July 7, 2014
A proposed primer for how discerning Christians can think about films that are sexually provocative.
Thanks for posting this piece and asking such important questions. I think this discussion is one that is entirely worthy. For me, personally, I always think what will I gain and what will I lose from viewing something that has sexually explicit content. I know the gain-loss might seem a bit naive, but it seems to work. For example, there are certain films and TV shows where the sexual relationship actually drives the art, as opposed to just being there for the sake of being there. I stopped watching Game of Thrones after te second season for this very reason; the sexual activity just seemed to me to be entirely gratuitous and excessive and really did nothing to move the series in any direction. It didn't seem essential to the character. Mad Men, a show I watch and will continue to watch, is a bit different in my view. The sexual relationships define characters and their flaws, to some extent, which is pretty real and honest.
I definitely agree that people really should make their own decisions about what type of material to consume, lest they stumble. It also is important to look inward to see if our lives are reflecting any of what I mentioned above.
I don't think that's naive at all, Kimberly. It sounds like discernment to me. And I also like that it involves an exploration of the art, allowing the movie/TV show to make its case for what it wants to say before you write it off based on the content alone. And if you decide it's not saying anything, it's perfectly reasonable to walk away. (I also agree with you on Mad Men's depiction of sexuality. It handles alcohol in much the same way.)
I'm fan of your Filmspotting podcasts and have just discovered you write for this Christian site. Very cool!
I have to say I disagree with some of your conclusion in the above article.
1. Yes, sex is created by God, but it is only blessed by him if confined to marriage. Fornication on the other hand is condemned completely! To watch film after film that portrays fornication as a valid use of sex would only weaken the Christian's hatred of sin. That is why fornication is no longer a problem for modern Christianity. (Direct disobedience to Jesus Christ, right there!)
2. To talk about sex (as the Bible does) is a whole different experience than watching 2 people do it in front of you on screen. Why do you think there is such a porn-addiction epidemic? Seeing sex acts effects a chemical response in the viewer that can overwhelm the will, like alcohol. Sex has power to erase will-power and the conscience. That is why God restricts it to marriage - to be fully enjoyed.
3. For Sex scenes the actors are prostituting themselves. We are paying actors for prostitution.
4. If you can justify sexuality explicit scenes in an art film - there is absolutely no line you can draw to restrict any type of porn (even violent porn) from going mainstream. Your logic only allows for more expansion of all things evil to be displayed on screen.
5. You might be able to handle it and artistically appreciate it - but at least 80% of the rest of society - CAN'T. Most people aren't thoughtful about what they intake. Most people (even Christians) don't have a strong understanding of what they even believe. It is irresponsible of you to say that everyone can approach these explicit scenes (portraying explicit fornication) in an "innocent" way. Yeah right!
6. As much as we love cinema and see the potential for speaking truth about humanity - the majority of the film biz is anti-Christian. It is money oriented. It is corrupting. As Christians, that is supposed to send up an "alarm" sign to us, not a "welcome and put your guard down" sign.
To be Christian means being the "Watcher on the Wall." To be Christian is to show humanity they can and must be freed from their bondage to sin - in order to truly live and in order to create good in this world.
Your conclusions only allow for more relativism, the continued paganizing of Christianity and the absorption into this 21st century SEX-Culture that is America today.
Thanks for the discussion :-).
Glad you found me here! I hope you'll be a regular part of our film discussions.
You cover a lot of ground in your comment. I'll try to address each point as succinctly as I can.
1. I'm assuming you're using the term "fornication" in the same way I'm using the term "distorted sexuality" in the above piece - and I suspect we both have different definitions of that. Regardless, I don't feel that all films portray "fornication [distorted sexuality] as a valid use of sex." Rather, many sexually explicit films are actually laments that sex is often far from the good thing it was created to be.
2. This may be true for some, but not all, Christians.
3. This is a question for the actors/filmmakers themselves to answer. I don't believe viewers come into the equation, even in economic terms.
4. I think Kimberly's comment above offers a helpful way for distinguishing between an art film and porn - which may be different for different people (see #2.)
5. Nowhere do I say that "everyone can approach these explicit scenes." In fact, I go out of my way to be clear that "itâ€™s OK to not watch sexually provocative movies."
