Eyvonne Sharp

Real faith in a hard world.

Lifeway, The Blind Side, and what I don’t want to say

The Blind Side Movie CoverLate last week, Eric Metaxas and Rachel Held Evans both wrote about the decision Lifeway Christian Stores made to pull the movie, “The Blind Side” from their shelves. They removed the movie because it contains “explicit profanity, the use of God’s name in vain, and racial slurs.”

Before I say much else, I need to say that I don’t want to be critical. I don’t want to criticize Lifeway, Southern Baptists, or Christians in general. I am a Southern Baptist, have shopped at Lifeway, and dislike writers who are always disagreeable. But at some point, some of us have to speak up against the ridiculousness in the the SBC and North American Christendom at large. There is a reason people think we’re irrelevant and it has nothing to do with in Jesus.

Christians act as if we have the right to live in a society where our “Christian” sensibilities are never offended. We want the world to be beautified, anesthetized, and purified before we step foot into it. Instead of facing the ugliness we see and sharing the best news of humankind, we create impenetrable fortresses for ourselves where the dark cannot get in and the light cannot escape. We don’t realize how bad life really is for many because we’ve insulated ourselves from it.

If Jesus acted like many of us, he would have stayed in heaven.

But he didn’t. The Jesus I follow ate dinner with sinners, visited their homes, and had personal conversations with prostitutes. I doubt He scowled every time he heard profanity, or left a conversation because of a coarse joke, or avoided places that were ‘worldly.’

His relationship with sinners is what religious people hated most about him.

God admonishes us to keep ourselves unspoiled from the world, to have pure hearts and pure thoughts and clean minds. We are to think good and not ill. We are to meditate on the pure and not profane. But we have come to believe that being unspoiled from the world and being untouched by it are the same thing. We have prohibited stories of the dark in all its horror and hidden the beauty of the light so it can no longer be seen.

A week before he was murdered, Jesus approached a city he desperately loved. When he saw their sin and unbelief, he didn’t rail. He didn’t rally. He didn’t protest. He wept. Shouldn’t this be our response as well?

For my Christian friends, I issue a challenge. The next time you want to complain about the movie for sale at the Christian bookstore, or picket the parade downtown, or give money to a politically motivated parachurch organization, ask yourself, “When was the last time I wept over this?”

Because when we’re heartbroken over the pain around us, we’ll do something about it — but it won’t be from a distance. It won’t be with angry shouts and clever sayings written in Sharpie on poster board. It won’t be a political gesture at a denominational meeting where we can walk away and declare victory.

It will be real, and close, and personal. It will require pain and sacrifice and exposure to ugly things we’d rather not see. We will be privy to conversations we’d rather not hear. We will see things we wish didn’t exist. We’ll have to trade a mask of Christian idealism for the blemished face of a fallen world.

And maybe then, people will really see Jesus.

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  • Amen

  • Good thoughts…reminds me of the song “My Jesus” from Todd Agnew, well worth the listen if you’ve not heard it before (or even if you have!). Praise God for “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” (another great song!), the Son of God who loved us enough to die for us while we were (and still are) sinners (Romans 5:8)!!

    • I love Todd Agnew and was thinking about that song this weekend. You’re right, it is worth a listen!

  • Very well said. I wish the Florida pastor who started this mess would simply understand that a story which features sin as part of the story is not the same as glorifying that sin. Huuuuuuge difference. The Blind Side doesn’t take the position that the gang activity, profanity, drug use, etc, are good things.

  • Rick

    Great thoughts! We are all sinners needing Jesus even as Christians! 1 John 1:8-10.

  • Debra

    We are the light to the darkness of this world. Love what you wrote it
    is so true. If we do not reach out and let Jesus shine through us then
    we are not His vessels to reach those who are not lovely. I find that
    the people who have come out of the world, out of lifes that were consumed in self, sin, are the most genuine people around. They are the ones who really know what God did for them. The ones who isolate themselves from the sinners are loosing so much. I believe they are a
    stench in God’s nose. Just how hard is it to love the lovely verses those
    who live in addiction, sexual sin, the world? If we truly love Jesus we are
    willing to die to our worldly life and go out and reach those who don’t know him with love, acceptance, and grace in our hearts. We don’t judge, we just show compassion, love and acceptance as Jesus did. Thanks for being bold to speak truth into others lives. It is what Jesus would have done.

