Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Christian goes to the movies

I am painfully aware that the current fad among young evangelicals and, more and more, among young fundamentalists is not to criticize movies. How doth the argument typically go? Something about how any protest against movies is pure legalism or whatnot. After all, even Touchstone and World magazines have movie reviews! And what is the difference between going to a movie theater and watching a DVD/VHS movie in your living room? Well, actually that is a good question for those who insist on a dichotomy between the two. But I typically resist such dialectical revolutions of cultural norms. Anyway, I am quickly digressing into incoherence.

My main grievance is the naive (pardon my French) approach of many Christians to the movies. I am now speaking of the test of the Great Three exerted by Christians upon movies:

1. No female nudity or sex.
2. No swearing--er, at least no "using the Lord's name in vain."
3. "Not too bad" violence.

Yes, there they are--the "holy three" of movie standards. Yes, good Christian, if the movie passes this great and reverent test, the movie is good. Of course, if the movie is "really, really good," then we can perhaps ignore one or two of these precious (and, oh, so legalistic) standards. As if these are the only elements of danger for believers! What about irreverence or the idea of tolerance? What about sentimentalism (loving the wrong things too much) or brutality (loving the right things too little)? Are these elements not present in the vast majority of the films being belched up by the world? Let me let you in on a secret: movies do not become good simply because you have "Curse-Free TV."

O, yes, I hear the objection: but after you watch it, then you can "talk about" those negative elements. Sure. Whatever. Talk all you want. Which is more persuasive: your debunking all these ideas by "talking through them" or your entering into the story and its supporting world-view with your whole person, allowing the art to communicate to you as it is intended while you sit there passively taking it all in? Perhaps I am proposing a false dilemma; but my point here is rhetorical. Why do we believe that we can escape this? Perhaps we really do not understand the power of movies.

You see, most Christians really worship on Friday night. That is the apex of their week. They have given themselves over to the working the entire week, probably working too much (you have to make a living, don't you know), and so they finally get to "unwind" and "take in a good movie." This is their escape. This is their joy and delight. Movies are their way of worshiping the Entertainment Deity. And now they poor themselves into their rite, complete with libations (soda pop) and meal offerings (popcorn). And they completely let go. This, after all, is the real power of movies. For one to watch a movie as it was intended to be watched, one must give himself over to it, and allow himself to be swept away. He must enter into the lie. The greater the lie, the greater the movie. And how do we know the movie is good and "harmless"? As long as it meets the standard of the Almighty Three. And here, while our guard is most down (we already know it's a good movie--remember the test?), the world comes in unawares and subtly convinces us of its moorings. You see, "the Great Three" is really simply a surface danger; I believe the real danger lies below, and, because it comes in so subtly, Christians are more prone to fall prey to these underhanded elements. To a certain extent, I am not even talking about anti-Christian themes like adultery or gambling. I am speaking about world-views. The real danger of movies is not at looking at a naked woman, but the redefinition of modesty. The greater danger of movies is not the actors' taking "the Lord's name in vain," but arrogant disbelief. The violence of movies is nothing compared with the idea that it is cruel to execute a murderer. These things are more dangerous, because they are more subtly present. And we wonder why the church is worldly.

104 Comments:

Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

But Ryan, we all need an escape, I mean, to keep our sanity, we need to escape, right?

Somebody once suggested that this is the nature of the idyllic imagination, and that it subverts the moral imagination, but that fellow must obviously need a little escape himself, eh?

The great thing about being a Christian is that we know what to watch for and can filter it out, not like the non-Christian who is actually influenced by all that garbage. We can sit back and just ... enjoy ... the ... movie ... mmmmmm, yesssss.

Drink the Cool-Aid, children, and you'll feel no pain.

1/17/2006 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Oh, yes. An escape from the Kingdom.

How do you break it to American evangelicals that they are not going to be able to watch Braveheart or The Sound of Music in the Millennium?

1/17/2006 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Todd, though sarcastic, you're actually right. The Christian is to filter out that which is contrary to Scripture.

I agree that the Christian should not place that which is deliberately evil in front of his eyes. Films like Brokeback Mountain infuriate me, especially when they are honored with awards that used to be reserved for movies that were actually well written and well acted. When the purpose of a medium is to blatantly promote evil, it should be avoided.

HOWEVER, to take your "subtle philosophies" argument to its logical and necessary conclusion, we would all stop reading newspapers, blogs, classic literature, theology books (besides the Bible itself); stop frequenting any retail stores, gas stations, restaurants, Christian college dorms; stop talking to anyone besides God Himself in prayer; stop listening to any music (Bach) that might have the slightest "philosophy" difference; in fact, we'd have to stop leaving our houses all together because that would mean intentionally opening ourselves up to those "subtle philosophies." In fact, didn't the translators of the NIV slip some worldliness into the very words of Christ? (Easy, I'm jesting on that last one).

I realize in the environment I'm writing in here that I will be glossed over as "worldly" because I really enjoy watching movies. I also enjoy listening to music, reading books, and watching ball games. My question is, since when did we become anti-entertainment? And, is the Christian who watches King Kong in the theater two hours before reading the book of Romans -- for the third time that week because he's completely overwhelmed by it -- more or less worldly than the Christian who constantly criticizes others in the Church for doing things he deems "worldly?" Which one is spending more time focusing on the things of the world?

Our minds do sometimes require down time and it's not evil to choose quality entertainment to enjoy during said down time. You take your Shakespeare and Bach and I'll take my Lord of the Rings and Matrix (I realize it takes hundreds of years for a work to no longer be worldly, but I can't help myself).

1/17/2006 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

You take your prime rib and tomato soup and I'll take my bubblegum and rat poison any day.

1/17/2006 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Scott you forgot to add that in 100 years the rat poison will be on the same level with the soup.

I don't know Ryan, now you are faced with the insurmountable task of demonstrating that Bach's Mass in b is superior to the Matrix and that the philosophy of Peter Jackson is somehow inferior to the philosophy of Jonathan Edwards.

But if you could explain exactly how the suble influence of the movies works I'd be impressed.

1/17/2006 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Okay, Nathan. Let me try to respond to your inquiry.

First, let us establish what I did not say. I am not trying to argue that we should never watch movies (though I am nearly arguing this). What I am trying to argue, and if you read me carefully I think it was clear, was that Christians hold up a pretty lousy bar for testing movies. Were I to argue that we should not ever watch movies, I would use different (though perhaps similar) argumentation. My main point was that the usual test for deciding whether or not a movie was right or wrong stinks. My secondary point, though not argued explicitly, is that Christians are worldly and that movies and entertainments in general are idols in their lives. I would consider myself guilty of this charge, at least.

Now in your response, you said, "When the purpose of a medium is to blatantly promote evil, it should be avoided." That's an interesting statement. "Avoided" is a pretty loose word. I am not sure how much we can avoid some of these media that promote evil, but I do know that we should not be loving them.

The point of my whole discussion was that the nature of movies is particular to itself, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, any dramatic arts. You cannot exempt yourself or you do violence to what the art wants to do. Not only so, but by the very nature of how we approach movies (that's where I started talking about some Christians' worshiping Friday nights), they cause us to "relax" and "be entertained." Notice how "be entertained" is a passive verb. I am arguing (though not very carefully) that there is something unique to the nature of movies that all of these other things do not have (you list, "newspapers, blogs, classic literature, theology books (besides the Bible itself); stop frequenting any retail stores, gas stations, restaurants, Christian college dorms; stop talking to anyone besides God Himself in prayer; stop listening to any music (Bach)"). Nevertheless, many of these things you would do well to be without. But back on the topic, movies demand your complete surrender. Your approach to them means that you do not have your guard up. I do not want to rehearse my whole argument here, but I am differentiating movies from other forms. When you read a book or the newspaper, your involvement is different than your involvement in watching a movie. Perhaps I could be accused here of arguing along subtle lines of distinction. But, with all candor, I do not believe, based on your own admissions, that you are in a position to judge that.

Concerning your remark about the Christian who goes to the movies and reads Romans upteen times a week, I can only say that perhaps he should read it only once very slowly. Reading it three times is obviously not having an impact on him. Okay, that was a bit sarcastic. Let me say it this way: this is a false dilemma. Whether or not someone who reads the Bible constantly frequents a movie theater does not establish or disestablish the prudence or morality of attending movies. People are full of contradictions. Who cares? Let's say that you read the Bible more than I do and you go to movies and I don't. Again, who cares? None of these examples do anything to destroy the validity of my argument. It only gives me a hypothetical (or even a non-hypothetical) as an experiental test to my premises. What do you want to counter with? An argument that the Apostle Paul (who wrote Romans) never went to a movie, so that we should never go to movies? [P.S. Did the Blessed Apostle ever visit dramas while in Athens?--that's a rhetorical question . . . no need to quote 1 Cor 15 and get into speculation!]

Concerning your last paragraph: Listen, I am all for leisure and enjoying leisure. That really does not take away from anything I said.

Finally, Joel asks "how the subtle influence of the movies works I'd be impressed." And I suppose it would not do to simply say, "read Richard Weaver." Perhaps I should say instead that one should listen to the Birzer lecture I have linked on the side bar. Nevertheless, let me give this a shot (but don't shoot back if come up short, please!). Movies, like many other things (such as fantasy novels and other art and language) bring with them a value structure based in their language. We enter that world when we hear them speaking in the language of their culture. And, again, movies are more powerful to move the individual into this world than any book or poem or painting. That is not to say that these media are not powerful towards these ends. Richard Weaver says concerning the print, "If the realization of truth is the product of a meeting of minds, we may be skeptical of the physical ability of the mechanism to propagate it as long as that propagation is limited to the printing and distribution of stories which give 'one unvarying answer'" (Ideas Have Consequences [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948], 96). Yet movies, again, because of their explicit nature and overwhelming speed in delivery, do this to a heightened degree. Again, Richard Weaver says, "The movie producer is a maker almost to the extent of the poet, for he is working with a means capable of transforming subject matter. His production carries the evaluative power implicit in all dramatic representation, and it is, in the usual course of affairs, employed for the purposes of entertainment" (Ibid., 100). I am, by the way, when I say these things, not holding a great distinction in mind between "movies" and television drama.

