I love going to the movies. It all started when my dad took me as a 3-year-old to go see the Original Star Wars. I lasted a total of about 10 minutes in the theater because when I saw those Jawas, I was done. I don’t remember it too much but I might as well have seen Freddie Kruger on the big screen. Of course, my next few movie experiences were all Disney flicks which warmed me up to the fun of the whole movie theater experience. By the time The Empire Strikes Back came around, I was pumped. Lucky for me, most of the Jawas had been killed off and the only thing that tested my resolve was that roaring Wampa that attacked Luke in the opening scene. After seeing that movie, like most other young kids growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I was hooked on Star Wars. I remember the frenzy leading up to Return of the Jedi. I couldn’t wait to go see it. There was one small hitch though. After the movie came out someone had told my parents of an “inappropriate” part in the movie. I remember my parents debating whether or not to let us see the movie. My brother and I begged and pleaded to go. We couldn’t fathom anything inappropriate in a Star Wars movie, I mean I remember Han Solo saying a swear word in the first movie, but my mom just gave a disapproving tsk and we all kind of moved on watching it. My parents finally settled on letting us go, but we had to cover our eyes when they told us. All went smoothly, but I never fully understood my parent’s movie dilemma until I became a parent.
Become a parent changes how you view movies. I could care less about the rating from Hollywood. They mean nothing to me. In determining whether a movie is appropriate for my kids or not, my wife and I have two simple ratings: safe or corruptable. A movie is either safe for my kids to watch or it will corrupt their malleable brains. Now that we have the overwhelming responsibility to determine which movies are safe, we are constantly looking them up on sites like pluggedin.com or screenit.com. So how do I determine whether or not a movie is safe for my kids? I tend to start with the two obvious categories as an American Christian: language and sexual content. If a movie has any of those in it, we just cross them off the list as a movie that we’ll take our kids to. I think most Christian parents probably do the same kind of thing, but I think we’ve simplified the process too much. Are we really doing a good job of protecting our kids, as well as preparing them to discern right from wrong?
I got an e-mail a couple of days ago that made me ask some deeper questions about what determines a “safe” movie for Christian parents to take their kids. I get an e-newsletter every week from some Christian group that rates movies. I have no idea how they got my e-mail, but the authors of this e-mail newsletter grade movies from a +4 to -4. A +4 is a great movie to take your family to, and anything in the realm of a negative isn’t recommended. I usually don’t spent too much time reading it, but I’m sure they judge a movie based on such things as language, sexual content, inappropriate behavior, violence etc. I saw in their latest publication that the new movie ‘The Lorax’, an adaptation from a Dr. Seuss book got a -1 review. My interest piqued and I actually read their review. It turns out that the negative rating came from the belief that the movie promoted environmentalism and attacked capitalism. Now I’ve not seen this movie yet, but there are some things that struck a chord with me after reading that review.
Is the lens we view movies, and even bigger than that, view all of life, through the Biblical worldview? Is a movie not appropriate for Christians because it allegedly teaches anti-capitalism beliefs? Now let me say something clearly, I think capitalism is good. There’s a lot of good qualities about that particular monetary philosophy, but it is not good in and of itself. It is good because it teaches certain things that the Bible teaches: personal property, hard work, and earning what you deserve based on your labor. But there are truths that the Bible teaches like generosity, contentment, and sacrifice that are not necessarily intrinsic to capitalism. There are even dangers that can creep into capitalism like greed. Likewise, environmentalism is viewed negatively by most evangelical Christians, because the proponents of that worldview end up worshiping the creation and not the Creator. Yet are there not certain truths within that philosophy that are taught in Scripture? Principles of stewardship, and taking care of God’s creation should also be important to the Christian. Teaching our kids the redeeming qualities of these different philosophies will invariably show them that God’s Word trumps all man-made systems. It lays the foundation in their thinking that Scripture needs to be their authority.
I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t take your kid to go see the movie ‘The Lorax’. What I do think we should do is be ready to talk about the world views of every movie we see with our kids. We need to be diligent to show our kids the subtle messages of the cultural stories of their day and filter them through the lens of Scripture. Point out the redeeming aspects of the story as well as untruthful ones. Above all, teach your kids how to think.
Stories are powerful tools that shape hearts and minds. Let’s make sure we let God’s Story trump every story we pay $5 to go see with our kids.