It wasn’t until late high school, in a mega-church down here in the South, that I was told certain pieces of media were Christian and others non-Christian. Basically, we were told not to watch R-rated movies – period, no exceptions – make the rule a law and obey it – good Christians don’t watch R movies. But then a few years later The Passion of the Christ was released. It was rated-R, and the rule seemed to disappear for the night, as all us Christians went to see the rightfully violent film.
I don’t think the thought behind this banishment of certain movies was out of ill will or unhealthy control issues as much as ignorance. This un-based belief, which I did hold as truth, went like this: Christians should not support movies that have sin in them. But then this does raise an important question: Is it okay for Christians to view sin? Can we watch a movie where a husband has sex with his secretary in the work room closet, or rebellious teens drink beer and dance in a feed warehouse? (Please note the Footloose reference.)
A pressing Biblical passage about thinking, and thus, logically, viewing sin is Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
The fear is that a movie portraying sin might lead people to sin, putting an image in their heads and pulling them away from the heart of God. That does happen. I did sneak into Basic Instinct when I was young, and yes, I did lust lavishly for the next three months. So I agree, sinful images can lead to sinful thoughts. This does happen. But all R-rated films are not Basic Instinct, and furthermore, more importantly, adultery, sex, violence, and deceit are prevalent themes in life. Sin is always a part of the story. To show redemption without wickedness devalues redemption. This is why most movies financed and produced by the Christian subculture lack depth, because the sin is never rightly shown.
Perhaps you’re thinking, okay, but what about verse 8 in that Philippians passage – think noble, right, pure thoughts? Good question. People often use Paul’s words as reason to censor sin – burn the art, the books, watch Facing the Giants one more time. People who think this way censor these images away from their eyes and hearts. But if we truly did this we’d have to censor King David’s life; the affair he had with Bathsheba, the murder he conspired afterward, and the rape that was later committed within his family. We’d have to censor vast amounts of scripture where other murders and wickedness are portrayed. So, even the Bible demands us to view and contemplate horrible sin.
Verse 8 isn’t about not viewing or thinking about sin. It can’t be, not when other parts of scripture demand us to. Verse 8 is about what we think about when we do view sin – what do we think about when we think about sin? Paul is saying for us to let our thoughts about sin turn to thoughts about purity, let our thoughts about wickedness turn to sorrow, and into thoughts about grace. When we think of rebellion we should be quick to think about the righteousness of God and the grace of Jesus.
Now, this isn’t a license to view any and all sin, rather it’s a guideline for when we do. Meaning, we shouldn’t all run out to rent Basic Instinct. There is a distinct difference in imagery created to swell lust and imagery created to tell some truth about it. I’ve become more open minded over the years; before supporting or banishing a given movie I like to ask a vital question. The question isn’t: does this movie have sin in it? Any story with meaningful redemption will. The question is: what does this movie communicate about sin? Of course, it’s nice to know the answer to this question before you shell over the ten bucks for admission.