Putting the drama back into believing

I posted here about the sequence of revival followed by social engagement leading to numerical growth in the church.
One of the fruits of effective engagement with society is that Christianity becomes aspirational; people look to the Christian faith lived out and communicated and are drawn to find out more – they ‘want it’. I believe there is some evidence that this may be happening in society and particularly in the media in that Christian themes and stories are being much more favourably presented than previously.
An article in Saturday’s The Times titled Putting the drama back into believing looks at a resurgence of interest at the BBC in programme making that addresses religious themes.

Adam Kemp, is responsible for commissioning programmes across BBC One, Two, Three and Four. Religion, he says, is now a subject that broadcasters cannot ignore.

“Religion and faith are right at the forefront of our agenda. And not just for people involved in religious programmes, but also those involved in current affairs. Religion was once seen as a little bit of a backwater in television, not one of the hottest genres, like science and history. But not any more.”

ThemonasteryBBC’s The Monastery (2005) and The Manchester Passion (2006) both made a huge impact and got people talking about Christianity in public. Now the Beeb is working on a £4 million mini-series about the Passion of Christ, due to be screened in 2008.
Programme makers are not daft – they know that these programmes are touching on the aspirations of many people;

It’s not about being a believer or even being sympathetic to religion, it’s about cutting through lazy prejudice about the subject, opening your eyes and seeing that, quite simply, it makes good TV that people want to watch.

ManchesterpassionTo have the story of Christianity told compellingly and creatively in the public space in this way is an absolute gift. The encouraging thing about this approach is that the story of Christ and his people is being told for it’s own sake, rather than being a constant object of deconstruction by those who believe in the demise of religious faith.

I sense a turning of the tide.

[pics: BBC]

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2 Responses to Putting the drama back into believing

  1. Jake Willetts says:

    Tim, I think you and Adam Kemp are wide of the mark. Rather than being “a subject that broadcasters cannot ignore” religious programming came bottom in a list of subjects that people would choose to watch on HDTV.
    Only 4% of viewers said they’d watch religious programmes – way below the next closest subjects which were children’s and educational broadcasts at 15% each. News and sport achieved 84% and 80% respectively. (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/policies/pdf/dtt_hdtrial.pdf)
    There may be a resurgent interest in religious programme making but it seems there’s the usual disinterest in religious programme watching.

  2. Tim Abbott says:

    Jake,
    Thanks for commenting and pulling in some other data to this post – it would be cool to know a bit more about your interest in this field. I don’t believe that religious broadcasting is going to become mainstream (and I’m not sure I’d really want it to either!) but I’d like to add the following points:
    I’ve had a look at the HDTV report and the question triallists were asked related to the perceived benefit of different genres of broadcasting in HD. I tend to agree with them! Even with an interest in religious broadcasts, I think there would be a much greater benefit from HD programming in news, sports and movies than religion. However, it certainly points to a lack of significance for the triallists of religious broadcasts.
    I agree that there seems to be a greater interest in religious programme making, and the observation of many is that this is taking a more creative and sympathetic approach rather than the hyper-critical and polemic position of previous decades. This itself is a significant factor, and is probably linked to a new generation of programme makers who are more open to, and may share, spiritual and religious perspectives. In this it is highly likely that they reflect the wider population. Religious themes are also being explored in non religious broadcasting, such as Panorama and other current affairs issues programmes.
    Are the public demanding more religious programming? I’m not sure they are in any specific sense. But recent programmes with a religious or spiritual theme have attracted good audience numbers. In essence I see a move towards, rather than away from, greater awareness of religious themes in broadcasting. It’s this trend that I see as of interest.

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