We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Entertains You?

One of the things I find disturbing is that Christians don’t think a whole lot about their entertainment, and whether or not they are enjoying something that God would disapprove. I am only, at this time, discussing the media: movies, television, computer games, etc. I have noticed that Christians, more often than not, will justify just about anything if they like it. So we become entertained by that which Christ died to save us from.

Take for example movies. How many Christians watch R-rated movies where nudity is displayed and where sexual immorality is the norm? I have heard many times the line, “But it was a good movie!” I have to admit there are movies even I have enjoyed that push the limit (the only R-rated movies I do are those such as We Were Soldiers and Blackhawk Down which are R-rated due to war violence and language). But as time goes by I am hearing more and more Christians discussing the latest stuff they’ve been watching or listening to, which they really shouldn't be doing.

What I think we should be doing as Christians, is filtering what we see or hear through a grid of Scripture. Many years ago I set up such a grid for my children, and I’d like to share it with you here (the Bible version I use is that which I think is most pointed - most clear as to the intent - or one I like best).

I will not put anything wicked in front of my eyes. Psalm 101:3a (GWN)
More than all that your guard, guard your mind, for it is the source of life. Proverbs 4:23 (Tanakh)
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness. Romans 6:13 (NIV)
But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. And coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable.  Ephesians 5:3-4 (HCSB)

Now, I don’t mean get all legalistic about it, because then you would be hard-pressed to find any movie acceptable! But we should at least give pause for thought if we are about to watch our favorite TV show or see the latest movie or listen to the last rock album. I know there are those who say we should avoid all forms of entertainment anyway because ALL of them have wickedness in them, and perhaps they are correct, but I will not push it that far.

Just to put things in perspective, let’s look at some thoughts from the early church. These quotes come from A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs.

Neither may we watch the other spectacles [i.e., the theaters], lest our eyes and ears be defiled by participating in the utterances that are sung there. For if one should speak of cannibalism, in these spectacles the children of Thyestes and Tereus are eaten. And as for adultery, both in the case of men and of gods, whom they celebrate in elegant language for honors and prizes, this is made the subject of their dramas. Theophilus (c. 180)

Let spectacles, therefore, and plays that are full of indecent language and abundant gossip, be forbidden. For what base action is there that is not exhibited in the theaters? Clement of Alexandria (c.195)

Are we not, in like manner, commanded to put away from us all immodesty? On this ground, again, we are excluded from the theater, which is immodesty’s own peculiar abode. … The very harlots, too, victims of public lust, are brought upon the stage…. Let the Senate, let all ranks, blush for shame!… Is it right to look on what is disgraceful to do? How is it that the things that defile a man in going out of his mouth, are not regarded as doing so when they go in his eyes and ears? Tertullian (c.197)

If, again, we despise the teaching of secular literature as being foolishness in God’s eyes, our duty is plain enough in regard to those spectacles that come from this source: the tragic and comic plays. Tragedies and comedies are the bloody, wanton, impious, and licentious inventors of crime and lusts. Yet, it is not good for us to dwell on anything that is atrocious or vile. What you reject in deed, you are not to welcome in word. Tertullian. (c.197)

The father who carefully protects and guards his virgin daughter’s ears from every polluting word, takes her to the theater himself - exposing her to all its vile words and attitudes. Tertullian (c.197)

In the theaters also, you will behold what may well cause you grief and shame…. The old horrors of parental murders and incest are unfolded in action calculated to resemble reality…. Things that have now ceased to be actual deeds of vice become examples…. Adultery is learned while it is seen…. The matron who has perhaps gone to the spectacle as a modest woman, returns from it immodest. What a degradation of morals it is! What stimulus to abominable deeds, what food for vice! Cyprian (c.250)

In like manner, the tragedies place before the eyes [of the audience] the incests and parental murders of wicked kings. They also portray dire crimes…. And what effect do the immodest gestures of the actors produce, except to teach and incite lust? The actors’ weakened bodies are rendered effeminate after the gait and dress of women. They imitate unchaste women by their disgraceful gestures. Why should I even mention the mimes, who instruct others in corrupting influences. They teach adulteries while they act them out. By pretended actions, they train their audience to do those actions that are real. What can young men or virgins do when they see that these things are practiced without shame and are willingly watched by all? Lactantius (c.304-313)

I think that last citation really sums it up. What about you?

2 comments:

Drew said...

As far as Psalm 101:3 goes, I think the general idea isn't that we should avoid looking at immoral things but that we should avoid *desiring* or *planning* immoral objectives (as demonstrated by the second half of the verse). And as far as Tertullian goes, he was quite frankly one of the worst church "fathers" who leaned toward asceticism and legalism and generally shouldn't be cited by anybody.

I do agree with you that violence and for the most part, language, should influence movie ratings much less than explicit sexuality. Unless the movie is truly pornographic, though, I think the most damaging parts of movies (i.e., worse than nudity or sex) are bad morals. If a disturbing movie portrays a serial killer with lots of gruesome violence but makes no moral commentary or perhaps even preaches good morals, then the movie is wholesome despite its rating. On the other hand, a movie condoning or advocating murder or promiscuity or communism is a bad movie even if it has a decent rating.

Overall, I'm not sure if watching any movie is explicitly sinful unless it's done with an evil intention, such as the desire for illicit sexual arousal. For the pure all things are pure, and it's what comes out of a person that makes him unclean. Most of these movies are just unwise, in that (as you pointed out) they destroy your mind and ultimately lead to uncleanness.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I know Tertullian was a bit off base in general, but I think what he says here is right on target. I watch particular war movies because I learned they accurately (as much as possible for Hollywood) depict these incidents, which is why I liked Band of Brothers. What I can't stand are movies like Saving Private Ryan where it was gratuitous gore.

I also agree that if bad morals are presented in a G rated movie, then the movie is no good. But it doesn't have to be pornographic for the nudity to be wrong. Since all nudity in movies is for purposes of titillation, then we shouldn't, as Christians, be attending movies with nudity no matter how good the plot. Even if the plot isn't immoral, the actors are behaving immorally by being sexual with someone other than a spouse.

I disagree that all things are pure for the pure person - using that line can justify looking at pornography as "art."