1/17/2006 09:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Abigail said...

Hmm...interesting article. Seems a bit extreme in my book.

Part of Weaver's article placed a large emphasis on the effect this will have on children. However it seems to me that if you can't teach your children what is right and wrong, and what is real and unreal, then it'd be your failure as a parent, not Hollywood's failure as a movie industry. (Not to say that censorship should be thrown completely out the window...)

If you think your children are too naive or easily influenced to watch some movies, great. It's a good thing that you're careful about letting them see too much too early (before they understand how much of it isn't real). But I hardly think that going to see The Piglet Movie with his 3 and 5 year old daughters is going to cause a problem for my 30 year old brother.

As far as the subliminal messages that movies send, yes, we understand that they are there. In fact, I find most of them quite obvious. However, if we know that, say for example, Disney is sending subliminal messages that homosexuality is normal/okay, then our children should understand that Disney makes funny movies but they're just pretend.

...isn't that the point? A diversion not from the Christian life - that is why we are still on our guard to filter out that which is unclean - but from the stress of monotony.

Ryan, I believe you overstated Nathan's position based on his comment about Romans: "Concerning your remark about the Christian who goes to the movies and reads Romans upteen times a week..."

He was saying that he has read it through 3 times that week because he was overwhelmed by it, a statement which to me speaks of a careful yet voracious hunger for the Word. (Pretty sure I'm reading you right there, Nate)

So, I do believe there is valid concern about the influences of the world and movies and entertainment in general on the Christian life. As long as it comes after Christ, our Christian duties, our ministry to others, and especially our families, there is a place for it.

And TVGuardian, annoying though it may be, does help with a few of those nasty wordses.

1/17/2006 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

There is a Better Way. But folks don't want to hear it.

Stop watching TV. Stop reading the newspapers. Avoid the movie theatre. Stop listening to pop music. Stop reading whatever drivel is coming down the chute from the popular press.

Start reading classics. Start listening to classics. Start imagining, start dreaming, about what is good and pure and beautiful. If you are immersed in pop culture you can't. Period.

I know all the stock answers in protest to this absurdly reactionary stance, so if anyone wants to trot them out, feel free; I gave them all myself before I chose the Better Way.

I am not always consistent in following the Better Way, but when I foolishly stray into pop culture, I suffer mental hangovers comparable to the worst that Jose Cuervo has to offer.

1/17/2006 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

"You take your prime rib and tomato soup and I'll take my bubblegum and rat poison any day."

"I don't know Ryan, now you are faced with the insurmountable task of demonstrating that Bach's Mass in b is superior to the Matrix and that the philosophy of Peter Jackson is somehow inferior to the philosophy of Jonathan Edwards."

Wow. I thought I had a good handle on this whole sarcasm thing, but I can see I'm way out of my league. I'll ignore those two in favor of the [still biblically unsupported] comment from Ryan.

I've heard the whole "movies are more involved" line of thinking and I choose my subjective personal experience over the experts, sorry to say. I am no more or less involved when I'm watching a movie than when I'm reading a book or listening to music (except the occasional background music, which I don't do often). The issue is whether or not I will become an athiest by watching movies more than by reading Nitzche (purely for research for my class, of course). I would argue that the most involved we are in our surroundings is when we're simply going through real life. That's like a movie on crack - wider screen and better surround sound. Come to think of it, the Director is the best.

That said, how does our coworker's swearing (Sorry, perhaps I should explain that I am a lowly layperson who works in the SECULAR workplace - people do all kinds of things. Of course, without the movies and the rest of our elusive "culture," they probably would act like church mice.) or the sudden appearance of the porn rack at the gas station differ from movies? Oh, I got it! With movies, you can actually choose what you see! So, really, a good movie is actually better than going to work or buying a soda at the gas station (tongue firmly in cheek).

I would argue that the ones "escaping" (todd) are not the ones who enjoy selected movies, but the ones who find it easier to write whole segments of the arts off categorically because they just don't know how to deal with them.

Ryan, I'm sure you noticed that when I'm writing I use examples that someone might relate to. These aren't intended to be all encompassing position statements on my part, so I'm not sure why you jumped on the Romans example. Since this is obviously an environment that judges spirituality based on self-imposed standards of conduct, I thought that was a good example. Guess not. What I was trying to say is that in my experience based on the churches I grew up in (all culture is evil) and the church I am currently in, the people that exhibit the higher degree of love for God and others and that are genuinely seeking the truth of His Word are people that also partake of alcohol, watch good movies, and choose to not require adherence to a standard they created in areas of music. Does this mean we show the Passion on Sunday morning and jam to Jars of Clay albums on Sunday evening? Of course not. I haven't changed that much. I and the leadership of our church are very much opposed to most songs that were written during the "revival" surges in our country (lack of depth and doctrinal maturity) and opt for works by the likes of Wesley and Watts more often than not. The issue of "appropriateness" comes into play, just as it did in the Old Testament when God set up stricter guidelines for temple worship than for everyday life. So, it's funny that my church music now is more conservative than it used to be while my personal music is less.

Back on topic, I simply don't understand the philosophy that says "movies affect you more so the slightest bit of unbiblical philosophy should be avoided in them, whereas it's fine to let these philosophical differences have free reign in other areas of the arts." When I read Macbeth, I don't start saying "damn" all the time and trying to kill people, just like I don't when I'm done with the Matrix. I don't go to Jonathan Edwards for entertainment, since that would make me kill myself. I do however go to him for theology -- well, at least a little. I love Bach as much as the next former music major, but I don't let his chosen liturgy form influence what I'd use in my church. The thought is abhorent, but if I were even to watch Brokeback Mountain, I would not come out of the movie coming out of the closet.

I think that ignorance is bliss and how I long to regain it. Don't over estimate the Evil Power of Movies. They are not inherantly worse or better than other art forms. I believe it's the Bible that seems to indicate our responsibility is to make sure we're not sinning. I realize the next big stop for this conversation might be Christian liberty, so I apologize to all my weaker brothers if I've cause you to offend (sin). If I have, my blogging power must be even stronger than the Evil Power of Peter Jackson.

1/17/2006 11:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Austin said...

There are actually movies that meet the 3 criteria?

1/18/2006 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Abigail, you seem to be missing both Weaver's and my point.

Nathan, if you don't buy my argument, fine. I do not think you are really interacting with it, you are simply dismissing it. Again, real life is not entertainment. And in real life you have a chance to respond to the philosophies. Nobody talks to movies. If you are doing it in faith (Rom 14:23), all I can say is that I disagree. But here's a questionf or you: What is the difference between your protests against Brokeback Mountain and my position? Degree?

Austin: beats me.

1/18/2006 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

And what is this comment all about?
"Since this is obviously an environment that judges spirituality based on self-imposed standards of conduct . . . "

Again, you are missing my point in that whole paragraph. Whether or not you go to a church that both loves God and watches movies is no concern of mine. It does nothing to establish your argument or disestablish mine. I am really not concerned about whether or not there is a group of godly people who watch movies. My primary point is that the vast majority of Christians are terribly naive about how they judge movies. Should I tell you that I know some godly people who are Baptists, ergo you should not be a Presbyterian?

Finally, I have one more remark. You said, "I believe it's the Bible that seems to indicate our responsibility is to make sure we're not sinning."

Remember Lot's wife.

1/18/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

How long before evangelicals control Hollywoood?

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17866401%255E2702,00.html

Now there will be a persuasive reason to quit watching movies.

1/18/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Funny, Joel

Some Christians want to win the culture wars. I would be happy with Christians reforming (reclaiming, whatever) the culture in our churches.

1/18/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

To Todd Mitchell,

I don't know what classics you read, but most classic literature is full of ungodliness, and not always displayed in a bad light, either.

Also, what advantage is there to a Christian not knowing anything that's going on in the world? There is definitely a place for newspapers. Of course you could get most of your news off the internet, and then you get to see banner adds of half naked women for personals websites and such.

Unless you want to completely cut yourself off from what's going on in the world, you can't avoid these things. God did not call us to be hermits.

1/18/2006 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Fitzage: "I don't know what classics you read, but most classic literature is full of ungodliness, and not always displayed in a bad light, either."

Much is, yes. To understand where I'm coming from, start with Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and then read Richard Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences.

Fitzage: "Also, what advantage is there to a Christian not knowing anything that's going on in the world?"

The latent presentism in this sentence is like blood in the water for us, my friend, but I will simply say that the historically myopic and slavishly Pavlovian claims of those immersed in pop culture to "know what's going on in the world" are amusing, to say the least.

Fitzage: "There is definitely a place for newspapers."

My parakeet agrees.

Fitzage: "Of course you could get most of your news off the internet,"

Read Ideas Have Consequences and we can talk about "news."

Fitzage: "and then you get to see banner adds of half naked women for personals websites and such."

Pop culture is a broken cistern, isn't it?

Fitzage: "Unless you want to completely cut yourself off from what's going on in the world, you can't avoid these things. God did not call us to be hermits."

You have created a false dilemma. This is like saying, "Unless you want to be completely transformed, you can't avoid being conformed. God did not call us to be holy."

1/18/2006 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Wow.

I had to look presentism up. For those who didn't:

"uncritical adherence to present-day attitudes, esp. the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts."

But then I looked that up in a dictionary that was published in 2005, so it's probably pop culture. At any rate, you're accusing me of uncritically accepting modern values and concepts, just because I don't uncritically accept your values and concepts. That is a rather large leap.

I am, in fact, very critical of our popular culture, but I don't see how accepting as a replacement the pop culture of decades or centuries ago is any different than what you erroneously accused me of.

Knowing what is going on in the world is a responsibility we have. To know what's going on in the world, one does not have to be conformed to it. Granted, any news you read (whether published by a Christian or a pagan) will have a slant placed on it, no matter how hard the author tries to say otherwise. That doesn't give us the right to tuck our heads in our little holes and say "I'm holy because I don't have anything to do with pop culture."

We are to be in the world but not of it. Granted, this is getting quite a bit off topic, but I don't see how hiding your head in the sand to protect yourself from pop culture does anything to help the cause of Christ, or personal holiness.

I've hard about these people who only know about the world from what their pastor says, because they won't open a newspaper or watch tv. I wasn't sure they actually existed though.

