Where do we draw the line?

We live in a world that is filled with beauty, wonder, joy, fun, creativity, friendship, faith….  I could go on and on.  Butterflies.  Beaches.  Mountains.  Grandeur.  These are the parts of our world that I love to take in and absorb.  They often draw my gaze upward, to the God who created it all.

Unfortunately, our world also comes with darkness.  Sin.  Murder.  Sexual immorality.  Lies and deception.  Pride.  Hate.  Racism.  Gossip & slander.  Evil thoughts.  Sorcery.  Idol-worship.  False gods.  The hatred of God.  We don’t have to look far to find these things in our world.

Of course, between these two extremes are things that are a mix of both good and evil (our thoughts, for example).  Our world sees every shade of gray that you can dream up.  So where do Christians draw the line of what is acceptable?

Draw the Line

As Christians, we are IN the world, but not OF the world.  What does that mean?  And how does it work itself out in our daily lives?  We are in a world where we will obviously be exposed to evil.  That itself is not a problem.  Seeing sin is not a problem, but there’s another aspect of “seeing sin” that is a problem for me–and that comes in the form of our entertainment choices.

In movies and TV, we often find things that are of this “darkness” category I listed above.  Even in children’s movies.  This latest buzz about The Beauty & The Beast has caused quite a stir over a small scene that focuses in on a homosexual moment.  Many Christians are left wondering if it’s “okay” for them to watch the movie at all.  I’m not going to answer that question for you–at least not specifically, but I do want to redirect the focus of that question.

If your question is, “Is it okay for me to see sin?” then my answer would be Yes.  We see sin every day in our world.  Seeing sin around us isn’t sinful.  But that’s not the question I ask when I make my movie choices.  Here are a few other questions I ask instead:

  • Why do I see movies at all?  What is the purpose of it?  For me, the answer to this is almost always “for entertainment.”  On rare occasions, the answer will be “to learn”–Like in The Passion of the Christ, other Christian movies, or secular documentaries.
  • How does this movie suit my purpose?  If the movie is for entertainment, what in the movie will be entertaining me?  Does the movie revolve around goodness, or evil?  Does it emphasize magic?  Does it highlight sinful relationships?  If the purpose of the movie is to learn, what will I be learning?  Will it lead me to or away from truth?
  • Could this movie impact the way I think or act?  If so, how?  This question is tricky because it calls for some deep searching of our own hearts.  We like to think simply about this.  “Seeing an adulterous relationship on TV will never make me want to cheat on my husband.”  However, this isn’t as cut and dry as we’d like to think it is.  From personal experience, I know that if I consistently watch TV shows with sexually immoral relationships, I start to emotionally pull for those relationships to work out.  In that case, my heart and my beliefs are affected by my entertainment.  I also know that the more curse words I hear in the world around me, the more likely I am to begin thinking those words when I am angry (and eventually I would begin speaking those words as well.)
  • What does God think about this?  What does the Bible say about this?  The most important thing I do when evaluating a movie is to evaluate in by God’s terms–rather than my own.  What does God think about me being entertained by the things in this movie?  What does it imply about my heart, that I am entertained by these stories?  What does Scripture say about the things I’ll be seeing in the movie?

Over the years, there has been Christian debate over many pieces of entertainment.  One of the main ones has been the Harry Potter movies & books.  When the first of these came out, I was in High School.  Many of my friends read the books and watched every movie.  As a pastor’s daughter, I did not.  My parents had taught me that witchcraft, wizardry, and sorcery were wrong.  Harry Potter, at a quick glance, obviously centered on these things as the main story line.  So it was an easy decision for us.

But years later, friends (who watched Harry Potter) pointed out to me that I wasn’t consistent with that.  If magic is wrong, then I’d have to cut out Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, and even Mickey Mouse.  And so the obvious question came into play:

Where do we draw the line?

My beliefs have gone through a step-by-step process on this:

  1. At first, I would watch it if it was not the main story line.
  2. Then, I would only watch it if evil was presented as evil, and good was presented as good.  (Example: Batman.  The joker and the League of Shadows were very evil, but were presented as the bad guys, so that was okay.)
  3. Third, I became conflicted, and began to ask myself another question.  Even if evil is presented as evil, am I finding the evil parts entertaining?  (Example: Batman. The joker’s question, “Want to see a magic trick?”.  Many people, myself included, found this very twisted scene to be entertaining.)

When I began to look at my heart, I began to realize that almost all of the things I found entertaining were not something that a follower of Christ should be entertained by.  In fact, when I see sin, it should grieve my heart.  At that revelation, to watch a movie that will do nothing more than grieve my spirit is not something that appeals to me.  I don’t want to watch something that will make me feel burdened and sad.  At least not often.  There may be occasions that this is fruitful–like watching a documentary on Christian persecution.  It grieves my spirit, but it also drives me to my knees for my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is not, however, what I would call “entertainment.”

With these as my standards,
you might be wondering,
“What’s left for her to watch?”

