoking article. What always amazes me is the incredible diversity of Christians coming out to comment, the same puzzling rainbow of opinions as there are Christians themselves, reinforcing my confusion of what a Christian is supposed to be and who among them has the "authority" to speak?
I consider myself a freelance Christian, meaning that I can read and study the Bible, as well as other relevant literature, all by myself, forming my own biases and believes just as well as in any organized manner, as clearly demonstrated by thousands of denominations, proclaiming absolute truth.
Many Christians, who keep an open channel to the secular world, are often chastised and frequently silenced. In my opinion, the most dangerous form of Christianity is the one that hides behind the letters of the "Law", choking of dialog before it can begin, totally forgetting, in their selfrighteousness, that Christ is the bridge to God for all mankind.
God gave us free will, one of the most important premises of our earthly existence. A true Christian should never be afraid of anything in a secular world.
>What a wonderful and thought provoking post. When I tell others I have written a book telling my life with quotes and the sources of some of those quotes, some Christians look in disdain and judgment. That judgment will not stop me! There is wisdom in tune with Biblical teaching in some of the movies and television programming. I used a few quotes from Desperate Housewives. John Wesley used music from bars and put different words to create some of our most beloved hymns!
>In response to Reesha: First of all, "He" has nothing to do with my thought processes. Secondly, there is a saying that tells of how the creator of the universe that *you* believe in, always seem to agree with you, hate the same people you do, and want the same people dead. Amazing how that is, isn't it? Yet it perfectly explains all different religions out there, and the multitude of denominations.
I think it is good that a Christian has decided to stray away from Christ in doing something she enjoys doing, even if her rationalizations spoken out loud makes it sound like excuses.
People believe what they want to believe, be it that Christ speaks to them via Desperate Housewives or a grilled cheese sandwich.
>I was internet-free yesterday, and didn't see this post in time to join in with everyone else…
And, I am not faithful, so I wondered whether I had anything relevant to post here at all.
But I'd like to thank Rachelle for giving me something really complicated to think about… I've just written my own post about telling the truth in writing, and what happens to our perceptions of truth when we come from differing spiritual and philosophical backgrounds.
I don't have it all figured out yet, but I'm mulling it over…
>I have been contemplating and struggling over many things that the Lord has told me and even lead me to experience in literature and movies that my Christian community has said things against. This post was very well phrased and written with good discernment. Thanks Rachelle.
I would like to address Korinthian's statement above.
I'm glad you spoke out. It takes a lot of courage to disagree with a blog post that has 60+ comments from people who don't see things the way you do. So kudos to you!
I completely disagree with you, but I am glad nonetheless that you chose to speak up.
We are each accountable to our own masters and I appreciate the fact that you have chosen to stand firm in what He has shown you is right.
This is a very gray area in Christendom. As much as this phrase is misused, I think it applies here: "Live and let live".
Oh, and I have occasionally watched desperate housewives and read harry potter and have found so many jewels of both writing and truth in them that it's hard to not see remnants of God's glory there.
One last thing, http://www.pluggedinonline.com has helped me sharpen my discernment a lot concerning the media. They point out positive and negative elements in each story, which I appreciate because it acknowledges that nothing we humans can create is completely good or bad. I usually skip the conclusion though, as I prefer to draw my own.
Here's to bringing Christian art and Christians involved in media creation up to a new standard! The world has explored areas of excellence we have yet to see, and we have explored truths and the human heart much deeper than they can ever imagine. Uniting the good with the good from each would be wonderful!
This post obviously hit a nerve (in a good way) with a lot of people. I loved it. I just finished The Art of Racing in the Rain. Who'd have thought you kind find life altering themes in a novel narrated by a Labrador Retriever?
>I watch this show as well. It's one of my favs. I couldn't agree with you more about how Christians need to stop insulated themselves. My own personal belief system did not spawn from a Christian upbringing. I came to know Christ at a very young age through the means of Vacation Bible School. I have been an active member in local churches ever since; however, I must tell you it has not been an easy experience. At times I feel very put down simply because I am a first generation Christian. That is totally absurd to even think about, but there are many churches even in today's world full of generational Christians, who seek to control every political aspect of the church kingdom. Much like in "Desperate Housewives" these so-called Christians end up creating their own soap operas within the church. Oh, the stories I could tell or I should simply write them down. Hmmm, something to think about. What should I title it "Desperate Christians?"
>Not all Christians are the same. I am a church-going Christian, but don't insulate myself from certain types of TV shows, books, etc. Why am I left out of the discussion? Just because I'm not conservative? There are lots of different types of Christians in this country.
>I humbly confess:
This thread saddens me, in a very sobering, quieting way.
Yes, God clearly and radiantly manifests Himself in the most unlikely places. And so we look…
And yes, Jesus also said if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out.
What is the American Church putting before it's eyes?
