If you’ve been reading social media or blogs at all in the last couple weeks, especially if you follow pretty much any Christian writers or bloggers, you can’t have missed the current hype regarding two major movies that are out this month.
The Shack and Beauty and the Beast.
I’m not here to critique the movies or recommended watching or boycotting them. I haven’t read the Shack. I haven’t seen advance screening to enlighten you on that overtly gay moment said to be in Beauty and the Beast. I think I’ve made up my mind about whether I’ll watch one of them, and the jury is still out on the other.
What I want to do here is point out how much power the movie industry has over us, and ask why we’ve allowed them that level of power.
Basically, why are Christians so stressed out about these movies?
Here’s my observation: way too many Christians have weakened, lowered, and flat out compromised their own moral and theological standards too many times for the sake of a couple hours of entertainment.
Several years ago, my husband and I realized that too many movies we were watching had scenes in them that we just couldn’t ignore anymore. We discovered www.kidsinmind.com and now we faithfully check every movie we want to watch against their ratings for sex, violence, and language. We’ve set our limit for each category, and if a movie goes over one of the limits, we won’t watch it. What this means is we no longer have to sit through awkward, embarrassing, or downright wicked scenes. It also means we don’t watch many current movies.
In the years since I’ve been checking kidsinmind ratings, it’s been impossible not to notice how many Christians go see and take their kids to see films that are filled with inappropriate content. And sometimes, even with our checking, I still find myself watching movies or tv shows that I later regret. I can’t help but wonder why we are willing to watch things that are obviously not pure, lovely, worthy of praise, excellent, or sometimes have no inappropriate content but are theologically unsound.
I think it’s just that we get caught up in the hype.
Everyone loves Friends. I never watched it when it first ran, but a couple years ago I discovered it on Nick at Nite. I finally started understanding the zillions of Friends references that are in our language now. And it was hilarious. So much so that for awhile I ignored the fact that the characters are infamous for sleeping with pretty much everyone they date and talking about it proudly, and it references watching porn in at least every other episode. But then my husband had had enough and asked me to change the channel off that “raunchy” show. I was a little embarrassed, and changed it, apologizing and explaining that if you can find an episode that doesn’t center around sex, it’s really such a funny show. So I started only watching it when he wasn’t around. Until I finally realized that there are hardly any episodes that don’t have some sexual component. I think it was the porn references that finally opened my eyes–so many couples have marriages that have been damaged or ruined by pornography, and this show makes it seem normal and fine. It just wasn’t funny to me anymore. It’s a shame, really, because the actors worked so well together and the show really was so funny. It could have been just as funny without all that stuff. But, as it is, I have to decide. Watch the show everyone else is watching and talking about, get some good laughs mixed in with some uncomfortable moments where I know what I’m watching is in direct conflict with the Scriptures I love, and risk the normalizing of immoral behavior seeping into my own consciousness until I start actually thinking it’s more normal than immoral, or not watch the show and . . .
And that’s really my point. What will happen if I don’t watch the show? What consequences are there for not watching? Not being able to participate in some small talk?
My life will suffer nothing for not watching, but my heart could suffer much for watching.
And not only that, but if I talk about watching movies or shows that have inappropriate content and share how much I liked it and what a great movie it was, and people know all I say about being a follower of Christ, then doesn’t that seem as if I’m endorsing that show and by extension, Christ would too? You see, once we claim Christ, we are serving as Ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). We represent Him. We act on His behalf. Our lives, including our entertainment choices, are no longer our own. We are His slaves. If an unbeliever or weaker Christian watched this show based on our recommendation, what effect will it have on them? And let’s not be so foolish as to delude ourselves into thinking that our entertainment choices do not affect our minds or hearts.
So why do Christians continue to watch every latest movie, regardless of how “clean” it is? Why do we get so stressed out, to the point of agonizing over the decision to watch or not watch, and going on the defensive against people who decide differently? Again, we get caught up in the hype. Movies are advertised now years before they’re actually released. It builds and builds until it feels like you’re already caught in the wave and you have no choice but to go see it. And it’s impossible to keep it from our kids–they’re seeing commercials and toys and Happy Meal prizes for months before the movie arrives in theaters. All their friends are talking about it. And the movie usually features their favorite characters, so of course they want to go. That’s how the industry works. We are already emotionally invested in Disney and superheroes and Harry Potter and this franchise and that franchise, so now we would feel incomplete if we didn’t go see the latest installment. And all too often, each new release pushes the boundaries farther and farther. But like the frog in the kettle of slowly boiling water, we don’t jump out because we’ve become desensitized. So we just swallow it.
So, what about The Shack? Well, I toyed with the idea of reading The Shack over the last few months, but I think I’ve decided not to. And I’m not planning to see the movie, either. I’ve read so many conflicting reviews, and I know several of my friends read it and loved it, so I had considered reading it just for the sake of deciding for myself whether it was good or bad. But I just don’t think it’s worth it. I’m not really concerned with my own theology getting confused from it, because I would definitely be reading it from a skeptic’s point of view, searching for error more than teaching or even entertainment. But I wouldn’t want anyone to decide to read it because they know I read it and I “only read good stuff,” and then end up swallowing the muddy theology that’s presented there. And I will steer clear of the movie just like I avoided the recent movies involving warm fuzzy feelings inspired by trips to Heaven or near death experiences. Theology matters, and I don’t want to sit through bad theology for the sake of a feel-good movie. Again, I don’t feel like my life is missing anything for not having seen these movies, but I do see potential dangers in watching them.
What about Beauty and the Beast? Honestly, this one is harder because my kids want to see it so badly. But the older ones already know about the new developments, and they are preparing themselves for the possibility that we will not allow them to watch it. Until I find out more about what is actually in the movie, I’m not going to decide. But my kids’ hearts matter more to me than their entertainment, so we may make the hard choice to skip it, and if we do watch it, it will be with discussions about what we disagree with, instead of just letting them watch it and hoping they don’t pick up on anything immoral.
I hope I don’t come across sounding arrogant or self-righteous. I know I watch stuff that really isn’t good for my heart. Heck, lots of time HGTV isn’t good for my heart and I’ve had to turn it off before because I was growing really discontent and grumpy about my house after watching those houses. And this is often a gray area–what we are comfortable watching would be sinful for others who have stricter standards, and maybe our standards are stricter than other Christians who can watch the films we skip with no shame. This is an area of grace and liberty to some extent, although there are indeed thresholds that no one can argue cross into sinful territory.
I’m just challenging you, Christians and parents, to not let the movie industry have such a hold on you that you feel the need to see every movie that is hyped up, just because it’s hyped up. Check it out, make a decision based on the content instead of the hype, and either watch it or don’t. If you decide not to watch it, you will survive not seeing it. Your kids will survive not seeing the movie all their friends are seeing. There will be no consequences for skipping other than maybe not getting to participate in a few conversarations. But there could be lasting consequences from constantly ingesting moral or theological poison in your own heart, influencing the ingestion of poison in the hearts of people who decide it must not be too bad since you watched it, or feeding poison to your kids all for the sake of watching a movie.
Why take the risk?