The CMI Blog - a Shameless Plug for a Stimulating Resource

Judith Kuster (New Ulm, Minnesota USA)
Deborrah Uecker (Waukesha, Wisconsin USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenters

Judy Kuster is on the Christ in Media Institute board, a member of Peace Lutheran Church, North Mankato, Minnesota (ELS), and a professor emerita at Minnesota State University, Mankato in the Department of Communication Disorders and Rehabilitation Counseling. She and her husband Tom raised a large family, now all grown up.
Deborrah Uecker is a Christ in Media Institute board member and is a professor of Communication at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She and her husband Scott enjoy traveling whenever possible, especially to Eastern European countries.

An invitation to subscribe to the Christ in Media Blog

You are probably familiar with various "blogs" on the Internet and perhaps subscribe to some. The Christ in Media Institute blog was launched May 5, 2010, and follows the style of typical blogs ("a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style"). Since then the CMI blog has posted short and interesting articles on the impact of a variety of media used to spread a Christian message. The most recent blog as of this writing (October 4, 2018) was number 50.

The CMI blog posts are written by CMI Board members, CMI Partners, and invited guests interested in relevant Christ in Media topics. Anyone with an important message about how various media can be used to spread the "good news" can submit a short post for consideration.

At the bottom of each post on the CMI site is an opportunity to "Share This Story" on various platforms and also a way to send an email to the author for questions or feedback. We are inviting you to subscribe to the blog site, and receive an email notice when a new blog post appears. You can do this from the link on the right top of the blog page, or directly by clicking here: Subscribe to Christ in Media Institute by Email.

To whet your appetite, below are two posts (slightly edited) written by CMI board members as examples of our non-technical, reader-friendly style. The CMI Board welcomes your ideas as well! Send them to the CMI executive director Tom Kuster for consideration.

Some movies with Christian impact

by Judy Kuster
April 25, 2018

Movies have been a long-standing important medium that has been used to present a Christian message.

I believe the first Christian-themed movie I saw was the 1953 Martin Luther movie when I was in grade school at Madison Lutheran School in Madison, Wisconsin. They showed the movie every fall around Reformation time. It is actually online now. The second Christian-themed movie I saw was the story of Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place (1975), also freely-available online, in English with Romanian subtitles. That movie featured a Christian family in Haarlem, Netherlands, that hid Jewish people in their home during the Holocaust.

Both movies portrayed individuals facing current events in their lives (in the 1510's and the 1940's) that challenged their Christian faith and made a difference in the lives of others. They also both left a lasting impression on me.

There is a long list of recent movies that reflect Christian values that could follow here, but I will suggest two recent movies that have also left a lasting impression on me. The following are personal favorites that would generate interesting discussion for a movie night with family or friends.

The Good Lie (2014) is one of my favorite movies and also portrays individuals faced with events in our lifetime that challenge Christian faith — raising the question "who is my neighbor" that Jesus answered in the parable of The Good Samaritan. You can view a trailer of the movie online on YouTube followed by the full-length movie available for $2.99. We've bought our own DVD copy and have watched it several times, and enjoyed it with guests. It is worth renting or buying a copy online.

The Case for Christ (2017) is based on the real story of Lee Strobel who is the author of a best-selling book by the same name. It features an atheist investigative reporter's journey as he tries to disprove an historical Christ. A preview introduces the film available for $2.99. Since I am a Netflix subscriber I downloaded a copy from there. In another YouTube video, Lee Strobel tells his own story.

So grab some popcorn, follow the links provided, and enjoy!

Jeannies Don't Go Back in the Bottle

by Deborrah Uecker
April 22, 2018

A popular TV show in the 60's was I Dream of Jeannie. I loved that show. A handsome astronaut, goofy friend, and of course the "Jennie" trapped in a bottle who must serve the "master" who sets her free. Jeannie grants the wishes of her master, and at the same time tries to remain anonymous to the world. Interesting conundrum and a premise that kept the show on the air way beyond the point it was no longer that good of a show.

