I have to differ with Lisa Fabrizio’s article today decrying the lack of Christian Christmas movies and television specials.
First, the study of Advent/Christmas television programming she cites seems rather narrow in its failure to mention It’s a Wonderful Life or “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I concede the abysmal state of most other Christmas/holiday specials, but Charlie Brown is truly a treat. With most of the Peanuts crew caught up in the very sort of Christmas celebration Fabrizio would probably dislike, Charlie Brown grows fed up and rebels against their commercialism. Not finding the answer in pure anticommercialism, Charlie Brown is exasperated and asks, “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?” Linus, who has quietly followed Charlie Brown throughout the episode, finally speaks up with his answer, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” He asks for the lights to be dimmed, a spotlight appears on him, and everyone is silent as he recites the visitation of the Magi from the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke. It’s a Wonderful Life may not be explicitly Christian, but it is a traditional Christmas movie with a Christian message.
These two programs attract a great deal of attention every Advent and Christmas and are among the most popular programs. Last year’s airing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” netted 13.6 million viewers, the only Christmas program to break into the top 20 for the week of December 6-12, and beating “Law & Order: SVU” and “60 Minutes.” The ratings for “Charlie Brown” barely fell short of viewership for “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which had 14.9 million viewers during the week of November 29- December 5. I couldn’t find ratings for It’s a Wonderful Life, since it didn’t break into the top 20 programs.
Fabrizio seems also to miss the point of the study she cites. It concludes:
The lack of outrage by Christian viewers means that either Americans are satisfied to keep their faith separate from their viewing habits or that the networks are reflecting the culture’s acceptance of Christmas as a secular holiday.
Take it one step further by applying a little market economics: if there’s a lack of Christian Christmas television programming (or movies, for that matter), it isn’t some Hollywood conspiracy. Hollywood types may be happy to oblige the cultural demand, but they’re still running a business. If Americans, and American Christians, aren’t watching Rudolph or other rather meaningless Holiday programming, then the networks won’t air it. If they favor actual Christmas programs, the market will respond accordingly. This lack of Christian programming begins with the viewers.
For those interested in a great Christian Christmas special, settle in for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” Tuesday, December 6, at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. NBC is offering It’s a Wonderful Life Friday, December 10 at 8 p.m. and Christmas Eve at 8 p.m. Beyond that, I’d recommend Christians seek their Advent and Christmas sustenance somewhere else besides the idiot box.