This article is a call to a deeper understanding of our media influences on the believer's walk with the Lord.
Let me say right off the bat that I love filtering services. VidAngel and Clearplay have been staples in our home for a while. When it comes to the movies that we watch, growing up my family was pretty strict about the content and I still am for the most part. Hence the filtering. But as I have continued to grow in this area, I have begun to ask myself more questions related to this issue. The big one plaguing my mind right now deals with what filtering cannot do.
Before I can answer that question, it is important to lay a foundation for why my family chooses to filter the movies that we watch in our home. As believers, our mind is important to our Christian walk. Rom 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to the word, but to be changed by renewed in our minds; therefore, what we allow into our minds has an effect on how we live. I have used this concept over and over again in my orientations at work with new hires. Many times, people struggle with controlling their emotions because they do not know what drives their emotions. What you think about drives how you feel. Phil 4:8 says Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. What we think about is important to our Christian living.
I have heard so many people argue that it is alright to watch whatever they want because they are not going to go and commit those sins, but they fail to realize that sin is in the heart. Matt 5:28 teaches that even looking at a woman with lust is sin in God’s eyes. Granted there are evil influences around us every day and we can’t eliminate all of those. It is also interesting to see how the bible talks about some of these things. The bible contains content that we would probably filter out. The difference between being surrounded by sin IRL (in real life) and watching it in a movie is the entertainment factor. Am I being entertained by this sin? What I enjoy will affect my heart.
The constant exposure to sin and overlooking it in our entertainment also tends to desensitize us. God judged Israel in the book of Jeremiah in part because after all their sins, they were not ashamed, and they could not blush (Jer 6:15). They came to a point where it didn’t matter anymore. For me, the greatest temptation in this area comes from Comedies. I struggle with depression and when I am down, I like to turn to something funny to help me forget. Not necessarily what I would recommend for people to do, but it has become a coping mechanism. The danger with comedies is that they can make things funny that should not be funny. Things that displease God. Someone once said, “What you laugh at you will never take seriously again.” I think the statement was overstated but it is true that what you are laughing at is something you are not taking seriously.
Now all these points have been designed just to lay a foundation. Rather than beleaguer the point, here are some questions to ask yourself when determining the movie content you allow in your home:
1. Does this movie manipulate my mind to support sin? Rom 1:29-32
2. Will this movie draw me to want to sin? Jam 1:14
3. Is there any beneficial content in this movie? 1 Cor 10:23
The list could go on, but I just wanted to lay out some of the reasons why our family filters. If you have read my previous three articles, you should have a grasp on what I am about to say. Participating and being drawn into sin in movies is the cliff. There is a point where watching a movie becomes a sin to us. I talked about fences in the last couple of articles. Fences are designed to keep us from going over the cliff. We must avoid a focus on externalism; however, a heart that desires to please God is going to move us to create some fences. Your fence may not be the same as mine. I have friends who are stricter in their fences and others who are looser. For my family, filtering is that fence. Oh, and by the way filtering is not the same thing as censorship. Censorship is done by someone else to me while filtering is a choice I make.
What Filtering Cannot Do
The nature of visual arts is really two-fold: entertainment and communication. Every movie is intended to convey a story in a way that draws us in and entertains us. Even a simple monster movie like Godzilla has a message. While that monster is up there fighting against the invading monsters, we are receiving a message. In the case of Godzilla, that message might be the effects of nuclear radiation on nature, the revenge of nature for what we have done to it, or the supernatural. You might think I am crazy to read Godzilla like that, but you must remember that I grew up in Japan and these are common themes in Japanese art. If you want another example take Princess Mononoke as another example in Anime. The central message is that the humans are destroying the forest and now the forest spirits are attacking. So, every message has some sort of a message to it.
One of my kid’s favorite movies is actually one I was forbidden to watch growing up: “The Land Before Time.” Content-wise the movie is innocuous and innocent. Obviously, when modern society deals with dinosaurs at some point there is going to be at least a reference to Billions of years and evolution. Some movies are more in your face about this while others less so. The question I have to ask myself is, “Do I want my kids being taught evolution?” The thing filtering does not do is remove worldview or philosophy. It does not take out the message of evolution from a movie. It won’t remove the portrayal of a wild drunk party as a good thing from a movie. It might remove the substance abuse, but not how people received or promoted that substance abuse. It might remove homosexual kisses and love scenes, but it won’t remove the fact that someone is gay and the promotion of that lifestyle to our kids.
Now, what am I advocating? I’m not. I want us to be aware that our responsibility with movies is deeper than just a content issue. How you handle this situation will depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit in your lives and the different circumstances. For me, the way I handle homosexuality is going to be different than the evolution. Some things may just simply be a teaching opportunity. Other influences are really toxic and may need to be avoided altogether. So if I were to sum up everything I have said I would challenge you to be aware of the underlying messages in movies and deal with those as well as the surface things.