The media-saturated world of today can be looked at perhaps as the Jeannie set free from the bottle. The pervasive media that is a part of all aspects of our lives grants our wish for an easy life of information, instant connection to each other, and endless opportunities to fill our free time with games and trivia. Recent research has found that technology is significantly altering the way we relate to others. Studies have recently discovered that constant use of screen technology may actually be changing our brain chemistry. One study looked at human attention span. Humans average attention span is 4 seconds. A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds! Not sure how you test a goldfish….but point taken.

So what do we do? We can't turn back history and put technology back in the bottle &mddash; though there are days when I wish that we could. As a professor of Communication for 30 years I am concerned with the lack of conversation I see among students in my classes. I always arrive early, circulate and try to connect with my students. But I feel like I am imposing or interrupting them as they stare at their phones and see what has transpired in their lives in the past five minutes. We seem to be losing the ability to "small talk" with each other. To share the stories of our day. To listen to each other in an attempt to learn how other people's lives work. On many college campuses and society at large we continually hear the call for diversity. Diversity is seen as the way to make the world better as a result of being with others who are different from us, learning about the experiences of others in ways that enrich our lives and connect us to those different from ourselves. But enrichment will not come from just being next to each other in the same room. It can only come when we talk to each other, when we listen to each other's experiences and perspectives. We can only know where each other is coming from when we have a conversation.

Technology is a tool that can help to make connections. It is a gift that God has placed among us to be used as a way to stay connected, to know about each other, and to share the wonder of our lives with others. But it does not replace the face to face contact that is an essential part of being human. "It is not good for man to be alone. I will create a helpmate for him." God gives us each other. He gives us minds and tongues to share His story with others. He gives us technology to do it faster, easier perhaps in some ways. Like the Jeannie in the bottle, it can grant us the wish we all have as humans — the wish to belong, to know and to fit in. We are the "master" of technology. Each of has a choice . . . use it wisely . . . or keep the lid on it.

Here are some additional examples, to illustrate the variety of topics on the CMI blog.

Partner Profile: Jason Jaspersen

Our Film Critic Looks at Black Panther

Dresden Update 2: Creative Bible Photography

VR5: Is this where we start with Christian VR?

You are invited to visit and read all the posts on the Christ in Media blog. Consider subscribing for email notification of new posts, and maybe even volunteer to submit a guest post yourself!

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Matthias Borgwardt (Martin Luther College ) 2018-10-24 10:54:22pm

Mrs. Kuster and Mrs. Uecker,

I enjoyed reading your article about the CMI blog. I often find myself reading blogs that I find interesting. I am drawn to the short and easy read appeal they often offer. I like how you state “The CMI blog posts are written by CMI Board members, CMI Partners, and invited guests interested in relevant Christ in Media topics. Anyone with an important message about how various media can be used to spread the "good news" can submit a short post for consideration.” It is nice to read blogs written by different people opposed to just one author.

I noticed that the main form of being notified of new blog posts is through email. Might I suggest opening up other media accounts for your blog, or even an app, because studies show that people are checking and reading their email less than in the past. Another idea I thought of was instead of limiting yourselves to traditional blogs, a video series could be very beneficial.

You state that “The CMI Board welcomes your ideas as well!” I just had a question regarding the makeup of the board. Is the board a group of pastors or lay congregation members, a combination of both?

Thank you for your continued work to create unintimidating ways of spreading and accessing the gospel!
Deborrah Uecker (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2018-10-28 8:05:15pm
The CMI Board is made up of pastors, teachers/professors, and lay people. I have been on the Board since the beginning of the Institute and have truly been blessed by my participation. My blogs have generally made me sound like a technology ‘cynic’. Personally I look for balance in all things and technology is one of those things that should demand attention to balance and reasonableness. Serving on the Board has shown me the possibilities for technology and has no doubt kept me more in the know about such things than I otherwise would have been.
Judy Kuster (CMI board member) 2018-11-02 9:00:17pm
Matthias Borgwardt, Deb describes the make-up of the Board but you may be interested in seeing just who is on the board as well. They are listed on

Anyone may submit a blog for consideration on the Christ in Media website by contacting You are also welcome to submit a vlog or other ideas if you have expertise in using the other media you suggest.
Holly Christie; Sami Clouser (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2018-11-05 12:17:49pm

Mrs. Kuster and Professor Uecker,

I am always looking for new Bible movies to watch. I haven't previously heard of "The Case for Christ," so I will have to go watch that with my theoretical popcorn. Thanks for the link(s)!

I have never seen "I Dream of Jeanie," but it sounds like a rather interesting show to watch. Regardless of that fact, both Sami and I agreed with your message about communication and today's culture, especially in our classes. I was raised that it is considered rude to stare at one's phone when there are other people in the room to have a face to face conversation with. It it rather depressing that kids these days aren't as in-tuned with their surroundings as they dive into another world with their technological devices and ear buds. That being said, I do believe that society will change for the better in the future.

Holly J. Christie
Sami Clouser
Judy Kuster (CMI Board member) 2018-11-09 12:15:46pm
Holly Christie and Sami Clouser - I hope you can also get ahold of The Good Lie. It is based on true story of Sudanese refugees and U.S. sponsors, the main characters of both sets displaying an ethical, moral, and what may be called a sanctified life, although not all are apparently Christian. The Sudanese refugees depicted in the story were also Sudanese refugees or their children in real life. Also see my response to Josh and Molly below.
Nathan Skrade; Sam Thoma (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2018-11-07 2:34:54pm
Mrs. Kuster and Mrs. Uecker,

One of the movies discussed is about a historical Christ. How have you tried to reconcile your religious beliefs with history and science? Has it been difficult? What are some other movies that discuss a historical Christ?

What do most of the studies about technology that you referred to say about the effects of technology. Good? Bad? A little bit of both? Which side do you think fits with your opinion? Also, was "small talk" before class time really more common in the past? Are there any other ways that the Jeannie show can apply to Christian themes? What are some other shows or movies that appear to have some Christian themes?

Nathan Skrade
Sam Thoma
Judy Kuster (CMI Board member) 2018-11-09 12:20:06pm
Nathan Skrade; Sam Thoma -- For me, educated in Madison Lutheran grade school, two years of at Bethany Lutheran High School, and 1 1/2 years of at Bethany Lutheran Junior College, I felt pretty ready to understand the differences and possible difficulties I might face in 2 years at Madison East High School and the rest of my college education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Mankato State College. Yes, history and science questions were presented from a different perspective. However my personal beliefs of a Biblical creation of the world in 6 days, the nature of humankind, the reality of my sin and the work of redemption and sanctification being saved through grace alone were not a problem throughout my public school education. In my adult life I do question some teachings of my church regarding the role of men and women and the responsibilities of what I believe Jesus modeled and taught for a sanctified life. Both of those concerns are not a problem for me being married to Tom for 51 years.

Your question about other shows or movies that appear to have some Christian themes - there are many and I've seen some that are listed if you google "movies that portray an historical Christ ". Also see my reply to Josh and Molly below
Josh Danowski and Molly Plocher (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2018-11-08 11:19:51am
Professor Uecker, and Mrs. Kuster,

Your view of our generation constantly on our phones is a frequently discussed topic. Our generation is constantly aware that we're on our phones, and Molly and myself try not to spend too much time on our phones. We make an active effort to give our undivided attention to those around us, and it even comes naturally to put our phone away in order to have a conversation with others.

As mentioned in the blog, and in a previous class, diversity is only effective when communication is happening between cultures. At WLC, our freshman year in 2014, all of the Black football players would sit together in the cafeteria. There would be no mixing or intermingling, as opposed to now, there is a lot more different cultures present and much more intermingling.