1/18/2006 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Last Friday night my wife and I decided to use a couple gift certificates for The Cheesecake Factory. When we went in, I was struck with it all, with the atmosphere of decadence and materialism and general worldliness. To a certain extent it's there--even in our restaurants. I still ate there, but I kept saying to myself as I waited (for 75 minutes to get a table!), "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

The point of this story is not my personal piety, for that mask would too quickly be pulled off. Would I ever tell someone that it is a sin to eat at the Cheesecake Factory? Absolutely not. But they had better not love it.

Listen, fitzage and Nathan. I am not exactly sure where you guys are coming from. But it seems you are stereotyping us as a bunch of fundamentalists with which you are too familiar. Instead, perhaps you could actually read what we are saying, and with us lament the worldliness of the church. Perhaps you could even admit that I may have a couple points right. I am not asking for full-blown acceptance here. But instead of accusing us of legalism and "sticking our heads in the sand" (a somewhat rhetorical phrase) and whatever else because you associate us with some charicature of your past, perhaps you could instead honestly ask yourself, "do I love the world?" When I ask myself this question, I am often disturbed by my answer. So please, instead of protesting something I did not even mean to say, perhaps you can join us in slowly moving the door of our tent away from Sodom.

1/18/2006 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

You know, I've been wanting to say this somewhere, but I haven't had the guts to post it at the orange river, so this thread is really as good as any.

What, really, is the big deal with this whole End of the Spear thing. I mean, don't get me wrong, it is a big deal, but why are we surprised? To put it bluntly, only people who love Hollywood and who look for any "Christian" excuse to watch movies would be upset by this.

I guess for someone who doesn't own a TV, this wouldn't have even entered my world.

1/18/2006 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Well said, Ryan.

Scott, your comment reminds me of something I said in my last post, "We should not wish to revive Barbie so that the Bratz and the Flavas dolls will go away." I am as disgusted as anyone out there about this scandal, but I'm perhaps even more disgusted that the goal of most seems to be simply making a more acceptable movie.

1/18/2006 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I am not sure what all the hooplah is about. On a certain level, I understand the outrage, but I am not a big letter writer. This really should not surprise us, anymore than the ordination of persons as bishops who have sex with other persons of the same gender. We have lost the Culture War, and we've very nearly lost the Christian Culture War.

Why would someone want to patronize an obvious attempt of Vanity Fair to make money off of Christian's death in the first place? I think to get upset about this says that we actually would have gone to see the stupid movie if the part of Nate Saint was played by some pious fellow like Robert Jones III instead of this Allen guy. I don't go to movies. I laugh at the folly of movies produced for Christians, and wonder who the square-eyed believers are who mindlessly succumb to the Entertainment Gods. Can you hear the chant now? . . . "Give me Christian Entertainment . . . Give me Christian Entertainment . . ." Reminds me of Night of the Living Dead. Hmmmmm. I love irony. Just think about that title.

I digress.

One thing I do know, is that now you, Scott Aniol, have polluted the waters. I have descended into the abyss of the blogosphere discussing this crazy thing. . . . and we usually keep things above the bar around here, too. I guess that means my traffic will increase, though, now that we've tapped into the stream. I have enough fundamentalist popularism left in me to be obsessed about TRAFFIC (and I'm not talking about the movie).

Here's a group participation question: What do think Jesus' favorite movie would have been?

1/18/2006 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

You're killing me!

I'm terrified that somebody might actually try to answer that question with the name of a movie.

I'll buy you a piece of cheescake at the Cheescake Factory if you post that question here.

1/18/2006 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

And break my streak of consecutive days not posting at SI? You've got to be crazy.

I double-dog dare you to do it . . .

Though it'd probably mysteriously "disappear" like your comment did the other day.

1/19/2006 12:03:00 AM  
Blogger Andy Efting said...

I'm not exactly where you guys are on this topic but am very sympathetic. If you really want to get depressed, you can read John Frame's reasons for Christians to go to movies at his Theology at the Movies site.

1/19/2006 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger fitzage said...

And what would have been Jesus' favorite piece of classic literature?

Ryan, I wasn't responding so much to your article as to Todd's extreme views on not knowing what's going on around you.

1/19/2006 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I'm not sure Todd's views are that extreme.

1/19/2006 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Todd's views are extreme in the sense they are not shared by most and in the fact that they are the result of some informed thinking on the subject. Let us have more of this extremity.

1/19/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Wow, I ignore this for a couple days and it goes south!

Ryan, et al.: How does one even get approved to post on SI? I was rejected and my complaint letter was met with "You sound upset" from the powers that be. Anyway...

Andy: The article you link to is excellent. It says what I've been trying to more succinctly and less sarcastically.

Ryan: I realized the Backside Mountain reference in my second comment was just plain retarded. Yes, I wouldn't become gay by watching it, but no, it's not related to my problem with the "subtle philosophies" argument you're propagating. From what I hear, there's nothing subtle about it. Since that caused some confusion about my stand, I apologize. Reference the other examples I used right before that.

Ryan: So as to not continue to appear like I'm not actually addressing what you're saying (though I think my thoughts were valid since somehow we've moved into being uncomfortable spiritually even in RESTAURANTS), let me say this: why are we so weak spiritually that we think we must reform either The Culture or The Church Culture in order to do what God put us here to do? As Christ sat to eat with the sinners in His day, was He thinking "man, I'm not going to do this again 'cause these people have unbiblical ideas and I just know I'm going to fall prey to them." When Paul purposely entered into discussion with the Greek philosophers, was he really thinking "I shouldn't be doing this because they might convince me of something BAD, and besides - what will the deacons think if they saw me here?" Were Christ and Paul trying to change that culture they immersed themselves in? YES! Did they think the best way to do that was to hang out at the temple with blinders on? Absolutely not.

I don't see much in the Bible about what people did for fun, but there's enough indication that they did do things purely for enjoyment. Peter and others liked to fish, David liked to dance and sing, and Adam and Eve liked to just run around naked. Solomon was wise, but seemed to have only one thing on his mind: singing. Of course I'm digressing, but my point is that people were allowed to be people in the Bible. I'm having a hard time coming up with a single person (including Christ Himself) that behaved in this isolationist mode that you all are glorifying as the only way to keep ourselves unspotted from the World.

I guess I'll have to dive into pop culture this evening so I can determine what the heck The Edge of the Speak is. Never heard of it.

1/19/2006 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

There are extreme postions for everything.

One extreme would be no media (Ryan, I understand you aren't that extreme.) and the other extreme would be absorb it all with total disregard.

Both extremes are wrong.

Even though Ryan's post is about movies I'd like to discuss music for a moment. Who created music? When God created everything did he not say that it was all good? Yes, sin came in and tainted everything, but that is all it did. A good mental picture I heard recently is a seminary library that was flooded in one of the recent disasters. Those books are tainted by the dirty water, but it didn't change the words in those books.

I'm assuming that nobody believes that music is bad, and everyone can agree that music can be used in bad/evil ways. I personally don't like Faust because there is too much emphasis on the evil and it gave me the creaps, but that doesn't mean that we should avoid all operas.

We can't say from scripture that movies were directly created by God, but He created music (which has always played a huge role in movies) and he created our desires for drama.

I also believe that anything (even devotions) can be sinful if the heart attitude and approach is wrong. For instance, a dissatisfied individual who uses romance films to feel a void/need and an individual who does their devos with the wrong heart attitude or motivation.

Yes, we don't need to to subject ourselves to senseless violence, bad language, etc., but I think your approach to a movie matters. For instance, I know someone who watches movies just looking for anything that could be remotely wrong and pointing them out. She will even go so far as to read the street names in the background and see if she can find a reason for offense. I think that sensoring movies or having someone verbally pointing out perceived problems in a movie actually defeats the purpose because it draws attention to the offense.

I work for a general contractor, which means that I hear the language that you avoid in movies. It is a part of life that cannot be avoided by very many people. I do not use the language or even quote other's use of it. Perhaps I've become a little more desentitized, but I don't think that you shouldn't watch a movie just because of poor word choice. If I had small children who are learning to speak, I would try to avoid it until they were old enough to understand.

I believe that each person is responsible for determining what movies they will watch and why. I don't think there is one universal correct answer for everyone; however, I don't believe that there is anything wrong with watching your movies in the movie theater. The reasoning I have heard for not watching them in the theater is because people might think you are going to watch "that bad movie". If people assume that you are seeing the bad movie, then maybe you should take a look at your testimony. On the other hand, if we apply that same reason to other areas in our lives we can't go into Blockbuster or Family Video or pay for our gas inside the station because people might think we're getting something we're not.

I think the biggest issue here is deciding why you are going to set the standards that you set and what are your decisions based on? Standards shouldn't be set to avoid having to deal with heart/spiritual problems. And if you are addicted to TV and movies or have a desire to watch the wrong kinds avoiding them isn't the answer because you will only transfer that addiction elsewhere. Avoidance doesn't deal with the root of the problem.

1/19/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I tempted to respond to my Western Presbyterian friends, and I probably still will. But at this time, I want simply to make the comment that I continue to have the feeling that we are not really dealing with the content of my original post.

1/19/2006 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous St. Augustine said...

But at that time, in my wretchedness, I loved to grieve; and I sought for things to grieve about. In another man's misery, even though it was feigned and impersonated on the stage, that performance of the actor pleased me best and attracted me most powerfully which moved me to tears. What marvel then was it that an unhappy sheep, straying from thy flock and impatient of thy care, I became infected with a foul disease? This is the reason for my love of griefs: that they would not probe into me too deeply (for I did not love to suffer in myself such things as I loved to look at), and they were the sort of grief which came from hearing those fictions, which affected only the surface of my emotion. Still, just as if they had been poisoned fingernails, their scratching was followed by inflammation, swelling, putrefaction, and corruption. Such was my life! But was it life, O my God?

1/19/2006 07:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

St. Augustine on the subtle working of the movies! And why we so . . . persistently resist the extreme notions of what used to be known as Christianity.

