I've been around the Godbeat scene so long that I can remember the days when journalists would wait four of five years before they would write the same Big Trend Story all over again.
You know the ones I'm talking about. Things like the whole "Death of the Religious Right" story or the latest update on "Why megachurches are getting bigger." And did you know that interfaith marriages are a big deal in modern Judaism?
Another one of the standards has been the "Hollywood discovers that religious people watch movies" story. Because of my longstanding interest in this topic (hint, hint), I have been watching journalists discover this trend over and over ever since "Field of Dreams" and "Home Alone." Hey, do you remember Michael Medved? Then in 2009, The Los Angeles Times even interviewed me about the roots of this trend behind the hit movie, "The Blind Side."
You can blame Mel Gibson and "The Passion of the Christ," of course, but there is more to this evergreen story than one or two big-ticket items.
Still, I was cynical when I saw this New York Times headline the other day: "Secular Hollywood Quietly Courts the Faithful." I expected another quick-turn news feature about this "hot topic."
In this case I was wrong. The basic message of this in-depth business feature was that this is a topic that is not new and that it is not going away, in part because Hollywood has entered an era in which making profitable niche-market films is almost as important as making special-effects blockbusters. And then there is the trend of evangelical churches adding massive video screens to their sanctuaries, so that preachers can spice up their sermons with video clips.
Instead of settling for shallow coverage of the latest wrinkle in this old story, this Times piece went for the deep dive. Here is the overture:
The Rev. Roderick Dwayne Belin, a senior A.M.E. Church leader, stood before a gathering of more than 1,000 pastors in a drafty Marriott ballroom in Naperville, Ill., this month and extolled the virtues of a Hollywood movie.