I am also struck by how Christian talk of cultural engagement has coincided with a watering-down of Christian standards of behavior and, ironically, thought. I have lost count of how many times I have been told in recent years that Christians should be able to watch any movie, providing they do so with a critical, Christian eye. There are several obvious problems with that kind of statement. For a start, such a categorical, sweeping statement has little, if any, scriptural or exegetical foundation and indeed seems not to take any account of texts such as Mt. 5: 27-30, Eph. 5: 1-3, Phil. 4: 8, etc. Second, even those making the case rarely mean exactly what they say: ask them if Christians can therefore watch child pornography, and none that I have spoken to have been prepared to go that far, except in the necessary cases of those professionally involved in the detection and prosecution of paedophile crime. No, Christians shouldn’t watch child porn, they’ll say; but the problem, of course, is that definitions of what is and is not pornography, even child pornography, are changing all the time and are driven, by and large, by the wider culture which increasingly mainstreams such material. Witness the new Kate Winslet movie, involving a sex scene between her character and a fifteen year old boy. Specious distinctions involving the actual age of the actor notwithstanding, it is arguably child pornography. Frankly, there are films rated PG-13 today which my grandparents would have considered as porn. Is the standard of what is and is not obscene set by biblical truth or by cultural accommodation? Talk of `Christians can watch anything as long as they do it critically’ is as daft, unbiblical, soft-headed, ill-thought-out, and confused as anything one is likely to come across. In fact, I have a suspicion that for some it might simply function as a rationalization for watching whatever they like and not having to feel guilty about it, the Christian voyeur’s equivalent of the `I only do screen nudity and sex when the script demands it’ excuse of so many `serious’ actresses whose bank balances have been boosted by the occasional flash of on-screen flesh.
What an excuse for a Christian to use! “It’s ok to watch this terrible stuff because I am resisting the ideas it represents”. That’s simply not true. This article was convicting primarily because I saw Grand Torino yesterday and I honestly should have left. The racism was so terrible that it would have been better for our souls to not have watched it. I feel guilty because during the movie I was led to ask my friend if she wanted to leave, but I didn’t speak up. Praise God that this is a godly grief that is leading me to repentance, but it is still a grief. May I be more faithful to Gods leading going forward.