For centuries, the world’s great art was commissioned by the church and featured stories from the Bible. Then the arts and the church grew apart and the relationship turned ugly, with name-calling on both sides of the cultural divide. Today, Jonathan Bock says, there’s a window of opportunity for believers to regain “our historical, traditional role as patrons of the arts, who not only want great art, we want the greatest artists to tell our stories.” To that end, Bock, President of Grace Hill Media, has founded an organization called As1 (pronounce “as one”) to support Bible-based entertainment, restore relationships with the “creators of culture”, and build up Christian artists. 

Bock, who describes himself as “a bridge builder” points out that a number of Bible-based projects are currently in production. “These are big deal projects,” he says, “high profile projects with A-list stars attached to them.” Names like Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Darren Aronofsky, Steven Spielberg, Jeff Foxworthy, and Mark Burnett. And why is Hollywood stepping out in faith to make Bible stories? Bock says it’s because “they have started to see the faith community as an audience as opposed to an enemy.”

Bock believes it behooves Christians to support these Bible-based works in order to keep them coming. “How is it not in our best interest to make those big hits? It’s absolutely in our best interest to make those hits because the gospel gets preached.” His enthusiasm bubbles over as he offers one example of a film currently in production. “So we’ve got a hundred-million-dollar marketing campaign happening for the story of Noah starring Russell Crowe; don’t we want people to know the story? Isn’t that good . . . so that every studio will go ‘Wow, that made a lot of money; maybe we should tell the story of David. Maybe we should tell the story of Paul, and Peter.’” With the right support, Bock sees a bright future for Bible-based entertainment. “They’ll make more of them and they’ll keep making them better and the gospel will get preached—and that’s a good thing.”

Indeed it is, but that’s only part of As1’s goal. Restoration is also on the agenda. “Part of what happened when we decided to abandon culture and pop culture is that we abandoned relationship with artists and the creators of culture,” Bock says. “We started to label them as dangerous, subversive, things like that. What did they do in turn? They turned around and labeled us: judgmental, negative, bigoted….  The creators of culture have defined us because we’re not in relationship with them.” He feels restoring that relationship will allow for less of an “us vs. them” mentality and more of a partnership where Christians will be portrayed in a more positive light. It’s in relationship building that Bock sees the greatest challenge, but he remains hopeful, stating “We have a lot more in common than either side imagines.”

Becoming patrons of the arts by supporting A-list Hollywood projects is one thing; what about well-meaning but not very well-done films? Bock acknowledges there are “a lot of Christians making movies right now and they’re not making great movies.” He sees the current surge of Bible-themed entertainment as a wake-up call. “Guys like Will Smith, Steven Spielberg…are now your competition, so you better step up your game.” But he doesn’t expect fledgling Christian filmmakers to do it alone. “What we need to do as a community,” he muses, “is getting back again to building up artists who can take their own rightful place in that pantheon of artists and go toe to toe with them.” Meanwhile, what’s his response to a ‘not great’ movie? “If it’s mostly good, I think we just say ‘good try, we’re still supporting this. We’re going to count on the fact that the next go-round you’re gonna do an even better job.’” 

What will happen if the Christian community fails to support these projects? “That’s an important consideration and part of the reason why I started As1,” Bock says. If there’s no audience for Bible stories, studios will stop making them. “We have in front of us this window of opportunity; this portal,” he says. “If we’re smart we’re going to run right through and catch up to culture again right here, right now, with a few very strategic moves and forever change (hopefully) for the future the relationship between Christians and Hollywood.” But, he warns, “if we don’t run right through it, that portal is going to slam shut and they’re not going to make another one of these projects for another generation. We need to start acting for the good, uniting for the good, finding ways to do that and make a better world.”

To learn more about As1 or to join the As1 community, visit their Web site at as1.org.

Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at TastingGod.wordpress.com.

Publication date: August 15, 2012