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Christians and “R” Rated Movies

I reader sent in this question to me recently and asked if I would respond to it on the website, so here is my response to the readers question.  I’m going to give my view, but I really hope that others will chime in and give their view as well

First, let me be honest with the fact that the Bible does not directly deal with the subject (as is expected since they did not have modern movies or rating systems), however principles in the Scripture deal with this subject.

Second, there is a certain amount of “gray” here.  Meaning well-meaning genuine Christians will come to different conclusions on the subject.  The main thing is all Christians need to deal with this issue and have convictions on them, while also being willing to listen to others convictions.

Third, ratings do not matter to me as much as content. So a movie could be rated PG and I might have problems with it.  It could also be rated R and I might have no problems with it.

So here is my a non-exhaustive list that goes into my decision on what to watch:

1.  I will not watch a show with  female nudity or sex.  Like Job, I have a covenant with my eyes not to look at another woman.  To be honest to this covenant, I do not see movies that include those scenes.

2.  I do not watch meaningless violence or “glorifying violence.”  I know this might sound subjective, but let me explain.  If I’m watching a movie based on some historical event, which included violence, then I feel the violence is a part of the story.  This would fit into war movies, a movie like Passion of the Christ, or some other genre.  However, certain movies seem to glorify violence or make light of it or just have it for the sake of violence, these movies I avoid.

3.  Does it promote sin in a favorable light? If so, then its not for me.  I enjoy satire.  Good satire shows the problem with modern culture in a joking way.  This at times means showing sin in a joking way, but the point behind the satire is to get the individual to realize how ridiculous the sin truly is.  Other shows however, show sin in a funny way in order to make it acceptable.  If a show is showing sin in a funny way and then affirming that the sin is in fact good or normal, then I have a problem with that show.  The same can be true of a serious drama that never shows the problems sin causes.

4.  How is God portrayed?  More and more shows (even ones that receive a favorable rating) portray God in ways that are blasphemous.  If a show does that then I change the channel or walk out.

I know these are broad categories and at times the require Christians to make individual judgments, but I think God has given us common sense and Scripture to help guide those decisions.

Now I would like to hear from the rest of you in how you make movie going decisions?

If you have question you wanted answered on this blog then send them to preacherwesley at gmail dot com.

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23 Comments

  1. Pretty much the same aas my list. Nudity is a no-brainer. Blood-splattering violence like “300”–no. Taking God’s/Jesus’ name in vain–no. Irreverence to God (Bruce Almighty, etc.)–no. Any glorification of sin (promiscuity–I’m talking to you, Desperate Housewives–, illegal drugs, homosexuality, etc.)–no. Also nothing that showcases the worst characteristics in people (The Bachelor, Big Brother, etc).

    Jesus said we must become as little children (again). I take that to mean in part to mean pure and innocent. If I’m protecting my child’s soul from these evil influences, what makes me think I’m immune? If kids don’t need to be watching it, then Christian adults don’t either.

  2. Avoiding pointless humor is a good idea too. Date Night, was aweful, foul and not worth a nickle IMHO and was “PG”, not sure how they got there with the “F Bomb” in it? Filthy language even the “small” ones is not worth it to me, having a 5 year old son, I watch only movies that I would want his little ears to hear, eyes to see and heart to enjoy. Needless to say, there are not many movies we watch and are VERY selective. The movie Date Night, my new neighbors invited me over to watch it, I should have looked up the catagory and information on the movie before hand…ugh!!!

  3. Wesley

    October 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks the both of you for sharing. I like hearing different Christians discuss this subject. Carl, I think you hit something on the head, that I wish you could express further. How much did your movie choices change once you became a parent?

  4. From a college perspective this topic is incredibly tricky.
    I have grown up in a culture that has been desensitized far beyond my will. Unfortunately this desensitization has been transported in part to me by my interactions with others and the media that I am forced to be exposed to. With this being said, my goal in viewing movies is to be entertained without furthering my desensitization. Therefore if a movie shocks me or pricks my conscience in any way, I cannot watch it(Romans 14:22-23).

    In addition to what I stated above, there are 2 filters for how I choose movies. Note that BOTH of these stipulations must be met.
    1. Movies should not be a stumbling block to my own salvation. If a movie causes me to want to sin or to sin unintentionally, then I should not watch it. With this in mind, there are two extremes. Some people will say you cannot watch a movie with bad language in it;however, it is nearly impossible to find a movie nowadays without one bad word in it(even watching finding nemo at Harding they had to bleep out the word “butt”). The other side says it doesn’t matter the content in the movie. In my opinion, both of these are extreme. The middle ground I have tried to find is where the movie doesn’t cause me to try to imitate the sin. For example, I have been bombarded with curse words from classmates since middle school. Never have I been tempted to curse…BUT if I get to the point from watching movies where I am so desensitized to the words that I begin to say them, THEN I need to evaluate the movies I am watching and cut the sin off from my life. Additionally when It comes to other aspects of movies(sex and sacrilegious aspects wesley mentioned go without saying) I must ensure that I am not influenced to act the same.