6. I'm actually not in favor of the "watcher on the wall" description of what it means to be a Christian. Earlier on TC I made the case that Christians shouldn't bear the burden of being cultural gatekeepers.
Whew, each of those probably deserves its own comment thread! I suspect a lot of it falls into the "agree-to-disagree" category for the two of us, but I appreciate your perspective.
I agree that watching sexually explicit movies is not necessarily harmful (given the person is an adult who is emotionally and spiritually mature) to one's soul. In fact, it's rather demeaning to believe that a piece of celluloid could potentially be the seminal factor in separating one from God. I just find so much of it gratuitous, and manipulated in order to rope in viewers. That said, it's more on the fault of the filmmakers when they use sex as a hook.
A few sexually explicit movies like Boogie Nights, however, are surprisingly moralistic at their cores. It's just a fact that any hint of explicitness will polarize audiences, even when it's more an element working towards a theme rather than the complete theme itself.
So glad you brought up Boogie Nights, Jem. The director, Paul Thomas Anderson, often features characters struggling with sexuality in some way (Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, The Master). Beyond the morality question, I'd also suggest that seeing such stories can build empathy around this core, common human experience.
I think the main difference between sexuality on film as opposed to other controversial issues (like violence, primarily) is that viewing sexual material generally has greater potential to lead directly to sin. Watching sexually explicit content, I think, has a much greater chance of contributing to me lusting than explicitly violent material will contribute to me doing something violent, for instance. It's how we're wired.
That being said, I understand it's largely "to each his own." There's some sex I can watch onscreen and not have it effect me in a negative manner but there's some I admit I just can't watch. Actually, I got rid of my Boogie Nights blu-ray because I felt that more than one viewing probably wouldn't be constructive to my faith or my conscience. I largely enjoy P.T. Anderson but felt Boogie Nights was crossing a personal moral line of some sort. And I think that line differs for everybody.
The struggle I have is making sure I'm not justifying a sexual work of art as simply being a harmless work of art when in fact it's effecting me more than I'd like to admit.
Thanks for this piece, Josh. I'm leading a discussion group this summer and some of your thoughts will make excellent springboards.
Sounds like discernment at work, Dylan. Hope the discussion group goes well!
I do wonder if Christians are in danger of over-fixating on a single issue, mainly the negative moral implications of sex, to the point that it ends up distracting from the central issue (sin) and instead stunts conversations and gets hung up in distracting peripheral issues not related to the central issue?
I feel like there are so many Christians walking around feeling like they are in bondage to the idea of being in bondage to sexual sin that it dominates their thought life in a truly negative way. Likewise, I see kids who were raised in secular settings where an emphasis was not placed on sex in either way (whether to be scared of it or to over indulge)and those people have grown to have a well adjusted relationship to sex in their adult life.
There is something very natural and human about sex that seems to be lost in many Christian circles. It is largely feared or over-reverenced in my experience. The one question I asked myself while I was in Seminary was if the secular view of sex had anything to offer the widely accepted Christian view, and one of the areas I think film has helped with is to de-mythologize the human body and to emphasize (and admittedly in many ways over-emphasize) sex. There is a way that denying any engagement with the human body or sex can create a warped view of both those things. Film can be a good way to address issues of sex and the body in a way that can be constructive and instructive. Many times this does not have to come in a movie ABOUT sex, but in a scene or moment that addresses the reality of sex in a relationship or someone's body. To this point I would reference the nudity in the opening scenes of Amelie that show a time lapse of a naked pregnant woman, or in the film CQ where the footage from an in film documentary a character shoots shows his girlfriend naked in a bed. These scenes are not sexualized, but they speak to the reality of the human body and sex. The interesting question these scenes ask of us is what is our response to them? Do we respond to them in a negative or sinful way, and if so, perhaps the question we need to be asking is what our response to those images say about us more than what does the inclusion of nudity say about Hollywood?
-dictated, but not read.
A good example of a recent film that works in the way you're talking about Tristram - sexual content used to explore something tangential to sexuality - is this year's Under the Skin. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who seduces men for nefarious purposes. There is nudity and sex, but the movie is mostly about body image and the practice of judging someone by their physical attributes alone.
