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This past week we received an email from a fellow Christian who criticized American Vision's service to families called All American Movies. All American Movies offered a collection of movies to help families to develop a Biblical worldview in an entertaining way. The vision for this service originated with Gary DeMar, the president of American Vision.
In his critical email, this dear brother cites three reasons why American Vision should have nothing to do with movies. First, he believes that owning, watching, or selling movies is sinful. Second, movies are "secular" and are made by sinful and immoral people. Third, Christians should not waste their time with movies and are better off spending their time in prayer and Bible study.
Let's consider his first point—that owning and watching movies are sinful:
I have a conviction that movies, etc. should not be in a Christian's home. Therefore, please take me off of your mailing list.
While he is free to have this conviction, is it Biblical for the rest of us to have this conviction? Are all movies ever made sinful? A father, who is the priest of his home, must be very discerning what he allows his family to see and experience. Movies that glorify immoral behavior or that blaspheme the name of God are obviously not good things for families to watch and have no place in the home. The movies that American Vision offers, however, are excellent teaching tools that teach Biblical principles in a fun and entertaining way.
My family just finished watching Walt Disney's Swiss Family Robinson. This adventure movie is about a shipwrecked family that creates a new life for themselves on a tropical island. The first thing the Robinsons do when they reach the shore is to kneel in prayer and thank God. Throughout the movie, the Robinson family sticks together, works hard, creates something out of nothing, and takes dominion over God's creation. It's a fantastic message for kids. I found that this movie brought what I teach in family devotions to life in a real way to my children.
Let's consider his second point—that movies are "secular" and are made by sinful and immoral people:
"I do not think a Biblically based magazine should be listing such items for sale, and I do not think a Biblically based magazine should be giving reviews of modern, secular movies."
In all sincerity, what is a "secular movie?" What is a "Christian" movie? Is a movie "secular" or "Christian" because of the person who produced or directed it? What if the actors are Christians but the producers are not? Then what? What if a non-Christian produced a powerful Bible movie. Would that make the movie "Christian?" What if a Christian produces a movie that just tells a good moral story but does not give the plan of Salvation? Does that disqualify the movie as "Christian?" You can see how difficult it would be to label a movie as either "secular" or "Christian." The bottom line is that movies cannot be Christian—only people can. There's simply no such thing as a "secular" or "Christian" movie. These are artificial labels.
Doesn't something in your hearts bother you about getting so involved with secular movies? Certainly, even many of the movie stars of the 1940's and since indulged in immoral lives.
I've got news for our brother—we are all sinful and immoral! Just before Christmas, I took my oldest children to see The Nativity Story at the theater. It was incredible. Other than a few very minor points, the movie was accurate to the Bible and told the dramatic story of Jesus' birth in a very real and powerful way. My children and I were moved to glorify God after watching this movie and I recommend that you get the DVD for your family when it is released later this year. About a week later, however, I was told that a certain family refused to see the film because the actress who played Mary was actually pregnant out of wedlock in real life. I couldn't believe it. In other words, because one person was in sin, the whole movie was scrapped.
It is true that some of the actors in the movies we offer led immoral lives. But not all of them. Even so, Christians who take this approach should be consistent and also abstain from reading the Bible. That's right. According to their own standards, they should refrain from reading the Bible because God inspired fallible sinful men to write it. These men were adulterers, murderers, womanizers, etc. If you haven't noticed, the Bible is a very graphic book. Some sections would be sure to get an "R" rating. Did you know that the book of Esther doesn't mention God anywhere? Maybe we should throw it out of the Bible altogether.
Let's consider his third point—that Christians should not waste their time with movies and are better off spending their time in prayer and Bible study.
People should be studying the Scriptures, praying together, etc. instead of wasting that valuable time watching secular movies.
It is true that anything good in life can become idolatrous. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy watching an uplifting and powerful movie with our family on Saturday night. First Corinthians 10:31 teaches us that we can glorify God in all things—even eating and drinking! To say otherwise will lead Christians into a monastic life, which is condemned in the Scripture (1 Tim. 4:3).
When well-meaning Christians get caught up in this kind of pseudo piety, they are actually blind to the real war that is waging all around us. America is caught in a war of the worldviews and Christians need to be fully engaged in order to be obedient to the Great Commission. The movies that American Vision are selling were produced in a society with a predominantly Christian worldview. All of them tell a story that reinforce the truths of Scripture in a vivid way. Do we need movies to teach us the Word of God? No. But the Word of God rightly applied to ALL areas of life and yields wonderful fruit. The Bible should be the foundation for art, film, literature, science, education, politics, law, business, economics, and more.
It is our job to see that the Bible influences and shapes these fields. By running away from them, we are giving ground to the enemy. Gary and I recommend that you visit the web site of a ministry called MovieGuide led by our friend Ted Baehr. MovieGuide is a ministry dedicated to redeeming the values of the mass media according to biblical principles by influencing media executives to adopt higher standards imbued with Christian and traditional family values, and by informing and equipping moral people in America and around the world, especially parents, families and Christians, to make wise media choices based on the biblical worldview.
"To commend those who do right. . ." (1 Peter 2:14); and, "to expose. . . the fruitless deeds of darkness. . ." (Ephesians 5:11). Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." (Phil. 4:8).