The annual Evangelical Press Association (EPA) convention caught me off-guard this week, awarding Christianity Today Movies as the FIRST PLACE winner in the Online Publications category of their Awards for Excellence!

So, a round of applause is certainly due to Mark Moring and his crew, as well as to the Christianity Today visionaries who gave Mark the helm of that Web site.

They also recognized Peter T. Chattaway for his fine contributions at CanadianChristianity.com. Congratulations, Peter!!

I started into film writing partly because I was frustrated in a search for intelligent writing about cinema in the Christian press. That was more than a decade ago. Now, with CT Movies leading the way, the religious press is undergoing a revolution. The days when religious press movie reviews are primarily distinguished by stupid checklists of cuss words and other “worldly” behaviors are over. The days of engaging the culture, interpreting art, and rediscovering the power of storytelling have begun.

Of course, there are several Christians out there writing film criticism at an even more cerebral level for an audience of cinephiles. They should not be overlooked or undervalued. But it should also be noted that they’re addressing a different audience, prioritizing the academic analysis of art. They’re not given the added pressure to craft their interpretations for “the Christian audience,” an audience that, sadly, often needs to be reminded of how to look at and interpret a work of art. We need these writers just as much, and they deserve kudos for their groundbreaking work.

But to choose to write about movies for the Christian audience … and this effort certainly isn’t limited to evangelicals… busting down misconceptions, facing the constant heckling of the Christian “cultural separatists” and Pharisees, dealing with the rivers of sneering and self-righteous email… this is not an easy task. Mark Moring sets the standard of excellence fairly high, and he deals with the “evangelical backlash” with more grace than I’ve been able to muster in my own experience. Granted, we’ve all got our blindspots, but with the guidance of writers who are part of this movement, I believe I’m starting to see some of my own, and that’s a good place to start.

So congratulations to the whole team!

Mark Moring reports:

The person who judged the category said, “This site is outstanding. I really like the continuity.” He liked our “personality,” and said that the site “answers many of the questions I am asking as a father.” He called the writing style “very engaging, friendly, positive, helpful — good blending of service as a narrative.” He liked the “very clear navigation,” and praised our “outstanding service journalism.”

This category judge specifically named Moring (the editor) and Clay Anderson (site designer, art director.)

Thank you, Mark and Clay, and all of the rest of you. Special thanks to Ted Olsen and Steve Lansingh for blazing a trail for CT Movies with the creation of Lansingh’s original Film Forum column several years ago!

Here’s to next year!!

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