Movies in Christian lives
by Daniel Nalbach
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Like many Americans I go the movie theatre regularly, and rent movies even more often. I grew up with movies and they have come to be a big part of my life. When I think about how to entertain myself, a movie is often my first choice. Perhaps you can say the same. Is this a problem in and of itself?
The Bible shows that God approves of the use of fiction to communicate a message to people. Jesus did this regularly with parables. He showed that sometimes a simple metaphor or example of actions could drive home a message better than a lengthy explanation. This concept is at the heart of what movies have the potential to be. They can deliver a meaningful message to us by showing a series of events and the results of them.
This potential has been abused though, and is all too often used to glorify violence and condone sexual misconduct. Movies often show reward for bad behavior, and in our modern era this applies to the “heros” as well as the villains. One of the most popular forms of hero today is the “dark hero”. These characters are bad most of the time, but get to redeem themselves by doing something good when they feel like it. Not very heroic by God’s standards.
Movies produced by Hollywood generally have one purpose; to make money. For a movie to make money, it has to attract a large audience. This means getting people interested. Hollywood has committees dedicated to deciding what interests people and whether a movie will appeal to potential audiences. One way this is done is by polling people leaving theatres.
What we see in movies is a direct reflection of what Hollywood has discovered that the average American wants. They want graphic violence and gratuitous sex. They want to see bad behavior rewarded. This may be a way for the average American to justify their own actions, and an outlet for gratifying the desire for experiences they wish they could have. More than this, movies today are a mirror of America itself and what it has become.
I have seen people use movies to illustrate something they wish they could do many times. Often this is not something God would approve of. I feel that is the measuring stick we should use to evaluate a movie. Does the movie’s message sound like a parable that Jesus would have used? If so, then perhaps it can teach us a valuable message. What we have to ask ourselves as Christians is whether or not the means used in the movie to communicate a message is really necessary to do so. Does a movie have to show a man’s brain splattering onto the wall behind him for us to understand that an act of violence is occurring, or is this simply something “cool” thrown in for the gratification of those that love violence?
In my non-Christian life I had often seen something in a movie that I thought was really “cool”, but that I would have considered horrific in my own life. As I move closer to God now and push away from my old life habits I see how clearly wrong that attitude is. There is so much depiction in movies of extreme violence simply for the sake of itself, and all because the average American wants to see it.
It is up to us as Christians to recognize this, and to distance ourselves from it. We do not honor horrific violence, so we should stay away from movies that do. We do not honor sexual misconduct, so we should stay away from movies that do. It is up to us to set a standard for the unsaved. If they see us there in the theatre with them cheering as someone is brutally killed, regardless of the reason, what message does that send to them about Christianity?
The Bible does not tell us what movies are good for us, but it does provide us with a moral compass and a list of what God does and does not approve of. It is up to us to apply this to our lives, whatever era we may live in.
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You Get It! You totally see the war being waged against Christian’s by Hollywood. I too am a fan of movies, mostly in the winter season because there is less daylight and nothing to do out of doors. I tend to go more toward the science fiction (space-not horror) genre, mainly to get a break from the trash that is in most motion pictures today. As a Christian, I find many films to simply be a waste of my time and money. Unfortunately they are usually the films American’s love the most. Whatever happened to the days when things were left to the imagination of the person viewing? I really enjoyed your train of thought and you did an excellent job of getting your point across. God bless you and keep up the good work.