Thursday, February 17, 2005

Movies, Media, and me

I think this post might be a 'Part A'. There's a lot to tell.

I told you a little about my testimony here the other day. I realized, though, that although I've talked a little bit about how I feel about media, I haven't told you much about how Ryan and I arrived at the decisions we've made for our lives.

I've been a movie junkie my whole life. It's completely related to being a bookworm: both media tell stories, reveal characters, and present issues. My first job was at a mom-and-pop video store in my hometown, and I worked at a video store while in college. I was secretary of our University Union's cinema club, which was responsible for bringing films to our theater. I mention this just to show you how into it I was! For most of my life, a weekend without a movie was a bad weekend.

Early in college, I ran to Jesus when I came face-to-face with my sin and my own filthiness before God. I threw out my music that had any profanity (kept the rest), but my movie-watching continued unabated. I justified the nude scenes or profanity by emphasizing the story. I argued that movies presented visual essays on the human condition, and they are mirrors to ourselves, helping us to know ourselves and our fellow man better--and in the long run, to minister better to others.

I found that understanding of media in general to be the mainline American Christian attitude towards entertainment: it's the story that counts, and if you have to overlook some ugliness, it's worth it, either because you are entertained, or because you 'learn' something, or both. If you read most reviews on Plugged In, Crosswalk, or Hollywood Jesus (what?), you'll see that kind of rationale. Usually, there's a summary of the plot, a list of "bad things" and a list of "good things." Most of the time, unless the content is really egregious, they don't tell you not to go see the movie.

For a long time, I accepted this way of thinking without question. When something has always been a part of your life--and you love it, to boot--there's not a lot of motivation for looking at it differently.

I met my husband while I was in graduate school for English Education. I'd been attending a small group at a church with a leader who was pretty radical (you can see his site here) by my standards at the time. He didn't go to movies or watch TV! What a weirdo! But my fiance, a good friend of his, shared his values.

Around this time, I began studying the Bible intensively. What I found as I read the Scriptures perfectly echoes Kim's revelation the other day. I realized that the Way to life is narrow. I realized that God is a jealous God who desires my whole heart. I realized that there are things that are abominable to Him, and that doesn't change. I realized that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I realized that without holiness, no one will see the Lord.

It is almost impossible to describe the impact that actually READING the Bible, in context, had on me. I say "in context" because prior to this time, I'd done what I call "devotional reading," meaning I read the Bible in snippets, either prescribed by the devotional book I was reading, or randomly happened upon as I plopped it open for a few minutes. Systematic study and reading, though, revealed God as He is, not as I piece-mealed him out to be.

I'll tell you why I reject the above arguments regarding media: they don't stand up to the Word. They sound good ("Only one nude scene! Just a few curse words!"), but the bottom line is that you are putting something evil before your eyes (Ps 101) and filling your ears with refuse. Job covenanted before God not to look upon a woman with lust; David determined not to put evil things before his eyes. Are we different than they? With all the light available to us in the Word, we are without excuse if we continue making friends with the world.

Boundaries have been erased and redrawn over the past several decades; things that used to garner a film public censure and an X rating are now celebrated and considered normal--and protestors are labeled prudes and freaks.

When I posed a couple of honest questions to myself, the answers ruled out most of the movies I ever watched and that have been released ever since:

1. Does this media (movie, book, whatever) contain things or glorify things that are abominable to God? (This includes fornication, homosexuality, adultery, etc.)

2. Can I honor God and watch this in good conscience?

3. What is the message Hollywood is sending?

4. Is this an okay use of my time before God?

Look, I am not saying that I NEVER EVER watch any movies and that they all are from the Pit. Rather, I am saying that when I examine them before God and from the Word, I must reject the vast majority of them. I believe it grieves the Holy Spirit when we justify and rationalize things that are an affront to God.

There's so much more to say. I just wanted anyone who reads what I write about media to understand some of my journey, where I've come from to be where I am. I'm not judging my brothers and sisters who don't feel exactly the way I do about all of these things. The Bible says what it says, though, and it's so clear. I pray with all my heart for greater understanding to come upon the church.