Under the Skin is a great example because of the way it addresses the human body. In the film Scarlett Johansson is kind of a blank slate that men are able to project their desires against and in that way she is kind of a sounding board. Again, I go to the idea of this film's ability to reflect our natures back on ourselves.
I guess it is up to the viewer to determine the sexualized nature of Johansson's character inspecting her body in a mirror, but having a strong sexual reaction to a scene like that to me betrays more about the character of the person watching than it does about the appropriateness of the film. I can think of examples where men were celebrated as "strong men of character" when they proudly admitted to not hiring attractive secretaries in a church group setting, that is such a sick view of sexuality that they are incapable of controlling themselves therefore they have to penalize other people.
I feel somewhat the same way about films where people feel that they cannot engage a film just based on if it includes nudity because the inclusion of a naked body will prevent them from engaging in any other idea in the movie itself.
I am new to the site and have found the content both engaging and disconcerting. What bothers me is a general lack of biblical and theological knowledge by the authors of the articles. Writing that "sexual sin isn't worse than any other sin" for example is naive. 1 Corinthians 6:18 states "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body". That is just one verse of many that denote a difference in "types" of sin.
With such a question, one has to define the terms (as with any good debate), which could be difficult, since what might be offensive to one group of believers may not be to another. It's also hardly ever possible to ascertain beforehand whether a sexual scene is gratuitous or an essential part of the plot; and even when they are the latter, producers are hardly going to present them more discreetly, when a more explicit scene will pull in a larger audience and thus more cash. And, of course, there is the point that gratuitous violence is usually repugnant, while racy sex scenes are, though against our better judgment, appealing (lust usually is, you know)....
This is an interesting matter. Is it wrong to watch movies filled with sex? What we're trying to do is define something as sinful. Even though it is not really in ou power to do so. Through experience I have learned that the answer to this particualr question will always include be very opinion based. Therefore I have come to the conclusion that there really is no right answer at all. For me, personally, I don't partake in movies with erotic sex scenes. It's not that I don't enjoy them, but I fail to enjoy them with other people. So logically I have assumed it as morally wrong. I think, rape scenes especially, and other scenes where women are fashioned as an accessory can act as building blocks to women and inferiority. Again, this is so based on opinion. I will also like to add that this not a problem solely with sex but with freedom of speech. Each movie is based on what a person has to say. Of course we have the right not to listen. And not to agree. What does the bible say? Is our bodies made for the enjoyment for ourselves and another person alone, or are we allowed to enjoy the sexual picture of multiple people? Also, I am not too sure that I would wish a role for my daughter portraying sexual content - even if it is for the sole contribution of art. So why am I looking at another man's daugther? This is a complex thing. I have a husband. Love making in movies is not the problem. There is some cost acompanied with the idea of this, otherwise this whole debate would not have been here. At what cost do we watch and enjoy these movies? That should be the question.
We live in a society that creates a strong sexual desire towards womens body parts.. Whether, it's movies, restaurants (Hooters).. Or football .. Women are dressed to draw attention and excite the male... If that wasn't true , then being subjected to places where women's uniformed are designed to draw attention to parts that visually excite men would not be a problem...Movie allow sex scenes, nudity of men and women to flood our minds with images that are unrealistic... Like movies , we want to emulate what we see... No one is immune to wrong thoughts and behaviour ... We just become more exacting of the way things are because it's made to seem normal... And yet, we all have our limits to what is or isn't acceptable ...
Watching two people have sex in movies , is very stimulating ... To say otherwise would be a lie for me... Seeing women naked and in a sexual way in movies, porn is just reinforcing desires ... From all this we have great sex with the one we 're with and try hard to not allow these images to infiltrate our minds ...
My conclusion on this on going conversation or debate is that the more we allow wrong thinking into our lives , the more we accept it as truth .. The porn industry, adultery , cheating , are all influenced by our fantasy worlds .. The more we feed it the more we get lost in it....
@Jeremy Scott: I’d suggest 1 Corinthians 6:18 distinguishes sexual sin from other types but doesn’t necessarily place it in any sort of hierarchy.
