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?
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:
- At first, I would watch it if it was not the main story line.
- 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.)
- 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.
—A Heart that’s Entertained by Worldliness
—Why I Won’t Be Seeing “The Shack”