Rated Argh!

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I recently had a discussion with one of the older members of my youth group present where we discussed the movie Schindler’s List.   I said that movie was one of the very few movies I’ve ever seen in which the sex scenes were valuable to the story-line, and that I felt weren’t a barrier to me watching.  She seemed a bit shocked that I would say something like that.  So did several others (everyone else was an adult), and I felt myself trying to back out of the rhetorical corner I had put myself in.  I don’t feel that I did a good job of explanation.  Maybe I’ll do better here.

First off, I concede that a very valid and well thought out rebuttal could be made to everything I am about to say, and I don’t feel that this is a philosophical hill that I am prepared to die on.  But I do feel that what I said had validity, and I do stand behind my point.

Most of the Christian reaction to sex scenes stems from two things.  First, most movies contain sex scenes that are designed only to titillate.  Whole summer blockbusters are often created just for the possibility that teenagers might spend money to see their favorite star mostly naked, and hear graphic talk about sex.  I would firmly agree with the Christians who are against that.  Heck, I would lead the charge.

The second reason is a bit less reasoned, though.  In much of unspoken Christian theology is the idea that sexual sins are worse than other sins.  While there is a defining element to sexual sin that makes it very insipid, there is no biblical allusion to sex being worse than any other sin.  In fact, most of it is vestigial from Catholic doctrine of original sin being passed through sexual contact in procreation.  In short, Mary must have been a virgin because otherwise Jesus would have been born sinful already.  Further, Mary must have been born of a virgin, otherwise her sin would have passed to Jesus.

Because of this theological fallacy, and the inherent personal nature of sex, many Christians view sex on film as being the thing that makes a movie particularly unwatchable.  But gross violence is often an afterthought.  Coarse language?  Not a big deal.  Violent crime…eh…OK.  But sex, NO WAY!

The fact that Schindler’s List depicts the horrific murder of over 6 million people, and uses actual footage in many cases was never shocking in my conversation the other night.  But when I mentioned that there were 2 sex scenes, looks of horror were shared.  This does not make sense to me, the more I think about it.

There is another step that we must take in looking at all of this.  For the Christian, watching a movie cannot be merely an exercise in entertainment.  We have a mandate to connect the story of our lives, others’ lives, and all of humanity, with God’s story of redemption.  We are committed to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19-20).  We must look at a movie like Schindler’s List and see God’s ever-reaching arms.  There are many movies that I have A-little desire to see and B-little desire to try and connect to that story of redemption, but any good story that isn’t pure trash I feel differently about.  Schindler’s List is one of those movies.

The sex scenes in that movie show a deeply flawed man, who is moving through a process of learning to see the great value in these people who are being treated as vermin by those around him.  Could those scenes show the same thing without being graphic at all, probably.  But the same could be said about telling the story without showing people being gassed to death, or cremated en mass.

I would never recommend a child see such a movie, simply because the themes are far too mature.  But there are many real life things that adults should know about that I don’t think little children should.  I think that adults should know of genocide in Rwanda, or Terrorist attacks on buses of Israeli school children.  The story of Oskar Schindler is a true story, an adult story, and ultimately a story that helps reveal a little of the heart of God.   -Ryan

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5 Replies to “Rated Argh!”

  1. I was in a similar argument about the Dark Knight recently 🙂 I think, overall, that people need to take Romans 14 to heart, and not judge people that have different convictions. People miss the part in Romans 14:1 where Paul clearly says that eating veggies versus meat is just one example of how we should not pass judgment on disputable matters. The movies people watch are something that I would put in that category. I don’t hold it against someone if they have different standards than me. But I do have a few thoughts on some things.

    (I know, shocking….)

    As far as sexual sin, there is I Corinthians 6:8-20 that seems to put sexual sins in a different category than other sins. I have discussed the theology of “all sin is the same in the sight of God” with quite a few people that have solid, Biblical reasons for not agreeing with that line of thought. So, if you don’t believe that all sin is the same to God, then I Corinthians 6 and a few others would put sexual sins in a worse light. Not that I necessarily agree with that, but it is just the other side of the issue.

    As far as movie content, personally I think that sex/nudity and cursing are slightly different than violence, anger, rage, etc. When there is violence in movies, it is mostly fake. Fights, anger, rage, etc are usually carefully choreographed and played out so that they are usually not very real to the people that are doing them. This was the argument that I was in – someone felt that watching the fight scenes in The Dark Knight was equal to committing those sins in our hearts for everyone. To me, I am usually rating those scenes to see how realistic they are.

