May 15, 2015

To The Christian Movie-Goer and The Christian Actor

Let me start this off by saying that I love movies and I love podcasts.  Love podcasts more though because I find out a lot more information this way and movies typically are for entertainment.  So, I try to listen to a lot of podcasts just to help my own thinking.  I listen to a few more than others, and recently I posed some questions to one podcast in particular - A Clear Lens - and they responded in this episode: http://clearlens.org/2015/05/15/podcast-14-movies-euthanasia-the-mindbody-problem/ - and I really appreciated this particular episode and their responses.
The questions were:
What movies are appropriate for Christians to watch?  What secular movies are appropriate for Christian actors to be a part of?
Though my brothers at the A Clear Lens podcast responsed, they also turned the questions back around on me...the questioner.  How dare they, right?  I  kidding, of course, but I decided to take these questions and respond to them myself and hopefully use Scripture to back my beliefs.  I will tackle each question (separate from the other) and try to unpack in my conclusion why I think these questions are important.
What movies are appropriate for Christians to watch?
As Christians, we must remember to go back to the Word of God to direct, not only our actions, but our thought processes and motivations behind those actions.  I continue to think about the eighth verse of Philippians the fourth chapter, where Paul is giving some final exhortations to the Church in Philippi.  The verse says: "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."  Paul encourages them to think, and to think on these specific things.  Clearly, Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, felt that it was important to tell them to focus their thinking on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.  There are a lot of movies out there that desire to give a certain level of reality in what is shown through its scenes and its actors.  The movies that are predominantly put out by Hollywood have no deep desire to affirm Christian values, but this does not mean that Christians should not see them necessarily.  It does mean that Christians should take time to evaluate whether or not it is appropriate for them to watch whichever movie that is providing some interest to them.  Thank our Father that there are critics and movie reviewers (such as Let There Be Movies or Movieguide) out there who watch films as soon as they come out and can help Christians with their decision to avoid certain movies.  We should be very careful to let certain kinds of what some may consider "art" to be in our minds.  There can be "noble" things and "admirable" things depicted in films.  For example, I have seen The Avengers: Age of Ultron twice now and I think it is admirable that specific characters would fight evildoers "for the greater good" of humankind and to protect them.  The movie also shows how two characters can make a transformation from bad to good, which the Christian should understand by our being transformed by the only Good that matters, which is our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Yes, there is cursing in this movie, too much of it, and Captain America is made fun of for calling out "bad language," but I think the good far outweighs the bad.  You might feel differently about that and if you are convicted by that then you should avoid this movie.
In any case, Christians need to be more selective of what we watch and why we watch them.  I am grateful that my father would take me to see great movies when I was a child, but he never let me off the hook by just enjoying the movie.  He would ask me my thoughts on the movie, like why did I like or why was it entertaining, but then he would have me put on my "Christian lenses" and evaluate the movie from the perspective of our worldview.  Many times though, he had done his homework before he even bought the tickets.  (Thanks, Dad!)  Movies now show way more sexuality than what is needed today in my opinion.  I think back to the classic era of films when you didn't need nudity to sell a film.  In western society, because of the Sixties with everyone turning on and turning out, or whatever the saying is, sexuality was put into the mainstream.  I have had movies that I saw from the 1960s and 1970s that showed more nude women and the lines between pornography and art were being blurred all the time.  Now, it seems like it is an essential part of making movies in modern times. Honestly, if you and I know that we struggle with lust and we find out that a famous actress will be in a movie scantily clad or naked, then we should rethink if that is the movie for us.
What secular movies are appropriate for Christian actors to be a part of?
With the entertainment industry as secular and graphic as it is today, I believe Christians who are actors and artists should do a lot of soul-searching before going out for casting calls today.  I would love to hear one day that a bunch of Christian businessmen and businesswomen and Christian artists have gotten together to create a Christian version of what Hollywood is.  Since that might not ever happen, then the Christian should again figure out what is appropriate for them as a believer first.  You are not an actor, who just so happens to be a Christian.  Let us remember that we are called to be a "holy priesthood" (Read all of 1 Peter 2).  Be reminded that Christ is first, and all else is second.  Therefore, you are a Christian first, then you are an actor or an artist.  Now, I know that this can mean less jobs for you, and no jobs for many of you, but is the Lord God not good enough to take care of you?  I was encouraged by a missionary today that I should ask God to help me trust Him more.  This is not meant to be preachy, but I just desire to encourage more Christian artists to stand up for Christ first: the fame and the money is not everything.
I am not and will not condemn person for doing secular movies because I do watch many that have actors and actresses that are kissing each other in them.  But I would be very careful on the parts and projects that I chose.  Famous stars have ended up divorced because they have found "happiness" with a new person that they met on set.  Please be intentional to be faithful to your God and ask him to guide your desires and how you may express yourself artistically without sinning against Him.
Conclusion:
These questions are important because the entertainment industry in many ways has more influence than the Church.  If you ask many children, dare I say most children, who are they a huge fan of, I would not be surprised to hear the name of some famous person as opposed to mom and dad.  We, as older Christians, do play a major role as examples of how to live in Christ to younger Christians.  I do not want my brothers to grow up with faulty logic and bad theology guiding them and pointing back to their older brother as a reason why they thought certain things were okay for entertainment.  The thing that I have noticed more the older I get is that whatever we do today with our "freedom" will directly touch the lives of the next generation.  Whenever I see people get outraged at the actions of a famous person today, let's say Lady Gaga as an example, I automatically think back to our parents and grandparents thinking that the actions of Madonna were okay for their time.  Everything that is called art, is not art, or should not be valued in the same way that we value Bach or the painting of the Mona Lisa.  Christians can participate in art too, but we should be motivated by desires from on High.
Ask yourself these questions: Are movies and art just for the nonbeliever?  Does it really hurt me and/or others if I watch certain things?