News Articles

FIRST-PERSON: A Christian critic’s conundrum

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–I was once reprimanded by a reader for suggesting “Casablanca” as a video alternative because the Humphrey Bogart character owned a bar. I remember my consternation over the fact that this man had dismissed this classic romantic adventure that salutes love, self-sacrifice, honor and patriotism because the story was set in a nightclub.

Still, there is validity to that reader’s misgivings. In their frustration with Hollywood’s common sense-pummeling content, many in the Christian community have become suspicious or ambivalent whenever a filmmaker does incorporate spiritual truths. We are in an age when obscenity and profanity are acceptable movie dialogue (in nearly every movie), blasphemy regularly garners a laugh, sexuality has progressed from exploitive to downright hedonistic and violent visuals now constitute “style.”

It’s nearly impossible to find a film that doesn’t contain something objectionable. “Laws of Attraction,” for example, was a romantic comedy earlier this year about two feuding divorce lawyers who, after an alcohol-fueled night on the town, found themselves married. The film took a profound stance, a clear defense, if you will, for lasting commitments. In a culture that promotes the quick disposal of friendships and marriages at the first hint of dissatisfaction, here was a movie that declared love is worth fighting for.

Alas, other messages in the film were not spiritually uplifting. We heard God’s name followed by a curse. And on two separate occasions, the leads awakened together in bed, both times so inebriated that they were unaware of how they got there. True, one drunken blackout set up the story’s premise, but when the couple got that drunk twice, it simply appeared as if they shared a drinking problem.

The most endearing films nourish the spirit as well as entertain. Sadly, film often is used to pander to our baser instincts.

Mankind’s disobedient nature uses any means it can to disconnect itself from the Creator, including the use of the cinema and television. What’s more, Satan has used the medium to elevate mankind’s rebellious nature while downplaying the importance of our needed relationship with the Creator.

But Satan didn’t author this storytelling medium. Rather, God allowed man to discover the power of visual art forms. And in his finest moments, man has used the medium to edify as well as entertain. Film has even been used to glorify the Creator. In “Ben Hur,” for instance, a once-embittered warrior played by Charlton Heston, reflects on his conversion: “And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.”

Secular filmmakers occasionally stumble upon insights that can give us Christians a more in-depth perspective concerning biblical teachings, one that strengthens our understanding of God’s Word.

Movies can combine the ultimate expressions of joy and sadness, of nobility and fear, of love and hate, of passion and romance, and of hope and faith. They are modern man’s medium for relating parables to the masses.

The question is, where do we draw the line? Ah, there’s the rub. While the entertainment mediums can be a positive element in the life of modern man, we must guard against the media’s anti-biblical pull. Tinseltown’s jesters can amuse us, but we must remember that the truth lies in God’s Word, seldom in Hollywood’s product. Discernment is essential. We need to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Therefore, we must know His Word.

Great films, like any art form, help teach us about the nature of man. By studying Scripture, however, we gain an understanding of the nature of God. The Bible is a guidepost for living a lifestyle that keeps us in harmony with the Heavenly Father and with our fellow man.

Is your Bible dusty?
Phil Boatwright is a film reviewer and editor of The Movie Reporter, on the Web at www.moviereporter.com.

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright