Hello and welcome to The Storyteller's Mission with Zena Dell Lowe, a podcast for artists and storytellers about changing the world for the better through story.
Today is an exciting day. Because we are back for season three of this podcast. I can hardly believe it. We have made it to season three. And so today marks the launch of this season.
Now, you may have been following the podcast since the beginning. If so, then you may remember at the beginning of season two, I wanted to speak to you about what sorts of stories I thought we, as a community, ought to be writing. Because what I found is that we were really falling short in the area of heroic storytelling. And basically I'm talking about the moral worldview that we're reflecting. So, Christians have kind of gotten off track in terms of even being able to adequately portray a moral Christian worldview. So, that's what we started on season two. Now, we're not done with that topic, that continues to be a problem that I hope we will solve as we continue to explore and unpack these types of topics. However, today, I want to add to the mission. I want to add on to the kinds of things that we ought to be doing, and expand our minds a bit, get out of this limited point of view that we seemed to be stuck in, and try to challenge you to think beyond the box, if you will. So that we can truly have a seat at the table. So that we can truly engage in the marketplace of ideas, and actually make a difference in this world.
Now, if you're participating in things like elections and voting and that sort of thing, I'm not sure how you're feeling right now. If you're like me, there's some discouragement. There's a predominant feeling in this culture that voting isn't even making a difference, that our culture is in trouble. And maybe you don't agree with that. And that's okay. If you don't agree with that, that's fine. Nevertheless, a lot of people do. So that means that there is a crises in our country right now. But I want to put the current crises into perspective by reiterating the importance of your high calling as a storyteller.
Let's be honest, there's a lot of things going on in society and culture right now, that might be very depressing to you. It has been to me, I've had some discouragement. I've really been wrestling with some things that I'm seeing happening in this world. And I'm scared. I'm shaken by some of the things that I'm seeing going on, which is why it's important at the beginning of season three to put everything into perspective. What are we doing here? What is our calling? What are we supposed to be doing? How can we even address some of these things that we see that are happening and what is our place? AH! It seems so big. It seems so hard to surmount, those things that are pressing in on us. But we need to put the current crises into perspective. And one of the ways to do that is to reiterate our high calling as storytellers.
Because here's the truth, at key times in history, it's the writers who have turned the tides. It is the writers and storytellers, those who use language to formulate a specific message, a specific story that fits the times that ultimately causes change to happen in society. We are the great diagnosticians of the world. We are the ones who are seeing where we're sick—what's wrong. And this is true throughout history. It's always been the artists who see that something is wrong. And a lot of times in history, it's only when the artists, when the playwrights, when the actual painters, when they highlight something, that the rest of society goes, "Yeah, that needs to be fixed." "Oh, yeah, we're sick there." So, the artists put their thumbprint, if you will, on the illnesses of society. And we're the ones that call people to action. And we do it, not by preaching, but by telling a story that is grounded in the very things that are going wrong. We highlight it through narrative. We highlight it through narrative. And we're the ones who ultimately, then, can make a difference. Our calling is so important. It is so important.
And what you need to know is that you're not alone. Right? I said this at the beginning of season two. And it's even more true here at the beginning of season three. I'm going to just give you a few podcast stats, so that you understand that we're part of a positive growing trend. And I'm encouraged by that, and I hope you will be too. One of the things that's interesting is that 90% of our listeners are in North America. 90%. Okay, that's great. But what's amazing to me is that that means that 10% aren't. 10% of our listeners come from elsewhere. Now, 7% of those are from Europe. 1% of those are in Asia, and the other 2% are split between Africa, Australia, and South America. But The Storyteller's Mission is on six continents. Isn't that amazing? Now, in terms of our biggest countries, USA is obviously our biggest. But we also have a huge number of people that listen in Canada, France, England, Australia, Germany, and Thailand. Isn't that interesting? Now, what's also interesting is we are in 63 countries or territories all over the world. 63. What does that measure in terms of cities? Well, 1,486 cities around the world. That's amazing. That's amazing, right? And Los Angeles is our biggest constituency, and especially because if you include the surrounding areas, Burbank, North Hollywood, all those things, it is definitely the biggest, which I think is great. That's where a lot of storytellers are right now that have the potential to actually impact culture at a deep, deep level. So I'm really happy to hear that. But also, we have a large listenership in Virginia, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Texas. And that's just to name a few. Because, again, those are states, not necessarily the cities. We have a huge following, which is really, really exciting. I share these stats with you, because I just want you to see the growing trend here. We're growing. We have more listeners every week than we did a year ago. And that's good, because I actually believe that this show can put us back into the midst of it. This is where culture happens. This is where storytelling happens. This is the kind of stuff that puts us at the top of our game again. So we're not on the outside looking in. We need to be involved. So, all of that said, what does that mean for us? What does that mean for us as a community, and the types of stories that we should be telling?
