Wanted in Our Entertainment: Religion as Part of Everyday Life

We watched a Wagon Train episode last night and found it wonderful: Chuck Wooster, Wagonmaster, from Season 2 (you can order the whole season from Timeless Video).

In this episode, the train is trapped in the mountains by heavy snow. Before it can be extricated, characters begin to disappear mysteriously, without a trace. With the wagonmaster, the assistant wagonmaster, and the scout all gone, the responsibility for the whole train falls on the cook, Charlie Wooster (Frank McGrath)–not that he has any leadership abilities, but he’s the only one left who has any relevant experience at all.

Charlie is a garrulous, happy-go-lucky, bearded scamp who has no business leading anything; and he knows it. So what does Charlie do?

He prays.

As King Solomon asked God for the wisdom to govern the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 3: 5-14), so Charlie prays for the strength and wisdom he needs to lead the wagon train. Meanwhile, a woman whose husband has gone missing in the snow drops to her knees in silent prayer. This is all done naturally and with dignity, not self-consciously, not hitting the viewer over the head: but because belief and trust in God is part of who these ordinary people are.

It’s quite beautiful.

I have tried to do this in my Bell Mountain books–show religious faith and practice as a natural, ordinary part of everyday life. The stories include characters who don’t believe, and others whose belief has been mis-instructed by a Temple that has lost sight of its true reason for being and become an end in itself.

Charlie’s prayer wasn’t tacked on to make Wagon Train a “Christian Western.” The characters in my books are living in the midst of a religious upheaval, so the circumstances are different. But in both, faith is part of who these people are, and they cannot be realistically depicted without it.

Meanwhile, in the stories told by nearly all our novels, movies, TV shows, and other forms of “entertainment,” we find no trace of any kind of relationship with God. There are notable exceptions, of course, for which we give thanks; but for the most part, our daily entertainment, whose content we dump into our minds unceasingly, is a God-free zone.

I can’t believe that this has had a good effect on us.

But I think, with God’s help, that it can be fixed.

P.S.: Well, I couldn’t get Charlie’s picture to display, but at least the link works. I still have much to learn.

PPS: Got it now! Live and learn.

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