Christians can have a hard time deciding which movies are appropriate to watch. Is there entertainment that we should not endorse? Or does it even matter what we watch as long as we're adults who know what we believe? This dilemma is especially difficult at the college age as we come out from our parents' protection and have to make our own decisions as adults. I do not have a concrete the answer to this question, and I doubt anyone can find one. But don't stop asking the question.
In Plato's Republic, Socrates' proposal for censorship of poetry would amaze even the most conservative Christian parent. He says in Book X, "What's in the balance here is absolutely crucial -- far more so than people think. It's whether one becomes a good or a bad person." Plato treats this issue so seriously, he claims the contents of poetry determine a person's moral condition. In high school, I had several friends who were very careful about which movies they watched. We had late night conversations about whether or not Christians could watch certain subject matter. Looking back, a part of me always felt as though I were doing something wrong when they took issue with a movie I did not. I don’t think that guilt was justified.
I do not think watching sin is a sin. In Matthew 15:11 Jesus says, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Obviously, in context this verse does not mention watching movies, but it does claim that our flaws come from within us, not from external influences. Sin existed long before movies, and people can do the vilest deeds without ever seeing them on the silver screen.
On the other hand, Plato had a point, and I do not think that my high school friends were just hyper-sensitive or silly. The things we expose ourselves to do matter. Philippians 4:8 says “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” The movies we watch can affect us, and the images we see stay with us, whether they be worthy of praise or no.
To help navigate this issue, screenwriter Brian Godawa provides a nine point list to help Christians find the message of the film. The list leads the audience to notice key points such as whose actions are commended and whose are condemned, the mindset of the protagonist and the antagonist, and the protagonist’s self-revelation. Godawa focuses on the overall purpose of the content. For example, Les Misérables shows many sinful acts, yet the overall message of the movie is Jean Valjean's transformation through forgiveness and grace. The true, honorable, lovely, and praise worthy elements of the film stand out even more noticeably because of the dark background.
Most movies have some redeeming quality for the Christian viewer to find. That being said, there are some things I don’t want to see based on my preferences and my level of maturity. I don’t care how redeeming it is or what purpose is behind it; I just don’t want to watch.
Exposure to evil can affect us. However, even when it does, the wicked, vulgar and malicious deeds we see do not make us sin, and they do not make us sinful. They are the catalyst. The elements of sin are already in our hearts, and they will surface. Exposure to the negative elements of a film can speed that process. That is all, and that is enough.
We will have to face our flaws regardless of which movies we watch, but some movies may make us deal with these flaws before we have the maturity to do so. They can persuade us that our vice is desirable or worse, insignificant. For this reason, we need to continue to question movies before, during and after we watch them. We also need to be gracious to one another. Just because you can watch a movie and feel unaffected does not mean everyone can. And just because you can't bear a certain movie does not mean every Christian will boycott it with you. Because of this, I can’t tell you what to watch and what not to watch. That is a question that we all must ask ourselves, and in order to do so, we need to understand our own preferences, beliefs, and maturity.