  • Great post!! I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me!

  • Jennifer Miller

    AMEN. This is my first visit to your blog. I’m so disheartened by so much of what calls itself “Christian” and you nailed this. Full on. Good for you.

    • Thanks Jennifer. Glad to have you!

  • MB

    This reaction by SBC and Lifeway are some of the very reasons people are leaving the churches or not even entering at all. This attitude doesn’t draw us closer into a real relationship with a loving God. It increases our self righteousness and hypocrisy.

    • And this fact too… is grievous to me. It’s why it was difficult to publish this.

  • cyinger

    Not much shocks me anymore, but I can’t believe anyone could get anything offensive out of the Christian love of this family. It’s a movie about selflessly loving & helping with a pure & open heart. It’s about being open to someone in need without predjudice or judgement and being repaid ten-fold in love. It shows that if you give a youth in trouble a chance, they never stop proving what they are capable of in order to show their appreciation. The moral of this movie is far more Christian than what these “Christians” are doing. Some ppl need to get their heads out of their a*** To not want this movie to be seen b/c of a swear word I don’t even remember?….Come on!

  • cyinger

    I bet racism is the real reason–because it is an interracial family, right? As ignorant as the mother’s friends!

    • I think racism is an unfair charge in this instance. There is no evidence to support it.

  • joey O.

    The same people who judge, are the same ones that dare to be judged. They are too busy pointing their finger, not realizing(omitting) the sin that is housed in their own bodies. Unfortunately, in these last days, hypocrisy will continue to increase (according to scripture).

    • I think we have to be careful with the “don’t ever judge” kind of thinking. We are told, “Don’t judge lest you be judged.” and “With the same measure you use, it will be used against you.” But we’re also told, “Stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgement.”

      Because, truth be told, I’m making a judgement in this post. I believe that according to scripture it is a right judgement.

      And there are more nuances to this issue than I’ve addresses here. I’m thinking about those now.

  • James McGuire

    It is very difficult to think Lifeway would pull The Blind Side. They just blindsided us.

  • Sue

    “coarse” joke, no “course.” Sorry, I can’t help it. Excellent post!

  • Kathryn Hughey

    This post resonates with me in the midst of all the things going on right now. Thanks for posting so eloquently what I have been trying to put into words for months!

  • Tony

    I didn’t like this post… I loved it! Thanks so much for the article. I’m quoting you in a post I’m doing. I hope you don’t mind.

  • Between Two Worlds

    So I’m in the final stages of releasing a novel about growing up in the South in the 50s. How do I avoid certain words?

    I have had *way more comment* on my language choices than on the events depicted in the book, actions that I can point out as having actually happened in real life during that time. (Hint: look up ‘Emmet Till’ and see if you remember that.) The cruel actions of racism are overlooked, but the language of racism generates controversy.

    The redemption of sinners is a very difficult thing. God became man, high became low. We don’t need to revel in the base things, but why do we think that pretending they don’t exist somehow makes for a better prodigal story?

    The goal of the artist is, I think, to tell the story as honestly as possible given the skills and strengths of the artist. We don’t have to have garbage and call it art, but we also don’t have to dress our pianos in pantaloons because we’re afraid to look at a naked leg.

    • Thank you for these thoughts. And, congrats on the novel.

  • cyinger

    I think it is quite possible that racism is a motivating factor. I’m not judging Southern Babtists as a group, it would be individuals, but the religion’s history is seeped in racism. Out of all the religions, this one is the one that has faught the strongest to support slavery and later segregation in the past. it is so historically white that they just now elected their first black leader, Rev. Fred Luter, and it was a huge deal. i know most aren’t racists today, but I’m sure some of that still lingers. A quote from an article I just wrote down: “A minsister from Luter’s church, Darren Martin, said the SBC past support of slavery and segregation are well known, but Luter’s election is a true sign that change has really come.” I think it is likely that racism could be a factor in this. it makes more sense than being that offended by one or two word choices. The Blind Side is a family, kid-friendly movie with an inspiring message. There is nothing offensive about it.

    • While I don’t think this particular issue was racially motivated, your statements about racism in the history of the SBC are accurate. This has been acknowledged by the current leadership and they are making strides to remedy it. Those changes can’t come soon enough.