If our eye is good, then our whole body is full of light… but if our eye is bad, then our whole body fills with darkness.
May the Spirit lead each of us…
>"But I've found the show to be extremely well-written, laugh-out-loud funny, and to top it off, surprisingly deep."
Are you kidding me? I never miss an episode of the show, myself. However, I don't think we're watching the same show. It really isn't any of those things. I'm in it for the drama and the scandal.
And, for the record, most of the characters are most certainly *not* regular church goers. That's just wishful thinking on your part.
>Our family made a conscious decision years ago to keep all R-Rated movies out of our home (this included Passion of the Christ).
Rated PG-13 movies have to be screened. Yep. Call me wierd, vilify me. It's my home.
We use Netflix and see many secular movies, but we try to place clear boundaries on what we'll allow.
As men we have enough fun trying to avoid staring at the rampant sexual images in every venue (billboards, magazine ads, movies, and the internet, not to mention even at church) to watch DH or SATC in our home.
There's not enough worth there for us to open those floodgates with the raunch that's in there too.
As far as Harry Potter is concerned, read and enjoyed the first book, but didn't really care to read further.
My kids are grounded enough as christians to be allowed to read it to (for those over 11). But they haven't asked.
I DO agree that avoiding all secular input is not only impractical it's practically impossible.
My stories are secular. Much of the music I sing and listen to, and some of what I write, is secular. MOST of the stories I read are secular (ranger's Apprentice, Eragon, etc.)
However, to address previous posters, if a person feels it is wrong to watch a certain show, read a certain book, listen to certain types of music, and they do it anyway, it IS a sin to them. Rom 14:21-23.
And if a particular show causes some to sin by thinking lustful thoughts, the TV show is not harmless to them.
>For what it's worth, Randy Alcorn wrote a related post for today. Taking Charge of the TV.
>This is a beautiful post. Thank you for these thoughts! I've never seen the show, but it sounds like I should give it a chance sometime.
I've often wondered how "dark" I want to go in my fiction. I don't write Christian fiction, but I am Christian, and my faith shows through in the the morals and themes I choose to write about. But you're right. We are human, and there is darkness in our experiences. It is the light that truly matters, though, and that's where I like to lead all my stories after my characters have shown their depth with the human experience.
>Silas House is one of my favorite authors. He has a beautifully written 2 part essay on his blog called "A different kind of Christian." He writes about the unlikely places one can find God.
It's worth checking out.
>How many Christians dare watch Desperate Housewives?
This is just funny, and strikes me as an excuse for being able to watch a show about adultery and sinning in general.
Let's hope your god buys it, because I'm not sure I do.
>Nothing specific, but just wanting you to know that I really appreciate your point of view and this posts really hits home.
I remember in my teens, being asked if I didn't think it was dangerous to be involved with secular entertainment. I thought it was the most ridiculous question ever. I answered that I believed my faith was strong enough to hold up while I listened to Guns N Roses.
If anything, we can find all kinds of valuable challenges in all kinds of entertainment. And yes, we need to be challenged! Otherwise we're just repeating everything, and I want to be a believer not a repeater.
>As someone else mentioned, the Bible is certainly not sugar-coated. We see the patriarchs flaws and all. And we see the consequences they receive when their masks are uncovered. (See Natan confronting David for one example.)
My hubby and I also enjoy Friday Night Lights and its honest portrayal of the characters. And the story I'm doing re-writes on right now contains a secret, but the conflict is more about the consequences that happen when we keep secrets, even ones that aren't too monumental in themselves. It is the lack of trust that is what hurts the most. I think a lot of fiction, both secular and Christian, deal with secrets and how the characters handle them.
>I’m not ready to jump on this bandwagon quite yet. I’ve never watched that show. I’m sure that if I were to reveal everything that I have watched on television there are some things that would raise same red flags, but I’m not ready to say that I was right to watch them, no matter how much moral truth they may have contained. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:1-2 While I see nothing wrong with entertainment, I’m not ready to put watching a television show on the same level as Jesus associating with publicans and sinners. When Jesus associated with publicans and sinners, he transformed their lives. We contrast this to the self-righteous Pharisees, who apparently saw nothing wrong with imagining adultery with a woman as long as they didn’t actually do the deed. Jesus told them that they had already committed adultery in their hearts. In all we do, we ought to ask the question, is this something that will help me be transformed by the renewing of my mind or is this something that will open the door for me to imagine things that I ought not to imagine? I know that I don’t always like the answer.
Another problem is that the truth and a lie are not very far apart. Satan doesn’t feed us all lies. Instead, he feeds us the truth and then mixes the lie with it. Some people say that 95% of what he tells us is the truth, but it’s the 5% that will hurt us. Television shows have a lot of truth in them, but when is the last time you saw a show that portrayed fornication in a bad light? Adultery is almost always portrayed as bad. Homosexuality is frequently portrayed as bad. Drunkenness is portrayed as bad. Murder is portrayed as bad. But fornication is typically glorified as the way for people to demonstrate their love to each other.
>Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I stayed away from "Desperate" for years because my husband thought it was all raunchy and didn't want it on. But my two twenty-something daughters loved it and eventually I got sucked in too. My husband just gives me my space and leaves the room. He's yet to watch an episode to actually see what it's about.
I agree – the writing is great and the show does deal with moral issues in a creative way.
The other show I got sucked into was Sex in the City. It also took years for me to "dare" to watch it because of the stigma. But what I liked about the show was the relationships the four women developed with each other. They were there for each other – no matter what. The show also displayed that casual/sexual relationships with men were not fulfilling. They all eventually found someone they could love, marry, and commit to.
Also love Harry Potter.
>God zapped my TV, he-he, so I don't watch it, but I watch movies and read secular books; in fact, the last Christian book somebody gave me made me roll my eyes in disgust, and that was "The Shack". Except for the fist section, it was simply too unbelievable, and my willing suspension of disbelief just wasn't there.
"Once" is a movie that greatly appealed to me, even with its 29 uses of the "F" word. It was very moral and demonstrated the idea that, unlike what Disney teaches us, following our own hearts and passions is not always the best way to go (the truth is, they found the appropriate way to follow their passions w/o jumping into bed with each other).
As for "Harry Potter", God convicts all of us in different ways, and I was convicted when I read Harry Potter. It's been years now, but, at the time, I began making a checklist of all the ways the books violated Biblical mandates. The only one I remember now is the mandate against communing with the dead. If I remember correctly, there was a resident ghost in all the buildings at the school. Not all Christians are convicted in the same way, though, so I don't go around criticizing others for loving the books–God was dealing with me–not you. I do mean that; I honestly don't want to start any arguments.
>A recent TV example of God showing up in unlikly places for me would be the NBC series, Kings, based loosely on the biblical story of David. A recent conversation I engaged in following the season finale was about how there are times when no matter what one chooses or does, God's will shall be done, and what that means for all of us.
>This is why about 50% of what I read each year is not designed for or marketed specifically to Christians. What is secular anyway? There's an underlying assumption–no judgment–that because it's not created for the Christian market that the creators are not Christian and therefore there will be no redeeming value.
Many writers who work in secular markets are people of faith, even believers of Christ. Whoever you are, wherever you find yourself, your beliefs and values will creep in.
It always saddens me that some Christians feel the need to completely isolate themselves from the rest of the world, in a "we" vs. "them", or all-or-nothing kind of way, in their pursuit of righteousness. How do we meet non-believers at the point of their need if we have no idea where they are?
>Way to jump in, Rachelle. Speaking of powerful fiction, I think the secular vs. christian distinction may be some of the most powerful fiction ever invented…and not in a good way.
It seems to me that in everything ever created the Creator's reflection can be seen. Romans 1 talks about how we're without excuse because of that very fact. David spoke of rising to heaven and making his bed in hell with no escape from God.
I believe that every work of anyone's hands, regardless of intent, reveals some beauty and love along with a fallenness that pervades the very air that we breathe. Any of my efforts to totally embrace the one while completely avoiding the other only lead to exhaustion and neurosis and fear. The do not touch, do not taste, do not…leads me to slavery, not freedom.
From a christian perspective I have a relatively "progressive" viewpoint regarding where I go, who I hang out with, what I watch and do. And yet, I'm not near as comfortable visiting questionable places and hanging out with unsafe folks as Jesus was and is.
I guess the question is: am I hunting the good in everything and every experience or am I running from everything that has or might have some evil in it? The first allows me to travel, experience, connect, redeem, and be free; the latter results in retreat and enslavement.
I must add that all this embracing assumes a certain level of emotional and spiritual health. I do believe in seasons of hiding out and healing up…just not a lifetime of it.
For the record, I like Desperate Housewives for all the reasons you stated, plus the women are hot! :=)
>Christians may rob themselves…when they try to insulate themselves from the secular world of art, television, movies, and books.
I like secular entertainment, however I don't like it with a lot of bad language and "on screen" sex. (If I read/hear a lot of bad language, then I have trouble not slipping into using bad or negative language.)
I currently live in an area where the only bookstore is a Christian book store. I can't browse through secular books with a quick check for language, etc. So I started a book blog were I could post reviews of secular and Christian books that are "clean," good entertainment for those also looking for these types of books. People are welcome to drop by.
>Amen, amen, AMEN. As Christians, we need to stop living in fear of the culture around us, and we need to stop condemning other Christians for their lack of fear. Closeting ourselves is not holiness. We're supposed to be lights in the darkness… how can we be those lights if we haven't seen the dark?
My favorite show, looked down upon by many Christians, is House. The writing is brilliant, and I LOVE the moral questions it raises about life and death. The show is careful never to make any concrete statements about "this is the right choice," so episodes always make fantastic discussion starters. I love shows/books/movies that don't spell out the moral; rather, they discuss the hard questions and leave them hanging for you to ponder.
