In a recent "Ask the Experts" column, a reader asked how a Christian critic can give a positive review to a film that includes profanity. My answer apparently stirred the pot, as we've received quite a bit of feedback—some agreeing with me, some disagreeing—from readers.
My opinion on this subject has grown and changed dramatically over the years. I used to shy away from a film—to revile it, in fact—if it contained expletives. But as I became more involved as a Christian participating in the culture at-large, I realized that, yes, people do talk that way, and how could I demand that artists—Christians or otherwise—abstain from reflecting the truth of the culture, since they also represent other shortcomings, weaknesses, lapses of judgment, and misbehavior in their storytelling?
The real issue, I came to believe, was whether or not the filmmaker was recommending misbehavior. In fact, I have come to care deeply for some of the characters in films who have foul mouths, as I have come to recognize the needs in their hearts, their strengths and weaknesses, their personalities. Their sins and errors become, as the songwriter Sam Phillips writes, "holes" that can "let the light through"—opportunities for growth, grace, and redemption (which sometimes, sadly, never comes).
The reader response to my "Ask the Experts" column included some observations that showed me I should have done one more revision, and then there were some broad generalizations that left me staring wide-eyed at the screen. It's ironic—some of the respondents used very strong language, expressing that they were ready to drag me before the throne for a quick sentencing.
I'd like to respond to some of those who were troubled ...1
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