MOVIES: You gotta ask: is this what God wants for you?
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) -- During the month of January, the Cineplex usually becomes the dumping ground for movies that were decidedly not Oscar contenders. Sometimes Hollywood's discards populate the theaters during the months of February and March, as well. But this year a new trend has begun. Everything released this past few weeks has been rated R. Now, I will attend R-rated films in service to you if I believe they contain a profundity that outweighs the profanity, potent plundering, or passionate procreativity. But R-rated shoot-em-ups or crude comedies? Forget about it.
-- "Bullet to the Head": A New Orleans hitman and a New York City cop form an alliance to bring down the killers of their respective partners. Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use
-- "Stand Up Guys": Old ex-cons go up against a mob boss. R for language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use.
-- "Girls Against Boys": a naïve college student is tormented by several men in a matter of days; she reaches her breaking point and is drawn into a co-worker's twisted plan for gruesome revenge. R for violence, some sexual content/nudity and language.
-- "The Haunting in Connecticut 2": Horror thriller about a family who move into a haunted house. R for some disturbing horror content (and I suspect language and other content the MPAA failed to mention).
-- "Hansel & Gretel, Witch Hunters": R for strong fantasy violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language.
You get the idea? Believe me, I could go on and on.
Movies have steadily become more violent, more graphic and certainly cruder with each passing year. Does this desensitizing material harm our collective psyche? Look around.
As our society becomes more secularized (a polite word for it), the nation's entertainment mediums reflect and standardize these deviant practices.
Violence has become so excessive that it would be better defined as torture porn, with audiences flocking to see zombie heads hacked off by everyone from kids to that Great Emancipator/vampire hunter himself, Abe Lincoln. Comedies are now dredged up from the sewer, the style being a kind of "I-can't-believe-I-just-saw-that" raucousness that replaces witty life observations or zany slapstick.
Just as the political and social landscapes are a-changin', we now find Hollywood more emboldened to make a film's content as influential as the picture's artistic or technical merits. (Ever see a Quentin Tarantino film? He's a good filmmaker, but his stories are generally more content-driven.)
Will the pendulum ever swing back, providing moviegoers with gentler film content? It would be naïve to think so. Unlike Washington, D.C., which sways from conservative to liberal every decade or so depending on populous pressure, the movie capital of the world feels no compulsion to examine moral and social standards, unless to defend the lifestyles once condemned in Sodom and Gomorrah.
It isn't going to change, folks. Rather than using their art form to lift up and edify, most residents of Tinseltown will continue to aim their themes and visuals at our baser instincts. They're not in the spirit-building business. Hollywood is a boredom-killing amusement park for an industry perpetuated by fear and ego -- and anti-biblical agendas.
Harsh words, I know. My righteous indignation (not self-righteous, I hope) stems from a frustration that began with Christian-bashing gone wild in "Chocolat" (the film and its director seemed bent on challenging not just the foibles of Christians, but of Christianity itself), "Saved" (while generously serving up depictions of Christian shortcomings, Saved never gave a portrait of a truly devout follower of Christ), "Easy A" (I can't remember a film being so vitriolic in its attack on members of the Christian faith), and "Religulous" (in this scathing documentary, Bill Maher stressed "Religion must die so mankind can live"). How many of these assaults must we Christians endure in the name of entertainment? And by the way, these people are pointing a finger at us, telling the world that people of faith are the problem, not the solution to their ills.
And now, despite the hypocritical rally to control gun ownership by performers who make their living via violent movies, there's this glut of R-rated "action-adventures" that attempt to out-shoot and out-stimulate one another.
So, what do we who are attempting to reverence God do?
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. ..." In Paul's letter to the Ephesians the apostle instructs, "Put on the full armor of God." Isn't that instruction just as applicable to how we entertain ourselves as to how we conduct the rest of our lives?
More important than keeping the world's perspective out is to get biblical instruction in. The Bible is a guidepost that keeps us in harmony with the Heavenly Father and with our fellow man. But we live in an era when we let the media, rather than Scripture, teach us. We've become Bible illiterate.
Too bad, because by studying Scripture we gain an understanding of the nature of God. What's more, knowing biblical principles helps us see through any ungodly standards that creep into our daily lives.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
-- Can I see through the propaganda of the media?
-- Do I believe the Bible to truly be the Word of God?
-- Do I study His word? (Have you asked God to reveal himself through its chapters and verses?)
-- Am I armed with the armor of God? (If not, you can't effectively witness or maintain a peace in your soul.)
-- Is my support of a film or TV program going to affect my witness?
-- If Jesus were standing next to me, would I go see that film? (He is right there, you know.)
Oh, there's a culture war, all right. And we're not instructed by Christ to remain on the backlines. Even conscientious objectors have to get involved in this battle.
Though she was ridiculed by some for the catch phrase, "Just Say No," Nancy Reagan made a simple declaration that, if adhered to, would save lives. If a significant amount of moviegoers would not attend R-rated movies, guess who'd stop making R-rated movies? You got it -- everyone in the industry. So, here's the new catch phrase for films that assault or offend: "Just Don't Go."
In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org. He is also a regular contributor to "The World and Everything In It," a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ().