Essay / Culture

When Should Christians View “Tough” Movies?

John Mark Reynolds, 2004.

I have been asked to spell out more clearly when I think I can see a “tough” movie. Here some initial guidelines I use. I hope they start discussion. I am assuming that no one wishes to harm their own soul and that films can do this. At the very least, purchasing a ticket acts as a vote for the film. My other assumption is that film watching is in itself a neutral activity and that watching most films requires no justification. A film is difficult if and only if it seems to transgress Christian standards of decency. When should a Christian see a “difficult” movie:

1. When like the Biblical book of Judges, a film exposes evil for moral purposes by showing the depths of its evil. It does this while limiting as much as possible, the need to depict the violence. On the other hand, a film that exalts evil is probably not a good choice, whatever the merits.

2. When like the Biblical book of Song of Solomon, sexuality is portrayed in a healthy way. On the other hand, even a “G” rated film that glorifies sin is difficult to justify.

3. When the film presents a non-Christian world view in a complex and respectful manner, but does not justify it. For example, a film might show the attraction of communism while also not becoming pro-communist propaganda.

4. Great artistic merit overcomes problems one through three. This is very rare. (One thinks of “Birth of a Nation.” The film is grossly distasteful, but sadly must viewing for historic reasons.) The viewer should be a person under authority who can check to make sure the film will not harm the soul of the person watching.

5. A person has the job of reviewing films and commenting on them. Even this would not justify watching some films.

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