1/19/2006 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Nathan, first: I am not sure how one gets on Sharperiron these days.

you said, somehow we've moved into being uncomfortable spiritually even in RESTAURANTS. You obviously trust the world much more than I do.

you said, why are we so weak spiritually that we think we must reform either The Culture or The Church Culture in order to do what God put us here to do? (etc . . . ) You said you were going interact with what I was actually saying, right? When I did present this either/or? Since when is a prioritization of one option over the other supposed to be "weak spiritually"? How does this advance the conversation. Comments like these tempt me to not even respond to you, or even to go on a deleting comments binge. My first responsibility is to the crises in our churches, I believe, before those in the world. I do not feel compelled to fulfil any cultural mandate. I let the Carnells and the Henrys of the world worry about that. Moreover, Christ may have been concerned with redeeming culture, but only in the sense that he offered them the promised Kingdom. The chosen people could have realized in Him all that God had planned for them, but they rejected him. Paul was not trying to change the age but win the persons in the present age to "the age to come." I realize that it is quite likely that we may disagree over eschatology, but you're not post-mil are you? I have no problem with conversing with the unregenerate with the hopes of their repentance and conversion. But movies are not dialogue. In fact, movies are the direct opposite! You are doing no talking. You are not "trying to change that culture," you are sitting there listening--only listening, and more than listening, I would argue. There is no parallel between Paul speaking with Greek philosophers in Athens and your sitting in front the movie. Zip. Zero. None. But even if they were, movies are much more subtle than reading philosophy (which I do) or even listening to a philosophical lecture--your intellect is not as engaged with movies in a critical way. You are being entertained.

you said, I don't see much in the Bible about what people did for fun, but there's enough indication that they did do things purely for enjoyment. . . . people were allowed to be people in the Bible. I'm having a hard time coming up with a single person (including Christ Himself) that behaved in this isolationist mode that you all are glorifying as the only way to keep ourselves unspotted from the World. You are presenting a false dilemma. But let us assume for the moment that we are indeed saying that watching any movies is sin (which no one has said). Are you assuming here that every form of humanist enjoyment is morally acceptable? What about self-multilation? What about sexual enjoyment outside marriage? What about drugs? Nobody is saying that we should not enjoy life nor the humanities. We are saying that not every form of enjoyment is good. If you have to take an extreme position of our argument (and twist us into saying things that we never said to begin with), you may want to reevaluate what you are really arguing against. A charicature, prehaps? You doth protest too much, me thinks.

ALF, you said, [God] created our desires for drama. I'm not sure how you are going to establish that one. I challenge you to prove it. Just because we have desires for something does not mean God created it. You should know that there are several centuries of Christians who would not be favorable towards drama.

you said, I think the biggest issue here is deciding why you are going to set the standards that you set and what are your decisions based on? Standards shouldn't be set to avoid having to deal with heart/spiritual problems.

Remember Lot's wife.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: [19] Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) [20] For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: [21] Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

1/19/2006 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Yes, remember Lot's wife. God commanded her not to look back, but she was so enthralled with the world that she couldn't resist.

She had a spiritual problem that no amount of artificial standards could change.

You seem to have the impression that we "Western Presbyterians" think that we are to be like the world, but that is not what we are saying. You are taking it farther than we have.

Yes, there are things we should avoid, and we should not set wickedness in front of us; however, the artificial dichotomy that you are trying to create between movies and other media doesn't exist. At least it doesn't exist for everybody. Adina and I do not sit back and passively watch the screen and get absorbed into the story. We usually critique the movie as we go (not out loud, of course, if we're in the theater because that's just rude).

In fact, it is easier to get carried away by a book because it requires you to engage your imagination -- a much more compelling influence than movies.

Also, many people think the book of Job was used as a drama to be acted out. This isn't proof that the Bible condones drama, but an observation as to it's possible use.

I have been in a Cheesecake Factory once as well. I didn't stay and eat, because I was just getting desert to go. But I'm having a hard time seeing what caused your reaction. It had nice enough decor, I suppose, but there was nothing particularly decadent about it. The lighting was dim so you didn't even have to look at the decor if you didn't want to.

1/19/2006 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

"I'm having a hard time seeing what caused your reaction."

q.e.d.

1/19/2006 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Matthew (fitzage), okay. you are finally interacting with me.

First, let me say that I have only responded to direct remarks. I am not taking anything too far. We are being criticized for erecting "external standards." I believe that holiness demands that we do not love the world. This is about the heart. Stop making my desire to see the church reform their approach to the cinema as a mere external (movies as idolatry was a large point of my original post).

Second, I am not trying to create an "artificial dichotomy." I am saying that one exists. You seem to disagree. If you critique the movies while watching them, you are not really giving yourself over to them. This is unnatural, in my opinion. I know some people do it. But the better the movie, the less you are able to do it (I would argue).

You said, In fact, it is easier to get carried away by a book because it requires you to engage your imagination -- a much more compelling influence than movies. Now I have acknowledged the power of books throughout my coments, and I have no intention of backing down here and now. But to say that movies are less powerful than books is one I think you are going to have do more than assert. It seems, to me at least, to be made merely to get your point across, and nearly laughable at its face. I am not trying to be mean here, but why are the all the little fat kids in America watching movies and TV instead of reading books? For the same reason they eat McDonalds instead of the green beans. Appetite, man. Appetite.

You said, Also, many people think the book of Job was used as a drama to be acted out. This isn't proof that the Bible condones drama, but an observation as to it's possible use. Yes, I've heard of that. Tell me, do you believe it? Do you really? Explain to me why scholars characterize it as such. What are their arguments? Why do you embrace it over rival interpretations? Why even bring it up if you don't accept this interpretative framework for the book?

Finally, I stand by my Cheesecake Factory comments. But perhaps someone could tell me how the world works. You men claim to be humanists loving the drama and enjoyment and all this. What do these things mean? What does architecture communicate? Why do you think they dim the lights? I guess some illustrations are just wasted.

1/19/2006 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Why are there rounded corners on this page? Why is there a drop shadow? Why is Ronald McDonald's hair red?

Seriously, Ryan? Now marketing, advertising, design, and illustration are all forms of worldly expression? Come now. Just like you polish a sermon, some Madison Ave geek tries to polish the look of a place or their advertising to sell them - to get people to like it. Why did you choose the color of your Bible?

Instead of Western Presbyterian, I'd prefer to simply be called Christian or Former Baptist. Whichever. I give up.

1/19/2006 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

The day I sell a sermon is the day I should resign my pulpit.

1/19/2006 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

"The day I sell a sermon is the day I should resign my pulpit."

So the day a marketing exec sells a beer is the day he burns in hell. Okay, got it. As goes cheesecake, so goes selling.

This is something I found that seems to accurately portray the picture I'm getting in my head. It just keeps getting deeper and deeper, largely, I think, because your side has the philosophy of "there's no turning back now." I'm sorry that I came across your post and shared the link. I know how it is to have those hateful people out there in blogsville actually question what you're saying. I noticed that doesn't happen all that often on Immoderate.

Final parting thought (or blow): don't presume that you are spiritual and so your personal standards are inherrantly right for us all. Don't imply that we have the same head issues Lot's wife had when she was longing after real sin and we're simply questioning a philosophy that wants to pick and choose what cultural elements are acceptable. If you want to act (if I may use a movie term) as if you're opposed to the unbiblical influence of culture, at least give a consistent treatment.

No, we can't talk back to movies. What this has to do with what is right or wrong is beyond me. And no, we can't talk back to 90% of the authors we read, either. So you'd have to say we would actually be talking to others about what we've read. Okay...and how does that correlation not carry over into movies?

You wrote off my thought about how real life is much more involved than movies by saying that real life isn't entertainment. That doesn't change the fact that whereas one can't escape real life, one can choose which movies he watches and thereby is actually less apt to be unintentionally influenced by wrong philosophies. There is no off switch in real life and there is no exit door. Now, granted, you can talk back to real life, but I have yet to see someone walking down the street yelling at the immodest woman on the billboard, quoting Scripture to the porn they stumbled on in the bookstore, or even keying the paint of a car with a pro-choice bumper sticker. As sick as I am of hearing the term "false dilemma," I think I am far less guilty of putting them forth than those of you that say "pop culture is bad -- classics are good." Classics are just pop culture that actually lasted. There's no difference in the amount of "subtle worldly philosophy."

And that's all I'm saying. Maybe. What else you got?

1/19/2006 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Fitzage,
To group books and movies in the same class of media would make Neal Postman roll over in his grave. In his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, (referenced by others) he posits an important distinction between “print based” and “picture based” media that might help in this discussion:
“The printed page revealed the world, line by line, page by page, to be a serious, coherent place, capable of management by reason, and of improvement by logical and relevant criticism.” (p. 62)
In other words, the last time you read a book you were able to critique the writers words. And if you didn't understand them, you could reread a section until you did. In fact, the writer was good enough to lay out his thought process SO YOU COULD FILTER OUT wrong ideas. Even more so, having read a book, you could say, “I agree” or “I disagree,” or “That's true” or “That's false.” Printed media naturally lends itself to intensive examination—and you're right it does involve a person—much more than any movie ever could.
Think of the last time you watched a movie. Was the experience the same as reading a book? Were you able to underline the good parts, or reread the unclear parts? Did you ever think--”Wow, that's false” or think, “That's a stretch.” For that matter, ever seen a movie with footnotes? And if that's not enough, think of the speed of the “media intake.” When I'm at top speed I can read about a page and a half per minute of intense prose--with understanding--if I've had my 9 hours of beauty rest. And if I get to a point where I am unclear about what the author's trying to do, all I have to do is drop back a few paragraphs to catch the flow of thought. Usually it's because I missed an important sentence or subtle piece of punctuation.
Now take your average movie, or TV commercial, or sitcom. How many times do they change screens or shots or angles? The avg. is 10-20 times per minute (yes I've counted—Jerry Mander in his book, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, put me up to it). Just when you are drawn into one picture, they flash another one at you—why? Because they are try to “create” action or a sense of “movement” But they are certainly not trying to “frame an argument.”
I'd like to see anyone [besides that speed reader guy on TV ;-) or a seminary student] read 10-20 pages per minute. Are the movie producers doing so because they want you to really “ponder” what's going on? When's the last time you pressed the “rewind” button to ponder over a scene? I normally did it when I saw something “cool,” not to reflect. Movies tell stories in pictures. And pictures, by their very nature, are limited in what they can represent. They can only represent the physical and the concrete. They are very surface; they can never deal with the unseen or abstract. May I say, pictures have a very “limited vocabulary”? When's the last time you saw two people arguing theology in pictures? :-) Furthermore, how does one tell a “true” picture from a “false” picture?
Therefore, movies and books are two entirely different media. Reading one is not the same as watching the other. But, if you still don't believe me , try and draw a picture of what I've just said. Or, instead of writing something in response draw a picture to “refute” me—if you can. :-)
One of Ryan's points is that the medium of movies, by its nature, is biased in favor of not thinking. I think such a thing is called “propaganda.” And having a silly standard of no SVS (Sex, Violence, Swearing) or using the TV Guardian makes one a slave to such propaganda. And I am not saying, at all, that you have such a standard--nor anyone else on this blog. To have such a standard would only demonstrate the poor grasp one has of the nature of the medium of movies.
And all that being written, we have not even discussed the incredible differences between the print medias, i.e. 'news' vs. “serious literature.”

