Why TV producers need to make more space for Christian faith on the small screen


In recent years, a number of Bible-inspired blockbusters have made it to the big screen - "Exodus: Gods and Kings", "Noah" and the upcoming "Risen" - and these cinematic adaptations from recent times are nothing new. Hollywood has long had a taste for the epic stories found in the Bible, and these adaptations tend to favour artistry over accuracy (if you've seen any of them you'll know what I mean).

But when it comes to the small screen, authentic everyday Christian experiences are severely lacking. Although we are often told that religious belief is in decline as society moves towards a more secular way of life, Christianity is still the largest religion in the world. Essentially, there are a lot of us, so why are representations of ordinary Christians so far and few between on our TV screens?

When the topic of faith isn't completely brushed under the carpet, Christian characters are often represented in a way which invites cynicism. For example, in the hit US TV drama "The Good Wife", Alicia Florrick's daughter Grace becomes a born again Christian. Her character's initial discovery and interpretation of Christian faith is presented as naive and somewhat childish. The immaturity of her character at the time when she chooses to devote time to developing her faith can also be interpreted as a comment on the faith of Christians in general.

"Eastenders", a popular British BBC soap opera, has been a talking point of late, not because of it's controversial storylines but instead for the decision to build a mosque on the new set. The mosque will be the soap's first religious building and producers have said their decision to incorporate the mosque as a part of the new set was in a bid to better reflect the reality of East London, the locality on which the soap is based. It is completely understandable that the creators of the show should seek to portray a more accurate representation of the society which they attempt to portray. So why is it not the case elsewhere with Christianity?

Could reality TV shows provide the answer? Despite the concept that's suggested by the genre title, reality TV shows aren't usually a great source of real life representations. However, in an attempt to show a true reflection of Christian life, a number of high-profile Christians have taken to using the format - Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr on "Rich in Faith", Terry Crews on "The Family Crews" and David and Tamela Mann's on "It's a Mann's World".

As unlikely as it sounds, even the hit show "The Bachelor" has in the past provided a platform for presenting the challenges faced by everyday Christians. Season 17's Bachelor, Sean Lowe, was a vocal Christian who publicly spoke of his pre-marital abstinence. (He is also the only Bachelor contestant who has gone on to marry the woman he proposed to on the show.) But this season's Ben Higgins, also a Christian, hasn't been afforded the same airtime for his strong Christian beliefs. Maybe that trend of Christian reality is over.

With reports that we're spending even more time watching TV than before, it's only natural that Christians will want to see more intellectual representations of themselves and their faith in the media. But only time will tell whether producers meet this demand or not.