I suggest to you that Martin Scorsese could easily agree with the mission statement of ETE and direct movies they would find acceptable. In fact, I think that he would describe movies like The Color of Money and The Aviator in exactly those terms. So why aren't Christians getting their nose out of joint over Scorsese's work and casting decisions?The reason I think this needs more treatment is that it assumes something that I think might get missed if you're not paying attention: the essential nature of evangelism.
The answer to that question is simple: he wasn't trying to fool himself or anybody else, and he wasn't confusing the issues. He made his films – he is making his films – about what he thinks they ought to be about, and if people see them, good for him and good for them. The problem is that ETE may have been making movies about what they think they ought to be about, but make no mistake: they were making them to leverage the Christian cultural demographic.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and make one blanket statement before I make the blanket statement that will raise the hackles of some people: I think Martin Scorsese is an evangelist. He's not an evangelist for Christ or the Gospel, but he is a person bringing a message which he thinks has power, value, insight and the ability to change lives.
That's why people think he's an artist: he has a message that he finds exciting ways to express. He's good at scratching the itchy ear, as we might say; he has mastered the temptation of the eye. And I admit it: there are some Scorsese movies I have watched and have understood why people think he's a genius.
But let's make sure we understand something about Scorsese: he doesn't apologize for his message. He's not trying to trick anybody into listening. He's not trying to manage people into seeing his movies by pretending they are about one thing when they are actually about something else.
You know: like staging a "rock concert" at your church in order get the lost to come and then singing songs that are all around the topic of the Gospel but then never actually delivering the Gospel to them.
Scorsese is an artist with a message that he values and delivers without any apologies. The reason he's an effective artist is that he doesn't really give a hoot whether you agree with him or not. He didn't try to disguise his message in Taxi Driver. There's not a lot of nuance in Gangs of New York. I'm somewhat dying to see his Bob Dylan biopic because at least it will be delivered well even if I don't think he would agree with me about who and what Bob Dylan is.
So when we look at cinematic icons like Scorsese, he's an evangelist for his point of view because he doesn’t care if you agree with him: he's going to make a movie that is true to his vision, and if you don't agree that's your problem.
With that said, my real shot across the bow in this post is this: I think ETE doesn't understand evangelism in the generic sense, and doesn't understand evangelism in the Gospel sense, and therefore has no business trying to portray itself as a "Christian" film company because it has not idea what a Christian film would look like on any scale.
This weekend I was listening to the MP3 of Jason Janz's interview with Mark Dever from this last summer, and Dever said something in that interview which, I think, is important to this discussion: evangelism is not about obtaining a conversion but about being honoring to God by proclaiming His message to the lost. It is God's work to give the second birth, and to take a person who is dead in sin and raise them to newness of life in and through Jesus Christ.
That is why Paul says something as outlandish in Romans 1 as
- For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
My boss at work is somewhat enamoured with Nooma and Rob Bell. Every time I listen to him (Bell), I get the creeps. Let me frame this criticism in a very limited way: I have no idea what Rob Bell's status relative to Christian orthodoxy is. NO CLUE.
But that is particularly the point. He's supposed to be a pastor of a church. He's supposed to be not ashamed of the Gospel. But what he is, instead, is a 90's version of a beatnick. And I say "90's version" because his coffee-house delivery and cadence was old in 1992 – because my Grad School friends and I were doing that schtick at open mike nights in the late 80's.
And it is in that CCM/Nooma triangulation on "evangelism" that ETE finds itself. "Gosh," they must be saying to themselves, "if we could only produce a movie as good 'Glory Road' that doesn't intimidate people with all the Jesus-on-the-cross stuff! If only we could get Brad Pitt to star in our movie, the Gospel would come up in conversation!"
Listen: that's not evangelism. What that is is trying to tell the world that it doesn't need a savior when in fact it actually needs a savior. If we don't mention the name of Jesus Christ (and note: I don't mean the Latinized version of the Hellenized version of the Hebrew name "Yeshua"; I mean the work and person of the Son of God who is the Alpha and the Omega, through whom all things were made), dude, it's not gonna come up.
Evangelism is, in a nutshell, not being ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When we are ashamed of Jesus Christ – we who allegedly bear His name, who are allegedly saved by His work – we can't expect advocates for homosexual marriage to buck up and do the work for us. We ought to expect that men like that will, in fact, capitalize on our shameful behavior.
And go figure: that's what happened.
See: Now we are ready to talk about why casting an outspoken advocate for Gay rights was a bad idea in this movie.