Do you know how to evaluate movies from a Christian perspective? If you’re a geek who loves Jesus, and really like movies, this post is for you. If you’re anything like me, you probably wonder from time to time, “Should I be watching this?”
When I’m trying to figure out whether my kids should see a movie or not, I like to read the PluggedIn movie reviews from Focus on the Family. These articles give me a decent idea of what my kiddos are getting themselves into by watching something:
Four D words, one cleavage bearing top, some kissing, a gratuitous blow to the head, and a plane crash? Got it.
When I see a movie for myself, though, I begin with an old saying: You have to sift through many tons of dirt for a single ounce of gold. But you don’t go in looking for the dirt; you go in looking for the gold.
Jesus put it this way:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “An enemy did this,’ (Jesus) replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30).
How To Evaluate Movies From a Christian Perspective
Let’s apply this to movies and develop our “How to evaluate movies from a Christian perspective toolbox” along the way.
The kingdom of God is a mixed bag.
This parable isn’t describing the despicable, evil world we live in—it’s describing God’s kingdom itself. Don’t get me wrong; good is good and evil is evil. They don’t mix. But they can and do sprout up right next to each other, competing for soil and sun. We need to come to grips with the fact that movies, like everything else in life, are always a mix of wheat and weeds. To evaluate movies from a Christian perspective, we must embrace this as our starting point.
Christians tend to focus on sin.
The servants find weeds in the wheat instead of finding wheat in the weeds. In the same way, I think far too many Christians approach movies digging for dirt instead of gold.
True, some movies are just plain debased and looking for gold in them would be an exercise in stupidity. Sometimes the gold is so plastered with garbage that it’s not worth digging for. Besides, it’s hard to dig without getting a little dirt under our fingernails. We’re not always aware of what’s shaping us.
But if we want to evaluate movies from a Christian perspective, we must admit: there’s gold in them there hills, if we’re looking for it. If we’re looking for it. That’s the trick.
We’re easily confused by the mix.
The servants in Jesus’ parable can’t grasp how good and evil can coexist.
That’s us. When I quote an edgy movie in a sermon, for example, people sometimes question my discernment. It’s like if I enjoy the movie at all, I must endorse the weeds in it too. Or people seem to think if there’s bad stuff in a movie, then there can’t be any good in it. Jesus says yes, there can be—and there usually is. There’s wheat in them there weeds. To evaluate movies from a Christian perspective, we’ve got to get used to that.
We want to fix the mix.
The servants devise a solution: Militant purging. “Jesus, do you want us to count up cuss words and catalogue sin and yank out everything needful and nasty? Say the word, Lord, and we’ll go postal on the moving picture industry.”
I can picture Jesus rising to his feet, eyes aflame with pride and passion. “Yes, my children. Lock and load! Pitchforks and shovels and knives and daggers all! Let’s go gardening… with a vengeance! Leave no sin unturned! To arms!”
But he doesn’t do that. In fact, he stops the zealots in their tracks, reminding them that they’ll just end up ruining the wheat among the weeds. Let me take care of the fire and brimstone stuff, Jesus says. When we evaluate movies from a Christian perspective, we need to remember: We are not judge, jury, and executioner. We’re simply exercising discernment.
Careful what you look for.
The first way to answer the question, “Should I be watching this?” is, “Well, what am I looking for?”
To put it another way, the most important factor in deciding what I should watch is what’s going on inside of me, not what’s happening in the movie. Some folks are more sensitive to violence, sexual themes, profanity, or evil. We each need to do what it takes to protect our own heart, no matter what others think is okay for them.
Another key insight: Some days I’m more vulnerable than others. Maybe I sense a weakness to lust. To anger. To selfishness. My flesh is “looking” for a fix, and it would be foolish to indulge it. I confess: In the past I’ve watched movies hoping for a fix, even while telling myself that if such-and-such comes up, I’ll look away… but still hoping. My ‘plan’ is to smell the cookies baking in the kitchen without actually going in to take one. Maybe you can relate?
Last thought: Have you ever wondered why self-righteous religious folks are so full of darkness? It’s because our mind fills up with what we’re focused on. So if we’re focused on dirt, or weeds, or counting cuss words, or sin…. !
Sometimes the most important issue isn’t how to evaluate movies from a Christian perspective. Sometimes, it’s coming to grips with my own sin and my need for a Savior.
Are you a weed-wacker or a wheat-eater? How do you discern what you should watch and what you shouldn’t?
Tune in tomorrow to unpack more principles of discernment.