Ben

1/19/2006 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I am so not following you guys.

1/20/2006 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That's not to you, Ben.

1/20/2006 12:05:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

"I am so not following you guys."

Me either, now.

1/20/2006 12:08:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

And that is to you, Ben.

1/20/2006 12:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Nathan,
I think you may be misreading Ryan. He is not a foot stompin', movie bashin', liberal assasinatin' fundamentalist. He is not arguing about going or not going to the movies (directly) or making a list of movies not to see and checking it twice. Any old school
"fundamentalist" can do that! Nor is he trying to be a little chirping cricket on your shoulder. He is trying to help us reflect on the medium of movies and assess whether or not our criteria for partaking or abstaining is worthy of the paper it's printed on or the mind it is couched in.
And thus far in "christian America" the criteria has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
p.s. I'd love to READ what you have to WRITE in response to my post--because I'm not artistic enough to draw pictures. Nice picture, by the way, but it's of no resemblance to the immoderate Ryan I know! ;-)

1/20/2006 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Wow, Ben. I've been spilling pixels for three days and have yet to summarize my point so well.

1/20/2006 12:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Nathan,
In short, I am arguing that the medium of movies and the medium of books is entirely different. They have inherent biases that cannot be overcome. Books come in pages. Pages can be turned at the reader's will and after having been comprehended. Pages are made of words. Words are the "stuff of thought. Thought (among other things) separates man from beast.
Movies come in pictures/photographs--to the tune of 10-20 different ones per minute. Photographs (and I distinguish these from paintings) are not thoughts. They don't argue for or against, true or false--they just are.
You do not read a book the way you watch a film. A book you can filter because you are dealing with words. But how do you "filter out" bad pictures? And this is Weaver's point. It is not the high slit or revealing blouse that's the [real] problem. Any person can say porn is wrong. But that is not the sort of discernment Phil. 4:8 calls us to. If there is anything true, honest, just, etc. THINK on these things!

1/20/2006 12:30:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

I hinted I wouldn't say anything more, but I have Postman's book right here in my hand, and have read it. Seems a lot like the pop wisdom of the world critiquing the pop entertainment of the world. For those that have never read the book, Mr Postman is not a Christian, so his book is full of potentially crippling pop philosophies.

I went through this line of nit-picking the little ins and outs of media with music (wilted plants, anyone?). Besides the fact that these "experts" publish much that is simply a load of, well, you know (I tried real hard to kill my plants, couldn't do it), since when (sorry, Frankie G, I have to go here) are Christians so enamored with what secular experts have to say when it comes to our practice? I thought we were a "Bible alone for faith and practice" group. Perhaps we should read the expert Darwin for advice on biology or Roe v Wade for thoughts on prenatal care. It's all well and good to read interesting studies, but letting them dictate our faith (yes, faith) and practice is a dangerous road I don't care to go down. I would also have to say the same thing about Christian authors (Rick Warren?) who propagate something that sounds good on the surface, but is opposed to Scripture's teaching. Did Postman write his book for any sort of sacred purpose? If not, what was his purpose? Fear of losing the old-fashioned culture he loved or something of the sort? Is that perhaps why Christians attack modern culture? I realize it's a lot to ask, but can someone here honestly answer those questions? Culture has been constantly changing since Creation, but suddenly it becomes our mission to destroy it. Culture contains much that is good, even healthy for the Christian. For instance, there's been a surge of organic food on the marketplace. Do we avoid it because it's part of a modern culture or accept it because it actually is much better for us? Back to the issue, then, do we reject a phenomonal series like Lord of the Rings on any grounds other than "it came out of culture, or specifically, out of Hollywood?"

I must be the most naive Christian on the planet, but I really think the Bible alone has some good things to say about what we should and should not do and believe. I also think that as interesting as it might be, the speed and dexterity that we fill our minds has nothing to do with the actual content we're filling with. So get back to what I want to know about: Biblically, how is one medium better or worse than another, assuming similar content? Or, how is today's popular entertainment worse than that of 300 years ago?

"I am so not following you guys."

Though I keep re-reading the comments and original post, it seems I'm still missing the point somewhere. Can somebody on my side of the debate explain how I'm not arguing the right topic? I'm lost. I'm evidently protesting too much, but it seems to me like I'm arguing against the recent comments. Am I perhaps not linked into the Matrix anymore?

1/20/2006 12:36:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Ben,

I of course would have to concede that as media go, movies are the closest to "real." They are supposed to be exciting (for the most part), and, yes, they do use cuts to speed (or slow) the action. That's a good editor/director's job. I see nothing sinister in this, as I've heard argued with pop music videos. To say that's inherrantly bad would mean blinking your eyes is also bad because it creates the same type of sequence cut.

So, yes, books are different than film in some ways. What you guys are arguing, though, is that it's impossible to shut out the content of a movie. Perhaps this is where I am actually disagreeing. I think this is simply an assumption based on either the way you personally watch movies, or on something you've read that is evidently not worth the paper it's on. Even if I went for the full two hours of a movie without looking away or changing thoughts one time 1) how does 2 hours of good content differ from 5 seconds of reading an inappropriate or unbiblical phrase and 2) I still don't understand what makes movies a worse experience than the encounters of real life. As I've said, I choose the movie I watch based on the things I do and do not allow into my mind -- based on my honest evaluation of my own spiritual maturity. I don't just wander into any flick and give myself over to it, and I don't know of anyone (saved or no) who does. And, you'd better believe I evaluate what I'm seeing, if for no other reason than to be able to recommend (or not) the movie to a friend.

PLEASE tell me I'm arguing the original post now.

1/20/2006 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ben, I was not saying that books and movies are the same. I was, however, comparing apples to apples: movies, which tell a story, to novels or classic literature, although I did not make that completely clear. You seem to be comparing movies to books that are trying to make an argument about something or other, hence non-fiction.

Someone who writes a story tries to draw the reader along just like a movie tries to do. The point remains that an idea is still much more powerful when it enacts your imagination than when it lays it all out for you; hence story books can be much more powerful than movies.

In regards to newspapers being much different than books: duh. They are communicating different information, and have a lot less time to do it in. Are newspapers perfect? No. Is there bad stuff in newspapers? Most definitely. Is it good to know what's going on in the world? Absolutely.

Todd, what is q.e.d. supposed to mean? I'm guessing it's another sarcastic jab, but I don't get it. And I still don't get the problem with a nicely decorated restaurant.

1/20/2006 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/20/2006 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Nathan said, "What you guys are arguing, though, is that it's impossible to shut out the content of a movie."

Where have we argued this? What I have argued is that shutting out the subtle themes of the world is very difficult, and, even so, not as persuasive as the movie. I have argued that because movies are entertainment they are more prone to allowing the world's mores to affect you. But having said all this, I have not, nor would not say that it is impossible to shut the themes out. This, I believe, is part of the problem some here are having in understanding us. We are not setting up an "either/or." We have been trying to speak of tendencies. But because most Christians have a reductionistic, surface way of judging what makes a movie good, they ignore the real threats movies pose. Now make no mistake, I take a very conservative approach to movies, but I have tried to very careful in what I am arguing for and against here. It seems you keep wanting to shove me in one ditch or another. I am trying to argue that someone who watches a movie as entertainment (which entails that your guard is largely down) is more susceptible to the subtle persuasion of the motion picture to enter into and share with its sentiments.

You said, "I must be the most naive Christian on the planet, but I really think the Bible alone has some good things to say about what we should and should not do and believe. . . . . So get back to what I want to know about: Biblically, how is one medium better or worse than another, assuming similar content?"

The Bible simply does not address motion pictures in any way. Nor does it address the superiority (or similarity) of certain art forms over others. You've got to add categories. You have to add your understanding of movies. If you're looking for the Bible to condemn movies, you'll be looking for a long time. But neither does bless them. You're trying to make the Bible speak to things it does not.

1/20/2006 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

No sarcasm intended with q.e.d.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q.E.D.

1/20/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Nathan,
I think you are arguing for the original post. What I have attempted to demonstrate thus far is that the medium of books allows for more critical judgments than does the medium of picture. I think that you would agree that we need the element of TIME in order to think—and I also think that you would agree that movies do no give us the amount of TIME we would like. We cannot reread, underline, or check the footnotes like we can a book.
So, if I have understand you correctly you have agreed that movies have an inherent bias against extended thought when compared to books; but you have also correctly pointed out that just because movies (generally) mitigate against thought you dont' necessarily and “uncritically give yourself over” to a movie. In other words, it is still possible for you and for me to filter and sift through a movie. Agreed. Nothing we have said to this point negates this.
But we need to move from the question, “Do movies lend themselves to evaluation?” (yes, they do, though precious little compared to books) to some more important questions: What kind of criteria are used when evaluating movies? Secondly, are these criteria sufficient?
What sort of criteria, what kind of tools do you and I use to evaluate writing? Well, we hav the toole of speling, the, tool, of, correct, punctuation; the tool of CAPITAL & lowercase letterS, the tools of grammar—subject/verb agreement, pronoun agreement, misplaced modifiers, etc., the tool of logic, the categories of true vs. false, and on and on. In words other, writing itself lends to very evaluation easily. ;-)
Just reading my last sentences you have picked out the many mistakes and mixed up grammar I've (purposely) written. This simply means that you have your English senses exercised to discern between good and evil English. You have the tools and the time to use them. Your English teacher would be proud! But can we use the same intricate tools of thought for movies?
What sort of criteria do we use to evaluate a movie? For example, how does one evaluate the heroine, the main female actress in a movie? Is she a good actor because she remains fully clothed? Is it because she doesn't swear or beat people up?
When you saw KING KONG, what criteria did you use?