    2. My movie viewing must not be a stumbling block to others or hurt my own ministry in any way. If I view the movie Superbad, a movie which glorifies sin, with a non christian, and if I laugh alongside that non christian, after the movie would he take me as a minister seriously? Certainly not. You might say that I shouldn’t worry about what others think about me;however, I would argue that Paul calls ministers to worry about what other people think. 1 Corinthians 10:27-30 is a great parallel to this situation.

    All in all, this is an issue that will vary for each person that answers, but we all must agree to “seek first the kingdom of God.”(Matthew 6:33) If movies hinder us from this in any way then we should without remorse, “cut them off” completely from our lives(Matthew 5:29).

  5. I think we as Christian should be concerned about our influence. What if some of the young people or children from our church see my husband and me walking into an R rated movie? Not only should we be concerned about being influenced ourselves from these movies, we need to think of our influence to others as well.

    I am very concerned about some of my friends who call themselves Christians but watch very worldly, crass shows on TV (or movies) that promote sex outside of marriage.

  6. Wesley

    October 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Thanks Clay and Sue. I think you both hit on another aspect that I missed and should have covered, which is how it influences other. Thank you both for pointing out an important truth.

  7. From a parental perspective, we take a very conservative approach with movies we let our children watch.

    We abandoned long ago going to a movie with the kids without first reading a review. For our reviews, we use screenit.com. It is free and gives you a great breakdown of everything in the movie inlcuding listing any profanities or slang. Reviews are not in the free section until the movie has been out one week so we wait at least a week to go see it, giving us time to do our homework.

    I don’t pay much attention to the ratings as far as whether or not we let the kids watch the movie, but rather the rating is a heads up as to how much I should check into the movie.

    For movies that we are going to watch at home with the kids, we do the same thing plus I try to screen the movie ahead of time even if we have researched the movie and think that it is going to be ok.

    We do our best to er on the side of not watching the movie if there is any doubt about the content. We have also thrown away DVDs that we purchased to watch on vacation but didn’t screen ahead of time because they weren’t as family friendly as we had thought. We’ve turned movies off. We’ve not gone to popular movies. We’re not perfect, but we’re also not afraid to take an unpopular position and not go with the flow.

    Culture tries to teach us that our kids should be exposed to these kinds of things. ‘It’s ok. They can handle it and their missing out if they don’t do what their friends are doing.’

    We’ve found our approach to have a different effect than what the world would have us to believe. Our kids are the first to speak up about a movie being rated R or if they here or see something objectionable when we watch a movie. They are the first to speak up and want to turn it off. I don’t think this is by accident.

    It’s because they have been taught how to recognize the good from the bad.

    I also think as Christians we have to be very careful that we don’t find reasons why its ok for us as adults to watch movies with bad content. I’ve done it and I still slip and do it from time to time and I always feel bad afterwards.

    The fact that we can’t find a movie to watch because they all have bad language is not a reason to go to a movie. We shouldn’t lower our standards just because Hollywood has lowered their standards. We do our best to keep the bar high and as a result, our kids, thankfully, have done the same at this point.

    We can rationalize anything if we try hard enough. We ought not overthink this. Doing the right thing is always the right thing. We shouldn’t lower our guard and think we can filter out the bad. It’s ok I can handle it. Instead, we should filter it out by not letting it in to begin with. If we watch it, aren’t we kind of going along with the content in some respects ?

  8. I will shamelessly plug an electronic item worth the time and money… “Clearplay” It is a DVD you purchase and then pay a monthly fee to download filters for movies. The DVD filter settings are adjustable to the viewers preference (no useless blood and guts, or war scenes accepted – your choice) AND there is password protected parental control!
    Having said all that, I would’ve welcomed something like it during the formative years of my kids (rather than saying “no” all the time). However, explaining why a certain show is a “no” has it’s value as well.
    At any rate, Clearplay is worth the money. Just saying…

    It doesn’t “filter” television. My son had an assignment to watch TV for a class. Within 30 minutes we saw sin accepted many times. We went to the teacher and explained that he had had enough TV (smut) watching and would there be something else he could do to earn the grade? Current TV programming is NOT your parents TV programming! Beware!

  9. Wesley

    October 1, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks for sharing the filter Kevin. And for reading the website. I have friends who use and really like clear play. In fact I thought about linking to it from this post.

  10. Becoming a parent I believe took me to another level of maturity. Knowing that these eyes are on me all the time, reminded me that God’s eyes are too. Knowing that my son hears everything I say, reminded me that God does to and the same thing with my actions, both good and bad. It was a HUGE reminder and I think a purposeful one on Gods part to have little children in our lives, a blessing, a comparison in “Fatherhood” us with out children as HE is with His…hope all that made sense?

  11. Wesley

    October 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    It does. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I liked the idea of being reminded of God looking upon us. I also think the point of you wanting to model fatherhood for your son is hugely important as well.