>Great insights! My husband and I are watching The Wire series for the second time, and it's incredibly inspiring and tragic – it definitely makes us rethink our ideas of right and wrong.
This is something I definitely struggle with. A few years ago, my mom's boss gave me a stack of books to read. They were current bestsellers. I was so excited. But the first book had a very graphic sex scene, more graphic than I'd ever read before. I thought maybe it was a fluke, so I read the next one–same thing. My biggest problem was that it seemed superfluous for the story–and the description definitely went too far. I don't mind seeing/reading things like that as long as it has a purpose in the story–and doesn't make me feel dirty in the process. There's a way to write a very steamy romantic scene without going too far in the description. Victoria Christopher Murray is a great example of that. My personal decision was not to read that stuff anymore, simply because after I finished reading the book, those scenes were still in my mind.
On the other hand, I'm a late comer to the show, "Grey's Anatomy". Part of it was because I was such a fan of "ER" back when "Grey's" began that I didn't see the need for another medical drama. However, a few years ago I started watching and discovered that I truly enjoy the show. It definitely depicts things that I don't agree with, but it has such a great grasp on contemporary issues. It's well written, interesting, and is relevant to what our society is dealing with right now. Just think about the issues discussed in this last finale (marriage, homosexuality, life and death) and how the show went about them. The writers are very intentional about how they are influencing the viewers.
As writers, I believe we have a responsibility to be relevant. We need to be willing to ask the questions that need to be asked–and be unafraid of the answers we might uncover. If we're honest in our discoveries, readers will appreciate that as well. No one wants to be preached to. But we do invite conversation. That's what Art does, after all.
>To eat meat or to not eat meat. That is the question…(Romans 14)
I have been thinking about this subject myself. Yes there is alot of good messages out there in secular media, but a lot of bad ones too.
Like Mark H. said Gran Turino was surprising to me. Yeah there was alot of cursing and hatred/racisim in it. But for the most part these where set up as obstacles not goals.
On the flip side, I sometimes find the Christian stuff comes off fluffy. The character usually struggles before Christ, as soon as they accept him, nothing can or does go wrong.
>Holy smokes! Thank you. All of you. Recently I posted a blog exposing myself. It's messy, fish guts, freezer burn and forgiveness. I struggle with being so transparent, but somehow knew it was what God wanted me to do. The blog ended without an ending to the story. I prayed last night for an answer… He heard…you answered, to quote… "As writers, we can't be afraid of the truth. Sometimes it feels too messy…
In our quiet moments, every single one of us has moments where we feel desperate. (If you haven't yet, perhaps you are not old enough or have not experienced enough of life's hardship.)
Authenticity in faith and authenticity in writing are so important. Being real and sometimes wrong as a believer is the best way I've found to winsomely draw the world closer to God." Thanks.
>I would just love to say that I absolutely love this post. It is funny how many people stick up their nose to this show because of the name. I myself almost did not watch the show due to what I "thought" it might be. But I love the friendships and bonds between these girls and often times find myself wishing I had friends like this. Silly as it may seem.
I suppose I have a very open mind and try to view things from a very objective perspective. I can't think of anything off the top of my head that has particularly surprised me. Somethings have had the opposite effect though. But how can we know unless we read/watch/experience them first hand.
Thank you for pointing these things out.
>I love horror movies and books. People always think that's strange being familiar with who I am: a soccer/basketball mom, who goes to church and has been married-to the same man-for over 26 years.
But there's always a lot of faith in horror – especially Stephen King – maybe that's why I love his writing so much.
>Wow, Rachelle…your blog blows me away. Not only the posts you crank out day after day, but the thoughtful responses. You're an oasis on the internet. 🙂
Recently I had the pleasure of seeing a wonderful drama/dance production at a friend's church. The girls wore beautiful white dresses. For one dance they tied crimson belts around their waists.
I don't mean to get too Christianese here, but that crimson sash must be tied to anything Christian, if you ask me. Too often, Christians put a Saccharin coating on everything: speech, attitude, entertainment, etc. It's sanitized, with the viscera of life scrubbed out. When those little girls were dancing like angels, of course they were pure white. 🙂 But we're not angels here, and our fiction, music, and movies should pulse with life. Real life.
People miss the real life portrayed in the Bible, and Christians don't do any favors to God's truth when we act as if we don't experience crimson pain, love, disappointment, agony, and even passion. All of those, well-applied, shine light on the Creator who authored the fullness of our experience. Why should we shy away?
>A thought-provoking post, Rachelle! It strikes me as the height of presumption for anyone to think that we, as believers, have nothing to learn from the secular artists. Sometimes they put us to shame in facing the realities of life while we smooth over them. The Bible surely tells it as it is.