    But when someone cusses, they cuss. They might be acting, but the word was said, and we usually think it in our hearts (if not repeat it out of our mouths). When there is a nude scene, there is no faking the nudity. You see it. The Bible is pretty clear that uncovering a person’s nakedness is a shame and a sin. There is just no way around the fact that you are seeing something you shouldn’t. They may not be actually having sex up there, but if you see them nude, that is it. The Bible paints it as shame for both those that are nude and those that see the nudity. Even if you can somehow remove lust out of the equation, the nakedness remains. Along with the knowledge of good and evil came the shame of being nude in front of anyone other than our spouse.

    I will also say that I have seen Schindler’s List many times and would watch it again. I have seen it with many Christians and non-Christians, and most all of them made some comment about those sex scenes being totally pointless. I have always gotten the impression that most people thought they were totally about titillation. But that is just my limited experience with it.

  2. I understand your point. My point though, is not that sexual sin isn’t bad, or violence, or cussing. My point is that watching someone sin on TV or a movie is not tantamount to your sinning. That was a big reason that I thought Schindler’s List was special. The sex scenes are not designed to be titillating, and I would be really worried about someone who found them so. The scenes are designed to show that he was a selfish and self-indulgent man, who at times used these women around him.

    I see your point about sex in movies as being sinful for the actor/actress possibly in a way that is different than a choreographed fight scene (although possibly not). I think that possibly in God’s eyes, the real sin is desensitizing others (particularly the young) to cussing, violence, and sex. Even more than showing something scandalous, the downplaying of things like murder, taking God’s name in vain, and sex into something of pure entertainment (and I would say that goes double for the sex) might be the worst part. Isn’t teaching someone how to sin maybe different in God’s eyes than just doing it yourself? There is scripture to back that up…millstone anyone? But, I am not God, nor can I see through His eyes.

    But in many ways, Schindler’s List is a morality play of sorts. Its intent is in exploring how such a horrible thing could happen, and how such a horrible person could be changed in the face of atrocity. Watching the sins of others in this case shows me what horrible things are done.

    I watched a documentary with Peichi the other night about the “Sewer people of Bogota.” I am not going to go too far into it, but it was gross and horrible. It told of atrocities and murder, drug abuse, and disease. Watching it didn’t make me want to go out and live in a sewer, kill people who do, or do drugs. It gave me a deeper sense of compassion for those people. In the same way, Schindler’s List did not make me want to go out and kill Jews, or hide Jews in my garage (funny mental picture going on now), or have sex with young Jewish factory workers.

    P.S. -The issue of 1 Cor 6 is quite a nuanced one. Some of it, has to do more with the physical consequence of sin than it does the severity in God’s eyes. If I tell a lie, I might get a friend mad at me. If I go out and murder someone, I will be in jail for the rest of my life. The repercussions of the two acts are different, one vastly more severe. That does not mean that one is more sinful in God’s eyes. On one hand, I would think that He must look at it as different. On the other, all is open rebellion to the creator (something I’m pretty good at) and deserves death and eternal separation from God. Lying is worthy of death, if I murder does God give me 2 death sentences? If I have meaningless casual sex, am I in danger of the triple death sentence? I guess He could kill me, resurrect me, and do it again, but I doubt that is what He’s going for (ridiculous hyperbole intended).

  3. “My point though, is not that sexual sin isn’t bad, or violence, or cussing. My point is that watching someone sin on TV or a movie is not tantamount to your sinning.”

    That was my point, too, actually. I you go back and re-read some of what I commented, I would point out in many places where I was quoting what others believe, not necessarily myself, or I was using words like “slightly” to indicate a thought that I lean towards, not necessarily a major theological point.

  4. Hi guys!

    “Watching the sins of others in this case shows me what horrible things are done.”

    I agree, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok for me to tolerate what I am witnessing and accept it as part of the story. Of course, sin is part of my story as a person in life, but that makes me wrong. I can’t be ok with the things I have done even though they have been a part of my life.

    Then what about cussing and everything else? Same thing goes. Well, all movies have bad stuff in it right? Pretty much.

    My point in all of this is that it’s wrong for actors/actresses to sin (whether they are Christian or not) so that we can understand a story better. I know the movie might not have as much of an impact as it would if the scene wasn’t in the movie, but to me, that’s much better than to condescend someone’s integrity, even though the actor is willing. Just because someone is actually sinning in a movie to portray the story, it’s may not encourage me to do the same… like you have said… but at the same time, it is still wrong and I should not accept what the actors do to be right. There is no tolerance for sin. I can’t be ok with WATCHING what they are doing… especially sex, which involves nudity (even if no sin is more putrid than another) but like Matt said, it is as if it’s different and surely different than fight scenes. I wouldn’t watch people do it in real life, so why would I on tv?

    I agree with many things you have said Ryan, but I don’t think we will be agreeing on this.

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