Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Should Christians Watch R-Rated Movies

film-background-1334067869u9d

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know I watch and review R-rated films. I do not watch all R-rated films. There are films released that I find to be inappropriate, blasphemous, and simply not worth watching, but I do not allow an R-rating to be the litmus test for whether or not I will watch a movie. I believe there are deeper and more meaningful reasons to choosing whether or not I will watch a film, then what it is rated. There may be some people out there who have never seen an R-rated film. If this is the decision you have made for yourself, then this is great. I respect your decision. I have no desire in trying to convince someone that they should start watching R-rated films. If you choose not to watch R-rated films and that is working for you, then keep on doing it. My interest is in having an adult conversation about arts and entertainment and why we watch what we watch. I am going to address the question of whether it is appropriate for Christians to watch certain R-rated films, but more importantly I am going to use this as a catalyst to discuss other things involving arts and entertainment (These discussions will begin to develop more in later blog posts).

Where should we begin? How about the MPAA. The MPAA, which stands for the Motion Picture Association of America, is the group that is responsible for rating movies in America. The rating system is different in other countries. If you purchase a DVD or Blu-ray you will sometimes find two different ratings on the back of the case. One is the MPAA rating and the other is the Canadian rating. The MPAA has changed and evolved over the years. This means the way they rate films today is different than how they rated them thirty years ago. They are also a group of human beings, meaning that there is bias and other things that factor into their decision. Sometimes they may be more lenient on a film produced and distributed by a major company, than on an independent film. Politics is always at play. There is much more I could say about the MPAA, but the point is that it is a flawed human system. Is it useful in helping us to discern what we might expect to see in a film? Yes, but the MPAA is not our moral compass. We should not allow them to make decisions for us. We should listen to what they say, and then make a wise decision based on Scripture and other factors.

The Bible contains R-rated material. Christians often do not acknowledge this. They assume that the entire Bible is suitable for all ages. However, the people of God did not always see it this way. There were age limits placed on certain books by Rabbis. A person had to reach the age of thirty before being able to read the books of Ezekiel and Song of Solomon. This tradition recognizes that there are certain things within Scripture that are reserved for adult audiences. This material is not appropriate for children, but once a person matures then it becomes appropriate for them to read (For examples of this see Gen. 38:9; Judges 19:25-30; 2 Kings 6:24-29; Psalm 137:8-9; Lamentations 2:11-12, 20-22; 4:9-10; 5:11-12; Ezekiel 16 & 23). I realize this is a tradition, but I find it very convincing. As a minister, there are some texts in the Bible that make me blush when I have to read them in front of an audience. Many of the passages that contain strong language have been toned down by translators, and although I want to know what the original language says, I am also thankful for this when I have to do a public reading. We need to acknowledge that there are some things that are appropriate for adults and not for children.

We live in an R-rated world. I do not think this is a good thing, but it is a fact. It is important that we retain a proper moral compass based on Scripture. It is important that we retain the ability to blush (Jer. 6:15). Still, if we are going to reach a lost and dying world, then we are going to have to interact with people who use R-rated language and find themselves in R-rated situations. We are told several times in Scripture that Jesus ate with sinners. We do not know the content of what was discussed at all these meals, but I’m guessing it was not all G-rated. If you have ever gone out and dined with sinners, then you know that objectionable things are often said and discussed. This is what makes them sinners. We find R-rated material on the news, radio, and TV shows. We find R-rated material on magazine covers at the grocery store and at live sporting events. Many of our soldiers, the heroes of our country, perform duties that are considered R-rated and are known for their R-rated language. This does not make it right. We are to live in the world, but not be of the world. This means we will see R-rated things as we live in the world, but we are not to do these same things ourselves.

We do not like to admit that there are gray areas when it comes to what we should and shouldn’t do, but sometimes it is this way. In 1 Corinthians 16:2 we are commanded to give as we have been prospered. Obviously, if someone is giving too little, then it is a sin, but how do we know what that amount is? Giving varies from person to person. Gluttony is condemned in Scripture, but how much does a person have to eat in order to be considered a glutton? Some people have a high metabolism and a large appetite. They may eat and eat and still be hungry, whereas another person may eat a small portion and be satisfied. The amount of food someone would have to consume in order to be a glutton varies from person to person (I believe the sin of gluttony is more about one’s attitude towards food, but it still plays itself out in a physical and measurable way.) I believe that what we are able to watch is very similar. It varies from person to person. One person may be extremely bothered by violence, whereas another person may be able to watch it. If something bothers your conscience, then don’t watch it. As a Christian you should know how much to give, how much to eat, and what to watch, or you should at least be wrestling with these questions.

