This week, I received an interesting box in the mail. It was stamped on the outside in a way that almost made it look like a Christmas present until I read it. It said, Rocky Balboa Leader Resource Kit. I almost chucked it, but it sounded unusual when I shook it and Im always looking for something to sell on EBay. So thinking maybe it had a book or a DVD inside, I opened it. To my surprise, inside was a single boxing glove (in addition to a bunch of brochures, ads, promotional materials and order blanks.)
What I received was probably sent to thousands of pastors across the country and it represents a new and disturbing trend in marketing. In effect, Pastors are being asked to Pimp for Hollywood. In the last year, Ive received similar (though not as creative) packets trying to get me to either a) send my church members to a theatre to see a particular movie or b) develop a line of sermons or lessons around a certain movie (which would obviously incite my church members to attend said certain movie.)
With subtle and alluring promises of family values and spiritual messages, Ive been encouraged to partner (their term) with Hollywood to promote movies running the gamut from The Nativity to Facing the Giants to Charlottes Web to The DaVinci Code to Flicka to Jesus Camp and multiple others. The only one I actually saw was Facing the Giants and it was actually half-way decent and ironically (or not) the least associated with Hollywood.
I will admit that I got seduced into this a couple of years ago with Mel Gibsons The Passion of the Christ. After having been given an exclusive, pre-release viewing limited to a few personally invited and selected guests, I was convinced enough that it had evangelistic value that I bought out five screens at a local theatre before its public release and we invited scores of non-believers to join us in watching the movie and discussing it afterwards. I recall one decision, but no conversions after all the effort and I learned my lesson. From that point forward, Ive been immunized against partnering with the Hollywood industry. Upon further reflection, Ive reached the decision that pastors are being asked to pimp for the Hollywood industry.
Im not trying to be crude or outrageous by using the term, but I think what is now occurring really is pimpin for Hollywood. The media moguls of tinsel town have discovered that evangelicals are a potential cash cow long overlooked. Whereas many of us (myself included) didnt darken the door of a theatre for the better part of a quarter of a century or more, a lot of us have rethought that standard which had (at least for me) become rather mindless. Instead, Ive tried to preach, teach and live a different standard that applies to every form of visual entertainment from TV to DVDs to movies and to be more accountable than simply saying, this type of entertainment is wrong for the believer. That said, Hollywood seems bent on exploiting us for those long pocketed Baptist bucks which we previously held in keeping until it was released on video or came on free TV.
So.while I think the boxing glove was a neat and clever marketing idea (and I intend on giving it to my 9-year-old son until he uses it against a sibling at which point I will give it to the dog for a chew toy), I do NOT plan on building a series, a sermon or a set of lessons on Sly, Rocky or any other Hollywood symbol. I can think of any good reason for pastors to serve as front-menfor the heavily-painted faces of an industry that is nearly completely corrupt. Call the advertising wizards and promotional gurus who send me the movie schlock Hollywood whores or simply good business folks, this pastor isnt going to serve them as a pimp nor as a promoter.