Should I Think About God as I Watch Movies?

Firstly, the idea of the secular is that there are two ‘domains’ of living.  One that is godly and one that is secular or ‘outside the domain of God’.  This is a false notion.  There is nothing outside of God’s domain (The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it).  All movies are made in God’s world, and to have a movie that is empty of God denies the reality that God fills everything.  Secondly, Ken seems to confuse materialism (the idea that the material world is all that there is) and secularism (the idea that there are different spheres of life, music, books, entertainment).  Secularism allows for God to influence certain areas of life, but does not allow God to influence others.

A lot of indoctrination from movies comes at a subconscious level.  I learned that being a man was to be cool, dark and mysterious from Humphrey Bogart.  I also found myself highly sexualized by listening to Prince.  At the time, I could not have told you that the view of the world from the movies and the music I was listening to had any influence.  I would have said that it washed off of me like water off a duck’s back.  However, the ideas in the movies come into our subconscious as ideas and sit there.  No-one told me to learn “will the real slim shady please stand up’, but M&M’s lyrics are in my mind in such a way that I can recall them.  Think of how people repeat one-liners from movies at parties.  What movie quotes can you recall?  “When everyone is special …. “ (Incredibles)

This does not mean that I should not watch movies or listen to music.  It means that I should filter what comes into my mind.  As the Bible teaches, we take every thought captive.  We are also to discern what is helpful for building us up and what is not helpful.

In teaching there is something called the ‘null curriculum’.  This is what we teach by not talking about something.  State schools talk about women and blacks in history because for years it was part of the null curriculum.  Nothing negative was said about blacks and women.  People learned not to value them because they were just not in the curriculum.  The movies we watch often don’t talk about God.  If we do not filter this, over time it just subtly teaches us that God does not speak to every area of life.  It might seem to us that God would not be Lord of our movie-watching life.  We think it is trivial to associate God with entertainment, but Jesus himself was very entertaining.  This is one of the reasons that he drew big crowds early in his ministry.  However, Jesus did not want them to be amused.  ‘Amused’ means ‘not to think’.  Jesus challenged their thinking through comic one-liners amazing special effects.  He made them think.

A movie can not be rated as beneficial or detrimental based solely on the rating.  Pocahontas is quite anti-biblical in its thinking and it is G, I believe.  The Passion of the Christ is a violent R rated movie that Christians should see.  American Gangsta is a great movie to challenge our ideas about justice and the kind of lives some people live in America.  It doesn’t mention God, but it highlights the need for God if we take God to the movies with us.  A good book about how every movie has a message and how Christians need to filter those messages is written by Brian Godawa and is called Hollywood Worldviews. If you look over his website there are reviews of movies like Avatar that show the anti-American and animist views that are buried in some films.

There are no perfectly righteous movies.  We can not slap a Christian label on music or movies and then just swallow them hook, line, and sinker.  We need to have discernment in all things.

We are all being influenced by the various stories that we are told.  We just need to walk closer with God so that whatever movies we see and music we listen to are in his world and not an invented, neutral, secular world.  I listen to For Those About to Rock by ACDC but I don’t listen to Highway to Hell, I watch Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey but I had to turn Noah Hill’s Sitter off because it was just corrupting my thinking.  Daryl watches Cars with us, but we tell him that true, lasting transformation doesn’t just come through choosing new friends, but comes through Jesus.  Cars 1 and 2 are both about friendship.  What they say, that friendship changes you, is true enough except it doesn’t go far enough.  If you believe that choosing the right friends is going to bring redemption, it is only ultimately true if that friend is Jesus.

Finally, guilt is not a good motivator.  We do not regulate our movies because we have to but because we want to.  Like an athlete training for the Olympics regulates their eating and exercise because of what they want to achieve, if we want the freedom to grow closer to God we fix our eyes on Jesus and throw off everything that does not lead us closer to him (Hebrews 12:1-3).

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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1 Response to Should I Think About God as I Watch Movies?

  1. Steve says:

    Great thinking as usual Peter. I think that if we become “careful miners” we can extract the truth about God, humanity, our brokenness, the power of redemption, and much of what makes us valuable as image bearers from the stories that inspire, move, or challenge us. Most stories worth telling are usually part of the human narrative that the bible has already spoken on with authority. I loved being inspired by the avengers. A group of gifted individuals uniting to vanquish an otherworldly evil. That biblical baby!!

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