It's VERY clear in the bible that sex, and our bodies are made for only our partner to see and enjoy. If you are watching movies with nudity you are going directly against what God has told us in his Word. Sex is not art that is just ridiculous. It doesn't matter what type of sex or nudity it is, it's clear we are not to share our bodies with anyone. By watching these movies you are clearly supporting the people in the film. If christians would stop watching movies with ANY nudity, the ratings for movies would go way down and they would start to see that amazing movies do not need any type of nudity. It's extremely easy to insinuate that they are going to have sex without actually showing sex or nudity. Picking certain films and saying well this nudity is okay but this nudity isn't is the exact kind of things non christians say that Christians do, and it needs to stop. Nudity is nudity no matter how it's portrayed, it's not okay period.
Wow, some of the comments on here...
First of all, great and engaging article. It really hits the nail on the head, as far as I am concerned. If movies are to blame for widespread sexual immorality... then how are we to account for the thousands of years of it before the technology existed, which the Bible, for example, often goes into quite graphic description of.
I think one of the best points in the article is about how the depiction of something in art does not validate it. Again, with my previous scriptural reference, that would mean the Bible "validates" rape, incest, temple prostitution, adultery, or the myriad of other topics the Bible depicts (in order to show how sexuality has become distorted, as Josh states wonderfully).
Depiction is not glorification, and there is often a shame-based approach to sexuality in the church that hangs over, and indeed prevents any fruitful and healthy discussion of it. Indeed, some of the comments in this thread strike me as in this puritanical/shame-based vein, proclaiming our need to separate ourselves from the sin of the world (which Jesus could have done a better job at, taking a cue from the Pharisees instead of hanging out and showing love to the sexual sinners). In my view, movies can be a great springboard for much-needed discussion on these topics.
I also agree with the idea that this matter of discernment is sort of between the individual and God, and the metaphor of viewing drinking for an alcoholic is an apt one. As an example for me, Nymphomaniac is a film I personally never have the desire to watch again, in the way I found it to be sort of wallowing in depravity without offering much hope or redemption. The films of P.T. Anderson, on the other hand, I always find to be addressing neuroses, problems, and questions of a sexual nature in a way that is filled with grace and compassion, as well as depicting the consequences of our selfish and sinful choices.
Thanks for the great work, Josh. Keep it up!
Sex is made by God, I'm sure, but sex not for doing sin, If you pactice sex with your wife i.e.not sin, and samething doing practice with others that is sin. Any way ur sex glorify God then u can, if not gloryfy God that is sin.
I'm glad you raise the question in this article. I agree largely with the statements of Becki made above.
I won't repeat her good arguments verbatim. Instead, I'll start with my (I think biblical) belief that a frank discussion of sex in story is not wrong or sinful ***if done appropriately***.
I frequently contemplate what an appropriate artistic visual representation of the Songs of Solomon would look like. Serious Christians rightfully aspire to purity in EVERY area of life, but I often wonder if we're a little too guarded in our language when expressing the purity of sex within marriage. Compare this aspect to Proverbs 5:19's words about marriage where Solomon's son is commended to "...let her breast satisfy thee at all times..."
What would be the appropriate visual representation of Proverbs 5:19 and if there is one, what would the right context for that visual be?
I'll say that whatever the right visual context is, the grand majority of our films fail to meet it and fail miserably. Two of the films you mention, '40-Year-Old-Virgin' and 'Blue is the Warmest Color' as well as numerous works by Lars von Trier, are not redeemed by their 'thoughtful' overarching messages on sex and relationships. Very good statements, like those that highlight the futility of sex as ultimate satisfaction, are indeed profound in their own regard, but how often do we (viewers) sit through numerous porn sequences before the message is established and the film ends? Are these explicit sex scenes, which are fully designed to arouse our lust - are they transformed into something enriching by our determined refusal to be aroused while watching, just so long as there's a good accurate statement being made? What is it about these films that a closed door or a turned-away-camera can't convey (besides getting us super hot and bothered)?
I'm an artist for a living. Even as an insider in the arts community I literally laugh at how absolutely anything (and I do mean anything), no matter how nonessential or repugnant, can be made out to be "ART" so long as you are aptly able to convince the audience that there's a message. Film is an art form that has long played the same game, and on the sexual front, it's taking games to new heights, so much so that actual porn is trying keep up.
