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Nearly every time we run a review of a film that's rated R, we get at least one comment from a reader—email, Twitter, Facebook, or on the article itself—that asks that question, the one I've come to expect: "Why is Christianity ...

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Steve Skeete

February 03, 2014  2:30pm

This 'explanation' by Ms. Wilkinson is a sophist' paradise. However, it really did clarify some things in my mind concerning CT and todays' Church in general - they both want to be seen as 'cool' and 'tolerant'. The idea that in order to 'engage' contemporary culture I have to descend into its cesspool of filth is not novel, but when used by a fellow believer it comes across as condescending if not outright insulting. What if a few of my friends see 'Wolf"? I do not need to see it to reason with them either intelligently nor persuasively about 'sin, righteousness and judgment'. Nor do I have to sit through two hours of any film in which 'dirty' language, sex and 'swear words' are ubiquitous, since I already 'live and have my being' in the real world. In this regard, I find Ms. Wilkinson and other cultural apologists to be rather disingenuous. To say that a film with over twenty sex scenes and constant swearing has artistic 'merit' is to praise lack of imagination and poor taste.

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Robert Horlacher

January 30, 2014  8:22am

In general watching R-rated movies is harmful to the reviewer. Watching many of them is very harmful. I'm concerned for the spiritual and emotional health of your reviewers. In addition to harming the one who watches, it will harm the family, the church, and the community of the one who watches. Are the some R rated films worth reviewing? Probably, my guess is very few. Even though we can't rely on secular sources for value judgments, we can likely get a pretty good idea of a films message by averaging several secular reviews. I would hope you do thorough research before subjecting your staff to a potentially damaging experience.

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Greg Smith

January 29, 2014  10:41pm

Sorry Audrey. I was in a huge hurry before. My point was, when you say: "In His Word, the Lord is honest about man's failings *without* glorifying them. Adultery and all other forms of immorality are not glorified - events are honestly related, and horrific consequences are clearly depicted." You are saying the same thing these folks say about movies. They say "Many movies do NOT glorify or encourage sinful behavior. They DO show it's consequences and thereby teach us valuable lessons in righteousness by us seeing it depicted, but NOT CONDONED mind you. As a bonus, we now have something to talk about with sinners who also saw the movie. I say this is preposterous when the scriptures actually form our views instead of the intellectually incestuous dependence on like minded men and women. I challenge the entire premise of EVERYthing Mrs. Wilkinson says in this piece. She gives us a paltry smattering of shallow paraphrased bible in a couple spots. The other 99.7% is the wisdom of men.

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Greg Smith

January 29, 2014  3:07pm

Audrey I'm running like a nut today. No, of course you are not trying to do that. I've seen enough of your posts to know that that could never happen. These folks tell us that as long as sin is NOT being glorified in these displays of unleashed onscreen depravity that the filmmakers are doing the same thing the bible does. Teach us how bad sin is. I say the motivation of the filmmakers plays NO part whatsoever in the conscience that lives in the mind of Christ. That is literally not on the list of relevant biblical factors AT ALL. You see these commentors here talking about "how on earth can we be relevant unless we become groovy consumers of pop culture?" I reject that. Categorically and if ever given the privilege I will in Jesus name and to His glory show that beguiling deception to be exactly what it is. My online handle is "Tiribulus" Audrey. You can find my Facebook page if so inclined. God bless you.