1/20/2006 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Abigail said...

Ryan Mitchell said: Abigail, you seem to be missing both Weaver's and my point.

Really? I'm sure you're going to explain your statement rather than implying my own ignorance and/or idiocy. If you're going to address my post, address it.

I was taking part of Weaver's post and pointing out valid concerns about future generations. I have seen children who were allowed to watch whatever they wanted, and not taught what was real and unreal within the entertainment industry. That is my main concern about movies and entertainment. (I am not addressing much of your original point, because I feel that it is somewhat pointless to do so...others have already made those arguments clearly enough)

In any case...using Paul's statement: "All is lawful for me, but all is not expedient..." If we are careful what we put in our bodies and minds, we can worry less about what is going to come out. Discernment is needed; true, but isolation is NOT the answer.

If you choose not to go to movies in the theater, or watch them in your home, because you do not feel you can watch them carefully enough - or for whatever reason - good for you.

I, however, make my own choices on the subject.

1/20/2006 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Abigail, you said, I'm sure you're going to explain your statement rather than implying my own ignorance and/or idiocy.

No idiocy intended. Weaver, in fact, is not addressing children and the movies, though you said in your earlier post, "Part of Weaver's article placed a large emphasis on the effect this will have on children." He states that as a obvious fact and quickly moves on from there. Weaver is speaking of the effect of the movies on adults. Thus my remark that your missing his point. This was not meant to offend you, but to make a simple observation. I try not to operate a trash-talk blog.

And my name is Ryan Martin.

Just to be clear, isolation is sometimes the answer concerning certain (probably many) points of the pagan culture in which we live. For example, I isolate myself from the strip club culture and from the drug culture and from the R&B culture (et al.). The question is (though not really, i.e., we have not really been discussing the validity of that question here) whether or not movies is a part of the pagan culture from which me must isolate ourselves, or, if so, to what extent.

1/20/2006 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I'm going to revise the statement I just made. I said, "isolation is sometimes the answer concerning certain (probably many) points of the pagan culture in which we live."

I am not sure that I am ready to say "probably many." I have to think about this more. It may be many, but I just want to be guarded in what I assert.

1/20/2006 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Abigail,
You are right. We are obligated as Christians to practice discernment. And isolationism is certainly not the answer. But we are not arguing for that here.
I am curious as to how you would teach your children b/c I have none of my own yet. (I'm assuming you have children==please forgive me if I assume wrong)
Let's say you're sitting down with one of your children and having "the talk"--about movies! What would your instruction include? How would you help your child sift the "real" from the "unreal"? What makes one movie better than another? What makes one movie "true" and another "false"?

1/20/2006 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ah, but Todd Mitchell was arguing for isolationism, just not in those terms.

1/20/2006 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Good question, Ben. I was going to ask the same thing.

1/20/2006 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Fitzage, what do you mean by "isolationism?"

1/20/2006 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I'd just like to go on record as being for isolationism and the re-institution of the eremitical orders. If my wife ever kicked it, I'd be considering it hard.

1/20/2006 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Now we are getting somewhere.

1/20/2006 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Perhaps, Joel, you could elaborate as to why you have the view you do. This might be helpful for our discussion.

1/20/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Misanthropy

1/20/2006 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Hmmm. I suspect that may not be helpful.

1/20/2006 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Fitzage,
Perhaps a clarification is in order. Instead of using the term “argument” think “proposition” or “sentence.” My summary of Postman's analysis of print media applies to novels, fantasy, history, philosophy, etc. The genre is not the issue.
Books & movies tell stories. Books & movies draw the reader/observer in (and I would argue that books involve much more of the person than a movie—unless you are going to the “feelies” in Huxley's Brave New World.) However, books & movies do not tell stories in the same way. That is the point.
Books use words, movies use pictures. Because movies use pictures they are at an inherent disadvantage to convey certain types of information. Sex, violence, sports (Action!) does well on TV. Why? Because TV cannot portray the subtler, abstract things of life. For example, take the following sentence and translate it into a mental picture—no words allowed!:

Ben & Fitzage sat typing at their computers.

Pretty simple sentence and even I could draw a stick picture of it.
But try this one:
During a winter day Ben & Fitzage comfortably sat at their old computers discussing the philosophy of watching movies.

Draw me a picture of what “the philosophy of watching movies” would look like. Kind of hard, eh? Try this one:
“Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper place.” (The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky)
You couldn't draw it. I couldn't draw it. In other words, there is a limit to what a picture can express.
Therefore, because the picture is limited in the amount of info it can hold, movies are made of lots of them—who wants to stare @ a postcard for two hours? This means a person watching movies is bombarded by thousands and thousands of different scenes per movie, with only seconds to see each scene. No one, that I know, has the time to process each picture in the same way he can process a sentence. Because the scenes move so fast people naturally resort to filtering out the easiest stuff—swearing, nudity, violence—because whose mind works so fast?
Here's one for the imagination: Imagine you are taking a drink of water from a fountain. You stop every once in a while to take a breath, right? That is like reading a book. Read a sentence/take a drink. Stop. Reflect/breath. Take another one, etc.—at your own pace.
Watching a movie is like drinking from a fire hydrant of pictures. Once the movie starts you can barely keep your mental mouth over the nozzle. Where I come from that's a great way to drown (physically and mentally). Sure, when we watch movies we don't swallow the “big stuff”--but who ever said you needed 50 gallons to drown. I heard a teaspoon would do.
Don't read me as saying movies are bad, or that isolationism is the answer. We have to filter out many things in our lives; but there are few things that match the speed and simple deception of movies.
So, how do you keep from drowning on all the pictures? How do you filter out the good, the bad, and the ugly? What are the criteria that you personally use? I am guessing that it is more than just the normal SVS (sex, violence, swearing) rubric. I'm curious. So, go ahead, make my day! ;-)

1/20/2006 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

One cannot truly engage his community's culture until he has disengaged from the pop culture of the Great Stereopticon. Disengaging from pop culture is the antithesis of isolationism. Consider the irony of millions of Americans confident in their knowledge of the world As It Really Is told to them by the News Industry and "cocooned" before the Great Connecting Screen. Now that's isolation.

Like a smoker who discovers his sense of taste and smell after kicking the habit, so can Ryan, who has chosen to pursue the Better Way, see The Cheesecake Factory with new eyes.

He who has ears, let him hear. I invite all who will, sincerely and without any sarcasm: Unplug yourself. Take off the blinders. Transcend your culture. And come out of isolation.

1/20/2006 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

It would appear from Ben's comments that the only books he reads are nonfiction. I have never read a book for pleasure with a pen in my hand, etc. So I think that you should only be bothered by such inabilities when watching a documentary.

Also, assuming that people do not rewind to "re-read" a portion of a TV show or movie isn't accurate either. I don't recall doing so in order to ponder something; however, I often do so, if I didn't catch or understand something, etc. (This would be one of the benefits of watching almost everything prerecorded.)

Also, the critique of a book's grammar, spelling, etc was pointed out. If I'm remembering right, the only things mentioned to be critiqued in a movie were things like language, modesty, and violence. Not to say that these aren't items that need to be critiqued, but movies have other items to be critiqued as well. I like to watch/critique the acting ability, the story (is it believeable/realistic), the cameraman's ability, the computer generation, the stunts, etc.

Also, another thing that I haven't seen mentioned on this post is whether or not all violence, etc. is bad? Those with the filters, does it also filter out movies that have violence associated with war?

Another question I have does the role of the bad element affect your decision to watch something?

For instance war is violent, but if the movie isn't dwelling unnecessarily on the gore or someone who's loving the killing, should we not watch the movie because people are killed?

What if the movie is about some guy who realizes he is a terrible person and changes his ways? Are you going to not watch it because he WAS a bad person even though it was portrayed as being wrong?

I agree with Nathan that the speed of camera shots isn't a problem. Consider how many times your eyes move about to observe your surroundings. (While sitting in front of your computer doesn't count.)Those shots are used to direct your attention to things like a narrator in a book. They are also used for providing easy ways of doing retakes when something didn't go as planned.

Ryan, your reference to Lot's wife has me wondering if you understand what I was saying. Perhaps the following will help you understand.

Think of people who quit smoking. The majority of them are only trading one addiction for another, because the root problem wasn't taken care of. Only the symptom - smoking. For a biblical example the story of how the demon was evicted but nothing was there when he came back so he moved back in with a bunch of other demons (Matt. 12:43-45). To go back to my smoking example, people usually quit smoking several times and it gets harder each time.

So all that to say again that standards shouldn't be set to avoid having to deal with heart/spiritual problems. And if you are addicted to TV and movies or have a desire to watch the wrong kinds avoiding them isn't the answer.

One way to determine if you are addicted to something or if it's an idol, check how you react when something interfers with it or how you act without it. Think of the dad who can't be interrupted when he's watching his sports or the news and the person who can't help you on such and such a night because his show is on then.

1/20/2006 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

How come things rarely get this fun on my blog?

1/20/2006 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Todd, well said.

Alf, let me explain something. That lists do not ensure spirituality is something that is so much of a given around here (believe it or not), that we (probably wrongly) do not even say it. Of course, giving up movies is nothing in and of itself. Our love for Christ frees us to give up whatever we like. We want so badly our love for Christ to grow that we will foster it with whatever it takes. We are willing even to cut out our eyes. But isn't this the point? How easy idolatry can be? Did I not refer to this in my original post?

