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Navigating the Mainstream: The Power of Presence

The American media’s influence is vast. Not just in the United States but throughout the world. We are the culture and country to emulate. Our style of films, music and entertainment are the gold standard. Even Arab countries who publicly denounce western values are watching our shows, buying our I-pods and cell phones, and uploading images to YouTube and Flickr . Yet what are the social values we are exporting? What good or what damage are we doing to our own nation not to mention the world? These questions often come from voices whispering from middle America, not voices speaking in the board rooms, newsrooms, studio lots, and art galleries of Los Angeles and New York.

Christians have been all but absent from these arenas, and therefore have no significant voice when it comes to impacting the content or appropriateness of a particular creative production. Many Christians wonder why the media and art and entertainment industries veer so far away from their values, and from what they perceive are American values.

Why have Evangelical Christians had so little influence?

Christians in New York and Los Angeles have been a nearly silent minority, until now. Their opinions and beliefs had little influence because of two dynamics within the Christian community in America.

First, in recent decades Christians fled to the suburbs without realizing the effect their absence might have on city centers. In many American cities we have seen a decline in Christians influencing local politics or cultural institutions. Leaving their positions of influence to find an easier life was not without cost. As core institutions continue to define the vision and goals of their city, fewer and fewer Christian voices are heard because they are simply not physically there. Some Christians are feeling called back to the city, but many still find it hard to live there. Unlike gay couples who are mostly double income residences with no children, Christians who have children struggle to provide for their families in urban centers due to the high cost of living. As we often see here in Los Angeles, once a Christian couple marries and has kids, they leave LA.

Second, not only did Christians leave the cities, but they also left mainstream art and entertainment, choosing instead to create their own Christian cultural ghetto. Although there is a place for art targeted for a Christian audience, removing our voices from the mainstream neglected our role in society of being salt and light. God never commanded us to physically move away from pagans, and set up our own culture. Quite the opposite. He called us to be a redemptive part of the greater society in which we live.

We should have known better. We know the apostle Paul understood the importance of urban centers, because that’s where he planted churches: Rome, Ephesus, Athens and so many more. He understood two thousand years ago what we have failed to understand – as the city goes, so does the culture around it. If atheists and pagans are dominant in the most powerful cities in the world, if they are dominant in the media outlets, films and music that the whole world consumes, then they will lead our country and even our world toward their gods. However, if we had more and more Christians in positions of influence in these two cities, and in the studios and corporations that produce our entertainment and news, they would change the future of America. This change has started to happen, but more Christians must get involved.

How can we make a difference?

First, Christians must be willing to pray for the major cities and even consider moving back into the city centers in order to be salt and light where they will have the greatest impact. In recent years we have been encouraged to see God calling many Christians to move specifically to Los Angeles and to be engaged in the entertainment community.

Second, we must be an active, and respectful, strategic member of our community. Whether it be in an art gallery, on a film set, in a newsroom or behind the scenes, Christians need to be able to engage the culture intelligently and respectfully. Just showing up isn’t enough. Many still need a great deal of encouragement to get involved and get in the thick of it. AEM is being used by God to equip these individuals to make a difference in our country and in the art and entertainment it produces.

Third, Christians must realize the critical nature of investing in ministries like AEM who equip creative professionals to make a purposeful impact upon cities that create so much of our culture.

Fourth, we must be willing to send our children. Not our little children, or our teenage children but our grown children. Yes we said it. Many parents call our offices asking lots of questions about the arts and Hollywood, some are panic stricken that their son or daughter is leaving the nest to move to L.A. or N.Y. It may sound daunting to some, but we must remember God is bigger than any city. He is powerful enough to protect his children anywhere He calls them. If your kids want to be artists or filmmakers or writers or musicians, we encourage you to start praying for Hollywood and the arts community now.

It is no longer enough to simply read and write. Students must also become literate in the understanding of visual images. Our children must learn how to spot a stereotype, isolate a social cliché and distinguish facts from propaganda, analysis from banter, important news from coverage.

Ernest Boyer,

Past President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and former U.S. Commissioner of Education

And remember, AEM is here to support and equip them, helping them stand firm in their faith while they make an impact through their art and their lives.

Invest in the work of the Kingdom of God – whether you move to LA and join us on the front lines, or whether you financially invest in AEM so we can be more effective in equipping the next generation of artists. AEM seeks to glorify God in a way never before seen in this ‘City of Angels’.

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Copyright © 2008 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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