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audrey ruth

January 29, 2014  1:53pm

Wow, Greg, thanks so much for the kind words. You definitely 'get' me. How is it that I'm making 'their' case? (Assuming you mean people who have no problem with media which glorifies all sorts of ungodliness) You obviously know I don't mean to do that and don't want to do that. ITA with your last few sentences, AND your last comment below was exceptional in every way - totally true to the Lord, to His Word. God bless you, dear brother. :)

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Greg Smith

January 29, 2014  11:24am

Audrey, you are probably my favorite person here and there is no doubt in my mind that pleasing our great God is what you live and breathe for. I have to tell you though. You are making THEIR case. At least the one they are trying to make, for which there is not one single syllable of biblical support. Which if ever given the chance by the Lord in a debate with one of these people I WILL demonstrate. It makes absolutely NO difference what the intent of the filmmakers was. The only thing Christians care about is what saith the Lord and we know what the Lord saith from the SCRIPTURES. Not CS Lewis, Not Hans Rookmaaker, Not Alissa Wilkinson or Brett McCracken or Jeff Overstreet (God help us), the SCRIPTURES. This is why you are not likely EVER to see a meaningful debate on this. The SCRIPTURES are not what matters to them. They will huddle together, preach to their faithful and talk about how engaged and missional they are while quoting men to give themselves credibility.

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audrey ruth

January 29, 2014  10:53am

In His Word the Lord is honest about man's failings *without* glorifying them. Adultery and all other forms of immorality are not glorified - events are honestly related, and horrific consequences are clearly depicted. This is true of all sin in the Bible - none of it is glorified, it is not made to look attractive. Instead, sin is shown in such a way as to show us how foolish and destructive it is. This is true throughout the entire Bible.

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Greg Smith

January 29, 2014  7:53am

The unbelievers at IMDB tell me everything I'll ever need to know without ANY Christians EVER needing to defile and pollute themselves with the world's debauchery. Hollywood is a reprehensible decomposing degenerate filth factory I don't need to crawl around in a dumpster to know it's diseased and rotting inside. I can smell it from all the way over here thank you very much. Can we please drop the pretense of mission and contextualization and all the rest of this plastic Christianized rationalization? You do what you do because your conscience is fueled by the world and not the holy word of God. The very production of these movies is sin itself. Unless these film addicts would be willing to "perform" in them as well? No? Then it is rankest of hypocrisy and the very opposite of Christian love to promote the sin of others by watching them debase themselves before millions of people on a movie screen. Alissa, how would like to debate this in a casual public ongoing online format?

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audrey ruth

January 28, 2014  9:07am

Excellent points, Nadine. IRL, I hear Christians justify seeing R and MA rated movies by carrying on about how spectacular the special effects were, the quality of the acting, etc.

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Nadine Smith

January 27, 2014  1:26pm

@Anne L. - I'm aware of that....

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Nadine Smith

January 27, 2014  1:21pm

Paul Dale raised another important point. The Bible goes into about as much graphic detail of some of its more disturbing events as the headline and lede of a newspaper article. I cannot accept that reading a verse like Gen. 19:33 is eqivalent to actually watching that scene played out, in detail, nudity, sounds and everything in a film. THere is a difference between a record of events and a dramatic presentation of it where the senses are engaged and the viewer takes on a voyeuristic position. I cannot see how the sparse depictions of sinful acts in the Bible can be used as good support for watching extremely and excessively graphic films. I think that's really stretching it.

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Anne L

January 27, 2014  1:08pm

@Nadine - 'Corrie Ten Boom's quiet novel "The Hiding Place,"' is an (auto)biographical account of the horrors she and her family endured in World War II.

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Paul Dale

January 27, 2014  7:33am

As one who has been critical of the CT approach to movies in the past, I think your article is a thoughtful and largely fair explanation of how and why you review movies as you do. However, biblically, I find it difficult to reconcile watching many of these movies with Paul's exhortation to think about 'whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things' (Phil 4:8). You aesthetic does not seem to account for what it does to us to see these things, even if the overall moral is good. I realise that the Bible also has some horrible stories, particularly that of Sodom. However, these stories seem so thoroughly surrounded by God's truth, that their horrors are lessened. What is more, films put you there in graphic ways that consume your imagination with the very particular details, whereas even the Sodom story depicts horrendous acts more by inference.