Revelation 2:19-20
I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.


Rand said...

Excellent! I'm with you all the way!

I need to be far more disciplined in this area...

May the Lord cause to not only "will" but "do" what I should with that wicked idiot box!

Take care

Kristen said...

You mentioned one of my favorite scriptures!

Phil 2:12-13
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Praise the Lord!

molly said...

Great Post!

Coffee and a Muffin said...

Oh man! I want so bad to blog on the whole devotionals thing! Are you gonna beat me to it? hehe When I have more time I'll dig into this post more. Please pass the steak, Kristen! ;)

Kristen said...

I can't wait to read your comments, both on my post and on devotionals. :) Thanks, Kim.

And I probably WON'T beat you to it, as Ryan and I are going out of town this weekend!

Pilot Mom said...

I agree with your reasoning 100%. Along with what you have stated I would add that my husband and I can rarely justify spending our money, which is really the Lord's that we are stewards of, on something that is dishonoring to Him. Great post! Thanks for the visit.

jodi said...

I loved your explanation above about really reading the Bible having a huge impact on you. I experienced the same thing starting just 3 years ago. I really enjoy reading and studying my Bible now, and I've been a Christian for nearly 25 years!

I'm going to comment on the media topic on my own site, because I have much to say! Look for my thoughts there. :-)

Your site doesn't do trackbacks, does it?

kItttttt said...

i think i can understand most of what you are trying to say. i'm not exactly a movie junkie but i'm constantly picking titles and hoping to either be entertain or 'learn' something from it.

i usually dont just dive into any movies, but sometimes even knowing what to expect i'd still give reasons enough to watch a movie which has questionable themes in it.

and it's so easy to say like i'm gonna view it and understand from different points. but sometimes i get sucked in to how brilliant a movie was made/acted that the theme is quite irrelevant.

that's where it becomes tricky cos we have our own sets of belief, but movies always has a way to present their many themes in very respectable manner, using pity, sorrow and guilt to justify certain actions that form the central plot.

it's good to be constantly wary of this and remember not matter how strong and firm we are, we are not impervious.

jaygee said...

Even if we don't cut out all movies, we need to be far more cautious in which ones we view.

Thanks for the reminder.

Kristen said...

Pilot Mom--We feel that the stewardship angle is a huge consideration as well. That's something I should have dwelled on more in my own discussion.

Hey Jodi! Thanks for all of your comments (I'm reading this after getting home from the trip.) I'll be sure to check out what you have to say on this topic.

Chin Weng--you said "It's so easy to say like i'm gonna view it and understand from different points. but sometimes i get sucked in to how brilliant a movie was made/acted that the theme is quite irrelevant." I can REALLY identify with that. And what you said about moviemakers pulling out every emotional stop to make their points: that's right on.

John--Agreed. Everyone may not make the same decisions Ryan and I did, but I believe that every Christian has an obligation to seriously consider everything they do, say, watch and hear.

Thanks, everybody...I kind of expected to get totally slammed for this post. I appreciate the great feedback and conversation.

Soteria said...

You said a lot of things that really grate against popular Christianity. It is a diffucult struggle to go against this flow.

I am so glad I stumbled upon this post. I have been feeling so alone on this topic. I was a movie junkie, too, until I met my husband.

Our church is very arts focused (as in popular secular arts) and views movies as a way to "take the pulse of culture" and to learn how to dialogue with culture. I argue that it is not too diffucult to see where culture is without spending 2 hours of your time saturated in its teaching and looking at pictures of things that should never be placed before a believer's eyes. How is that edifying, Oh Christian?

Kristen said...

Hi Soteria (nice nickname!),

I'm glad you stumbled on it, too, because I know how hard it is not to hear many likeminded viewpoints.

It drives my husband CRAZY when churches show clips of films to make the sermon's points or to help the congregation "relate" to people. Why can't we just use the Bible--the Living Word, the Sword that penetrates--to make our points?

Blog Archive