At day's end, there's the real issue that Christian discussion of sex can be over-sanitized when compared to actual scripture! To that point, Christendom sometimes sees certain things as dirtier than God does. And while sexually explicit movies can also make profound statements about sex and the human condition, from my viewing experience, they rarely say something that I didn't already know from scripture and life, and rarely do they reveal some angle that I haven't already explored on some level. In that sense, such films preach to the choir all while inserting a heaping dose of lewdness into my mind's eye. As an artist, I fully believe in art's ability to touch the topic of sex deeply (no innuendos intended) in a way that isn't perverse in the sight of God. In the history of film, it's been done, but the examples are so few and far between.
Good thoughts, Mal. Thanks!
I can't believe people even have to have a discussion about this. I don't even understand why any TRULY born again person would even WANT to watch explicit sex on screen. If one is TRULY born again, your tastes should change to the point that even contemplating watching what is clearly sinful would cause you to shun it in disgust. Sex, in God's plan, has been placed within the bounds of marriage, a private, sacred and holy thing, not to be viewed on a screen, in public, or discussed outside the marriage with friends, family, etc. It is a private thing between a man and woman married to each other. How does explicit sex scenes in movies even come into this? Most, if not all, of the time the actors involved are not married to each other, on screen or off, which makes it fornication or adultery - if you watch filth such as this, and take pleasure in it, you are guilty of sin because you are endorsing it with your money, your time, and your own body through your eyes and mind and sex organs, if you get aroused from what you're seeing. Satan is sitting there laughing at such foolishness and God is grieved as His laws are broken while people who call themselves believers take pleasure in watching His laws being broken.
It just seems ridiculous to me that it's even up for discussion, as though it's not abundantly clear that it is SIN. If you were in the actual holy presence of God for even a moment (such as Isaiah in Isaiah 6) would you DARE to sit and watch this filth before His very eyes - God, who could destroy you utterly in a nanosecond? Would you DARE? I guarantee you wouldn't - you'd be quaking before Him in terror and awe, like we all would.
Just remember, we all have to give an account one day before God. Will you be sitting there watching this filth on the day of Christ's return? He said He will come at a time we don't expect - so in view of this, we need to be living pure and holy lives. Just forget any waffling about whether Christians should watch sexually explicit movies - there's absolutely no need for any discussion about it at all, it's just a complete waste of precious time because it's CLEAR that it is SIN.
I don't expect that I will change your mind, or the minds of those who have commented so far (Becki comes the closest to how I feel about this) but if what I say helps even ONE person who comes to this site and reads the TRUTH of what I say, then I'm glad to have added my comment.
Thanks for your challenge, Natasha. While I may bristle whenever someone questions if another believer is “truly” a follower of Christ, I also know that part of my own discernment process is to listen to those who feel I’m not exercising good wisdom in this area. So I will certainly take your thoughts to heart.
Your question - “Will you be sitting there watching this filth on the day of Christ’s return?” - is a convicting one. That states the case in stark terms, doesn’t it? However, I don’t see myself as furtively watching such movies while hidden away somewhere, but rather doing so, as you also say, “in the actual holy presence of God.” I try to be in dialogue with him as I’m in dialogue with the movie. I would hope that’s the case for all areas of my life, which is not to say that I myself am holy or always making perfect choices. None of us are or can. Yet I think there are reasons - which I discuss in the article above - that some Christians may choose to watch sexually explicit movies (or ones that contain violence, or displays of greed, etc.) And if we stumble along the way here and there, watching something in retrospect we wish we hadn’t, that’s where we can take comfort in God’s grace.
HI Josh, thank you for your comment, and that you will take at least some of what I said to heart.
There is no good reason to ever watch sin on a screen - the idea that people enjoy the 'art' of movies, or want to stimulate a 'thoughtful dialogue' with other believers about sex in movies is, to me, nothing but smoke and mirrors. It is just an excuse to indulge sin.
I would like to throw this in, because I think it's vitally important, and may change the whole landscape around this discussion. God is TRUTH - right? I think we can agree on that. God DESIRES Truth - and HATES pretence of any sort - right? Agreed? God HATES hypocrisy, right? Agreed?