Let me ask you a question, ALF. Could one of the children of Israel have had an idol in his house and still love the LORD Jehovah? Was their getting rid of idols even necessary for their "spirituality," if I may use the phrase? If not, then why did God tell them to get rid of them? Let me give another, more contemporary example. Let us suppose that I struggle with gluttony. In my struggle with reigning in my appetite, I discover that I over-indulge with junk food in particular. I love the munchies so much that I simply cannot control my eating them (I realize that a condemnation against gluttony may be popular as a condemnation of movies, but work with me here). I determine that junk food is major stumbling block for me in my lust for food. Now, of course, you are not going to automatically love God simply by throwing all the junk food out of your house. But if this is something you are tempted to love more than God, why even have it with 50 feet? Why even give yourself an opportunity to sin? Perhaps this is why Paul said, "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No soldier on service gets entagled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him" (2 Tim 2:3-4, RSV). Therefore we believe that "keeping ourselves from idols," is indeed part of the answer. It is for this reason that we want to "remember Lot's wife."

We not only care about loving Christ, but we also care about refusing the myriad of things that are calling for our love out of the darkness of This Present Age.

Scott, I am glad someone is finding all of this entertaining.

1/20/2006 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Scott you need one of two things to make things interesting anywhere. Panache or misanthropy. Either one will do it.

1/20/2006 09:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Alf,
You might have read my comments, my friend, but you have yet to understand them. I'd love to hear what you have to say when you understand that there is a different between a picture and a word, bewteen a movie and a book (of whatever kind--fiction or not)
By the way, it might encourage you to know I'm enjoying some very good fiction belonging to that Lewis fellow. C.S. that is.

1/20/2006 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Misanthrope. Eremite. Other big words.

Woo hoo! I'm a cynic!

1/21/2006 01:08:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Seriously, though, in this movies v. books debate, I have yet to see where Ben has presented more than the no-brainer that movies and books are different. I'm sorry that fitzage, ALF, Abigail and myself seem to have taken the bait to argue that they're not really that much different, but we missed the point: why is different bad? Let's say they someday invent an intrusive way of media distribution that instantly publishes information in your mind without you having to sit through the 2 hour movie or 8 hour book read. Again, would this be bad? Would we have been the ones decrying Gutenberg's press that made information (good and bad) come so much faster to the general public? In this particular vein (not you Ryan, though you hint at thinking this way), there has been no biblical evidence presented as to why a form of media should be considered inherrantly bad. If a book presents the same philosophies, why is it not just as wrong in your eyes? After all, most of the bad philosophies started in written form somewhere (nothing new under the sun). Since introduction into the psyche only takes a split second (read or seen), this argument seems pointless. I have to assume that you're recognizing the already blatantly obvious science, but are taking a "those young geezers are just too fast for me" approach in practice. What does it matter if the information gets in my brain faster? Yes, I still evaluate it and yes, I still look to the Word for my worldviews, not any form of entertainment.

1/21/2006 01:54:00 AM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ryan,

But what happens when you put the junk food out of your house? What have you done? Nothing. It has made you no more spiritual, it has made you no less gluttonous because the junk food was not the idol. You will probably, instead, start eating too much green beans or something.

Yes, it may be somewhat helpful to remove the junk food from your house for a time as you are prayerfully seeking God's face and attempting to turn from your gluttony.

When I had problems with 1) drinking too much coffee and 2) eating too much ice cream, did I put either of them out of my house? No. Did I overcome the problem with God's help? Yes, and I still eat ice cream and drink coffee, but in moderation. I recognized the heart issue (partly through my study of alcohol in the Bible) and dealt with it instead of with the items that I had problems with most frequently.

I'm also still not getting the Cheesecake Factory example. I'd appreciate an explanation of why it is so decadent in your eyes, other then "you're not enlightened so you won't understand."

1/21/2006 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Ben, I definitely realize that there is a difference between books and movies. One has the picture painted with words aided by the reader's imagination, and the other has the pictures there already and the mind must at times do the job of the narrator.

Neither of these forms is more evil or better than the other. You seem to be trying to make movies out to be inferior or something due to the fact that you say you can't reread, underline, and check the sources.

Movies and books each communicate in different ways, so for some things a book would be better but for others a movie would be. Some stories are better visualized because the story in written form would take too long to describe the scene and thus lose the reader.

You say that you are enjoying a CS Lewis fiction right now. So would that be a book or a movie? The movie is pretty good. I've seen it twice. I've read the books a number of times, but I've never underlined anything while reading it.

Ryan, you apparently still don't totally understand what I am saying about addiction and idolatry, and I do realize that you mentioned it in your first post. I hope Matt's comments help you understand. Perhaps you need to read Matt 12: 43-45.

1/21/2006 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Ben, I noticed that nobody has responded to you question about how you would teach your children about right and wrong in movies.

I'm assuming that you asked that question realizing that there isn't one correct answer. What would work for one child wouldn't necessarily work for another, and what would work with one movie wouldn't necessarily work with another.

Let's say that when you have kids you and your wife choose to either home school them or send them to a good Christian school. Most of their learning will take place in sheltered Christian environments from the home to the church.

Part of good training is using every day experiences to teach. There are some situations that we wouldn't want our child to go through, but we'd like them to learn from someone else's experience so when they get to a similar experience in their own life they will know what they should do. You have most likely experienced first hand a parent's public embarrassment due to a child's tactless outburst regarding his or her observation or the child who decides to try out the word he or she heard someone else use.

Some things you can use as teaching aids are books and movies. Using only books wouldn't be as effective since some things are better understood when seen.

As for explaining/teaching what's real and what's fantasy, that totally depends on the child. A child's imagination shouldn't be stifled since its development will affect the child's success in the future, but on the other hand the child should be able to comprehend the difference between reality and what the imagination creates.

1/21/2006 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Nathan, I really am beginning to feel like a conversation may be beginning. You asked, "why is different bad? I would say that if the form of drama is bad, it is not because it is different. I am not sure we have argued that different is bad. I think what we have been after is to say that motion pictures are different than books, and persuasive in different ways than books are persuasive. The communicate in different ways than books communicate. You seem to agree with this. So the question is how are they different? If so, is one better than another? Your science fiction illustration seems to take the side that all forms are okay, no matter what (I would say that I would be very hesitant to let information pass into my brain in a passive way, but perhaps I am misunderstanding what you are saying). Your point seems to be that no form is inherently bad. Here I am not particularly eager to get into a discussion of form, because of my confessed ignorance on the subject (the last thing I want to be is a fundamentalist who thinks he understands these things and goes spouting of his mouth like he does, you know?). I do want to address what seems to be your main point, though. You said, there has been no biblical evidence presented as to why a form of media should be considered inherrantly [sic] bad. The Bible does not speak to forms. Just as it does not say that any given form is inherently bad, it does not say that all forms are inherently good or even neutral. The Bible does not speak to this and we should not force it to.

Finally, Nathan, you said, If a book presents the same philosophies, why is it not just as wrong in your eyes? After all, most of the bad philosophies started in written form somewhere . . . (etc). My conention would be that books communicate differently from movies (please understand that when I say this, my argument is not that watching any motion picture is bad). Part of the way movies communicate is in the fact that they are entertainment, and entertainment devised in such a way as to feed the appetite for sense. Kids watch television and motion pictures instead of reading books partly because of the saturation of sense is so much greater. With books there is a voice and ideas, and books can no doubt communicate very persuasively. But you are much more an active participant. Movies are most of the time watched for entertainment purposes. In fact, they are created to entertain. Entertainment is much more prone to passive receptance than, say, a serious philosophical treatise. You are interacting wiht the ideas presented in a philosophical treatise. Throughout this thread, my point has been that when you are being entertained, you are far less prone to critical reflection. Think of the difference between listening to a pops orchestra play the James Bond theme and listening to a chamber orchestra play a Bach cantata. There is a difference between entertainment and serious art. Most people approach movies as entertainment. When they do, they are simply revelling in whatever is being presented on the screen uncritically. And, perhaps because the movies is somehow "good" in their eyes, they are even more susceptible to the things the movie is communicating. Let me give you an example, and I'll use a book to do it. I would say that a similar "uncritical acceptance" is going on when Christian women read Janette Oke books today. They are presented as "good Christian literature," and are presented as in a popular format as entertainment. So women just revel in them, and soon their ideas of the ideal man changes. Their idea of erotic love is formed by this "novel." Their idea of modesty and the marital relationship and whole bunch of other things comes in, largely unawares. Now this is potently present in this "Christian romance novel," but these elements would be even more persuasive in a movie version of these things, I think. The way a motion picture is meant to be viewed is with interuption, a continual stream of this world where love between a man and a woman is sentimentalized. Why is it so hard to change the channel on the television when you are in the middle of the program? I think both the movie and the book should be rejected outright. Does this help?

Finally, let me say this. I would assume that you have some standard for what makes a given movie unacceptable for a believer to watch. What would those elements be? We have asked this question many times in many ways. We have yet to receive an answer.

Fitzage, I am not saying removing the junk food "makes you any more spiritual." I never said that. What I am saying is that any spiritually minded person is going to "keep himself from idols." I think we are close to saying the same thing, but for some reason you don't want to be saying the same thing that I am. Your story betrays that you yourself are willing to "abstain" (for to take in moderation is still a certain degree of abstention) from certain things when you suspect you are loving those things too much. Tell me, do subscribe to Playboy? Are you in the habit of watching porn flicks? Why not? No is making the point that abstaining from movies is the key to a spiritual life. What we are saying is that we love Christ so much that we are freely choosing better things. We want to be the good soldiers of 2 Tim 2. We hold fast to the head, Christ. We condemn those who appear to love movies more than Christ.

Finally, Fitzage, you asked about the Cheesecake Factory illustration. My point was that the Cheesecake Factory struck me as representing the world and its system. It was everything. The dim lights, the trendy architecture, the decadent food offerings, the drunken debauchery (that's to get back at you for actually attempting to discuss your "credo alcohol" on this blog--don't even think about it), the music, and the whores (pardon my language) standing about in their slinky dresses. This statement will not go over well on this crowd, but I am even dubious of the place because many of my unregenerate friends tell me that it's their "favorite restuarant." But cast that last comment aside. I thought of 1 John 2:15-17, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (ESV). I was tempted to love the Cheesecake Factory more than God. So thought of that verse, and I said it to myself. And then I ate there. The world calls to us like a whore, asking us to love it more than our Beloved. I have an extreme distrust for my tendencies to love. I know my love for God flickers like a small candle at times, and would be quenched by the floods of the world. I want deliverance from that.