Truth be told, there’s not much.  There is only ONE “guy” movie that we have in our collection, and I haven’t been able to find another.  For the record, it’s The Giver.  If you know of another, let me know!  My husband would be most grateful!

Here are our standards.  Before watching any movie, we examine the content from websites like http://www.movieguide.org or http://www.pluggedin.com.  We do not watch moves with listed sexual content that is greater than tight clothing or non-sinful kissing (Kissing that is not in a sexually immoral relationship and not sensual enough to cause lust in our hearts).  We do not watch movies that portray any form of witchcraft, sorcery, magic, wizardry, or the underworld (vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc.).  We make an exception for viewing Bible stories (like our children’s movie that shows King Saul going to a medium and calling up a spirit of a dead prophet.)  We do not watch movies that use curse words inappropriately.  I’m okay with proper usage of words like damnation or Hell.  Or even, on rare occasions, the other words for female dog or donkey–when they are used to refer to the actual animal in a non-crude attitude.  I’m not okay with crude or potty humor.  I’m also not okay with movies that thrive on disrespect and unkindness.

When most people find out our movie standards, they are “aghast” by it.  They say, “You’d have to cut out everything!”  In truth, it’s not everything, but it’s most things.  And that’s okay, because movies and entertainment are not NEEDS.  There may come a day in our world (maybe very soon) when there are literally NO forms of entertainment that are acceptable for a Christian to watch.  If and when that day comes, will you be willing to say, “I will completely give up movies and TV for God”?  If that’s a decision that’s “off-the-table” for you, I’d encourage you to examine your heart.  This is the exact question I had to come to terms with.  As of now, there are still things that I can sit down and watch, and feel good about watching.  But even if there weren’t, I would not have to find something that is a “lesser evil” to watch.  I don’t need to be entertained.  I just need God.

At first, in my heart, I felt that it was unreasonable to have to give up entertainment for the Lord.  Then I realized that God doesn’t just ask us to give up entertainment.  He asks us to give Him everything.  All of it.  He asks us to die to ourselves.  To surrender all.  That most definitely includes our leisure time, don’t you think?

So where do I draw the line?  The answer is…..I don’t.  God has already drawn clear lines in Scripture about what is holy.  So instead of trying to create my own lines (like I used to do), I just look for the ones He has already drawn.  It’s not as complicated as it seems, but it does mean that the world doesn’t have all that much to offer me in the form of entertainment.  Thankfully, God has so much more to offer than any movie ever could.  Any pleasure or rest that I could get from a movie is easily surpassed through the blessings that my Lord brings into my life.

Rachel  🙂


Related Posts:
A Heart that’s Entertained by Worldliness
Why I Won’t Be Seeing “The Shack”

A Heart that’s Entertained by Worldliness

Disclaimer:  I write this post not to convince anyone of the evil that is in one particular show, but to tell the story of what was deep inside of MY heart.  I do hope that each of you might examine your own hearts when it comes to your relationship with television, and allow God to show you any idolatry that may lie beneath the surface, as it did in mine.

During my sophomore year of college a dorm-mate lent me the first season of Gilmore Girls on DVD.  I breezed through it and LOVED it.  I began to faithfully watch every season as it came out on DVD, and I invested in purchasing the series.  By the time I got married, 8 years later, it had easily become my favorite show.  I watched the entire series on repeat.  I watched all 7 seasons, and when I finished the series finale, I’d wait a few days before popping season 1 back into my DVD player.  My husband watched an episode with me every few days, and he enjoyed the witty banter as well.

Over the years I had grown convicted about a lot of shows I watched, and had gotten rid of almost every movie I owned—but not my Gilmore Girls.  It seemed so much more wholesome than other shows.  There was a little worldliness in it, but compared to other shows—the sin seemed pretty light.  So I kept watching the series on repeat, year after year.


Fast forward a couple of years, and I became a mother.  The familiar dialogue became my background for nursing sessions and tummy time.  I started to become a little uncomfortable when my baby saw a bedroom scene, so I began skipping those (rare) scenes.  In spite of those few sinful scenes, I kept watching.

That fall we had a yard sale, and as I was going through all of my things, the Lord impressed on my heart that it was time to let go of my precious, beloved Gilmore Girls collection.  I put them in the box, and then took them back out.  I moved on to packing other things, and then came back to my stack, just to touch them and ponder their place in my life.  I couldn’t even picture my life without this show.

It had become a part of me.  All things in life related to an episode.  “There are no stupid questions” always brought out a “HOW does ink come out of pens?”  Preposterous stories were followed up by an “Oy, with the poodles already!”  ‘Running late’ was met with an urgent “Copper Boom!” as I ran through the house grabbing my keys and phone before heading out the door.  I could go on and on. I had basically become a Gilmore Girl, and this was precisely the reason I knew God was right.  I had to let go.  I needed to make time for Him.  Seek Him.  Listen to Him.  Let HIS Word become the part of my life that had been so impacted by this television show.

I boxed up my movies, and priced them to sell.  They went quickly. And what happens next?

Man, the devil is good.  Oh, he’s real good.  But God’s better.

