For Christians, Easter marks the announcement of good news that resonates through the ages: âHe is risen! Believers celebrate in worship services that are usually overwhelming and joyful.
Yet after a difficult year, one can’t help but probe the bad news headlines as well. Gallup reports that less than half of Americans now belong to a church or other place of worship. Even for worshipers, only 39% of Christians plan to attend Easter church services in person this year. Still, it’s a season when the majority of families favor stories and songs of faith, even amid candy-filled egg hunts and rabbit tales.
As at Christmas, prominent producers and artists often take the opportunity to publish works that reinterpret the gospel story and its relevance. Here are five current music, television and film projects that portray the Christian faith in new and culturally significant ways.
‘The Chosen’ Season 2
Suddenly it looks like “The Chosen” is everywhere. A serial account of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ and His followers, the $ 22 million crowd-funded television series premiered in 2019.
After being viewed by tens of millions of people in over 200 countries via free mobile apps, the eight-episode first season was released this week on other platforms, including NBC-Universal’s Peacock TV streaming service. That’s all to raise awareness for the launch of season two this weekend.
In these larger-scale chapters, Christ and his disciples travel together to Jerusalem for the first time. Much of the action was filmed on an 800-acre film set in Utah that meticulously recreates the ancient city, though showrunner Dallas Jenkins has said his intention is to “focus” on small, personal encounters. “Ultimately I believe viewers are touched by Jesus, not how ‘epic’ it looks.” The second season of “The Chosen” will be broadcast worldwide on Sunday through their mobile apps.
“My Savior” by Carrie Underwood
Over the past year, multi-Grammy Award-winning Carrie Underwood has kept busy. Faced with shelter-in-place orders at her Nashville home with her husband and two young children, she recorded two albums, both of which recall her upbringing in Oklahoma.
Last fall, her Christmas record “My Gift” topped the Billboard charts. Today, her very first gospel album “My Savior” features 13 sacred hymns such as “Softly and Tenderly” and “How Great Thou Art”, her voice backed by 20 of Nashville’s top musicians. Considering Underwood entered the scene with “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and then moved on to a baptism-tinged single “Something in the Water”, no one is surprised to see the former church soloist bring this offering. .
âAs a child, I read these [hymns] on paper, singing them because I love to sing, âUnderwood said in an interview last week. âNow I find new meaning in these songs. It’s like reading the Bible, when you can read the same verse or the same chapter a thousand times – and one day you find something new in it that has different weight.
While not many people today have an appetite for more streaming services, Discovery Plus has been an exception since its launch in January. Featuring familiar shows like âHouse Huntersâ and âPlanet Earthâ curated under popular brands like HGTV and TLC, the streamer has already surprised analysts with more than 11 million signups. Starting this week, subscribers can also enjoy “Resurrection,” a vigorous and faithful account of the biblical story of Easter.
It is produced by husband-wife duo Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. They see the new platform as an opening to secure fashionable religious and family titles across the country.
âEven if the audience is huge, you would be amazed [that] fewer places want our shows, âsaid Downey, producer of the inspirational seriesâ The Dovekeepers, âamong others. âIt’s like they’re a little afraid of such content. But not Discovery Plus. Assuming this movie finds an audience on the streamer, producers have more faith and family focused movies and shows ready to premiere.
Two weeks ago, director Lee Isaac Chung learned that âMinari,â his semi-autobiographical film based on how his immigrant parents found new life in Arkansas, had received six Oscar nominations. Among those receiving nods: 73-year-old actress Yuh-Jung Youn, appearing in her first American film after 55 years on screen. Asked last month about her participation in the Oscars, she humbly objected. ” Oh my God no ! I would be surprised if this is the case.
Beautifully shot in Oklahoma, the family’s Christian faith figures prominently in their pursuit of the American Dream. âThe church was such a big part of our community in Lincoln, Arkansas,â Chung said in an interview. âThat’s how I grew up – and it stuck with me, it’s something that I still am. I think the more we explore [faith] in a healthy way, maybe there would be less conflict about it in this country too. “
With the buzz increasing in the run-up to the Oscars on April 25, the family drama âMinariâ is currently available to watch on demand.
“A week later”
When the trailer dropped six weeks ago, most responses turned from amusing to skeptical. Netflix has a turn on “Camp Rock” with Christian music – what could possibly go wrong? Yet after working on it for seven years, the faith-driven producers behind “A Week Away” are thrilled with its initial success.
Since its release last week on Netflix in more than 190 countries, the inspirational film has been one of the top three films in the world on the most popular streaming service. Meanwhile, the album remains No. 1 on the Christian iTunes chart. In a new clip released by Netflix, Bailee Madison (“Once Upon a Time”) brings a tone of adoration to what had once been an upbeat, dancing musical.
The public can perhaps tell that she grew up in church, as did co-star Kat Conner Sterling (“Gifted”), daughter of an evangelical minister. Music producer Adam Watts, who worked on all three âHigh School Musicalâ films, carefully crafted the blend of campfire praise âAwesome Godâ with the contemporary pop hit âGod Only Knowsâ. Producer Steve Barnett called it “the most important scene in the movie”.
WE LOVE YOU GUYS! Thank you for watching!! Please keep dancing and singing with us !! #AWeekAway â¤ï¸â¤ï¸â¤ï¸â¤ï¸â¤ï¸â¤ï¸ https://t.co/p7UoGDfEuf
– Bailee Madison (@BaileeMadison) March 28, 2021
Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith and public policy for several media, including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service, and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously served on the staff of the Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, DC area with their two children.