Evangelical Media Initiatives
Pat Robertson's development of the Family Channel and the development of its related businesses were the furthest advances evangelicals ever made into that suspect world. Generations of preachers before Robertson considered the entertainment industry to be too worldly. But Robertson felt creating programming for his network was always a daunting challenge, since he wanted to avoid criticism and yet turn out commercially viable entertainment.
A former student at Wheaton (Illinois) College, who recalled the visit there in 1965 of Francis Schaeffer, told an interviewer that, at that time, some students were pushing school administrators to permit the showing on campus of movies like Bambi, a situation reversed over time because of Schaeffer's teaching. His lectures and books say that films and popular culture must be understood in order to better understand how Jesus' teachings apply to current culture.
Since Mel Gibson's phenomenally successful 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ, many serious Christians have expressed hope that what they had long perceived as the negative Hollywood attitude toward Christians may be past. Christianity Today reports that Christians in the entertainment industry are well entrenched and organized for mutual support and fellowship.
For much of movie history, and still true in some evangelical circles, movies and evangelicals have had strained relations, the movies symbolizing the worst of worldliness, according to some preachers. The fact that whole churches went to see Gibson's The Passion of the Christ or rented it to show in their halls or sanctuaries is considered a historic turning point.
Many other efforts by Christians to offer viable Christian media, both aimed at the general public and the Christian subculture, have met with mixed reception, most not long sustained. One notable exceptions is World magazine, a Christian alternative to the mainstream news magazines, which is in its twentieth year of publication in a full-color format comparable to its much more famous counterparts. An outgrowth of the former Presbyterian Journal published by L. Nelson Bell (who also was a co-founder of Christianity Today), the founding editor and current CEO of World is Joel Belz.
World's editor-in-chief is University of Texas journalism professor Marvin Olasky, the author of Compassionate Conservatism and The American Leadership Tradition. Olasky has been credited with being the policy wonk behind the Clinton administration's welfare-reform legislation, and critics have blamed him for having had a hand in inspiring the Bush administration's faith-based initiatives programs.
Published fifty times a year, World magazine claims to follow Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report as the fourth most widely read weekly newsmagazine in the United States.
Finally in 1965 Billy Graham founded Christianity Today, with theologian Carl F. H. Henry serving as its founding editor. Slotted as an evangelical alternative to the liberal and considerably older Christian Century, it has since left its competitor far behind, regularly reaching two million readers through its print and online editions.