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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