On June 7, 2003, Devin Moore entered a Fayette, Alabama police station on suspicion of stealing a car. He had no criminal history, and showed no signs of agressive behavior. Then, inexplicably, he snapped. Grabbing a police officer’s gun, he proceeded to shoot and kill three people. All three were shots to the head. After being captured, Devin Moore said this, “Life is like a video game. Everybody’s got to die sometime.” Moore spent hours upon hours playing Grand Theft Auto, a video game that has sold millions of copies and grossed over $2 billion.
This is an extreme example of an important truth: your life is shaped by what you allow into your mind and heart. Relationships. Movies. Books. Video Games. All of these impact the person you are currently and the person you will be in the future. Neurologist Dr. Richard Pellegrino said it this way, “You can pour messages in and if you pour the wrong messages in, they take a particular power – more than the listener understands.”
If you don’t believe videos and music shape your mind, consider the companies who cut $3 million checks for a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. Three million…for thirty seconds?! That’s crazy unless these companies are confident that showing you a glimpse of their product will influence your mind and increase their revenue.
Last night, I couldn’t sleep thinking about this. You see, I’m not sure Christians approach any other issue with as much apathy and passivity as they do with their entertainment choices. This is puzzling when you consider the potential entertainment has to shape our lives. Are we desensitized? Are we rebelling against the uber-conservatives who believe any movie, song, etc. is a work of Satan?
And, if we’re rebelling, I get it. On a list of things I dislike most, the “movies are a work of Satan” crowd comes in at number three, behind cats and green bean baby food. Movies and music aren’t bad. In fact, the opposite is true. They are good gifts from God. They can reveal powerful qualities of redemption and truths about God. They can help you see God’s creation in new ways.
This post isn’t my attempt to convince you movies are evil. It is a call to see the importance of intentionality and discernment. It’s a call to stop swinging on a pendulum from “almost everything goes” to “all movies are from Satan.” It’s a call to embrace the “gray area.” It’s in this area that you must deal with your heart and motives.
Should I watch this? Here are 7 questions to help you answer that question.
1.) Does this movie or show celebrate sin and make righteousness look strange?
For years, I heard, “You’re sinning if you watch a rated-R movie.” Then, Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of the Christ, and it was rated…wait for it…R. How could this be?
The Bible is littered with sin, from cover to cover (excluding, of course Genesis 1-2). In fact, if the Bible were made into a film, the rating would probably be worse than R. I mean, really, how would you even film the scene in Judges 19-21?
But, here’s what the Bible never does. It NEVER celebrates sin. It NEVER champions sin, making it look normal. It NEVER paints righteousness as strange, boring, or something only for Class A losers. This is the opposite of many (not all) movies and shows. The coolest people have the most sex. The most popular people degrade others. It’s normal to betray your friends to get what you want. And when someone tries to do the right thing, they are often painted as close-minded, killjoys whose sole purpose is to rob everyone of fun.
The presence of sin in a movie isn’t grounds to dismiss it. If that’s your filter, dismiss the Bible as well. The question that needs to be asked is, “Does this movie celebrate sin?”
2.) Am I intentionally looking for truth about God?
Several months ago, I watched a documentary about the “Fab Five.” The show wasn’t about God. It was about five freshmen at the University of Michigan who turned the college basketball world upside down in the early 90s. The show was fascinating regardless, but when I saw it through a gospel lens, I noticed some truths about how people create movements. They build community. They stand firm in their values. They celebrate one another. They take risks. These are all truths from God. Truths that these five freshmen used to change college basketball.
If you approach movies and TV with a gospel lens, truths about God will jump off the screen and into your heart. Doing this also focuses your mind on the positive, so when the movie is over, the images that stick aren’t ones of brokenness and sin, but goodness and beauty.
I believe, as Christians, this is an important layer when it comes to consuming movies, music, etc. But it requires intentionality.
3.) Does this feed a struggle or temptation?
Two years ago, while battling an addiction to porn, I made the decision to cut movies, TV, and music, unless they explicitly glorified God. I made this decision because my mind needed a detox. I struggled mightily with lust, and any image of a woman wearing slightly less than normal was a temptation. I firmly believe that decision played a major role in my recovery, and ultimately my freedom, from addiction.
