Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "More Than One Lesson"

| 11 comments


Your Podthinker has publicly put himself on record as a big fan of the film podcast Battleship Pretension. His curiosity was therefore piqued when Tyler Smith, one of your Podthinker's two favorite Battleship Pretension co-hosts, founded a separate movie podcast of his own. As a cinema geek, your Podthinker grew even more interested. But what's this? It's a Christian movie podcast? As a non-Christian — a non-anything, for that matter — your Podthinker suddenly wasn't even sure whether he'd be allowed to download it.

Yet even before hearing More Than One Lesson's [RSS] [iTunes] first episode, signs arose that the show would be Not What You Think, especially if You are a non-Christian — or, even more appropriately, a Christian — who has grown to fear explicitly Christian media and Christian "perspectives" on media. An informal poll of Christian stuff-fearing individuals reveals that they primarily seek to avoid:
  1. proselytization
  2. nonsensical claims
  3. moral scoldiness
  4. poor production value
But as any Battleship Pretension listener knows, Smith — who, by way of disclosure, has been a guest on one of your Podthinker's podcasts — actively doesn't proselytize, say things that don't make sense, lament the presence of the word "damn" in the movies or talk up direct-to-DVD Christian sci-fi epics produced for a buck three-eighty. In fact, he'll occasionally spend an impromptu monologue arguing against Christians who do those things! Given his extreme reasonability, even the most rage-filled, religion-loathing internet atheist would have to make an exception for him.

And it turns out that More Than One Lesson is indeed as popular with the atheists as it is with the Christians; so popular, in fact, that Smith spends the opening of one episode addressing the many atheists who have volunteered to contribute to the show (!). Afraid of misrepresenting the program's perspective, your Podthinker would normally have trouble writing up an ostensibly Christian podcast, but one that Christians and atheists agree on? That's too interesting to ignore.

The format could scarcely get any simpler: each week, Smith discusses a movie for the bulk of the episode, be it Gus Van Sant's Milk [MP3], Greg Mottola's Superbad [MP3] Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker [MP3] or another. Then, in what time remains, he goes to the back pages and talks about an older film that deals with a similar theme. Sometimes, in the longer episodes, he'll have a guest with him, usually a local Christian friend somehow involved in The Industry; BP listeners will enjoy hearing him engage in the one-on-one conversation outside the usual setting, but it must be said that some of these guests sound somewhat less approachable than does Smith himself. And, while all super-nice guys, some will seem slightly alien to listeners who never interact with believers.

But then, More Than One Lesson as a whole couldn't be more approachable, especially since one can approach it from a couple different angles. Christian audiences can presumably regard it as Christian Movie Talk That Doesn't Make You Cringe, while non-Christian audiences can safely consider it Tyler Smith on Film. Though the show contains the occasional Bible quote and utterance of the J-word, the vast majority of what Smith and his guests say has to do with cinema and what humanity can learn from it. If these lessons tie in with a particular set of religious teachings, fine, but if the connection isn't as direct, Smith doesn't force it. His discussion of Jason Reitman's Thank You For Smoking [MP3] and what the movie says about truth, falsity, rhetoric and argument exemplifies the show at its best: Christians can learn from it, non-Christians can learn from it, and maybe — just maybe — they'll stop shouting at one another quite so much after listening.

Vital stats:
Format: "movie talk for the discerning Christian" (that's the slogan)
Running since: July 2009
Duration: 30m-1h20m
Frequency: weekly, more or less
Archive available on iTunes: all

[Questions, comments, ideas, suggestions or threats for Podthinker Colin Marshall? colinjmarshall at gmail.]

Comments

Seems good, but a little hesitant

I kind of like the show so far. I was very cautious going in and I am still a little hesitant. Although I consider myself a Christian and am very interested in discussing theology, I do not identify in any way with mainstream Christian America. While my exposure to it has been pretty limited, eight years of George W Bush supporters and a handful of experiences with born again churches has been enough to scare me away.

Tyler does a wonderful job. He knows how hot the topic is that he is dealing with and he approaches it very carefully. He is a thoughtful, intelligent person with a good understanding of cinema who happens to be a devout Christian. Being a Christian, there are certain things that burn the ears of those of us who are maybe more politically correct, but he is always respectful of the ideas of others and simply wishes to share his point of view with those who will listen.

To get an idea of how prejudice his Christianity would make him, I first listened to the Religilous and Fireproof episodes. I thought those films would give me a good gauge of how objective he could be when dealing with his own beliefs. I'd say he did a pretty good job. Tyler happened to have the same co-host on those two episodes who is a little more offensive than him (I was a little annoyed by the talk surrounding traditional marriage), but overall listening to those made me feel comfortable going into the rest of the show. The asides about Deliver Us From Evil and Hell House made me realize just how objective he could be.

My one complaint is that the show seems to have a narrow definition of Christianity. Tyler says a Christian is simply a follower of Christ, but effort was made in those episodes to denote difference between Catholics, protestants, born agains, etc. While there are obvious differences that can and should be mentioned, the "Who is more Christian" game is a little annoying. Another podcast that does a better job in this regard is Watching Theology, the side podcast of the hosts of Watching the Directors. I would actually love to see Joe from Watching Theology guest on More Than One Lesson. Also maybe people like Wade Major or David Chen who are mainstream critics who happen to be Christian.

So, although I wasn't totally sold on those two episodes, it was enough to know that I can trust Tyler for a most part to be an intelligent and measured host. I will keep listening for now and get caught up as soon as I can.

My response to MTOL

I am also an avid Battleship Pretension listener, so I tried More Than One Lesson when I first heard about it (four episodes in the can). On the whole I agree with the perception that it's fairly reasonable, but my deal-breaker came in the first episode where Smith says something along the lines that he believes gay people go to hell when they die. As a non-Christian, it shouldn't bother me, but as a gay man, it does.

Glad to hear plenty of atheists appreciate his Christian perspective, but I just couldn't get past that phrase. I listened to the whole episode, but with that constantly reverberating in my mind. Which is my way of saying More Than One Lesson doesn't have quite as open arms as I'd hoped.

My response to your response

Tyler Smith here, of More Than One Lesson.
I'm assuming that you're referring to my episode on "Milk."
I appreciate your comments, but the phrase in question ("gay people go to hell when they die") was never uttered by me on the show. It is a very ugly phrase and I have very little respect for Christians that use such blunt, harsh phrasing in a public forum.
While I do mention that I believe homosexuality to be a sin, I do spend the rest of that episode condemning the Christian community's treatment and general attitude towards homosexuals, stating that we need to adopt a much more conciliatory mindset, rather than treat them as moral lepers.
I don't want this response to be too long, but I don't like being characterized as something that I'm specifically trying not to be. As you mentioned, you listened to the episode, but couldn't get past "that phrase."
"Gay people go to hell when they die" was not said. It was inferred by you. If my comments were offensive, I truly do apologize. As I mentioned, my intention was not to purposely offend anybody. However, I did try to choose my words as carefully as I could, and would prefer not to be misquoted, especially about something so important.

Homosexuality is a sin? I

Homosexuality is a sin?

I really despise ignorant and evil minded scumbags, who present themselves across the internet as reasonable.

You are simply an ignorant, stupid, evil little person. I really despise the hatred which you obviously have for gay people. I listened to the show and the disgusting moralising that you present as reasonability is horrendous, you seem about one bad day away from getting the torches and the pitchforks and raiding gay communities.

You should be ashamed of yourself. Call yourself Christian. I hope you are judged harshly by your God, you pathetic excuse for a human being.

Well okay then.