So recently, I was approached by a gentleman who was approached by a group of Christian investors who were looking to launch a new production company. And these Christian investors basically said, "You know, we don't understand why there can't be a Christian film production company that just tells good stories, but that aren't necessarily doing Christian content." Which, of course, is what I've been arguing the whole time, right? We need to just have good stories that have a Christian worldview, and not so much trying to do some sort of message driven content. So, that's what this company presented to my friend, who then came to me to talk about the possibility of, if this company went forward, would I want to be the Director of Development? Or would I have any interest in that? And of course, that would be right up my alley because I have all sorts of writers that I know that I could hook up with the company and I could marry things and I know story. And that would be a great position for me. It could help get a lot of stuff into production. But then, I heard my friend say those little words that are, to me, killers. And what he said was, "a family friendly film production company".
Now why would I say that? Why is that a killer? Well, because what's happening is, as soon as you say "family friendly", you've now tacked on all this other criteria that limits the kind of content we can actually seek. And then of course, produce. Because now all of a sudden, you've relegated yourself to no sex, no language and violence. And we do that, right? As Christians, we automatically go to "family friendly" because it makes us feel safe. It makes us feel safe. We're not going to go off into lala land. We're not going to do anything too risqué or too dangerous. We're not going to alienate other Christians.
So, I believe it's a decision based on fear. It's not a decision based on knowledge, thoughtfulness, or actual needs. And the reason I think that is because, I'll tell you something, we don't need another "family friendly Christian production company". We've got plenty. That is not what we need. We don't need more non-offensive, innocuous content that the whole family can watch. We don't need stuff that lacks sex, lacks language, and lacks violence. We need mature stories, for adults. We need complex, thoughtful adult content. We need rated R material people. We need rated R material. And I know that's going to scare so many of you, as you hear me say that. And yet it is true. And I'll tell you something else. The Bible is rated R or worse. All right, so hear me out.
Because here's what happens. As soon as I say that, the fear factor kicks in because naturally now people are like, "Well, that means gratuitous." We tack on all sorts of definitions with what we believe rated R means. But rated R does not mean pornographic. Now, some rated R films might contain pornographic material. But just because it's rated R does not mean that it's pornographic. So, we have to rethink here. We have to reorient and rephrase and reanalyze what we've believed. Because the truth is, and we've said this a lot on this show, I would rather see an R rated truth than a G rated lie. And I'll give you some examples of that in a little bit.
But first what I wanted to do and what I've been trying to understand, why are we so afraid? What is it we're afraid of? Why are we so afraid to tell stories that fall into this type of category? Adult mature content. What is it? What is it? And I've come up with six things that I think we as Christians need to reevaluate and rethink and grow up about.
So, the first one is, we're afraid to be soiled. Now, there are all sorts of verses that Christians who adopt this particular criteria rest on to justify or to explain or to guide them in terms of this decision. And I believe that these Christians have all sorts of good intentions in the world. They mean the best. They intend the best. And they are truly trying to be godly. And some of those verses, for example, might be "bad company corrupts good character." Or if you're looking at another version, "do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals." So, things like that. So, there's this predominant view that if we see rated R material, we're going to be corrupted. We're going to be soiled, somehow. We're going to get it in us. And it's icky and gross. And that comes out of a predominant view that says that mostly what comes out of Hollywood is cesspool stuff, sinful stuff, stuff, that's really bad for us. And so we have to avoid that at all costs, or else we're going to become like that.
Now, that's not entirely unfounded IF you're approaching entertainment from the perspective of being a passive participant, I have talked about this a lot. We cannot be passive. We have got to be active—engaged and thinking, thinking, thinking. We can never turn off our thinker. We can never turn off our brain. We always have to be invested in what we're looking at, and then analyze it. And that's part of the problem. We actually don't want to think. So, it's easier for us to accept black and white rules and just out and out criteria. And boom, we can dismiss certain things without having to think about it. But I think that's a mistake.
This comes back to two—the philosophy of you know, garbage in, garbage out. So, if we put a lot of crap in us, then that's what's going to come out. And again, that's true if that's all you're doing and you're not actually looking at the stuff that you're consuming. You have to look at the stuff you're consuming. So, some of the verses might be "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks", verses like that.
So, the idea in both of these is that if we associate with evil people or evil men, that it's going to somehow corrupt us. And we have this predominant view that you know, it's evil, what's coming out of Hollywood. However, we have to balance this against—what was Jesus's example? Jesus went and ate with sinners. In fact, this was the argument that the Pharisees used, was it not? Think about this. This is the argument that most of us are clinging to, but it's the argument that the Pharisees used, and they were wrong. "Who is this man that eats with sinners?" Meaning Jesus was going to be corrupted by that. That was proof of his lack of character, of his corrupt nature. That he was not the Son of God. That he was not good and moral because anybody who was godly would not have associated with those sinners. Is that not what we're doing? We're adopting the pharisaical argument. And I think that's a problem. I think we better be looking at that.
Now, what about the verse, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is anything excellent, if there is anything worthy of praise—dwell on these things" or "think on these things." Okay. So, what happens is, in Christian circles, we feel like that dark stuff, sinful stuff, becomes us focusing—hyperfocusing—on things that are not pure, honorable, good, true, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, they're not honorable or commendable, or they're not excellent or praiseworthy. And so therefore, we're in error, and we're in sin. And I understand that, to a degree. But let me give you an example of how I think that is flawed thinking. And WHEN it is flawed thinking.
My grandmother, Grandma Dell, she has a very sordid past. My grandmother's grandmother was basically a child bride. My great grandmother Willett. Her father was killed by a man who was the husband of the woman that he was having an affair with. So, Great Grandma Willet's mother was left with all of these kids and no way to support herself. This goes way, way back. And so, she had to find stations, basically, that would salvage her children—that could keep her children safe. And one of those was this guy from Canada, who wanted to marry. And my great grandma Willet was basically a child bride. She was a mail order child bride. I think she was 13, or something when she was shipped off to Canada to marry this guy that's in his 40s. Pretty dark stuff, right? Grandma Dell would gloss over those details. She wouldn't get any of those details. I had to drag that out of her because she just wanted to look at the positive stuff. And in fact, whenever I would ask questions, because that's interesting. And poor Grandma Willet, she had no choice over that. She was 13 years old. And here she's shipped off to be the wife of this guy that's 40. Yuck. Right? It's weird. It's creepy. But Grandma Dell wouldn't look at those things because you just didn't talk about them. You didn't look at them. And that's just the way it was. And she would put on these rosy glasses, and just "oh, we just focus on the positive." But that's not good. Because what can we learn in that? That's the kind of thing that we're doing. We're putting on these rosy lenses.
Let me give you another example. When I did my film Ragdoll, which is the true story of a woman who is married to a gay man, I had a lot of Christians who chastised me for that story, who told me I should never do it. And their reasoning comes back to this because it is not good. It is bad, right? It is bad. And the idea was that it's so dark, and it's hopeless, and it ends badly. And it does. It does end badly. But that's because there are things in God's economy that end badly. Not everything is a positive, happy ending. It just isn't. But they didn't want to talk about that. They just wanted everything to be redeemed. And they would tell me—one gal even questioned my salvation. Because how could I tell this dark story if I was saved. I should redeem it. That's true. That's noble. That's good. That's worth looking at. And I'm like, wait a minute. Are you trying to tell me that God is too fragile for the dark things. Because I don't know about your God, but my God is not too delicate to look at my sin, or the sin of my family, or the sin of my life or whatever those things were. My God is not delicate. He doesn't need to be protected, He was there. And He saw things that were much darker than just that. He can handle it.
So I think, at the end of the day, there's a fear there of focusing on that true dark stuff because we feel like we're violating this. But the truth is, what does it say? What's the very first one? Whatever is true. Whatever is true. Which brings us back to, again, the principles. The principles. We're always going back to the principles. And the principle in storytelling is you must always tell the truth. The Bible doesn't shy away from any sort of subject. There is rape, murder, incest, child sacrifice. There's all sorts of horrible, horrible things that happen in the Bible. So, nothing is off limits. But how those stories are told, can either make it pornographic, or make it just true.
Schindler's List, there's nudity in it. You know, a lot of Christians, "Oh, we can never have nudity." As if they've never seen nudity before. What are we children? So, the question is, how is that nudity portrayed. And in Schindler's List, it's not portrayed in a way that's supposed to cause us to lust after those characters. It is portrayed in such a way to grieve us, to make us connect to their humanity, to understand their dignity, and how they're so being violated as human people. And we're supposed to connect to them more because of the horribleness of their nakedness. And we feel their shame with them. And therefore, it falls into this category. See, we want to attach ourselves to these false criterias because it's easier for us.
Alright. So, so far, this week, we've gone over three. We're going to go over three more next week. Now, in the meantime, I just want to say welcome back. Look at us. We're already engaged in a thoughtful, provocative conversation. Hopefully, it's making you a little uncomfortable, because that's good, because I want you to think. That's what we're here for. We're here to think more fully about what we're talking about and what we're consuming and what we're creating for others to consume.
I am really excited about this season of The Storyteller's Mission. We're going to change some things up this season, but we're keeping some things exactly the same. And I hope that you will join us for the season because we've got lots and lots of story tools and principles to share with you that I hope you'll be able to infuse into your own stories.
Well, thank you for joining me on this very first episode of season three of The Storyteller's Mission Podcast and by the way, if you're listening to this show, then you might be interested to know that we're also available on YouTube and you can find the video by clicking on the link below or going to YouTube and searching The Storyteller's Mission. So join us on YouTube if you prefer to watch the show.
And in the meantime, thank you for listening to The Storyteller's Mission with Zena Dell Lowe. May you go forth inspired to change the world for the better through story.