Rated “R” Movies and the Bible

I will continue my posts on Bagnall’s book tomorrow; however, today I would like to post about something that comes up all the time in ministry. Let me preface what I am about to say with acknowledging that proper leadership for a young person as they develop (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.) is very necessary. So, I am not suggesting an unfiltered method of parenting or mentoring young people; however, I am asking that we do not ignore the obvious and ask appropriate questions about our relationship with media as we are informed by the Scripture and the Spirit.

It is striking to me the number of adult Christians who vehemently condemn the viewing of rated “R” movies simply because of the rating, but have no problem reading some of the things written in the Bible. So that we’re on the same page, here is the interpretation of the rating system in the U.S.A. according to Wikipedia:

  • E – Exempt from classification. Films that are exempt from classification must not contain contentious material (i.e. material that would ordinarily be rated M or higher).
  • G – General. The content is very mild in impact.
  • PG – Parental guidance recommended. The content is mild, but somewhat moderate in impact.
  • M – Recommended for mature audiences. Parents are strongly cautioned. The content is moderate in impact.
  • MA15+ – Not suitable for persons younger than 15. Persons younger than 15 years must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The content is strong in impact.
  • R18+ – Restricted to adults 18 years and older. The content is high in impact.
  • X18+ – Restricted to adults 18 years and older. Reason is because of pornographical content. No violence nor “fetishes”, including spanking, may be shown (legally may be sold in the ACT and the NT only but may be purchased interstate via mail order). The content is high in impact.
  • RC – Refused Classification. Banned from sale or hire in Australia.

Based on this rating system, I would like to try a little exercise :). I would like to share with you a script. After reading it, classify it according to the rating system above—I’d love to see your rating in the comment section. Here we go:

But he urged them persistently, so they turned aside with him and entered his house. He prepared a feast for them, including bread baked without yeast, and they ate. Before they could lie down to sleep, all the men–both young and old, from every part of the city of Sodom–surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”

Lot went outside to them, shutting the door behind him. He said, “No, my brothers! Don’t act so wickedly! Look, I have two daughters who have never had sexual relations with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do to them whatever you please. Only don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

“Out of our way!” they cried, and “This man came to live here as a foreigner, and now he dares to judge us! We’ll do more harm to you than to them!” They kept pressing in on Lot until they were close enough to break down the door.

So the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house as they shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, from the youngest to the oldest, with blindness. The men outside wore themselves out trying to find the door. Then the two visitors said to Lot, “Who else do you have here? Do you have any sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or other relatives in the city? Get them out of this place because we are about to destroy it. The outcry against this place is so great before the LORD that he has sent us to destroy it.”

So, what do you think? Of course, there a number of passages—some even sketchier than this one—that I could have employed for this exercise. What about the story of Tamar and Judah? What would that look like on the big screen? David and Bathsheba?

It’s true isn’t it? Sometimes even the Bible deserves an “R” rating. Honestly, it is in the “R” rated material that we are oftentimes confronted most firmly with the deceitfulness and sickness of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) as well as the core of what true righteousness and holiness is (who was more righteous, Tamar or Judah?). The crucifixion of our Lord, when accuracy is sought as in Mel Gibson’s film, even landed an “R” rating for violence, but in the violence, we also learn of the love of God, the faithfulness of the Son to the Father, the power the Spirit gives to endure suffering, the weight and magnitude of our sins, and a slew of other things.

So, where do we go from here? What should the Christian’s relationship with the media look like? I have a couple of suggestions, take ’em or leave ’em.

(1) Pornography is not o.k. The purpose of porn is to exploit the lust of the human heart. It destroys people and families. There is no story. The sole purpose is to highlight lawlessness and results in the corruption of one’s sexuality.

(2) Affirm the good, and be warned about the evil. In most cases, isn’t this the writer’s purpose anyway? This is what we do when we read the Scriptures isn’t it? As David traveled down the road of adultery and murder, we are constantly challenged in our spirit to test our own hearts. The same should be true with any film—no matter the rating.

(3) Prepare your young to interpret media. Look, our world has gone hook, line and sinker into the age of media and technology. The prospect of avoiding it—unless one joins an Amish community, a convent, monastery or something of the sort—is highly unlikely. So, what are you, parent, doing in order to teach your young ones to interpret the media? Just as you teach them to interpret the stories and teachings of the Bible, so must you teach your children to interpret the stories that appear on the internet, in the news, on the T.V. and on the silver screen. To cop out by totally cutting off your youth from the media or to allow them to view anything without instruction are two extremes that this youth pastor advises must be avoided.

(4) Rely on the Spirit. You might think I would say, rely on the Scripture. However, even the Scripture needs interpreting. God supplies the follower of Jesus with the Holy Spirit for a number of reasons—one of which is to illuminate and teach the Christian. He is referred to as the Spirit of truth, and Jesus promised that he would lead the Church in his teachings. Trust him.

I hope this has helped to create “level paths” for you so that you are more able to see the glory of God and his great wisdom in how he has communicated to us—those who live in a broken world and stand in need of salvation.

  1. #1 by Bern on August 11, 2010 - 5:49 pm

    I’m with you man – I recently preached to a bunch of lawless kids from the small mining towns of Nevada and got to shock them w/ David and Bathsheba. A lot more of them were living “biblical” lives than they realized…

  2. #2 by Michael Herrington on October 5, 2010 - 3:49 pm

    Been in a discussion on FB with a former student who posted and agrees with this article. Thought you might be interested.

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