The Christian ‘Movie Police’
How many blogs or articles have you seen, telling you the dangers of seeing the movie The Shack or even Beauty and the Beast? For weeks now, I have seen articles shared on social media as a way to warn parents and others that these Hollywood movies don’t accurately represent the teachings of Scripture.
While I appreciate these efforts, part of me thinks, “while they are at it they might also want to remind me that water is wet and peanut butter is good on celery.” What I mean is, this should be so obvious, it doesn’t require explanation.
Yes, it is a shame that Disney feels the need to push modern morality onto us. But don’t be overly alarmed. We try (and often fail) to impact our Christian morals onto pop culture, so we don’t need to be too worried about their reversal working on us.
The great danger, to me, is in movies like The Shack. What is so dangerous about that movie? It’s dangerous because it is marketed as a Christian movie, and many consider it a Christian movie, which of course it isn’t.
Setting aside theological issues, I want to underscore that a movie cannot be any more Christian than the chair in which I sit. You see, the term “Christian” is an adjective that we have turned into a noun.
It is supposed to describe what a person believes and how they behave, but we have made it a label that we can slap on books, movies and music to let everyone know that these things are safe. We have been doing this for so long that a person can avoid the outside world altogether by buying only “Christian” stuff. We have Christian t-shirts, wear Christian jewelry. We even can freshen our breath with Christian mints (no, I’m not making that up; they are called “Testa-mints”). It’s almost as if we believe God gives the American church our very own Wal-Mart.
The reason this can be so problematic is we now use these labels to tell people that certain things are safe and palatable that it turns off the discerning part of our brains. We haven’t taught people how to think critically in a lost world; we have just taught them how to avoid the lost world. And when the label gets used on something unacceptable, we send it to “the Christian movie police.”
When I was growing up, the number one rule when it came to movies was don’t see anything rated “R.” But that all changed when The Passion of the Christ came out, and we loaded up people in buses by the thousands to go watch it. Dare I be the one to say that, personally, I believe there are even things in that movie that are not necessarily Biblical?
Perhaps I’m naïve, but I would be more worried about the people whom I shepherd buying a Joel Osteen book than I would about them going to watch Beauty and the Beast.
They can more easily recognize that one is a fairy tale, presented by a non-religious company, while the other can be found in the best-selling section of a Christian book store.
I want us to be more careful as to what we label as “Christian.” I won’t see The Shack, primarily because it looks too sappy for my taste.
Meanwhile, I’m totally into superhero movies, and if my son watches Thor, when he is older, I don’t fear he is going to believe that there are other gods besides Yahweh.
My real fear is that he would settle for a brand of Christianity that is worried more about safety, comfort and cultural isolation then about engaging with the culture in an attempt to reach a lost world.
If you think I am outside of the box on this, I would remind you that in Athens, the Apostle Paul quotes a Roman poet in order to help people see the Gospel. This suggests that he had read and engaged in the culture of his day in order to show them the beauty of the Gospel and the beastliness of sin.
Great insight, Caleb. We can’t expect a company in a fallen world, made up of fallen people to always live in a way that represents the Gospel. Thank you for writing this!