So, in a podcast where I mention that I disagree with somebody's lifestyle, but go on to discuss how we Christians should treat said people with love, respect, and compassion, and no longer treat them as lepers who will be the downfall of society: you hear all that and come away with the idea that I am a hateful person?
If I hate everybody that is a sinner, I would literally hate everybody on earth, including myself. There are Christians out there that have come to view "other people" as sinners, but not themselves. I am not one of those. Far from it. I am as much of a sinner as anybody else.
Yes, I do call myself a Christian. It literally means somebody that follows Christ. And Christ did not go around acting as if sin didn't exist. Rather, he extended his hand to those that society had cast out, which is exactly what I was encouraging the Christian community to do in episode 1 of the podcast.
I lived in the South for a few years and knew people whose attitudes towards homosexuals truly were hateful. They labeled them as "perverts" and acted as if, because they themselves were heterosexual, that they were perfect in every way. Then there were those who simply chose not to think about homosexuals as people with real feelings and needs.
In the show you listened to, I suggested that the first step towards a better relationship between the church and the gay community should be taken by the church in acknowledging that we as Christians have said and done terrible, un-Christlike things to homosexuals and that we must first apologize and ask forgiveness of the gay community. Perhaps then we can go on together, understanding that, simply because we don't agree with each other's beliefs, that doesn't mean that we can't co-exist.
The next step is for both sides to adopt a much more civil tone in dealing with each other. Listen to both what a person is saying and how they're saying it, then react in kind.
If I came on the show and said that gay people didn't deserve the right to marry or adopt children or teach school, then, by all means, you have every right to ratchet up the anger a few notches. But I didn't say that. Because I don't believe it.
As far as I can tell, all I did was say something that you heartily disagree with. That's fine. I don't require your agreement. But until I start claiming that homosexuals should be treated in any way differently (ie worse) because of their sexual orientation, I really think that your response was uncalled for.

Just imagine you did a

Just imagine you did a podcast on Malcolm X, and stated that being black is a sin, both being genetic determinants after all. Can you not understand the prejudice which you are propagating?

You hide your disgusting

You hide your disgusting prejudice behind the veneer of Christianity, you foist ''sin'' upon a group people based upon a ridiculous book written two thousand years ago. You ratcheted up the argument by broadcasting your hateful views and passing them off as somewhat moderate, the response above was neither uncalled for nor unwarranted.

You are the personification of modern evil, a hateful human being with little respect from those you consider different. What do you do when you are not out abusing gay people over the internet? Burn crosses and lynch them in your down South?

Hm.

I was about to launch into several defensive paragraphs, but then I realized that it doesn't really matter what I say. The kind of vitriol you're spouting seems to come from a place of legitimate pain. As I've written, though I don't hate anybody, and try to reflect that in the things I say, there are plenty of people out there that do. They have been very vocal and extremely hurtful. And I realize that the core of what they say must sound an awful lot like what I've said to those that have been hurt by their words. Suddenly, I use words like "sin," and it translates out, to some, as "God hates fags." God doesn't hate anybody, and neither do I, but I know that some wounds run pretty deep.
I don't know what kind of horrible things you've been exposed to in your life at the hands of the people we're talking about, but I will say that, whatever it was, it shouldn't have happened. Christianity is about love, humility, and forgiveness, not superiority and venom. Some people have forgotten that (if they ever knew), and their inability to accept the idea that God loves everybody has led them to be shrill, hateful, and, in some cases, physically violent. As I say in episode 9 of the show, a person's life experiences will inform their opinions and beliefs (both Christian and otherwise) so much so that a few paragraphs in a blog comment section will certainly not undo the damage done; perhaps nothing can.
So, in summation, I'm sorry that you were offended by the episode. It wasn't my intention. I don't know what you have or haven't been through to cause you to so overwhelmingly characterize me as some sort of Klan member, but if you would ever want to have a civil discussion about such things, my e-mail address is one the website.

Yes, but...

The very act of classifying something as a sin is a stance of moral superiority. I think Tyler's perspective is more a survival mechanism for living in LA than an actual paradigm. He would still disown his gay child.

Good luck trying to make a career out of being a Christian apologist, you judgmental prick.

And we're back.

The idea of classifying something as sin being a sign of moral superiority would be correct if the person positing the idea claimed to be without sin himself. I most certainly am not without sin. If you like, I can list my own sins for you (although I'm sure many of them would not be categorized as sin by most).
Also, you call me judgmental, but you yourself have no problem passing judgment on something that I haven't done, couched a situation that doesn't exist. Of course, an argument like that is easy to make because it is based entirely on your personal assessment of me, which nobody can argue against. Then, of course, you can claim that I could truly do anything and nobody could correct you.
No one can refute that argument, because it is all based on your own interpretation and presupposition.
Again, very little good comes out of public name-calling; both parties end up more concerned with trying to cover their own asses and looking smart than actually listening to each other.
I would really like to have a conversation with you about this. My e-mail address is on the MTOL website.

Podcast review

Hi colin, could you give The Fleacast a review? You can find it at thefleacast.podbean.com or on itunes. Thanks, ryan.