The very next week my husband brought up the idea of cancelling our Netflix subscription.  I agreed.  That $8 a month could be better spent elsewhere.  And wouldn’t you know it….A week after our subscription ended, it was announced that Gilmore Girls was coming to Netflix!  I breathed a sigh of relief that God had led my husband to cancel our subscription before it happened.

A little over a year later, we moved to a new home and town.  Our pace of life changed, as did our income.  Top that off with a month of sickness, and boredom from lying in bed, and we decided to get Netflix again.  I determined not to watch an episode of Gilmore Girls, and for the most part I only watched any sort of show when my husband and I were relaxing together after putting our boys to bed.

I heard there would be a new season coming to Netflix.  I was intrigued, but I decided against watching it.  Then one day I got sick.  {Why does sickness always lead me into temptation?}  I was lying around with nothing to do, so I turned on an episode.  A few episodes in, I figured I’d just watch the whole series again ONLY ONE TIME before the new series came out.  So I could be caught up, of course.  I finished Season 7 the SAME DAY the new episode aired.  I was over-the-moon excited to watch WINTER and turned it on!

I quickly noticed a few things about it that were ‘worse’ than the original series as far as worldliness.  I kept watching anyway.  “It’s not too bad”, I told myself.  I watched all of Winter, and then Spring came on.  At this point, I was nursing my baby and my husband was sitting next to me on my couch.

The town all files into Miss Patty’s for another town meeting.  Taylor gets up and announces that they will have their first ever gay-pride parade in Stars Hollow.  My husband looks over at me, and suddenly all of the excuses in my heart didn’t sound so good anymore.  I wanted to say something to him that would prove it was okay to keep watching, but I fumbled over my words.  I just couldn’t justify it anymore.  I reached for my remote and turned it off.  We sat there in silence for a few minutes, and then we moved on with our day.

A few days later I was up late working on some things.  Everyone was in bed, so I turned on Netflix planning to watch an episode of House Hunters.  There it was staring at me:

Gilmore Girls.  A Year in the Life.
Continue Watching?

I arrowed over to House Hunters, then back to Gilmore Girls.  I was drawn in.  I loved these characters and their witty banter.  I loved the relationship they had with each other.  I wanted needed to know what had become of their lives.  I selected the show, and on it came—right back to the place I had left off.  They were trying to find more gays to march in their gay pride parade.  I assured myself it would be a quick and quirky scene, and that it would move on.  I kept watching.  And wouldn’t you know it?  I hear my husband coming into the kitchen to get a glass of water.  I feel a pit in my stomach, fumble for the remote, smash down on the “Return” button over and over hoping my husband doesn’t see.  I select House Hunters just as my husband peeks in.  My heart was pounding.  He didn’t see.

“Good night, honey!”  (Awkward smile.)

He didn’t see.  But God did.

I felt ashamed.  Why had I been continually drawn in?  Why can’t I seem to give up one TV show for the Lord?

I knew the answers to these questions, but it’s hard to admit out loud.  The truth?  I struggle with giving it up because I love it.  I struggle with giving it up because my heart is entertained by it.  It doesn’t matter that it’s a show that consists mostly of worldliness.  I still love watching.  In spite of the adultery, fornication, divorce, partying, and language.  In spite of an overall horrible message the show sends about marriage.  In spite of the message it sends about womanhood.  In spite of the message it sends about Christianity.  In spite of the message it sends about the purpose of life.  I still love it.  I’m entertained by it.  I’m entertained by a show that is 100% worldliness.  There’s really nothing godly about it, yet I watch it as if it’s virtuous—as if the characters are good.  God says otherwise.  God says, first of all, that there is none good (Romans 3).  God says, secondly, that I should have nothing to do with worldliness.  Yet here I am, year after year, still deeply invested in it.  It has just always been what I do when I’m sick or need a break from life.

But here’s the thing. When I’m sick, I hear the Holy Spirit within me, calling out, “Come to ME”.  When I need a break from life, I hear the Lord whisper, “Come to me…and I will give you rest.

I don’t need the show.  I don’t need the superficial relaxation that I get from these characters and their witty dialogue.  (I’m speaking to myself here!)  I don’t need it.  Instead, I need TRUE rest, and that’s only found in Christ.  I don’t need to finish watching Spring, or Summer, or Fall in order to satisfy my own curiosity about the “last four words”.  I can move on with my LORD—in the freedom that He gives over the bondage of sin.  I can walk away from characters that I used to love. I can turn from them to a God who is truly virtuous.  To a God I can depend on to walk with me daily, and to be with me just as this show has been for the past 13 years.

moments-remind-me-of-a-tv-showThis show had once been a part of my heart, the guiding principle for my every thought, and the relating point to every moment.  God wants that position now.  He wants my heart to be focused on Him.  He wants His Word to guide my thoughts.  He wants the moments of my life to remind me of truths from His Word—not of a quote from my favorite TV show.  He wants my heart—not just during my quiet time, but all through my day.

He wants a heart that is not entertained by worldliness, but is enraptured by His love, above ALL else.

“Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day.”  -Proverbs 23:17

Rachel  🙂