Where is the sin? Is the sin merely in hearing a bad word or seeing an act of violence committed? I do not believe so. Again, we are expected to live in the world, but not be of the world. If it were a sin to simply witness a sin, then we would have to live like the Amish and even that wouldn’t be good enough. I also recognize that it is not necessary for us to participate in the sin, in order for us to commit a sin. For example, if I watch an act of violence occur right in front of me and I take pleasure in it, then I have sinned. This gets us to the intent of why we watch what we watch. If I take pleasure in seeing people on film getting mowed down with a machine gun, then there is something wrong with this. It is not always wrong for me to watch a film which depicts sin, but it is wrong for me to take pleasure in seeing violence in films. If I am watching a film with the intent of deriving pleasure out of seeing people get hurt, then this is an issue and I should not watch anymore violent films until I get it resolved.

So, what about those R-rated films? Let’s consider a few examples.

Passion

The Passion of the Christ received an R rating from the MPAA, and yet entire church groups rented out theaters so they could watch the film together. There are many stories and events within Scripture that if they were portrayed accurately on film would receive an R rating.

Schindlers

Schindler’s List is one of the most graphic movies ever made. On the IMDB parent’s guide to the film it gave the movie a 9 out of 10 for sex & nudity, a 10 out of 10 for violence, and a 7 out of 10 for language. Even though the film contains all this objectionable material it was shown unedited on NBC in 1997. An estimated 65 million people tuned in to watch. The reason most people do not object to the content of this film is because it is attempting to accurately portray an event from history. We watch knowing we will be horrified. We watch in order to remember a tragedy that should have never happened, and hopefully will never happen again. We watch in order to understand the injustice that so many people suffered. (These same reasons could be given for watching 12 Years a Slave.)

Ryan

Saving Private Ryan received an R rating for showing us what war is really like. The film makers could have chosen to tone down the violence and the language, but essentially they would be lying to the viewer. Is it better to present truth as it is and receive an R rating, or lie about the truth in order to have the film rated PG-13?

Short Term

I picked Short Term 12 as the best film of 2013. It is rated R for language and adult situations. The film is a fictional account of life inside a group home for kids. These are kids that have been abandoned or orphaned for some reason. They have been abused in various different ways. Some of them suffer from mental illness. This is life and the film depicts their situation as accurately as possible. It is a film that helps a person understand a situation that they probably know little or nothing about. It is also a film that realistically depicts our fallen world, but still offers a glimmer of hope.

There are some good reasons to watch certain R-rated films. I do not think it is wise to completely dismiss a film because of its rating, but I also believe we should not assume a film is ok just because it lacks an R rating. Sometimes the messages in films targeting teenagers and other young adults is worse than what you will find in an R-rated movie. The Transformer franchise has been an extremely popular one that has earned Hollywood a lot of money. The target audience for these films are young men in their teens and twenties. Notice how the makers of the film chose to advertise Transformers 2.

megan_fox_transformers_2_still-wide

Megan Fox is used as a sex symbol in order to get hormonal teenage boys excited about seeing the film. This is sexist and degrading to women. This message is more dangerous than anything in the above mentioned films that are rated R. It does not matter whether she has clothes on or not. This image from the film sends the same message as a pornographic movie. Hollywood is selling sex to teenagers, and they will continue to do this because they know sex sells.

Should you watch R-rated movies? I cannot answer that question for you, and I do not think it as black and white as some people make it out to be. I would recommend all adults watch a film like The Passion of the Christ. I believe films like Schindler’s List and 12 Years a Slave are beneficial for our society. I think it is important for these films to be preserved and showed to future generations. I think film makers should tell the truth, even if it means their film will receive an R rating. I also think some films are extremely beneficial in helping us see and understand a world that is often confusing and mysterious. Powerful films that accurately depict certain situations can help us to empathize with people we might have a hard time connecting with or understanding.

This is not a blanket endorsement of all R-rated films. I recognize there are some films that are not worth watching, and there are films that a Christian should avoid. I am not trying to provide a free excuse for you to watch whatever you want. I would like us to think more deeply about the content of the films we choose to watch. There are some worthwhile films that happen to be rated R, and there are some other films that are rated PG or PG-13 that probably aren’t worth your time. The rating is not the most important thing about a film. The content and the message is far more important, and this is what we should be paying attention to.

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Should Christians Watch R-Rated Movies”

  1. Very good thoughts here. I remember years ago at Harding Grad at a preacher event hearing Mike Cope say something like “I’d like to recommend an R rated move without recommending R rated movies.” I’m sure he thought ahead of time just how he wanted to say that. I think the movie was Network and the point of his illustration is long gone from my memory …but the way he talked about that caught my attention.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: