Sacrificing Game of Thrones

movie theaterAbout a year ago my wife and I thought we would try out the show Game of Thrones. The first episode of the first season was interesting enough. The plot was engaging and I could see it building into an interesting story, but the main thing I noticed was multiple nude scenes.

We watched another episode and promptly concluded that Game of Thrones was not OK for me to watch with my history of struggling with porn. The sacrifice wasn’t great on my part. I was certainly disappointed, but Jesus is worth it.

Several months ago, Cap Stewart published an article on his blog called Hollywood’s Secret Rape Culture that turned my stomach. Young actresses have been manipulated into nude scenes through means that would be considered rape if it weren’t broadcast on movie screens across the country.

He followed that up with another article asking, What About Actors the Willingly Undress for the Camera? Surely there are actors and actresses who do this without being manipulated. He compellingly argues that we are participating in an abusive relationship by sending our money to the studios and directors who pressure young men and women strip in front of a camera crew (and an ogling world).

These were very powerful arguments to me. Nudity is not simply about the harm I do to myself by viewing it, but also by the support I lend an abusive relationship by watching it. I am encouraging men and women to be abused by sending my money.

With these new convictions, I didn’t have to test my conscience with the new Godzilla film (that would have been tough). Then X-Men: Days of Future Past came out and on reviewing the film, I found that Hugh Jackman has a scene where he was nude on set.

Now the test had come, would I support a film where a man was asked to be nude on set. I do not struggle with same-sex attraction, so my own temptation is not a problem. It is of concern that Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique who is a questionably nude character. Do I watch this film that very possibly pressured Hugh Jackman into nudity?

I decided that I could not, in good conscience, support this film.

Cue the parade, fireworks, and celebratory speeches. Everyone should now sing my praises as I have made this massive sacrifice for the Kingdom. God sure owes me now. I have sacrificed a whole movie to him. Yes, I took an entire motion picture and told God that he could decide whether I watched it or not. He is lucky to have a follower so dedicated.

I think this highlights one of the silliest parts of this debate about what films we should not watch for reasons of conscience. We as a people seem to think we are doing something extraordinary to give up an hour and a half of entertainment. If we can’t give up a movie for conscience sake, how will we ever take our cross and follow Jesus?!?

Part of the reason this is so difficult is our culture (and particularly our youth culture) places a premium on being relevant and  in touch with culture. We live in a day where failure to see a movie is perceived as being out of touch: irrelevant. No one wants to be irrelevant.

This argument is compelling only if we have idolized being relevant. Do you know what is relevant in all cultures at all times? Being delighted and delightful. How is this accomplished? Loving a delightful God. Certainly many who have not seen that God is sweet to be with will not understand why you would ever choose to give up a movie or money or comfort or you life. This will be mysterious to them. Why would you ever do that?

This is a very valuable question for them to ask.

The world does not need more cultured copies of itself wearing cross necklaces. No, the world needs a savior who loves it and died for it. Christian, we need to value holiness far more than relevance.

So my challenge to you is to say that you should not support any movie with any nudity. You are most likely supporting an abusive relationship. Yes, you will be odd and the conversation where you tell your friends that you can’t see that movie will be strained. It will have never occurred to them that this movie is harmful.

Not until you showed them.

We have a short life to live. If relevance and holiness are at odds, by all means leave relevance behind. Maybe, just maybe, God will be pleased to use your irrelevance to bring another sinner to Jesus.

As it turns out, a saved sinner is quite relevant in Heaven.

-Chip

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Sex, Lies, and Star Trek (Reblog)

This article by Cap Stewart is part of the inspiration for my article The Requiem For a Dream Problem. It is quite thought-provoking. Enjoy!

I confess, I’m something of a Trekkie. I’ve been looking forward to the release of Star Trek Into Darkness more than any other movie this year. While reading a few content reviews, though, I came across a snag. The film contains a scene in which a woman changes clothes after asking her male companion to turn his back to her—obviously for the sake of decency. After feigning compliance, the man sneaks a peek. So does the camera, giving the audience an unobstructed view of this woman in a state of undress.

Here’s what I have decided: I cannot financially support this movie. Why? Because I want to grow in my ability to honor God and love that actress.

In James 1:27, which I recently wrote about, we are told, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James gives the two distinctive fruits that grow from the root of genuine Christianity: love and holiness. Followers of Christ should exemplify these traits when interacting with the world—including the realm of entertainment.

Holiness

Let’s talk about holiness first. Believers have grown to ignore, accept, or even endorse tantalizing sexuality in films. Based on the lax standards of Christian moviegoers, an unbeliever might conclude that the Bible takes no clear stance on immodesty and nudity. But God is far from silent on these issues.

Scripture associates public nudity with shame (Gen. 3:7; Isa. 47:3; Nah. 3:5; Rev. 3:18). Because of this, God Himself provided clothes for Adam and Eve after the Fall (Gen. 3:21). Job made a covenant with his eyes so that he would not look lustfully at women (Job 31:1). David fell into adultery by seeing a naked woman, even though it was in a “nonsexual” situation (2 Sam. 11:2-4). Jesus refers to a wandering eye as adultery worthy of hell (Matt. 5:27-30). In using the human body as a metaphor for the church, Paul describes it as having “unpresentable parts” that require “greater modesty” (1 Cor. 12:23). Whether sexual or nonsexual, nakedness outside of marriage is shameful.

Countless Christians deny that movies with nudity and/or sex scenes affect them. But as Doug Wilson has pointed out in Reforming Marriage, such denials come from two types of men. The first man is a liar; he is either attempting to fool himself or someone else—and probably both. The second kind of man is telling the truth, but only because he “is so deadened in his conscience that it would take a lot more than that to get him going.”

When Noah became naked in a drunken stupor (Gen. 9:20-27), his son Ham took the situation lightly and told his two brothers about it. Shem and Japheth, on the other hand, treated their father with respect and covered his nakedness without looking at him themselves. This story shows that, even if it is possible to encounter nudity without being aroused, it still cannot be considered a legitimate form of entertainment.

See the rest of the article by clicking here to go to Cap’s blog

The “Requiem for a Dream” Problem

Requiem_for_a_dreamAs anyone in the pornography recovery community can attest, there is a real challenge in determining what is safe to watch at the movies. There are bits of culture that are more difficult to avoid like commercials and billboards, but what we pay for at the theater is very much in our control.

The classic case of this is what I call the Requiem for a Dream Problem. The movie, Requiem for a Dream, is the story of how heroin addiction destroys the lives of four friends. Everything about the movie appeals to me. I have struggled with pornography addiction myself (not heroin, by God’s grace) and I love the raw nature of the movie. By all accounts, it is a classic film and worth seeing.

Unfortunately, it also has graphic sexuality and nudity which is only aggravated by the fact that I find Jennifer Connelly to be one of the loveliest actresses out there. So this movie is my equivalent of  an alcoholic walking into a bar. I should not watch it.

Hence, the Requiem for a Dream Problem. At what point does the artistic merit of the film fail to outweigh the sexual temptation it will cause me. I suppose it could be called the Black Swan Problem or the American Beauty Problem, both of which are thought-provoking movies with serious sexual content. I wish I could watch them, but I can’t.

As with most problems, one should first look at the Bible. I looked for the movie watching guide in there and wasn’t able to find one. But there are important principles that apply. I should be cognizant of my own weaknesses for lust and considerate of the harm the film may do to others. Requiem for a Dream might make put a friend with a history of heroin addiction in a terrible position for entirely different reasons.

We should remember that movies are just stories and storytelling is an important art in all cultures. There is real artistic value that serves my soul in many films. We should be looking for the good in them. The Passion of the Christ may have an attractive woman in it, but the merit for honoring God is so profound that I should resist temptation and enjoy the wealth of God-honoring praise this movie brings to my heart.

There are also many foolish ways to approach this problem. For anyone who struggles with lust (read men), the idea of flipping through channels or going to a movie with no research is foolish. No plan is a plan and in this case, it is a very bad one. Our art culture is far to saturated with sexual imagery for us to march on with no plan. If you’re going to a movie, check it out online to see if it meets your conscience’s standard.

This begs the question, What is my conscience’s standard? How do I determine when a film (or any piece of art) crosses the line from being flawed but acceptable and when it becomes too harmful to warrant watching at all? This is a very personal line, but I want to discuss some ways to think about the issue.

Redeeming Value vs. Tempting Content

To be sure, images and movements are not evil in and of themselves. Sins only happen in my heart. A nude image of a women is not inherently evil (in fact, she was created “very good”). What if that image were of my wife? It would be good and even holy for me to drink deeply in delighting in her. The Bible in unblushing in its recommendations to enjoy one’s spouse (Pro 5:18-19).

Additionally, there is merit to the idea of redeeming value in a film. The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest films ever made and yet it opens with a sex scene. It holds out such virtues as perseverance, hope, kindness, and justice. I love the line that Andy Dufresne gives, “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies.”

I don’t know if Andy is right, but it is a great quote in a wonderful movie. Is the film worth the temptation I face in the opening scene? I think so. I often skip the opening entirely as it is not that pertinent to the rest of the film.

But I must be careful. More often than not, I am tempted to find a movie I want to see, then I go scrounging around for artistic merit so I have an excuse to watch it. I am not an unbiased observer. Many men are looking for excuses to see these films and it is not in a search for holiness, but in a search for cute girls not wearing much.

