The question often arises of how Christians should interpret “Christian movies” that contain violence. Whether it is simulated war violence, or verbal assault, people are divided on whether or not they should watch movies that contain these types of strong content.
Let me start by acknowledging that this is a bit of a controversial subject. And I always advise that at the end of the day you need to make the decision that puts your conscience at peace. This is a challenging topic to write on without letting my own personal thoughts or even my own theological tradition have too much influence, but I will do my best to objectively examine this topic in light of the scriptures.
Understanding Violence and Stories Through The Scriptures
In Mathew 6:22-23 Jesus tells us that if our eye is good then we will be filled with light and if our eye is bad, we will be filled with darkness. Many have used this passage of scripture to build a case that we should not view films and other media that contain a lot of violence. You might already think that I disagree with that interpretation, but I don’t.
In fact I’ll go one further and mention Phillipians 4:8 (NKJV)
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Now here is where wisdom needs to be exercised. We need to ask two questions. What is our eye taking in? And what are we meditating on? I think the scripture is fairly plain that we should not let our eyes be filled with violence, nor should we mediate on it. However, that does not mean that we ignore it entirely. Jesus used examples of violence as teaching points throughout the New Testament, both in terms of breaking news and history.
Types of Violence In Christian Movies
Before we go any further, we need to acknowledge that there are different types of violence in Christian movies, but not the types we usually think about. They are entertainment violence, actual violence, and historical violence.
This is physical, verbal, and any other type of violence for the sake of entertainment. This would include everything from the roman coliseum to gory action movies. This is either completely fictional, or fictionalized to make something more entertaining.
These are real events, things that actually happen or happened. There is no major embellishment or creative elements. There is either actual footage, or someone with a firsthand account to describe or confirm the event. This covers things from the evening news to a dramatized scene used to tell part of a story in a film.
Here we are talking about things that are documented in history. These are events that there is no footage of and no remaining witnesses. We can no longer ask someone who was there how it looked or to confirm things. There are records and reports used to recreate moments of the violent accounts in order to tell the story.
I believe that the scriptures teach us that violence for the sake of entertainment is not an appropriate thing for the Christian to focus their eye or their thoughts on. There is so much here in this category that is obscene, hurtful, and without any redeeming value or purpose. However, the examples given by Jesus teach us that we cannot ignore or completely turn our eyes away from actual or historical violence. What happens is real, and there may be an appropriate time to tell that story.
Violence in Bible Movies and Beyond
For example, if Bible movies contain violent scenes that accurately represent the scripture, should they be ignored? Or if the life of a missionary saw great violence, should we not view a film that tells that story visually? We cannot ignore truth because it contains violent acts. However, we do have a right and a charge to test and judge the way a story is told.
Whether a film is fictional or a True Story Christian Movie, if elements of violence are embellished beyond what actually occurred or what is necessary to appropriately tell the story then we should strongly consider whether or not we should view it. There are some very violent religious movies being made these days, some of which may be acceptable but others do more harm than good. Excessive violence is something that undoubtedly makes its way into our thoughts, and if we begin to meditate on it then we know we have gone too far.
Keeping Our Conscience Pure
Everyone needs to pray and examine their own conscience in deciding what degree of violence is too strong for them, how much realism, how much embellishment, and how often such films are viewed. Keep in mind; some accounts within the scriptures are quite violent and gruesome. I would actually not recommend reading these passages too often because eventually they will cause your mind and heart to dwell and meditate on things that are not pure, praiseworthy, and lovely. There is violence in the scriptures that we are supposed to know about, but the same Bible teaches us not be preoccupied with that violence.
We cannot ignore violence or completely exclude it from ears, eyes, and thoughts. But at the same time, we must still guard our heart with all diligence because out of it spring the issues of life.
In His Service,
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