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Thursday, February 11, 2010
Then it comes to be that the soothing light
At the end of your tunnel
Was just a freight train comin' your way
A few years ago, I heard a testimony on the radio from a Teen Challenge graduate talking about how he was listening to Metallica's song "Nothing Else Matters" (which, by the way, is one of the greatest songs of all-time, in my opinion... see for yourself here) and how that song led him to realize that the only thing that matters in life was getting his life right before God.

Fast forward to one day this week when I happened to hear another Metallica song, "No Leaf Clover," on the radio, which is where the lyrics above come from. It struck me as I listened to the song that unbelievers are exactly in this position... they can see death as a "soothing light" at the end of the tunnel of their life, but Christians know that it is rather the "freight train" of God's final judgment for those who aren't in Christ.

Now, I am under no illusion that Metallica intended these songs to lead their listeners to deep thoughts about God ("Nothing Else Matters" was written for one band member's girlfriend, in fact). But that is exactly the point of this post which I'll now get to: redeeming that which may be intended as worldly, shallow, or sinful into that which is spiritual, deep, and pure.

Recently, I was taken to task by a Christian couple for promoting the movie "The Book of Eli." The reason: the movie included significant violence and had a single profanity (G-damn) in it. Furthermore, it was their view that Christians should do as Ray Comfort suggests and boycott all movies with any profanity in them, along with movies that depict violence or other sin. The Scriptural proof-text they used for support was Philippians 4:8.

Now, at first blush, they have a point. And I readily agree that certain movies are pretty much worthless as viewing material for Christians (the current spate of obnoxiously crude comedies come to mind). However, to follow the logic that anything that depicts sin is wrong to watch is to conclude that we should stop reading large parts of the Bible, because it shows some particularly gross sin or violence. For example, David's sin with Bathsheba. Or Israel's genocide of whole tribes, women and children included (I'm not saying that this was sin on Israel's part, but that it involved terrible violence).

Just as the Bible needs to be read within its genre and message, so too must movies and books be viewed with the genre in mind, as well as the message behind them. Is a movie trying to tell a story or glorify sin? There is a difference. For instance, the film "To End All Wars" is one of the most powerful modern-day representations of what sacrificially loving others looks like in an extreme context, yet it shows violence (and probably a few curse words, I don't recall). As a whole, the movie points the viewer to Christ. But if we followed the demands mentioned above, then this movie would be off-limits to Christians. Just this week, Christianity Today released their list of the ten "most redeeming films of 2009." By "redeeming," CT means this:
We mean movies that include stories of redemption—sometimes blatantly, sometimes less so. Several of our films have characters who are redeemers themselves; all of them have characters who experience redemption to some degree—some quite clearly, some more subtly. Some are "feel-good" movies that leave a smile on your face; some are a bit more uncomfortable to watch. But the redemptive element is there in all of these films.
Isn't it possible to watch movies and read books with an eye on the main message, similar to how we read the Bible?

Furthermore, as I alluded to at the beginning of this post, can there not also be a second principle at work beyond the "does the movie tell a redeeming story while not glorifying sin?" standard? Can we not also watch movies, listen to music (even Metallica!), and read books that are not intended to be particularly spiritually uplifting yet, because of the principle found in Philippians 4:8, still think on "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable?" Obviously, there are limits to this principle, just as there are limits to all freedoms in Christ. After all, "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial." Finding those limits is best left between each of us and our Savior. To some, Ray Comfort's standard may be the only option. To others, taking in a film like "To End All Wars" or "Braveheart" may lead them to a deeper appreciation of God's glory and His creation. Only, "each one should be fully convinced in his own mind."

I'll leave you with an example from my favorite film of all-time, "A Simple Plan." Without spoiling the plot, the movie shows what happens when people make money or possessions into an idol, how one relatively "harmless" crime or sin can lead to the destruction of many lives, and the value of contentment in life. However, it does so while employing plenty of profane or obscene language and a good dose of violence. Sounds a bit like the story of Achan in the book of Joshua, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary just posted this video of a group discussion on Christians and pop culture. It's worth a listen.


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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

Darius Teichroew's favorite books »