We are like a kid at the grand canyon. We don’t ask what is a safe distance to view the canyon from, we ask how close we can get to the edge without falling.

What is tempting to me?

Another important consideration is what specifically tempts me. Obviously, nudity is very tempting and I almost never watch films with nude women. I had to give up the shows House of Cards and Game of Thrones for this reason. I really like both, but it was simply not worth the temptation and sin it was causing.

I can’t watch any movie where girls kiss other girls. For whatever reason, this is a weak spot for me. A film need not have nudity or even sex scenes to be problematic. So when you are determining what is acceptable for you, know your own heart and steer clear of your own weaknesses.

What is loving for the actor or actress?

If 1 Corinthians  6:18 is right and whenever an actor or actress sins sexually, they sin against their own body. It would be unloving in that case to support their efforts to hurt themselves. The fact that it is consensual is irrelevant. I recently had a compelling discussion with a friend who said that he will not watch a movie where an actress had to undress in front of the camera crew even if no nudity is shown on screen. He argues that it is unloving to her to support her exploitation by men.

A more compelling argument is to ask, What if she were my daughter? I love my daughter very much and it would break my heart if she were to be ogled by a whole camera crew (who, by the way, would immediately go an jack off in the bathroom). It would break my heart.

To be honest, I don’t know how far to carry this standard, but I found it very compelling. If you want a more clear discussion about it, check out Cap Stewart’s excellent article Sex, Lies, and Star Trek.

Is it Lawful? Is it Helpful? Is it Enslaving?

In the book Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll makes the case that many of the wisdom decisions we make need to not simply ask, “Is this a clear sin?” There needs to be a higher standard. He suggests 1 Corinthians 6:12 as a guide. In Paul’s argument, he asks whether something is not only sinful, but helpful. Pastor Mark then applies this more broadly to ask the following three questions.

Is it lawful? This excludes everything the Bible forbids and that the state forbids.

Is it helpful? This asks if the film benefits me. Is there a good reason to consume the film beyond the fact I have an evening free.

Is it enslaving? Will the image of that girl follow me around the rest of my life? Will I have to use extra self-control later because I won’t use it now? Will I sin because I watched this film?

Will your freedom cause others to stumble?

Let’s say you set a clear standard and have satisfied your own conscience. You are fully convinced in your own mind what is safe for you and are comfortable with a film. Wait, there is a final consideration.

Romans 14 is a whole chapter about how Christians should give deference to the weaker brother. We should always ask if this will cause another to stumble. This is strange for me to say because I may be the weak brother. I am asking you not to put me in a tempting situation. Almost every time I see someone cite Romans 14, they assume they are the stronger believer. Not so this time. I am the weaker brother.

We need to be very cautious and respectful when recommending and watching films that we are not setting up a brother to sin. Practically, this means no one should ever watch any of the Transformer films (they are so sexualized and they are just awful movies anyway).

So What do I do?

If you have asked all the above and your conscience is still uneasy about a film, you probably shouldn’t watch it. The solution to the Requiem for a Dream Problem is that I will never watch the movie. I want to. I really do. But it is not safe for me.

-Chip

The Movie Poster above is under copyright and is used under a Fair Use.

When Is Public Indecency Acceptable? (Reblog)

girl_covering_eyesThis article by the wonderful blogger Cap Stewart is one of my favorites. It is reblogged with his permission. 

During a recent plane ride across the country, I looked up from my seat and encountered two people pretending to have sex—right out in the open. They didn’t act in the least bit ashamed or embarrassed. They weren’t completely naked, but discarded pieces of clothing were clearly visible.

A quick glance around the cabin revealed that some of the other passengers had seen the incident as well, but none of them were reacting to it. Some continued their business, while others seemed content to watch passively. No flight attendants intervened; no one protested. It was a surreal experience—one which provided me with an opportunity to apply God’s grace in fighting the temptation to lust in my own heart.

What happened after that? Well, the bedroom episode ended and the movie went on to another scene. Yes, it was “only” a movie. But does that relieve you at all? If so, something is dreadfully wrong.

There seems to be a huge disconnect between what is inappropriate in “real life” and what is inappropriate in front of a camera. We have laws against public indecency. But the same indecency, if put on film—where thousands or millions more might see, and which can be paused or replayed at any time—is suddenly socially acceptable.

You’re probably aware of the debauchery-infused performance of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the Video Music Awards last week. It seems that most people, Christian and otherwise, agree on the impropriety of this VMA dance number. But my guess is that if that same dance routine was a scene in a movie, no one would have responded with such outrage. In fact, many Christians would likely have gone to see the movie—as long as it had some “redeemable” content, that is.

(click here to read the rest of the article at CapStewart.com)