As far as finding God in unusual places, I find that as soon as I try to stuff Him into my doctrinal box, He pops out all over the place. That's why we find Him working amoung surfer dudes or in ball room dancing. Or even among the viewers of Desperate Housewives.
God is too large for our boxes.
>Good morning, Rachelle!
You obviously struck a nerve, this morning! What struck me about your post and many of the comments was the critical judgements we have all experienced from family, friends, and strangers.
The Bible says for us NOT to judge someone else's servant. That the servant will be judged by his own master. So why do we condemn each other to such feelings of guilt by judging what is none of our business?
Yes, God is everywhere. The Bible says that the heavens and earth are filled with His glory. We should be able to see God in everything. Also, as a Christian, everything is legal for us, but not everything is profitable. Only God can show each of us what is profitable for us. And the Bible give us the road map to that, too.
As a reader and and viewer, I am careful what I put in my head. The old saying "garbage in, garbage out," still holds true. That is my test in deciding what to view and, especially, what to read.
As a writer, my role model is John Grisham. He writes completely revelant fiction in a compeling way without drawing me in to participate vicariously in the sinful portions of the book. That is what I want to do. I want to make it real, make it honest, but never draw my reader into sin, even in her head.
Thank you holding up the mirror…
>Brilliant – I love that you've done such a balanced, thoughtful job of reviewing the show. That line about faith is wonderful. Thanks for being brave enough to share this with us.
>Thank you for this post, Rachelle.
>Thanks, Rachelle, for such a thought-provoking post. I've been grappling with some of these issues myself. Appreciate the insights you shared.
>I don't watch that show, but I have had many, many parallel experiences with secular fiction, which is primarily what I read (I've been purposely exploring Christian fiction in the past two years, but I will always shake the bushes for the deepest, most brilliant, authentic stories out there–whoever writes them).
>Gina I can't agree with you more. I made it thru the first 2 minutes of DH and changed the channel. I am even a long time soap watcher. I have been watching All My Children since the 1980's!
Rachelle welcome back Knowing that your vacation was GREAT! Just relax! Enjoy your Daughters and Hubby,,,Oh and Reagan. Have a great day my friend 🙂
>I'm with Jason and Myra – I had the same thoughts while reading Harry Potter. Talk about right triumphing only after difficult, painful battles!
I'm also a huge fan of Friends, and still watch in syndication episodes I've seen three or four times. Yes, they are far from chaste, but the loyalty among these friends, some of whom have known each other since high school, is something we should all be so blessed as to have.
The fiction I most enjoy reading – Christian or otherwise – involves real characters who get themselves into real messes. I have a hard time identifying with characters in books, on tv or in the movies who always do the right thing, always make the right choices. I indulge in books, movies and tv to relax and escape a bit, not to feel outdone by two-dimensional characters who somehow always do the right thing.
>Thank you, Rachelle, for these comments. I have never seen Desperate Housewives, but much of scripture probably reads more like an episode of the show than our often sanitized teaching of scripture. Abraham, on two sojourns in foreign lands, called his wife his sister. Jacob was a crafty thief. Moses murdered. Samson was . . . Samson. David committed adultery then murdered his lover's husband. Peter rebuked Jesus, then denied him, calling down curses on himself.
And those are just a few of the "good guys."
>I've never left a comment here before, but I agree completely. Thanks for putting these ideas into words so well!
And I'd like to add the movie Blood Diamond to the list of where truth has shown up. The movie is as "real" as life is. It leaves you feeling heartbroken for those who live the lives depicted. But near the end, there is a scene where a father calls his son back from the hell into which he has fallen. I've never seen a better picture of God calling us back…what redeeming love actually looks like.
>Most of the comments seem to be about movies and TV shows, but I'd like to point out a slightly different view. To paraphrase slightly:
"Christians may rob themselves of potentially life-altering insights … when they try to insulate themselves from the secular world." Period.
I have never been able to understand the constant refrain at so many churches of "Go to this store – they're Christian." "Take you car to So-and-so's – he's a Christian."
I'd rather be condemned by the world for being a friend of publicans, than to be condemned by God for avoiding them.
>Thank you. I do not have much exposure to tv or movies. But I do have to hide my suspense books when my daughter comes to visit from California. She thinks they are satanic.
So when I get published I don't expect her to be a fan either.
>Strangely, I JUST cited 'Desperate Housewives' 2009 Mother's Day episode in a book I'm writing about body-image! Go figure. : )
Of course I was ashamed to admit I watched it, so your post helps.
>Your post made me think about great novels of the past that have been criticized for immorality, such as Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Chopin's The Awakening, both about desperate housewives who commit adultery.
