Christian morality in films

A relevant and local topic that has come to my attention concerns the entertainment that we, as Christians, consume on a daily basis. What did Paul mean in Philippians 4:8, reminding us to think of things with a certain purity and godliness, and what does that mean in terms of the media we absorb?

First, I must say there is merit in discerning that most modern entertainment is over-sexualized, violent and filled with corrupt morality. However, I’ve become increasingly concerned about how we categorize what is acceptable versus what is impure. Blogs such as “Plugged In” and “Crosswalk” are valuable resources for many discerning parents, but what is their criteria? I’ve noticed there is much to be said about the statistics of a movie, whereas much of the movie’s deeper meaning goes ignored. How many instances of nudity are shown, how many curse words and other questions simply indicate how mild a movie is; would Jesus avoid movies for purely these reasons?

Take, for example, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Many people mentioned they turned the movie off after about a half hour. This movie is graphic, and graphic enough that I do not endorse it. However, for those who have not seen it, the gist is that Jordan (Leonardo DiCaprio) searches with no bounds for fulfillment in life, destroying two marriages and going to jail. He begins happy with a loving wife, healthy ambition and good lifestyle. He ends a broken drug addict, losing everyone around him.

On the other hand, who does not own a copy of “The Notebook?” While containing a touching final segment, this movie is overridden with subtle statements about love that are far from the truth. Fidelity is certainly not valued, and neither is anything present in a practical, loving relationship, such as respect, sacrifice, purity or wisdom. The movie glorifies a woman who has a three-day affair while engaged to another man and even makes an enemy out of a worried mother. It says nothing about the persistence of love while at the same time claiming to do absolutely that with Noah and Allie.

Do not get me wrong: I am not saying “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a more godly movie than “The Notebook.” I would probably agree that “The Notebook” would be better for a family movie night. My aim is to use two of the most extreme examples I can think of to illustrate my point. “The Wolf of Wall Street” has the message that an endless search for pleasure and wealth will ruin your life while “The Notebook” says that your own selfish desires and physical attractions are more important to love than fidelity or purity. “The Notebook” justifies selfishness while “The Wolf of Wall Street” makes a fool of it.

Is there no value in the use of worldly examples in order to make a point against them? Have we begun to value statistics over morals? I believe we should not be too sensitive about superficial details to miss the point of a film: sometimes that point is very godly. We must also be discerning enough to recognize when a film masquerades as standing for something we value but slowly redefines it toward the standards of our modern society.