Okay then, well isn't it interesting that the word 'hypocrite' is a Greek word relating to the theatre - from the plays that the Greeks used to put on, where they wore masks, etc and played people other than themselves.
We all know how scathing Jesus was of the Pharisees and their hypocrisy. He hated it. Well, drama and acting is all pretence, a hypocrisy.
Although acting is literal hypocrisy, which alone would be good enough reason to abandon all movie and TV watching for those serious about following Jesus, the sins that these actors portray are real - if they used God's name in vain on screen, that is real sin. If they touch the body of someone on screen who is NOT their spouse - or someone else's spouse - that is real sin. If they 'pretend' on screen to engage in the holy action of prayer, or preaching, that is real sin. Anyone who sits and watches any sin, real or acted, on screen for entertainment is participating in it, and for that there is no justification whatsoever.
God is all Truth, with not the slightest shade of anything false in Him. Acting is just hypocrisy - people pretending to be what they are not - roundly condemned by Jesus when He walked the earth. Acting is falsehood through and through. The early church had nothing to do with it, and the church today should not either.
We need to turn our eyes away from the unclean thing. I myself do not own a TV, nor miss having one. I don't watch movies any more. Even if there was not any offensive material in a movie ( though there's always something - even just someone taking God's name in vain is enough ) just the fact that what I'm watching is a falsehood - a hypocrisy - makes me turn away from it.
I would invite you to read an article called The Evil Of Drama by Protestant Reformed Churches, online. It is a very good article and has strengthened my conviction that this is not an activity true believers should engage in. We would avoid so much of what is evil if we just forsook this one activity, instead of desiring to continue participating in it.
I think we have to admit there is a need to see and understand what the culture around us is saying. Now the argument about not looking at a woman lustfully means with lustful intent not whether her sexuality is arousing because that may be true at any time from beach to beach, office to office, student to student. The point is what is the message I need to know about this film? Examples are the pain of student girls earning much needed money by prostitution - Christians and people of conscience need to know what this involves ('Student Services'and prostitutes play an important part, without condemnation, in the purposes of God in the Bible. Then there is a deep void and cultural chasm inside many unemployed for whm sex is a substitute for boredom and ethics and love and they are struggling with these in all areas of intimacy and with inhibition ('Q'). The internet age in which we live involves our awareness of hard up girls exploring what the news programmes call 'the sex industry', like 'About Cherry'. These are all explicit and graphically so, not merely suggesting sexual acts but portraying detail explicitly. Of course there is an arousal element in watching this kind of material but has it a legitimate role in showing what is really going on and in informing and exhorting the believer to understanding what is TRULY happening. Indeed, the intimacies are being exposed to sow that very point - they occur outside the boundaries of marriage because sex is so important and important in the world today. Nothing about biblical reference says this subject is beyond bounds,. How far is it cultural elements within the church that shrinks from countenancing it when bars and clubs disgorge their humans looking sexually provocative one night and meet the Christian needing depth of care across their computers the next day and craving acceptance and needing us to understand them and what they have been up to? We shrink back perhaps but should we, if that is what the world depicts of its need?
Just plain wrong. Quit justifying ungodliness. Come out from their midst and be ye separate says the Lord. And before you reject me as a prude, consider that exposing yourself to ungodly displays just weakens your spirit. God has much better for you.
I think you could be right in some cases, Rick, which is why discernment is so crucial. And for some Christians, perhaps avoiding sexual content at all onscreen is the healthiest for their spiritual lives. But I also don't think the only options we have here are feast or famine. Faithful, graceful viewing - which may mean different things for different Christians - offers something in between.
My question is this: Is it sinful for the men and women acting these scenes out? They strip down naked or near naked and act out sex acts with someone who isn't their spouse for money! I can't imagine anyone answering "No" to that question. This violates many biblical imperatives. The more difficult question follows: If it's sinful for those people to put themselves in that situation to act it out for enterainment of others, isn't a sin to watch it for your entertainment? Of course it is! People actually premeditate this sin by knowing the content ahead of time and choosing to watch anyway. Quit trying to fit in our culture.