In academic settings, critics tend to interpret these novels with a heavy radical feminist agenda, as if the stories themselves advocate adultery because society and marriage are so awful and restrictive. But when you actually read the novels without the biased criticism, you see that they reflect life itself. Far from advocating adultery, the stories show the tragedy and misery of poor moral choices, and the way that adultery and self-centered behavior destroy the women involved. The men who are the illicit lovers of these desperate housewives eventually lose interest in the affairs, leading the women to despair and suicide. Terrible, but moving and *realistic*.
Good novels (or TV shows) can be read from a variety of perspectives. A radical feminist reader will see a bunch of "messages" in Desperate Housewives with which I totally disagree.
Just for the record, I'm not against all feminism, just the radical kind. I consider myself kind of a nineteenth-century feminist. 🙂 Feminism did a lot of good things for us back in the 1800's.
>Two words: Harry Potter.
When I finished Deathly Hallows, I ended up on my FACE in prayer, praising the Lord for His ability to show up anywhere.
That was the very moment I decided to throw off my fear of writing secular fiction and go for it. Writing for me is the ultimate form of worship. I love that I am created in my Creator's image, blessed with the opportunity to create!
Authenticity in faith and authenticity in writing are so important. Being real and sometimes wrong as a believer is the best way I've found to winsomely draw the world closer to God.
>What an amazing post, Rachelle. In fact, I posted something similar yesterday. I come from a Christian home that wasn't afraid of enjoying themselves. When I say that, I mean that I grew up watching cartoons, playing with imaginary friends and was fed a steady diet of fairy tales and fantasy. Nothing ever even remotely dissuaded me from my faith in God. I grew up believing that a God who could create four faced Seraphim could most definitely create (and love) a dragon.
Why are Christians so afraid of what isn't loudly proclaimed as "Christian"? I struggle with this now because my in laws (whom I love most dearly) are staunch believers in everything that's not affiliated with the church must be evil. It saddens me because they are missing out not only on some good times, but also on interests and hobbys that can bring them into relationships with people who desperatly need to see God in the real world.
Most people who aren't church goers are not going to read Christian books or listen to Christian music. I get some flack because I don't write "christian" fiction. Christian fiction is wonderful! I'm not saying that it isn't. I'm just saying that it's hard to reach out when people place lables on you just because you don't fit their mold of Christian.
We need to look at things as Christ would. Jesus didn't associate exclusively with the religious people, with the church. On the contrary. He went to the tax collectors and the prostitutes, to the average people who went about their business just trying to do the best they could. All he asks of us is that we love one another. That's it! Imagine what we could do if we did just that.
That being said, I've received more spiritual enlightenment from Harry Potter than most church services I've been in. And that, dear readers, would probably cause my in law's hair to curl!
>THIS POST IS SPOT ON!!!
Thank you for sharing this! I have been telling people this for years. Hopefully your good opinion will open some minds.
I love 30 Rock. While the humor can be raunchy it can also be really smart and clean. People didn't like Seinfeld at first either because of all the relationship issues, but in the 10 year gap since it has gone off the air, I've heard that show quoted several times from the pulpit.
There is a lot to be gained from our culture and a better way to relate to those who need our message.
A leader at one of my local crit groups, Vic, says that we must always read outside our genre, including secular and Christian books a like.
He says, "Now, you might have to take a mental shower after reading some of the secular stuff out there…" But it's true.
I agree with you, Rachelle…good writing is out there, we must keep our eyes open and teachable spirits ready. 🙂
Thanks for this.
I watch So You Think You Can Dance. And I'm amazed at the emotion dance can evoke in people. I also watch The Office…and while that's not filled with profound truths, it is halarious in a very non PC type of way (my favorite kind of humor).
>I saw one episode of "Desperate Housewives" and it bored me out of my skull. 🙂 But I greatly appreciate the message about spiritual truths in unlikely places, and the other observations that have been made here. There were some things that I really needed to hear. Thanks, Rachelle and commenters!
>I think regardless of your religion, the point is to watch tv, media, etc. CONSCIOUSLY as opposed to just taking in whatever the media wants you to take in. Just as you did, you watched a show that had parts you don't agree with, but watched consciously to see various viewpoints and perspectives, as opposed to just watching hypnotically.
>I loved that particular season of "Desperate Housewives."
My questions is how can we shelter ourselves from these unlikely places and expect to grow in our faith? Isn't it from these outside "tests" that we prove our strength in faith to ourselves?
I once had someone judge me for watching "Big Love" on HBO. They actually asked me if I supported polygamy? (The answer is "no" by the way. I also don't support organized crime just because I've been known to watch "The Sopranos.") Anyway, watching "Big Love" led to some very interesting discussions on faith and Christianity.
>What a great post for me to come back in on. I've been up to my eyeballs in summer theatre as the music director of the children's show. We closed the show last week.
I don't have any deep insights on truth, but I have an observation. Kids want the truth. I taught 4th,5th & 6th grade Sunday school for over 21 years; 7th & 8th grade Pioneer Clubs and K-6th grade Pioneer Clubs. I've been the music director for our kid's show for 9 years. I have three children and two grandchildren.