The question isn’t “Can you watch this or listen to that?” the question is “Should you watch it?” Some movies might portray truth, but contain scenes that feed a struggle in your life.
If you struggle with lust, it’s not a wise decision to watch movies that tempt you to lust. The same is true if you struggle with cynicism, bitterness, or anger.
4.) Will this alter how I view reality?
Movies are fake. They might be portraying a true story, but the characters are still fake. That’s important. Here’s why. An incredibly dangerous by-product of consuming too many movies, shows, and music, is how their “fake-ness” distorts reality.
Take Devin Moore. Hours of playing a video game shaped his mind to believe killing police officers was ok. After all, “Everybody’s got to die sometime.” Three police officers would be enjoying life today if not for the effects of a video game on the human mind.
The same could be said for other issues. Marriage is often painted as a “happily ever after” or “you complete me” relationship. Reality says another human will never complete you and marriage is often a struggle (but well worth it). Love is often painted as an emotional, passionate feeling towards someone. Reality says love is a decision and a commitment. I wonder how many marriages fail because someone jumps into a relationship believing a person will complete them. I wonder how many people never experience intimacy in a relationship because they equate love with emotions and feelings?
Let’s remember this. Movie producers aren’t interested in portraying the truth. They’re interested in selling tickets.
If you’re always discontent, you could have an unhealthy level of entertainment consumption.Click to tweet
If you’re always discontent, struggle to build healthy relationships, or would rather be the lead character in your favorite movie than play the lead role in your own life, maybe your consumption of movies is unhealthy.
5.) Would I watch this if it happened in my living room?
Events and circumstances become more real to you as you move closer to them. For example, a million pictures of orphans in China won’t impact your life the way flying to China and seeing those orphans personally will. I would rather see Tiffani for a day than look at dozens of different pictures of her for months.
So, if you’re struggling with whether a movie celebrates sin, ask yourself this question: If it happened in my living room, would I watch it?
6.) Is this the BEST use of my time?
How you spend your time is a stewardship issue. The trendy phrase is “redeeming the time.” What you call it doesn’t matter, the important thing is that you understand God will hold you accountability for how you use your time.
So, although entertainment is inherently good, the real issue becomes how you use God’s good gift. Are you using it to wind down and refresh your mind? Are you looking for elements of God’s character? Are you consuming it in excess? Are you watching it to fill your selfish pleasures?
These questions matter. And there’s no cut-and-dry answer, unless, of course, you’re binge-watching thirty episodes of Breaking Bad. Hard to justify that. What’s entertainment and refreshment for me might be gluttony and filling of selfish pleasures for you. So, you must examine your heart and check your motives.
7.) Am I watching this because I am bored?
Boredom, in essence, is a lack of interest or apathy with your current situation. In my teenage years, I experienced boredom quite often. But, in the last several years, I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve said, “I’m bored.”
Here’s why. I’m doing work that I love. I enjoy getting up every day. I love ministering to the next generation. I love writing. I love spending time with my family. Here’s another way to say it: I’m living out my purpose and doing meaningful work.
You see, boredom is a product of over-consumption and/or laziness. You won’t hear world-changers say they’re bored very often. They’re too busy doing meaningful work. They’re too busy impacting lives. You see, the remedy to boredom isn’t to consume more. The remedy is to create something. Do something meaningful.
I love this question because it reminds you that God created you for a purpose. He didn’t create you to simply exist. He created you to…create. So, next time you’re bored, rather than running to Netflix or the local movie theater, try doing something meaningful.
When it comes to the movies you watch, intentionality and purpose must factor in the equation. “I probably shouldn’t watch it, but…,” “I’m trying to relate to my non-Christian friends,” or “It’s harmless entertainment” aren’t sufficient answers. Neither is “I just don’t watch movies or TV.”
This isn’t THE guide for choosing which movies to watch. It’s an open door for discussion. What you allow into your mind shapes your life. Let’s consider that as we choose how we consume any form of entertainment.
What do you think? How should Christians approach entertainment? Leave a comment below.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!