Rant by Nate
In the circles I run with at my church, I’m considered the young pup, i.e. young in faith and age, at least compared to my brothers and sisters. As a matter of fact, the youngest couple at our fellowship group is 60. I greatly appreciate that as they have much spiritual wisdom to impart, especially as it relates to walking with the Lord on a daily basis. You’ll never hear a more fervent and sincere prayer than the one that flows from the lips of my mentor as he prays.
Being around an older generation of Christians, though, is a package deal. Sometimes their example is tremendously beneficial and sometimes it is not. I was in a conversation recently with some brothers and sisters on the issue of movie-watching, specifically PG-13 and rated R movies. A number of people expressed the sentiment that rated R movies are entirely off-limits to Christians. The reasons were the usual: the language, violence, sexuality and general themes are inappropriate for Christians to watch. While I agree with some of the sentiment expressed here, I believe it’s a mistake to write off rated R movies as a category.
We are all familiar with rated R movies like Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Kill Bill, etc. that depict action in a very gory and, perhaps, gratuitous or over-the-top fashion. Characters like Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) or Beatrix Kiddo a.k.a. the Bride (Uma Thurman) seem to be masters of slaughter slicing through people like paper all to satisfy their goals (whatever they may be). Consider 300 where King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his Spartans cut their enemies down like overgrown weeds with depictions of blood spraying in various directions from spear wounds and the like.
Now consider this scene from what could possibly be a movie set in an ancient time of war and intrigue:
“Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his cloak. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man… Ehud came to him while he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, ‘I have a message from God for you.’ And he arose from his seat. Ehud stretched out his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh and thrust it into his belly. The handle also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the refuse came out… Now Ehud escaped while they were delaying, and he passed by the idols and escaped to Seirah.”
This is not a scene from a Hollywood period piece with Jake Gyllenhaal looking to steal the sands of time or Gerard Butler seeking to destroy Xerxes. No, this is Judges 3:16-26. It depicts betrayal, a graphic depiction of someone’s death with intestines falling out, and a dramatic roof escape.
Take a look at this scene from what could possibly be an Eli Roth horror flick:
“Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, ‘Turn aside, my master, turn aside to me! Do not be afraid.’ And he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug… But Jael, Heber’s wife, took a tent peg and seized a hammer in her hand, and went secretly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went through into the ground; for he was sound asleep and exhausted. So he died.”
Again, this is not a scene from Hostel or Saw. This is from Judges 4:18-21. Like the previous, graphic depiction of Eglon’s death at the hand of Ehud, Sisera’s murder is described vividly and without restraint. These are certainly not the only examples of vivid depictions of violence, particularly bloody killings in Scripture.
How about foul language? This is a trash talking scene from a group of advisors about a previous ruler in 1 Kings 12:10:
“The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to this people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’ But you shall speak to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins!’”
Here, King Rehoboam is listening to his advisors (who are actually his childhood pals) describe his own father as having a smaller manhood than his pinky finger. By the way, our translations have tamed down the Hebrew with “loins” (motnayim) when in actuality (according to folks like Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke) motnayim is also a reference for the male sex organ. So the Bible certainly includes things that are profane (see also Paul’s use of skybalon in Philippians 3:8) to make a point. There are also sexually explicit descriptions in Scripture; but I’m not even going to go there with regard to Song of Solomon! I’m just not comfortable expressing how the Hebrew renders some of the explicit language there! Just know that they are there and incredibly descriptive.
The point is not to say that we have free reign to watch whatever we want in rated R movies simply because the Bible also includes those kinds of things. The point is that Scripture places these events and descriptions in a particular thematic context. Just as it would be a mistake to assume that the descriptions I just quoted from Scripture are somehow glorifying that kind of behavior (they are not), it is also a mistake to assume that all rated R movies are glorifying violence, profanity, and/or sexuality simply because it displays those things.
Take, for example, The Passion of the Christ starring Jim Caviezel. This is probably one of the (if not the most) violent, bloodiest movies that has ever been made. But look at its message, look at its theme, what it’s depicting. The Son of God allows Himself to be whipped, beaten, tortured, and crucified all to take upon Himself the wrath of God for our sin. That is the Gospel in its most vivid yet loving form. As a matter of fact, I think that seeing the brutality of Christ’s treatment (however accurate) depicted in the film elicits a new kind of awareness and appreciation that, perhaps, reading the story might not fully bring to the fore.
Consider, also, a very intelligent short film entitled Cruel Logic by Brian Godawa. To watch it, click here. This film looks and feels almost exactly like a scene from Dexter. It begins with a man bound and gagged attempting to confront the serial killer that is preparing to kill him. The killer’s tools are laid out on a cold steel tray. The tape is removed from the victim’s mouth; and the two men begin to speak. But the dialogue that flows between the two, as the victim tries to appeal to his killer, exposes the flaws inherent in an atheistic/evolutionary worldview. While there is no gore or violence, the way it is filmed and scored certainly induces a sense of dread for the victim. But, again, consider the film’s message, its theme. The evolutionary worldview is not coherent, and this film shows you why.
Now, these are just two small examples. As I previously mentioned, not all rated R movies are appropriate. But the way to determine which are appropriate and which are inappropriate is to use our eyes and ears, to analyze and determine the theme of the film, its worldview, its message, what it’s trying to communicate to its viewers. The Bible certainly requires us to do the same. And if we can do that, I think we’ll discover that some rated R movies are more than simply “not off limits”, but actually help to reflect a Christian worldview.
 Anyone curious should definitely take a closer look at the explicit Hebrew language in 5:4-5, for example.