Kids want to know the truth.
And it's been my priviledge to have been able to share truth with some of them. It's amazing what simply being honest will do for your relationship with a teen … especially one who's homelife isn't the greatest. I don't sugar coat anything and I don't pretend I have the answers when I don't.
I love all "my kids" and often remind myself that the mission field is different for me than for someone else. No matter where you are, you can share the truth.
Thanks, Rachelle, for that look into Desperate Housewives. I only know about it from the commercials and, as you know, they only focus on the raunchy parts.
>I'd put the movie Gran Torino out there for a surprising source of truth. There's a lot of language and just about every racist term you could ever think of in this movie. But underneath that is a story about judgmental attitudes, the need for father-figures/mentors, and sacrifice.
>I too have allowed myself to be blessed by and learned great lessons in secular entertainment of various sorts. Each of us has our own ways of determining what is appropriate or just too much for us to view or listen to. We can at least agree that there isn't a totally right or wrong answer.
This reminds me of a related set of questions. Does our enjoyment of a movie, TV show, or song depend on the "purity" of the life of the artist?
For example. Are you not one of the 11 million and counting (I just checked) who has seen "the" wedding party dance entrance on YouTube? Some laugh, some cry, some do both. It puts a smile on your face.
Then you realize the latest news about the singer of that song. Does that knowledge take away some of the joy? Or what about a great Christian artist you love to hear who faces a battle with a sin of some sort. Does that lessen their ministry of music?
I offer no answers this morning, just some questions to ponder on today.
I'll confess I'm addicted to the wedding dance video. But I'll get over it eventually…
>Can I hug you?! I've always been a closet Desperate Housewives fan. There's some really good stuff buried in all the flesh there.
God is EVERYWHERE! Amen, sister!
My husband and I write musical productions for our church and one of our goals is to tell a story and let it do the talking, the way a movie or television show does. We have gotten criticism (probably from the same people who would NEVER watch Desperate Housewives) for not laying out the gospel clearly, but we feel if we're consistent with Scripture, the Spirit can move without us spelling it all out. We're trying to avoid the platitudes and Christian lingo which make unbelievers shut down and represent life in a real way.
Absolutely, amen, hallelujah, sister, there are great lessons to be learned from "secular" entertainment.
>Wow, great post! I like House alot, the earlier episodes especially. Girl Interrupted was an interesting movie too, and I think sometimes the world is more aware of their own desperation than religious people. I like that you mentioned being discerning. It's a fine line, for sure. My husband used to say that our light can't be seen when we're surrounded by other light (church, being an insulated christian) but it's only when we venture into the dark that the Light shines bright. Anyways, I always thought it was a good point.
>Great post Rachelle! Count me among fellow believers (pastor too!)who delight in a little Sunday night desperation nearly every week. Is it a stretch to think that if Jesus lived on Wysteria Lane (did I get that right?) he'd be hosting a bbq and all his neighbors would find themselves talking freely with him about their "secrets?"
>Interesting point of view. I've never watched the show, nor would I since I do not enjoy watching TV, but I enjoyed reading your insights.
For me personally, I avoid things with constant foul language, explicate sexuality and graphic violence. Why? Because I want to fill my mind with things that are of God. Doesn't mean I don't know or recognize that the other things exist. I do. But I don't want to dwell there.
That said, I love a good story where someone overcomes any of these things to find Jesus!
>I can't comment on Desperate Housewives as I've never seen a single episode, nor has my wife, which just based on the title, I'm sorta happy about. 🙂
But I'm a HUGE fan of the Harry Potter series and I've had several Christian friends mention problems with that. I think that's kinda sad because I can't think of a present-day story for young people that has a more defined sense of right and wrong, loyalty, trust, friendship, willingness to combat evil rather than ignore it, etc…
Virtually ALL of the people I know who speak against HP do so out of ignorance. They've never read a single page of it or even seen any of the movies. So when you ask them what specific problem they have with HP, they really don't know, except that "it's witchcraft." Without getting into the details, that's simply not true…not in a biblical sense anyway. Biblical witchcraft is is much more like modern-day voodoo… nothing to do with wands and broomsticks.
Having said that, I also think people need to respect the fact that sometimes other people aren't interested in certain themes and for whatever reasons (moral or otherwise) they want to stay away from them.
My main problem is when people try to engage in dialog about a certain show or book, having never seen or read it.
>The same is true of listening to popular music. I've come across Christians who insist we should shun all but Christian and classical music because popular music is so full of references to sex, drugs, etc. But I see it differently; good musicians, like good poets and writers, tell the truth. Their lyrics and music may portray ugly truths, but they are truths that much of the world lives with–addiction, the betrayal of a loved one, memories of a painful past, etc. I listen to a lot of alternative music. Even though the topics and music are often raw, listening expands my perspective, helps me see the world differently–and I am just plain impressed at the poetry many songwriters create with their lyrics.