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WILLIAM KRAMER

January 26, 2014  9:49am

Thank you for taking the time to explain what I had already sensed about the CT Reviews. Whether films or books, I find the reviews very helpful for the reasons you bring out. I've been a long time subscriber to the print version of CT (and Discipleship Journal before that). It is unfortunate that print cannot devote space to a well written piece like this. I suspect there are still many "print only" subscribers who question CT Reviews and who won't see this well delivered explanation. The depth and quality of this "web only" piece is enough to encourage me to spend more time with the Online CT than I have in the past. I look forward to discovering more quality "web only" articles by looking through past online editions. I have surely missed some great ones if this article is a measure of standard.

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Tom Richards

January 25, 2014  11:11pm

I would add one other reason that to this. The MPAA is a secular organization made up mostly of people with a decidedly non-Christian worldview. Why would any Christian want to let this organization determine which films are suitable for viewing and which are not? Whatever criteria they use will certainly not be mine. They decided, appropriately, that the movie 'Amistad' merited an R-rating as the movie contains disturbing violence and full nudity. This is a powerful movie that happens to contain an incredibly strong presentation of the gospel. There are plenty of PG movies, on the other hand, that very effectively glamorize sin and/or degrade the truth. I would prefer to use my own judgment, knowledge of the Bible, and the counsel of other believers to decide what to watch or not watch, not the ratings provided by the MPAA, and I would hope that Christianity today would continue to avoid using a secular ratings system to determine which movies to review or not review.

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Nadine Smith

January 25, 2014  9:06pm

Continued- No doubt "The Wolf" was a well-done movie. In fact I was planning on seeing it until my eyes popped at the rating details, and I said no thank you. I don't need to watch 23 sex scenes to get to the already-obvious truth that sin leads to destruction. Really, Christian viewers need that kind of help at the movie theatre? Maybe as a lit major myself who has had to read stuff like "The White Hotel" and a host of other things I plan to never read again and wish I never had, and who now has a sober appreciation for something like Corrie Ten Boom's quiet novel "The Hiding Place," I've become cynical about this kind of "art." It offers a truth I already know at a price I'm not willing to pay.

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Nadine Smith

January 25, 2014  8:54pm

I don't think anyone is saying CT should never review any R-rated movies, ever, but rather that some R-rated movies are so extreme in their graphic depiction of sinful and depraved acts that they negate the artistic merits of the film. No one ever said Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't a good actor in 'The Wolf of Wall Street" (in fact, he's one of my favourites). No one denied the directing or cinematography or script or vision or what-have-you was great. But where is your Christian philosophy on the voyeuristic nature of a move-goer watching near-pornographic sex or violence? Where is the discussion on the artistic merits of suggestion vs. graphic depiction, and the value of such an approach for Christian viewers?

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Scott Barry

January 25, 2014  10:06am

I can certainly understand why reviewing rated R movies may be beneficial at times. What I cannot understand is the posting of inappropriate images from the movie; images that may cause some to stumble. I cannot think of any reason whatsoever that this is necessary or beneficial to Christians or non-Christians in any way. Engaging the culture is an awesome calling; one that is necessary and important. Becoming too much like it is nothing but sin.

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Gary McPherson

January 25, 2014  8:39am

Thank you for a great article. I 100% agree with your points. With regards to movie ratings, I have often pondered how many people would see a movie that actually showed a Bible story as it really happened. We've already seen The Passion receive an R rating, and there are for more violent and sexual stories in the Bible. You can't have redemption, or even truth, without exposing the ugliness of sin. I'm glad you set the warnings separate from the film's value so the viewers can decide.

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Charles Cosimano

January 25, 2014  2:26am

A review usually tells as much about the reviewer as about the film. This can have interesting results such as a long time ago I would regularly read Gene Siskal's reviews and if he hated a movie I would go see it and if he liked a film I would not go near it. Of course no film maker now is worried about government censorship in the US, the courts would kill that so fast the ink would not get a chance to dry and God help anyone fool enough to actually file a lawsuit. That person would end up living in a cave in the desert hiding from the social media lynch mob as they becomes a national joke.

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