In regards to viewing media, while looking for Christian elements, it's not as complex as your blog proves. So many movies have so many different concepts but yet can have Christian roots. The Black Panther review was interesting to read through. It was essentially an average movie review, but it identified religious aspects. I liked that the review talked about the god that the people in Wakanda live under and how their universe was created. The review didn't ignore the elements in the movie, nor were they talked about negatively. Instead the review identified all the elements in the film and gave a Christian perspective.
Judy Kuster (CMI Board member) 2018-11-09 12:25:28pm
Josh Danowski and Molly Plocher - Regarding religious aspects in films like The Black Panther, I personally found a bit boring and never got through the entire movie much as I've tried. Other movies (series) that many talked about religious aspects included Star Wars and the Ring Series.

A few TV series: A two-part episode from the old "This is the Life" TV series (LCMS), depicted an the Fisher family dealing with real-life issues from a Lutheran perspective are freely-available online. Part 1 and Part 2 Another old series, Crossroads, (1955-1957) "dramatized the lives of clergymen of all faiths and the problems they faced in both their professional and personal lives." You can read the plots for both seasons at and I enjoyed the series and was sad when it ended. I think I remember finding a couple of the episodes online at one time. More recently Seventh Heaven, and perhaps Touched by an Angel had some elements of a Christian perspective. You can probably think of others.

I've even spotted some Christian elements in what may be considered "strange" places. One of those was my favorite TV series, Monk. They are typically very subtle, but I've seen them. Tony Shaloub who played a former police detective who is obsessive-compulsive but always gets the man or woman who committed the murder, is a Christian himself and I've sometimes wondered if he had input into some of the scripts.

The following recommended films are available for purchase from the WELS Northwestern Publishing House ( You've probably already seen most of these in your church, youth group, or if you attend(ed) a Lutheran school.

Road to Emmaus

Come Follow Me The Spanish version is freely available on the Academia Cristo website at

My Son, My Savior The Spanish version is freely available on the Academia Cristo website at

A new one To The Ends of the Earth is coming out this fall

The Visual Bible project was actually 2 distinct projects to make verbatim film presentations of the New Testament includes Gospels and Acts. DVDs can be ordered online as a complete set or as individual books, but individual books are also freely-available online on YouTube.

The first project used the New International Version (NIV) word for word in the English version, and vernacular Bibles in versions which were dubbed in Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin and included The Gospel of Matthew (1993) - (4:18:01) ( the Acts of the Apostles (1994) - (3:10:36) (

The second Visual Bible project included The Gospel of John (2:53:12) using the text of the Good News Bible ( )and The Gospel of Luke (4:12:04) - King James Version (

Jesus (128 minutes) is the complete 1979 film based on the Gospel of Luke and features the life of Jesus. It can be watched online, ( or downloaded to your computer to watch without Internet connection. There are also several video clips (28 seconds to 4 minutes long) featuring important sections of the film which can be downloaded and easily installed (and shared) on cell phones to show as conversation starters ( Scroll down for more

The Beginner's Bible on YouTube - free animated Bible stories for young children based on a best selling book of the same name by Zondervan, "an international Christian media and publishing company located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.. . . [and] . . . a founding member of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association." The videos are typically about 25 minutes long, colorful and appealing. Freely available on YouTube at

A few examples of entertaining movies (including some big "Hollywood productions" that aspire to be "epics"). There may be doctrinal inaccuracies or some imaginative additions. For a more in-depth discussion see Tom Kuster's How Christian Was That Movie in the 2016 GOWM fall conference

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) from movie clips in several sections that follow one after the other. May or may not be the entire movie, but you get an idea. (

The Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia has created several Christian movies about real-life situations that are quite well done. The best presentation of the Gospel was Fireproof.

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is best known for its depiction of violence but the person behind the popcorn counter selling tickets said, "He did that for me" and on the way out of the theater we saw several people crying.

Paul: The Apostle of Christ (2018) that Tom and I saw together a couple weeks ago and have written a blog about our personal, somewhat different perspectives. Check the Christ in Media blog site.

There is a need for more good writers of Christian screen plays.
Deb Uecker (WLC) 2018-11-09 4:24:12pm
Small talk before class, especially in Small Group....students would sit at the round tables and talk until class started. Now everyone is on their phones....checking in somewhere other than class! As for what research says about the effect of in many ways moves too fast to study! The good is demonstrated through the work of Christ in Media. This conference is evidence of the attempt around the world of people using technology to spread the Gospel. ‘Jeannie’ was in no way Christian.....and frankly there are not many examples sad to say.
Theresa Donahue (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2018-11-11 6:08:54pm
Professor Uecker and Mrs. Kuster,

Thank you for your interesting contributions to the CMI blog. I very much enjoyed reading them and found them edifying!

Mrs. Kuster:
I really like the fact that you discussed Christian movies and their impact on our society. I think this is a very good outreach technique that Christians of all denominations should keep doing, because of how pervasive the media is, a movie with the Gospel message is bound to have a huge impact on many people's lives. My question for you is why do you think Christian media such as Christian movies are so effective? There have been several Christian movies that have come out recently that touch on political topics. Two that come to my mind immediately are the God's Not Dead movies and Gosnell. Do you think it is good for Christians to be making movies on such hot-topic issues, or should they stick to different subject matter? What subjects should they be about do you think, for the most effective communication between Christians and those who are not?

Professor Uecker:
I love the metaphor you used of Jeanie in a Bottle! I think it got your message across quite well in a clever way. I grew up watching that show because it is a show my parents love, so I like that metaphor even more because of that connection.
I agree with your point. I think technology is a blessing from God and can be useful for communication sometimes in some ways, but it can also be harmful to communication too. I've noticed as well that there is less talk between my classmates and I when I'm in my classes because everyone is on their phones. I notice it especially with my friends at lunches at school, people will often be on their phones instead of talking to each other face-to-face when they have that opportunity right in front of them. Not to say that I don't do that; I have fallen into that trap too. I think it is a sad mark of my generation. To fix that issue at home during dinner my parents have outlawed phones at the table. Setting a "rule" like that between my friends and I and for you, Professor Uecker, might be helpful. Especially in communication classes it is probably a good idea to get rid of blockers of communication in the classroom so we can learn to communicate with each other!
I thought your comment on diversity was interesting as well. I am on the student board for the Cultural Diversity Task Force at WLC currently. My thought going into it is that we need to increase the numbers of the diversity on campus. I have learned however, including in my class with you currently, that "diversity" can't be just having people of different cultural or ethnic backgrounds together; it is the conversation about diversity topics that is really important. My question about this is what do you think, with your opinion on diversity, would be good things for college campuses to do to "increase diversity"?
Professor Uecker (WLC) 2018-11-12 7:55:41pm
‘Getting diversity’ is not the issue. I think the issue is that whatever or whoever we have on campus needs to feel as though they matter and what they say is heard. Providing opportunities to share stories, work together on projects, discuss topics in class is where the diversity discussion needs to go. We need to look at how diverse students are attracted to WLC and feel they belong and fit in at WLC.
Judy Kuster (CMI Board) 2018-11-16 9:59:12am
Regarding your question -"Why do you think Christian media such as Christian movies are so effective?" - I'm not sure all Christian movies are "effective." Some have been real "turn offs" to non-Christians and disappointing to Christians that know the Bible and the message there of salvation by grace alone through Jesus perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection.

Regarding your other questions: I don't believe Christianity and politics should "mix" and think those kinds of movies may be more harmful than helpful. I haven't seen one of the two movies you mentioned and feel the God Is Not Dead movies were terrible. They were embarrassingly poorly done. I read the reviews of Gosnell and that is not a Christian movie at all. There are two types of Christian movies - those that portray a Christian life today and those that portray a Christian life in the past, including in Bible times. These movies can show Christians living their faith and trust in God's Grace.
Nicolas Martinez Biali (Bethany Lutheran College) 2018-11-11 7:50:55pm
Mrs. Kuster and Mrs. Uecker,

I really enjoy reading about movies with Christian impact, I think that movies are a good way to share about God and the Gospel.
Thanks for sharing this!
Judy Kuster (CMI Board) 2018-11-16 10:00:13am
I agree!