Working in Babylon Media

The last few years have seen an explosion of Christians trying to engage with culture, to enjoy it, understand it and work out how to respond to it. The term ‘worldview’ has never been more used that in the last ten years, I’m sure, as commentators, theologians and armchair critics try to work out the ‘worldview’ of Hollywood movies, or novels or albums.

These skills are undoubtedly useful especially for those whose main relationship to media is that of consumption. But many of us find ourselves working on mass-media projects over which have little editorial control.

My limited experience of this area is that very few people do seem to have any say over the details of the content of media in question. A production assistant can feel powerless to change the overall direction of a TV show they are working on. But when that lowly assistant becomes Director General of BBC thirty years later, they discover they are now too senior to have any direct say in the detail of specific programmes. Who is really in charge?

In Yes, Prime Minister, Hacker explains to his wife his powerlessness as PM. So she asks him who really is in charge of the country. Hacker shrugs and says ‘Nobody, really.’ It’s a funny answer – and true in one sense – but Christians know the real answer to this one. Jesus Christ is in charge. All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.

But the question remains, how are we to live and work for Him in a secular media, music and arts industry, especially given most of us don’t have the power to change the content? If we turn to God’s word, we will see that He is not silent on this subject, but the answers are not as straightforward as we would like – and pose serious questions to us. Let us consider Daniel, a fast-track graduate recruit in the empire of the totalitarian Nebuchadnezzar. If we look at how he lived and worked in the corridors of power in Babylon, we can see how we can do likewise in Babylon Associated Media.

It is striking how Daniel respected his secular King, and accepted his authority. He looked for ways to obey, serve him well and make him glad, even though his boss was a violent foolish pagan who had devastated God’s Temple in Jerusalem. Daniel realised that all authority comes from God. Do we view our masters and employers in the same way? Is our default setting grumbling, passive resistance or quiet disobedience? It shouldn’t be.

But we are not called to be yes men. It is striking that Daniel was not part of the comically listed throng who shuffled around the emperor extolling his name and saying ‘O King, live for ever.’ Daniel respected his King, but he didn’t worship him. When the King was tricked into insisting Daniel pray to him, Daniel politely and reluctantly refused. He eschewed the favour (and the riches that came with it) in order to obey his God. Daniel didn’t crave the acceptance of his boss because ultimately served a higher authority. Is that us? Do we trample our consciences again and again because we desire only to please our employers?

It is striking that this obedience was clearly a rare occurrence, and something that upset the King. In it, he saw that his trusted, faithful servant prized his relationship with God above that of his King. If we take a stand on something with our employer, will they be shocked for the right reasons? Or shocked at this sudden burst of unprompted self-righteousness?  Why would that be?

What’s more, once Daniel has made his decision, he accepts the dire consequences with grace, and without whining. And he was vindicated in the lion’s den, as were his friends in the fiery furnace. Do we really think so little of God that we assume he will not be there for us?

James Cary is a comedy writer for TV and radio. He worked on Miranda (BBC1), My Family (BBC1) and has written numerous comedies for BBC Radio 4 (including Hut 33, Think the Unthinkable, Another Case of Milton Jones). He also writes a column for Third Way magazine. His describes himself on Facebook as a ‘Contented Calvinist’.


  • Jim Watkins says:

    James, thanks for this really great post. I especially like your point regarding the complexity of viewing media as though it has been produced with a worldview in mind. Your point that no one seems really to be ‘in charge’ of these large media projects suggests the need for a much more nuanced Christian approach to contemporary culture. Thank you also for bringing up the character of Daniel who illustrates your point very well. As you say, he seems to be an excellent example of how one can both serve God and also be a servant to those authorities that do not recognize God.

  • Emmeline says:

    Great post, James! Tho’ can media workers be more optimistic about having some creative control, given the opportunities available for us now to become start-up enterprises? I have worked for a start-up eBook publisher, games studios and count among my friends self-publishing comickers and writers. The chance to generate culture is more within the grasp of the individual than ever.

  • Tay Johnson says:

    I find the comparison of Daniel’s attitude and mindset in Babylon to the mindset and attitude people have today is problematic to say the least. First, Daniel was not in a democratic society that granted freedoms to allow critiques. He was an exile and captive from Judah. He would have been killed (as evidenced by the near death experiences he had) if he spoke out the way some do today. Also, there’s plenty of examples in the bible of people speaking out. John the Baptist was beheaded for his mouth. Most of the prophets had to run for their lives for speaking out against the kings of Israel. Let’s not use one prophet’s unique situation to keep mum on a lot of the evils today’s governments exercise.

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