>First, I'll admit that I don't watch the show, a big part because of the raunchyness. I live out in the "real" world and get exposed to the realities that you named day in and day out anyway, so it's just never appealed to me.
BUT, I don't cast blame on those that do, and I have my own "vices" when it comes to TV that probably aren't the most healthy of shows, which can be evidenced by my blog on Tuesday about the Bachelorette *grin*
I think… in the end, we all have our own convictions that come straight from the Big Guy himself. It's not about relative truth (which I'm a big UNbeliever in) but about the fact that we are each at different places in our walk, we each struggle with different things, so what might be fine for one person might not be for another.
I SO agree about finding spiritual truths in unlikely places. I think I experience this almost daily, as God is not just in "church" but is also out in the world, drawing people to him. There's evidence of this draw, and of people fighting his draw, all around us.
>Fantastic post. "God has a way of making Himself seen and known in the most unlikely places." So very true.
I'm reading M. L'engle's Walking on Water, and she makes this point as well. We are all made in the image of the Creator God, so why should we be surprised when we find reflections of beauty and strains of truth in the art of his creatures, whether or not they serve Him.
>… writers can't be afraid of the truth … we must grapple with human experience as it actually exists, not as we wish it were. That's where our best writing will come from.
I can appreciate what you're saying about secular entertainment, Rachelle. And just as Christians need to give each other freedom to use it appropriately, we need to give each other freedom to abstain from it, much like the alcohol issue.
Perhaps my background and continuing experience of counseling others as they deal with darkness and secrets gives me enough perspective that I don't feel inclined to watch TV. But I wholeheartedly agree with you that the most powerful writing contains the reality of human experience.
We may seek escape in books, particulary fiction. I see my fiction as one forum to frankly examine dark issues—and offer solid answers.
"Escape is not an option—and faith is not enough."
I couldn't agree more that writers should never shy away from real issues, even if they are Christians. Doing so has us all living in a la-la land which doesn't exist and doesn't help anyone on their journey.
>I've had experiences all thru life of God showing His amazing involvment in unexpected places/times. An example: About 10 o'clock one night God gave me a perfectly clear picture/vision of a lady's face, and told me she was working (alone) at a covenience store at a specific intersection; and that she was in great need of spiritual help: right now.
I drove miles to the store and looked …to see THE LADY at work. But I had a big problem: there were people all over the store shopping, plus 6 in line at the check-out register. It was very busy.
I sat in my car and prayed "God, please empty the store so I can talk to her in private: INSTANTANEOUSLY everyone rushed out of the store; just as they would if a dangerous explosive fire broke out. People literally dropped things and ran out.
I walked thru the door and the lady burst into tears…and I told her God's answer to her great need.
She was at the very doorstep of suicide. She was rescued and blessed beyond her highest hopes.
>Thank you Steena for your comment. I was raised in a Christian home and as a teenager I remember feeling so betrayed and angry at my sunday school teacher for the same kind of thing. I needed to know that it was ok to screw up, we don't have to be perfect and it's ok to let it be known that your not perfect. Besides what is the Bible? Last I checked there were a whole lot of stories telling how individuals dealt with lifes choices and the resulting consequences of those choices. Those stories include adultry, murder, theft, etc. I also beleive that we have to live in the world enough to reach out to the people there. Christ didn't put on a purple robe, find high ground, stake a claim and expect people to come to him. He met people where they were and said "I love you."
>Friday Night Lights is another show with great writing and lots to think about. I've been watching the first season on DVD this summer after hearing so many rave about it. Smash, the character with the most visible faith and the most to lose if he goofs up is also the character with the highest conflict quotient.
In the movie, Then She Found Me, there's a scene where the mother (Bette Midler) who gave up her daughter (Helen Hunt) for adoption accompanies her to an important medical appointment. April, the daughter, is an observant Jew, while her biological mother is not. At first April turns down her mother's suggestion that she pray–she's afraid of God's answer. But then she remembers that her prayer, the Shema, says "Listen, O Israel, the God of love and the God of fear are one." I get chills every time I watch that scene.
>What a fantastic post Rachelle! As a pastor I have to admit that I love Desperate Housewives and selfishly indulge in a bowl of ice cream while watching the show 🙂
Spiritual truths in unlikely places? I learnt a hard lesson that masks hold no place in our Christian walk, even though we desperately try to make them fit.
Years ago I had a friend whom I thought was really close to realizing her need for God in her life walk away and refused to believe in a God who required his believers to be liars.
Her reasoning for this was the fact I wasn't ready to be 'real' and admit a struggle I was experiencing. While I 'thought' I was doing the christian thing in leaving it in God's hands and saying I was ok, instead it came across that I was 'too good' to admit my fear, my hurt and my need. She needed something real in her life, and living a life with masks wasn't it.
Talk about a hard lesson to learn.