Movie Night: Are Your Kids Prepared?
Our family loves movies – our sons like to take their mother to opening nights, and we have a local theater that runs popular films a couple months later at bargain prices – great for a large family!
The two hour feature film is like a literary form of its own, and there are powerful messages that come through the big screen. Parents are right to be concerned whether their kids are being exposed to inappropriate behaviors, bad language, and drug use, there are other things playing in the stories on screen. We need to be watching out for more than just “the d- word” and whether the main characters glamorize smoking.
When you sit down for an evening’s entertainment, have you prepared your kids to watch the screen through a Christian worldview?
We learned a useful way to think about it from Francis Schaeffer’s essay, Art and the Bible. Every piece of art communicates an idea – it has a message, whether it’s a clearly stated moral or simply a feeling it creates. And every piece of art expresses the skill of the artist – the technique or artistry, if you will.
Sometimes we find a thing with a good message that is poorly produced. It may be a good story with clumsy actors or a useful book which was badly printed. Often we’ll overlook the shortcomings because the content is so good.
The difficulty comes when a bad message is packaged in very good art.
One of our teachers was at the public library one day when a very proper elderly lady returned a scandalous novel. The librarian raised an eyebrow and said, “Why, Miss Johnson! I wouldn’t have thought you would read this?” The older lady blushed and stammered, “Well … ahem … it’s very beautifully written!”
It happens all the time! And the danger is that good art can distract us from the danger of a bad message, and the catchy tunes or exciting special effects may encourage us to accept the underlying message even if we know it’s not true. We don’t want to fill up our minds with bad ideas, even if they come in attractive colors with a really great musical score.
So whenever we watch something with the kids – or by ourselves! – we always ask, What’s the message?
There may be more than one “message” but you can be sure there’s at least one. What is the author, singer, or director telling you about the world, about life, about people, about God?
Then we always follow up, Is it true?
Some things are open for personal tastes and opinions or your family’s “house rules,” like “I don’t eat broccoli” or “Dogs should sleep in the garage,” for example.
But the Bible tells us some rules just aren’t negotiable. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” doesn’t come with an escape hatch. A movie which glorifies a man’s choice to leave his wife and family and live happily ever after with a mistress is simply a bad message. It’s untrue. God doesn’t give us “happily ever after” as the reward for breaking His clear commandment, and in fact warns that there are terrible consequences to sin.
Schaeffer pointed out that we can recognize talent even when it’s misused, and we shouldn’t reject every work of art because it doesn’t share an evangelistic message or portray a story from the Bible. The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains (1 Corinthians 10:26, NASB), and art which shows the beauty and awesomeness of creation, or honestly portrays the complexity of man, or communicates the patterns and order of God’s designs, or affirms the concepts of truth, compassion, and justice, may bring Him glory – even if the artist didn’t intend it!
But always remember Paul’s instructions, “Test all things; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thesssalonians 5:21-22, NKJV).
So when you go to the movies, be sure and ask yourself – is this good art? With a good message? Or is it something else? And why?
Hal and Melanie
Photo Credit: Cinema seat – andraberila / Pixabay
We like to take a good look at some of the movies families with boys are likely to see. Check out our recent reviews:
The Good Dinosaur
Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
The Finest Hours