      Eyvonne Sharp
      Sent with Sparrow (http://www.sparrowmailapp.com/?sig)

  • We are not called to run away from, embrace, or eliminate darkness, but instead to shine brightly in the midst of it, and expose it. My concern is less about Lifeway’s policies in their bookstores (there’s always Amazon) and more about the politicization of the gospel, which is really what is happening when someone attempts to stir things up in order to get noticed and gain clout.

    • Yes, shine brightly in the midst of it.

      I agree that that politics is a bigger concern than Lifeway policies. It’s clear to me that Lifeway alone does not have issues with the movie. They sold it in their stores for years. It is unfortunate that a small vocal group of leaders have been able to force this change.

      I understand that there was concern that the issue with “The Blind Side” would overshadow the election of Frank Luter, the first African American President of the SBC. When Lifeway made the decision to pull the movie, that concern was eliminated.

      The pragmatist in me understands why. But the idealist is deeply disappointed that these moves are necessary within a Christian organization.
      Thank you for your comment.

  • Thank you Eyvonne!!! I agree wholeheartedly! That’s what I keep saying about so called Christian films…..you need to have films that are real and reach the broken…we were all broken at some point when Jesus came and found us. We need to show a broken world that Jesus loves them too. Just as Jesus came to us in the midst of darkness we have to SHOW them that He can do the same for them!! I will share this with your permission!

  • I am with you. We have the privledge of facilitating a Celebrate Recovery meeting at our church. I thank God for my pastors heart to not only allow, but to encourage, the broken hearted, abused, and hurting people to come through our doors. Though they may not know the right Christian things to say or do when they first get there, in time, as they come to meet Jesus, all of those things seem to work themselves out.

  • Sandi

    Pretty rediculous! Let us be a light, if I was to write my life story it would not be all about a good Christian girl, it would be about a sinner saved by His grace & mercy and life as it really happened

  • TereasaM

    I agree with everything you have said. I have thought a lot about this since reading Rachel’s post. I am not sure how I feel about it completely. There are things I write that would not be welcome in a Christian bookstore. I’m not sure I want them there, anyway. I do appreciate, however, that I can generally trust whatever I purchase in a CB to be free from things I *personally* cannot handle. I have been blindsided (excuse the pun) by scenes in a good story that stick with me for years. I have a hard time with child abuse and have been surprised by the details that come up in unexpected places. It’s kind of nice to have a “safe” place to go when I feel bombarded by certain things. On the other hand, I do feel pulling this particular movie is a little extreme.

    • I think my post came across as an indictment of Lifeway more than I intended. I really wanted to speak to the mentality that forced their decision. I am not anti-Lifeway. I don’t think Lifeway is anti-Blind Side. I think the entire decision was based on denominational political factors (which is a shame).
      There is huge value in Christian bookstores, the biggest of which is filtered and appropriate content.

  • Tracy Krauss

    This comes after much discussion among authors and the CBA about what is acceptable in christian fiction and the emergence of what some call ‘edgy, realistic, or authrntic’ Christian fiction.

    • Tracy,

      I’m not in the loop on those conversations. Are there any good online resources to catch me up?

  • Susie Mc Sellers

    Excellent post! As followers of Jesus, we are called to live in this world….(even though we are of another world). Jesus came to extend perfect Grace and Mercy. The Law is important, but, He came to fulfill it with love, not condemnation. We are to reflect His LIGHT by being REAL and by loving others. We are to point others to Jesus. Most “non-believers” have simply been turned off by the “Holier than Thou’s.” It’s the KINDNESS of God that leads to repentance!

  • Seth Parrish

    I agree to a large extent. As a Christian educator, I often struggle with deciphering this line; mostly recently I have been doing so with the new Gatsby movie. It has obviously gratuitous content, almost celebrating and mourning a culture at exactly the same time.

  • Judy

    I’m coming to this late so perhaps it won’t be read, but I can’t help wondering when those who have made this decision last read 1 and 11 Samuel – interwoven in the story of godly King David and his family – murder, incest, adultery, betrayal…
    Besides which, why on earth do Christians expect unbelievers (in film or in life) to act as believers do? It’s the transforming power of God’s grace that comes with faith that grows the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

  • Soarfeet

    Thats perfect and beautiful…