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

A Christian Criterion for Evaluating Movies

film-background-1334067869u9d

How do we choose what we should or should not watch? How do we determine whether a film is worthwhile? How do we evaluate a movie once we have seen it? I believe these are all important questions we should think about. In this post I hope to set forth a criterion for how Christians should evaluate movies.

Content

I have already discussed this issue in a previous post, but I will say a few more things about it here. The MPAA is unequipped to answer the questions listed above, nor is this their purpose or intention. Their rating system does not tell us whether or not it would be wrong to watch a film. The MPAA makes no judgment in regards to sin. If sin was their basis for judging a film, then they would not have given The Passion of the Christ an R-rating. What the MPAA does is try to determine whether or not a film is appropriate for children or adults. This is a distinction we need to contemplate. All things are not appropriate for all ages. When the MPAA labels a film PG-13 or R, then this should tell us that there is some material in the film intended for adults and we should seek to find out what that is. I do not believe content is the most important thing about a film, but I do believe we need to know what is in the film. Things such as language, smoking, violence, alcohol/drug use, sexual situations, adult situations, nudity, brief nudity, sensuality, and other things could garner a film a PG-13 or R rating. I think most of us would agree that these reasons are not all equal. A depiction of someone smoking a cigarette is much different than a scene depicting sex. Christians need to be aware of the content within a film and then make a decision on whether or not it is appropriate.

Here are some websites that will help with determining the content of a film.

Plugged In

IMDB

Purpose

Many people stop at content and never ask any further questions about a film. I believe this is a huge mistake. Content tells us what we will see in the film and helps us determine whether or not it is appropriate, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the film itself. We should be asking deeper questions like, What is the purpose behind the film? Are there any redeeming qualities about the film? We can watch a film that is rated G and be entertained, but if it has no higher purpose then what good is it? Occasionally, I just want to be entertained, but more often I want to learn something or feel something. I want to be moved by what I see. I want to be encouraged to go out and be a better person. I want to understand the world better. The purpose of the film is of upmost importance. The purpose often determines whether a film is mere entertainment or art. Am I simply wasting 2 hours of my life, or am I learning something about myself and the world I live in?

Unforgiven is a film with purpose. It would have been easy for Clint Eastwood to make another Western which glamorized the Wild West and the violence often associated with it, but instead he made a deeply reflective film on what violence does to a man. The Kid With a Bike is a powerful film about what can happen when we choose to live by grace. It also offers us reflections on the importance of fatherhood in the life of a child.

Goodness, Truth, & Beauty

Perhaps, the most important question a Christian can ask about a film is whether or not it is good, beautiful, or true. These are the three great Christian virtues. If the film we are watching or the music we listen to cannot be classified under one of these virtues, then we should consider if it is virtuous at all. Goodness, truth, and beauty come from God and when we are aware of these virtues within the things we watch and listen to, then it is easier for us to see God and point others toward him. In Acts 17 the apostle Paul found truth in the pagan poets and used it to preach Christ. If we are not looking for goodness, truth, and beauty within the movies we watch, then why are we watching them? Are we watching them to escape from reality? Is not this the same reason why some people use drugs? Watching films is fine, but I think it is important that we do it from a Christian perspective.

The Tree of Life is a film that reflects all of these virtues. Beasts of the Southern Wild shows us beauty in the middle of a terrible and catastrophic storm. Goodness is seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn where Spock sacrifices himself to save the lives of everyone else on the ship. 12 Angry Men is a meditation on truth and bias.

Here are some websites that contain film reviews from a Christian perspective.

Christianity Today

Decent Films

Looking Closer

“Life as it is and life as it ought to be: Let us take that as the only true subject for a film and consider to what extent the cinema is fulfilling its proper function.” Graham Greene

Advertisements

2 Responses to “A Christian Criterion for Evaluating Movies”

  1. I think your criteria are philosophically valid IF you want to choose your movies by pre-filtering them through religion. However, as a Christian who also loves movies, I think pre-filtering is a truly terrible idea. You can learn just as much from a well-made film that disagrees with your values system as one that exemplifies them. If you want criteria (besides favorite genres or directors/writers/actors), how about QUALITY? Read some reviews before attending to see what you’re headed for.

    • I completely understand and I believe this criteria allows for watching a film that does not adhere to Christian values. I use the example of Unforgiven, a film that is violent and dark, but ultimately has a purpose and presents us with the truth concerning violence. I would not classify this as a Christian film or a film that contains Christian values, but I do think we should look at it as Christians and I think there are things we can learn from it. Although it does not contain Christian values it does meet the criteria of having purpose and presenting truth.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.


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: