Summer TV shows have been steadily improving over the last several years. Two shows that I’ve been enjoying recently are Outcast and Preacher. Both shows share many similarities: they are both based on comic books, they are both set in small towns (Outcast is in West Virginia and Preacher is in Texas), they both portray a vicious battle between the forces of light and darkness, and they both feature a man of the cloth as a prominent character (naturally, the main character in Preacher is a preacher, and the preacher in Outcast is the primary supporting character). Both shows are well-written and more than a bit freaky, but what strikes me the most is how the Bible and the Gospel message are portrayed in these programs. Specifically, how they are positively portrayed.
Let’s just get this out of the way first: Hollywood is a repulsive pit of sin and corruption. Well, most of it is, anyway. That’s not to say that there aren’t many fine examples of quality wholesome entertainment to be found on the big and little screens, but even when that happens, it’s probably not because the producers and filmmakers are going to take their little light and let it shine, let it shine. Clean and wholesome entertainment can be just as lucrative as the vulgar filth we expect to come pouring out of Tinseltown. However, money talks, and where there’s an appetite, someone is going to feed it. Attractive and heroic do-gooders battling the forces of evil is nothing new, but there has been a noticeable shift in recent years. Back in the day, the demon hordes would be banished by a holy relic or a vague verse from the Bible. Now it seems that the power holding evil at bay is increasingly being named for what it truly is: the power of Jesus Christ.
The church and its leaders have historically received a negative image on screen, so it was quite a surprise to hear the Gospel being proclaimed in such direct language on these two TV shows. Now, I would certainly not consider them to be “Christian” shows. The Preacher is hardly a good shepherd to his flock, which isn’t really his primary mission anyway. The show contains some very suspect theology, yet it is refreshing to hear him encourage his congregation through the Scriptures, though he does seem less than sincere.
Outcast is more explicit in its content and in its Gospel message. The main character is somewhat of an agnostic that happens to be able to drive out demons with his touch, and the pastor that he works with has a foul mouth and a drinking problem, but he wholeheartedly believes in God’s power to banish demons from the afflicted.
I am sure the scriptwriters don’t really believe it when they write things like, “Only the power of Jesus Christ can drive out the darkness,” but as someone who does believe it, I am glad to hear statements like this being broadcast throughout the world. TV and movies are the last place where one should look for sound doctrine, yet it seems that Hollywood is becoming more open to depicting the church and the Christian faith in a positive light lately, particularly in the horror genre. I don’t watch many horror films, but from the movie trailers, it looks like the battles being fought are often not just a vague supernatural entity terrorizing a hapless family, but something antagonistic towards God which can only be defeated by calling upon God’s power. This has been going on since The Exorcist and before, though this style of horror seems to be popping up with greater frequency.
I do not care if Hollywood is supportive or antagonistic towards Christianity. God’s grace doesn’t need to be validated by actors and actresses reciting lines written by someone else. I do not expect a full-blown salvation message to be preached from a television pulpit, but it warms my heart when I hear little kernels of truth, and there is great power even in such small words.
Please indulge a little self-promotion: my seventh novel Nikolai the Penitent released yesterday from The Crossover Alliance. The story follows a young man making his way through the nightmare world of medieval Germany during the Black Death plague. The genre is epic historical fiction, not speculative per se, though there are hints of the supernatural. It is a very grim and brutal story with strong mature content, but there is a message of hope and redemption buried beneath the horror and suffering. Available on Amazon and BN.com, as well as The Crossover Alliance website.