Being Christian is Not Always “Family-Friendly”
Like most children born into Christian households, I grew up with a healthy supply of faith-based music. Every trip to the grocery store, every summer vacation, was played to the tune of Christian radio. My sisters and I would jam into the back seat of our parent’s van where we’d lip-synced songs from Avalon, DC Talk, and Point of Grace. Funny as this sounds though, the only part of our travels I found strange was that none of our Christian music was ever called “Christian Music”. Instead, our station host would sign off with words like, “positive, encouraging, and family-friendly!”
That term, “family-friendly” has become a major catchword in Christian media. It’s synonymous with G-rated movies, songs about God, and any TV-show appropriate for toddlers. But what happens when “family-friendly” starts to replace “Christian” in our cultural dialogue? Relevant’s Jesse Carey recently tackled this subject by exposing why the term “family-friendly” shouldn’t always be conflated with being Christian.
Whose 'Family' Are We Talking About?
Not every family looks the same. Some couples cannot have children, others choose to remain childless. A few include adopted members, or are anchored by a supportive and loving single parent. Though many Christians would not consider these the ideal model, this does not make them any less of a family. Carey notes that “family-friendly” art tends to create a narrow definition of what a real family actually looks like,
“Sure, this may be a harping on semantics, but part of the reason ‘family friendly’ is the wrong way to classify Christian art, is because it creates a very narrow view of what a ‘family’ should look like. It runs the risk of excluding anyone who’s current family model doesn’t look like what the Christians who’ve appropriated the term say it should.”
“Christian” Doesn’t Always Mean “Safe”
When it comes to pop culture, many Christians adhere to the advice in Philippians 4,
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Wise words to follow, but things that are “true”, “right”, and “praiseworthy” are not always “safe”. Take Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, or S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, both are wonderful pieces of literature, but nobody would call them safe. Then there are movies like The Passion of the Christ, Calvary, and Philomena, which convey beautiful stories through harsh mediums. When approaching God, Christians need to remember what C.S. Lewis wrote in the Chronicles of Narnia, “He is not safe, but He is good.”
Put Away Childish Things
When I was young, I watched programs like Sesame Street, Thomas the Tank Engine, or Barney. As I grew older though, I put these things behind me and began to engage chapter books and classic films. I never regretted the change, these new stories had more to offer than those childish shows. In the same way, Carey wants believers to approach pop culture through the lens of 1 Corinthians 13 and Paul’s call for spiritual growth,
“Though he’s using intellectual and emotional maturity as a metaphor for spiritual maturity, the heart of his statement remains true: Embracing the Gospel requires constant growth. It’s a journey to become more like Christ. For those engaging with and attempting to help shape culture, this means being able to grapple with difficult topics and challenging ideas.”
God blessed mankind to with the ability to explore and create. Family-friendly artwork has enjoyed an important place in Christian media, and that should never change. However, there must always be room for different stories in the Christian walk. Healthy art and biblical standards should never come at the expense of Christ’s deeper truths.