  12. With a 5 year old son who mimics and watches absolutely everything we do, I have to make sure we are setting the right example. The more and more we allow ourselves to watch things that are inappropriate the less sensative to it we become. Once that happens the less we will react when it is on and pretty soon it becomes okay for us to watch it. When it becomes okay for us our kids will think it is okay for them. At 5 I realize I control what he watches, however, when he is 12 and at a friends house I want him to have the same conviction as he has at home and change the channel when something is “not fit” for him to watch. It is not okay for him to have sex, use foul language, do drugs, drink, etc. If he watches, or sees us watch, a show that puts this in a favorable light he may tend to think it isn’t so wrong and be swayed the other direction when he is in an environment that is maybe looser than the one he is in at home. He says well “mom and dad do it.” I feel the same is true for drinking. (I know that is a subject for another day, but it is the same principal)

  13. Wesley

    October 2, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Thanks Judy. I think parents have a special responsibility with kids and what they choose to watch, and allow their kids to watch.

  14. What strikes me about this discussion whenever it comes up is that Movies just aren’t that important. We watch a movie every once in a while, but we don’t want to be watching movies all the time. What a waste of time.

  15. Wesley

    October 5, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Brent. I agree with the overall unimportance of movies. But that is for a different post. The goal of this post and its comments is to answer the question that when we do watch movies (or television), what boundaries should we put on the type of movies we watch?

  16. Simple answer…If Jesus were physcially with you in your home what tv program or movie would you be viewing….

  17. I just want to second what Kevin said, we have ClearPlay and absolutely love it! I will hardly watch a movie without it. I have to be careful however, because it is hard for me to reccommend any movies after watching them with clearplay because I don’t know what kind of garbage I missed. I would hate to unintentionaly suggest someone watch a movie that promotes sin.

    Otherwise, I think we always need to ask ourselves how watching a particular movie will glorify God. My perspective has been postively changed by watching many movies. Other movies have done me absolutely no good, in fact have probably done me harm. We need to decide to only watch movies that will encourage us to be better people, more committed to our families and to God. I think watching a movie can be glorifying to God if the content is not only pure but also encouraging, inspiring, and motivational. It is hard to find movies like that but cutting out the garbage with ClearPlay helps a lot.

  18. As someone who is well guilty of having watched too many things he shouldn’t, I will say that I think there is a difference in the purpose of some films. A Christian has no business, for example, seeing some teen Spring Break flick that will be a constant romp of sexually explicit content or “slasher gore.” There are some films that are not meant for “entertainment” (in terms of viewing entertainment as something to distract and amuse us) but are shown in theaters to tell a story that allows us to look into the reality of something.

    If a Christian is mature enough discern what he/she hears views a film about someone’s struggles, and characters in the film realistically use curse words in their dialogue, I do not think they are sinning. Moviemakers include such language for different reasons. Some do it literally do make a buck off of foul talk, others do it because it’s a realistic way people in the world talk, and to pretend they don’t talk that way is dishonest. When you have an emotional scene of a family falling apart because of the consequences of sinful decisions, and they happen to be cussing at each other, the director isn’t saying, “see, isn’t cursing fun?”

    However, with the wonders of technology, I think it is true that if we have the ability to filter what comes through our TV, we should take advantage of that. My wife and I are having our first child soon, and that’s given me motivation to go out and buy one of those machines.

  19. I agree that Christians should not be watching movies that are sinful. My fiancé and I are both Christians but he watches worldly movies. It really bothers me, especially since it seems like every rated R movie out there has to have female nudity in it. He doesn’t see anything wrong with it and when I tried to talk to him about it he says that it’s not that he wants to see and hear those things it is just in the movie. It still bothers me and I do not really know how to go about it now.

  20. I’m a Christian but I like watching R rated movies mostly for the violence and gore I’ve been watching them ever since I was nine and it hasn’t bothered me and my parents never said anything and they even knew about it but I have to say parents are always keeping a close eye on their kids but do you know what they’re doing when you’re not looking

  21. Clearly none of you people read your bibles. Just read about lot and his oversexed daughters. You can’t get any more rated R than that.

  22. Theres a difference between fake violence and real violence. God only mentions the real life violence. God always calls it a violence with evil. I know of 1 Christian in particular that calls everything exciting, violence. I love boxing. Some people think no one should box because of the violence. But, I say, where is the evil in it???
    Cruelty goes hand in hand with violence. Is it really called violence when there is no cruelty in it??? I love violent movies. I like the action. Without the action(violence) its just a bunch of folks standing around talking. I despise nudity, sex,blasphemy,and evil being glorified. But what about video games?

  23. I am as guilty as anyone about watching things I should not have. Sometimes I wonder even if we are blocking things out of movies, should we really still be watching it anyway? We are still supporting the whole film with our purchasing dollars and giving them incentive to make more like it. Some films I really like are Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I can’t see much wrong about them, and they are about defeating evil.

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