Sunday School Musical: A rebuttal

Calm yourself, Sam. Jesus will make it all better in time. "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain or Sunday School Musicals, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4, addition mine).

I saw this movie advertised in a catalog from Christian Book Distributors (CBD) the other day. I shook my head in disgust. Why do Christians do this?!

Turns out that they didn't. The Asylum did. The Asylum is a production company that makes "mockbusters." Basically, they listen for buzz about upcoming movies and then make low-budget DVD versions of the ones they think will hit big.

The Asylum will make anything - from clean to crass, from pretty to porn - as long as people buy it. This doesn't help consumers or marketing.

Today I'm more frustrated by CBD, the largest religious distribution company in the world who is committed to "offer customers the very best in Christian products at the best prices and with the best service around."

Note: At, Sunday School Musical got a 1.9 rating out of 10. How can that pass the "best in Christian products" criterion? Now go to CBD's site and you'll see that raters gave it a 9.0 out of 10! (Both ratings as of 5/8/09). Why the enormous discrepancy, I'm not exactly sure, but I can guess. For instance, one of the most common comments at CBD was, "My kids loved it!"

Guess what, kids love Twinkies, too.

So what can we do? Here are several suggestions:
1. Don't buy Sunday School Musical.
2. If your church library carries it, ask to have it removed. Talk (nicely, of course) with the volunteer librarian about art, Culture Making, the Church as leader versus poser, etc.
3. Talk with your kids about the same stuff.
4. Let CBD know what you think by

To Ray Hendrickson, President of CBD:

I am disappointed that Christian Book Distributors carries Sunday School Musical, a "mockbuster" movie produced by The Asylum (Read more about The Asylum here). As the largest religious product distributor in the world, you have tremendous influence and responsibility. But when you promote derivative products like Sunday School Musical, influence and responsibility are misused.

CBD's derivative products like Sunday School Musical, and also like God's Girlz Dolls (Bratz), Guitar Praise (Guitar Hero) and "Return of the King...of Kings" T-shirts (J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King), demonstrate a lack of creativity and a followership to the very cultural items so many conservative Christians critique. By carrying and promoting these faux products, you say, "We don't approve of your dealings, secular world, but do you mind if we take your money-making ideas and slap religious icing on them for our own benefit?"

I believe this is one of the reasons why people are turned off by the evangelical Church in particular. They don't enjoy associating with posers who do seemingly anything to entertain and make money.

I am sure your motives are purer than this, Ray, but whether you realize it or not, selling these products have negative consequences. Please consider removing your endorsement of Sunday School Musical, regardless of how family friendly it may be. Perhaps the profit you've earned on it so far could be used to patron an original film (and from a production company with higher standards than The Asylum.)

Sam Van Eman


Marcus Goodyear May 11, 2009 at 12:20 PM  

This is what comes from Christians encouraging others to see our faith as a description of a particular market demographic.

It reminds me of a Derek Webb song, I Want a New Law. "Don't teach me about truth and beauty. Just label my music."

And The Asylum's lack of credibility as an organization just drives the point home. My wife and I read a description of Zombies vs. Vampires (go figure) and were horrified by some of the plot details. You can imagine it must have been pretty awful to horrify me.

M.joshua May 11, 2009 at 12:54 PM  

My review is submitted. :)

Marcus, you're right. Though, I think you could effectively pick just about any Derek Webb lyric and say something about trash like this. ;)

(he has a lot of good things to say)

Sam Van Eman May 11, 2009 at 5:40 PM  

I hear a reference to my interview with Greg Stielstra on his book, Faith-Based Marketing. Perhaps you didn't intend that. Either way, I agree that pros and cons exist when we create profiles. While it provides something to work with, labeling also lumps.

Thanks for the helpful contribution!

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