The lights dim, the screen lights up and you settle back expecting some refreshing entertainment, emotional upliftment, or at least some harmless diversion. Instead, you find your ears assaulted by foul language and the profane use of the Lord's Name. Sexually arousing screens assault the senses, followed by shocking depictions of graphic violence.
Your mind reels as though punch drunk as you ask yourself: “Why did none of the reviews or previews warn us? What should I do now? Do we walk out? Do we complain? And how can I ensure that I don't subject my loved ones to this again?”
Researchers calculate that the average child watches over 2000 hours of films, videos and TV each year. Approximately only up to 7% of this will feature what is described as “strong redemptive or Christian worldview.”
THE POWER OF STORIES
Movies and television programmes are powerful tools of communication. They plant emotional images in our minds, influence our purchases and our lifestyles, shape our standards, and direct our hopes and dreams.
Our Lord Jesus told stories, Parables, in order to help people understand the Kingdom of God. Hollywood tells stories through film, television, videos, CD-roms, radio and other mediums.
As Dr Tom Snyder writes in his book Myth Conceptions: “Stories matter deeply. They make a profound difference in our lives. They bring us laughter, tears and joy. They stimulate our minds and stir our imaginations. They help us escape our daily lives for a while and visit different times, places and people. They can arouse our compassion or empathy, spur us towards truth and love, or sometimes even incite us towards hatred or violence… Different kinds of stories satisfy different needs. For example, a comedy evokes a different response from us than a tragedy. A news story on page one affects us differently from a human interest story in a news magazine, or a celebrity profile next to the movie listings… Although different stories satisfy different needs, many stories share common themes, settings, character types, situations and other recurrent patterns. They may even possess a timeless, universal quality.”
Many stories focus on one individual, typically a heroic figure, who overcomes trial and tribulations to defeat some kind of evil or to attain some positive goal. Through these stories we can gain insights into human nature, reality, truth, motives, meanings, values, and principles. Every story has a worldview - a way of viewing reality, truth, the universe, the human condition, and the spiritual world. A story can have a Christian worldview which shows people’s need for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His Word, the Bible, or it can have a secular humanist worldview that explicitly or implicitly rejects the Christian worldview. By examining the worldview of a story or film, we can determine the moral, philosophical, social, psychological, spiritual, theological and aesthetic message that the story conveys (Dr Ted Baehr, What Can We Watch Tonight?)
How then are we to judge whether a particular film is appropriate? By what standards can we select a film? How can we protect our families, and ourselves, from destructive influences in the media?
THE WORLD IS BEING CONFORMED TO HOLLYWOOD
Countless psychological, sociological and neurological studies have concluded that “violence in the mass media is contributing to increased violent behaviour amongst children and teenagers.” Other studies have found that “viewing sexual images in the media leads to increased sexual activity amongst children and teenagers and increased deviant behaviour, including rape.”
A recent medical study reported by the National Cancer Institute found that “viewing drug use in movies and TV programmes leads to increased drug use amongst children.”
A new long term study, released in 2002, led by Geoffrey G. Johnson of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute studied children in 707 families for 17 years. Their report claimed “overwhelming” evidence that adolescent young adults who watch television for more than 7 hours per week are up to 200% more likely to commit an aggressive act in later years. Their report claimed that films such as Hannibal, Scream, American Pie 2, Queen of the Damned, the Harry Potter series, and others, can have “a tremendously negative impact on the lives of children and teenagers…These types of movies and programmes are nothing more than visual terrorism.”
PORNOGRAPHY IS A MANUAL FOR RAPE
Serial rapist and mass murderer Ted Bundy, in his television interview with Dr James Dobson the night before he was executed, acknowledged that pornography had played a critical role in leading him to murder as many as 28 young women and children. Reflecting on the many years he had spent in prison with violent criminals, Bundy observed: “without exception, every one of them was deeply involved with pornography without question, without exception deeply influenced and consumed by an addiction to pornography. The FBI's own study on serial homicides shows that the most common interest amongst serial killers is pornography.”
Dr Victor Cline's research has shown that “sexually suggestive theatrical movies increases (men’s) aggressive behaviour towards women.”
The 1987 US Attorney General's Commission On Pornography “carefully details the conclusive research demonstrating that sex and violence in films and on television leads to rape, child abuse, and increased divorced rates in our society.”
Studies on teenage suicide conducted at Columbia University and the University of California at San Diego which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine: “conclusively demonstrated that movies, television programmes and even news reports involving teenage suicide lead to a 7% increase in the number of teenage suicides during the week following such programming.”
BACK TO BLOOD SPORTS
We seem to be seeing a return to the days of the bloody sports in the Roman Coliseum when people demanded increasing decadence and violence. The insatiable lust of the public for the spectacle of gladiators fighting each other, slaughtering unarmed innocents, and even degrading sexual orgies in the arena, are now being produced in films and TV programmes.
OUR CHRISTIAN RESPONSIBILITY
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” Edmund Burke. We need to redeem the media by supporting good films and refusing to support the bad.
World Vision has reported that, on average, Christians spend 6,6% of their income on entertainment, but only 1,2% on church, missions and ministries.
The media are merely tools of communication, just as the telephone is a tool of communication. Like other tools, these mass medium of entertainment may be used for good or for evil. The printing press can print Bibles or pornography. A hammer may be used to build a church or to hit someone over the head.
The movie industry needs money to survive. If we redirect our investment away from supporting bad entertainment to investing in good entertainment, the industry will have to make more good movies and fewer bad ones.
Christians all too often go to bad films and miss good ones because of sin, peer pressure, curiosity, deceptive advertisements and lack of guidance.
We need to be soaked in the Scripture, well studied on the Biblical Worldview, and have an adequate understanding of the false teachings of humanism, to recognise errors when presented to us.
Subscribe to MovieGuide www.movieguide.org, read Christian books on worldviews: Biblical Principles for Africa, South Africa - Renaissance or Reformation, Make a Difference, The Biblical Worldview Manual, What Can We Watch Tonight? and The Media Wise Family.
“Give Thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and evil…” 1 Kings 3:9
LEARN TO DISCERN
We also need to think critically, to ask the right questions:
1. Who is the hero?
2. What kind of role model is the hero?
3. Who is the villain?
4. What kind of message does his character convey?
5. How much sex and violence is in the films?
6. What is the premise that drives the script?
7. What worldview or value is being promoted?
8. Does good triumph over evil?
9. How does the film treat Christians, the Church and the Bible?
10. Would you be embarrassed to sit through this film with your parents, children or the Lord
EVERY FILM HAS A WORLDVIEW
Every worldview has a doctrine of God, doctrine of man, doctrine of salvation, doctrine of the Church, doctrine of History, a doctrine of the future, a doctrine of the nature of reality, and a doctrine of knowledge.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone for instance has an occult, new age worldview that subtly encourages children to dabble in witchcraft and sorcery. As such it teaches a nature based, polytheistic religion that confuses the spiritual world of God with the natural or physical world, it has no doctrine of salvation or forgiveness of sin and believes human nature is basically good instead of inherently sinful.
In contrast to the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings reflects a Christian understanding of reality. In Middle Earth there is a clear distinction between right and wrong and there is clear accountability to a sovereign, holy God, who is Lord of the universe. Here wielding vast supernatural power is seen as a temptation that should be shunned and is best left up to God.
“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6
Redeem the time. Be very selective and discerning about what media you expose your family or yourself to. Shun the bad and choose the best.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's Will is His good, pleasing and perfect Will.” Romans 12:2