Thank you for your comment, Ron. Classic movies from the 1940s & 50s, such as Casablanca, 1942, are good examples of a good story without sexually explicit scenes. I'm not going to argue whether or not a movie with sexual content and nudity is morally wrong, which, if I use the Bible as my moral compass, it is; however, one thing I wonder. These actors/actresses are, of course, being filmed. How many people are watching this? How do the actors/actresses deal with being filmed doing these scenes? If they are married and have children, are they ok with their spouse and children watching these movies? Would anyone reading these posts want their spouse, daughter, granddaughters making an R rated film with sexually explicit scenes? Would you watch this movie with your children, parents, and grandparents? Would you be able to watch this film with Jesus physically sitting next to you? Even if there is not a lot of nudity shown, the music, lighting, and content are there for a reason- sex sells. Do these films improve marriage relationships or are they stumbling blocks? And, I don't watch movies with explicit violence or a lot of bad language either, especially if the Lord's name is being used in vain. I have to use discernment in what I watch and what I fill my mind with for a lot of different reasons, but mainly because these images stay in my mind. When I check out movies on Plugged In and read the content of the R-rated movies, I feel sick to my stomach that this is what is being seen by, not just adults, but children and teenagers. Does entertainment of this kind build us up as Christians or do we go along with what's popular? I challenge anyone to take a break from TV, movies, etc for one month. I didn't miss it at all.
And, that's a wrap! -30-
It depends on why you're watching the film. For some Christians, cinema is entertainment whereas for others, its a cultural experience. So sexually explicit scenes in movies intended for entertainment is a big no-no. You can't justify its use in blockbusters or mass-consumed movies that are purely intended for entertainment.
However, there is another world of cinema that exists beyond blockbusters and superhits. Godard, Bresson, Ozu, Kubrick and now PTA, Scorsese and other contemporary filmmakers don't make movies to entertain people. Cinema is a reflection of life for such artists and they make films that do so. And I think we Christians should understand that not everyone is a follower of Christ and hence, such films are made by those who have different moral worldviews.
The Christian attitude towards sexually explicit scenes in such movies should be, in my opinion, as follows: WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK. If you are a mature person who can dissect a scene beyond the sexual act in terms of its contribution to the story and the themes being explored, then its okay. The point is to not give in to stimulation. An audience member can clearly tell when a sexually explicit scene is shot to glorify and voyeuristically portray the act or when its shot with integrity and restraint to tell us more about the characters and more about the story at large.
So when I watch films, I (1) Watch with the intent of understanding the artist's cinematic voice and perhaps educating myself on the ways he/she depicts the story with cinematic vocabulary. (2) When a sex/sexually explicit scene takes place, I focus on what the artist is trying to say, and if it starts to sexually arouse/stimulate me, I immediately look away (Thou shalt not lust...). The Bible includes several stories of sexual immorality and lust with the purpose of showing the stark reality of sinful nature; not to arouse its readers with its choice of vocabulary. If God can be open to talking about sexual sin and positive Biblical sexuality that He created for us, we Christians should not attach the notion of sex with shame and discreetness. Sexuality, like many other tools of drama should be used and consumed wisely and with total integrity. Do your research before watching a film and contemplate your reasons for seeing a film. Is it because of the sex in it or not?
I conclude with two examples of cinema. A Clockwork Orange clearly revels in its excess with no barriers on its provocation and sexual suggestiveness, seducing the audience to join in on the mass hysteria whereas The Master paints a thoughtful portrait of Freddie Quell, a sexual deviant and skillfully shows with maturity how his perverse obsession with sex clouds his mind.
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One thing that I don't recall reading in this article or the comments is how does your Christian spouse feel about it? What harm are you doing to your marriage as a Christian man if you are watching other women, other than your wife, comply nude. Men are visually stimulated. Everyone knows that. As a Christian wife who loves my husband more than anyone other than God himself, it would devastate me to have his eyes, mind, heart and soul watching a huge screen with a nude female. It's disrespectful to me, insulting to me, and I can't imagine this is what God meant by men loving their wives as Christ loves the church. Stop making excuses, be Christ-centered people and honor God, your spouse and marriage. Would you watch it if Jesus was right beside you? He is.
That is a good question to consider, Renea. I would consider it to be part of the discernment process, which is always best done in community (for example, in a marriage) to help hold ourselves accountable.
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