ALF, I believe you are citing Matt 12:43-45 out of context. If I may cite Craig Keener, "Jesus' point is what it says to that generation: althought Jesus was exorcising the generation, its evil leaders were setting it up to be demonized all the worse by rejecting Jesus' reign." This verse is not a stand alone discourse on the nature of removing "our sins", but a remark in the context of vv 22-24ff of the same chapter.

1/21/2006 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Nathan & Alf,
You're right, books and pictures are different. What you seem not to grasp is that although these media present information, they do so at entirely different speeds. Your ability to process one IS NOT the same as another. (I take it that I am writing to mortals here).
I'm sure you drive. I'm sure you walk. Walking is different than driving. (DUH!) But during which activity do you really get to know a place? Which allows for reflection and thought? You might scream along at 70 mph through the Upper Peninsula of MI, but you have yet to know it until you walk through its beautiful woods on your own two feet. Driving is INHERENTLY against seeing the countryside in any of its wonderful detail and intricacy. And don't imagine that you can speed along a part of the information super highway and not get highway hypnosis. (Don't imagine, and I don't either, that you or I can see EVERYTHING in a movie and evaluate or appreciate or critique it). Sure you see a blur of trees, maybe even a deer or two. Yeah, you “stayed in the lines”—most do—who cares? But don't flatter yourself into thinking you've “seen the countryside.” In fact, describe what you saw on your last trip to wherever you went, and then tell me what you've read in your last book. Hopefully, one will have more detail than another—otherwise you need to sue your 1st grade teacher for letting you watch Sesame Street!

p.s. Alf—the book, and it's great! :-)

1/21/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Alf,
If you carefully read my post to Abigail again, you will see that I asked her "what" she will teach regarding movies, not "how" she will teach. I am asking for content, not method--that was what the original post was about in the first place.
As to teaching my future children (just a newlywed here) I will teach them by my example, by my life--whether or not I want to teach, for better and for worse. And you will teach by yours. That is sobering. And I would hope my example would reflect what I have learned not only on my own but also from my father and his experience. And I will not be perfect at it. But I don't intend to let Johnny Depp (sp?) teach my son about being a gentlemen. Actors teach by their example, too--whether they are nekked or not, swearing or not, killing or not.

1/21/2006 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ryan, you are correct in that I agree that idolatry is wrong. There is a difference, though, between something that was created specifically to be an idol (which is what the Israelites were supposed to put out of their houses) and something that becomes an idol because of it's use.

The idol in gluttony is your desire to satisfy your own belly at the expense of glorifying God, or perhaps the desire to have something other than God fill a void in your life. Removing anything in your life in an attempt solve the problem will do absolutely nothing because you have not removed the idol, and your desire will simply find another target.

My mention of alcohol was not intended to start a discussion on the subject, but to share what finally brought me to the realization that my immoderation in any area was sinful.

And, no, moderation is nothing like abstinence. Moderation is the proper use of something that God has given us to enjoy, whereas abstinence from the same thing is refusing gifts that God has given you to enjoy.

Porn is not a good gift from God, and therefore must be abstained from. This is a completely different matter.

Also, I think you are taking a part of the definition of Matt 12: 43-45 and making it the entire meaning of the passage, and misinterpreting it because of that. I think it is applicable to this discussion.

Thank you for explaining your Cheesecake Factory illustration. I must say that I haven't seen any attire at a restaurant of that nature that is any more immodest than what I see every time I go to Wal-Mart. Also, if I am going to a romantic dinner with my wife, I want dim lighting. It helps maintain the romantic mood. It also helps so I don't have to look at the whores around me.

In regards to "drunken debauchery," you must have hit Cheesecake Factory on a bad night. I can honestly say that I have never seen anyone get drunk at any restaurant, Cheesecake Factory included.

And what's wrong with trendy architecture? Is architecture somehow more godly if it has flying buttresses and such?

Ben, so now being able to more fully absorb the contents of a book as opposed to what you can do with a movie makes it less dangerous? I'm really confused now.

Anyway, I think I may be done with this. It's clear that it's not really getting anywhere.

1/21/2006 07:29:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/21/2006 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Nathan, your reference to Beavis and Butthead is telling.

I have similar contextual challenges; I frequently relate things around me to the idyllic superstructure from which I have struggled to emerge.

It is worth the struggle to free our minds from these cobwebs.

1/22/2006 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Ryan,

In regards to your comment "We condemn those who appear to love movies more than Christ." please read the following:

Matthew 7

Commentary

Both the passage and the commentary say pretty much everything that I wanted to about your comment.

1/22/2006 06:38:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Todd,

I had no idea that Nathan's comment had any tie to Beavis and Butthead. It's one of those comments that get repeated by many.

This is America where people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

1/22/2006 06:41:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

There are two ways to be consumed by the world.

1. Love the world and be consumed in the lusts thereof.

2. Be so consumed with the problems and sins of the world that you aren't doing what God would have you to do. (There are many ways this extreme can be manifested.)

1/22/2006 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Okay . . . my zon dumped cophee into the keyboard and novv I can't type w (vv), s (z), or f (ph). Thiz iz not a joke.

vve have repeatedly attempted to zvvay you to our zide.

It iz becoming increazingly clear that vve have a diphpherent idea oph vvorldlinezz and the Christian religion than you do. Pleaze go avvay, unlezz you vvant to actually converze coherently about thiz. My miztake vvaz actually believing that all oph you vvere vvilling to dizcuzz thiz. My error vvaz calling thiz a dizcuzzion. Phor all oph thiz, I apologize to my readerZ.

1/22/2006 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

That's hilarious, Ryan. But seriously...

1/22/2006 11:48:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

I'm sorry that you feel the way you do about what I've said.

I was concerned by some of your comments because it sounds like you are forgetting about the souls of the worldly people around you. Of course, the unregenerate do terrible things, but can we expect otherwise? Condeming and judging people (whether believers on not) is not what Christ has called us to do.

Since most people aren't going to just go check out a church we need to go to them. I'm not talking about necessarily going door to door. I'm talking about the harder stuff like being nice to the cashier and the pesky neighbor kids and looking for opportunities to share Christ in a humble manner remembering that nothing we do will bring that soul to Christ because it is totally Christ's work.

Unfortunately, Christians are known for being judgmental, mean people. The first step towards changing that stereo type is for believers to get along. If we can't get along with fellow believers, how can we be the lights the world needs?

I realize that this comment doesn't tie into the original post about movies, but I didn't feel like I could ignore something that was implied and mentioned more than once.

I would like to see more people's thoughts on the original topic of this post - movies. It seems that for some reason the conversation went weird directions.

1/23/2006 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

The stakes are too high for my downplaying important differences I have with other believers. I struggled for nearly a week to even bring the conversation around the point of my original post. You refused to do this, or to answer any other questions that we offered begging for clarification on your position. You did not even offer us the charity of understanding what we said before you critized it.

In the end, I have concluded that the impasse is a result of a different kind of Christianity between us and you--different ideas of worldliness and the dangers of worldliness; different ideas of the pleasure found in Christ. Any statement now of unity would be purely external and a pretense of what was actually there. You have made no effort to show that we share a common faith; in fact, at nearly every point you could, you attempted to show how our understanding of the faith differed.

My hope would be that if an unbeliever passed through Immoderate, that they would repent and turn from the world and embrace Christianity and all of its glory. That they would find in Jesus Christ greater joy than the sloughs of the world's offerings and entertainment. To confuse them that Christianity speaks with two voices on this subject may be even greater to their misunderstanding. And we need less misunderstanding with the claims of Christ.

The irony of all this is, of course, that it appears movies receive a more sympathetic hearing from you than we do.

1/23/2006 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

And let me add with all sincerity, that it is with great sadness that I wrote that last post. I, for one, hoped that we had more to fellowship over than our back and forth has since shown. I hoped that we still shared many things in common. I was mistaken, and, it appears, very much so.

1/23/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Okay, fine. We've addressed (discussed, debated, fought over) every piece of your original post, but here's a recap:

"O, yes, I hear the objection: but after you watch it, then you can "talk about" those negative elements. Sure. Whatever. Talk all you want. Which is more persuasive: your debunking all these ideas by "talking through them" or your entering into the story and its supporting world-view with your whole person, allowing the art to communicate to you as it is intended while you sit there passively taking it all in? Perhaps I am proposing a false dilemma; but my point here is rhetorical. Why do we believe that we can escape this? Perhaps we really do not understand the power of movies."

Believe it or not, everything before the above paragraph I agree with. I don't see, though, how you can say that we have not argued against this part of your post. Obviously, our arguments don't convince you, which is odd, considering you say "perhaps we really do not understand the power of movies," yet you offer nothing to prove how movies are so much more powerful. We brought up the fact that we DO NOT believe movies are "more powerful" than other genres of entertainment and have carried on better conversation in that regard with others in this post than you, Ryan. We simply fail to see how reading a book, for instance, with certain philosophies is any different than watching a movie with the same philosophies. Neither changes our worldview or our beliefs and I would argue that they don't/wouldn't change yours either. This is a simple statement of fact, based on observation, personal experience, and lack of any objective evidence to the contrary.

Your next and last paragraph is a simple judgment of all Christians who hold a different perspective of movies than yourself. They "really worship on Friday night" and "they completely let go." We've argued, this, also, that no one we know watches movies with this complete abandon and worship that you speak of. I personally have argued that one is no more or less "into" a movie than reading a book or listening to music. The Evil Sith that create the movies know this, too, which is why they play a reel asking people to PLEASE not talk on their phones, throw things, let their baby cry, etc. during the movie. For some reason, the people that actually make and show the movies disagree that one must inherently (sorry for spelling "inherent" incorrectly so many times) give themselves over automatically as the credits begin to roll.

We understand that unity in the Church is not at all what some Christians are fighting for. Might I strongly encourage all who are reading this to not skip through the first part of I John 2 on their way to judging other brothers for violating vs. 15. Verses 7-11 seem to be completely at odds with statements like "we condemn anyone [brothers in Christ]..." and with viewpoints that write relatively minor differences off to "a different kind of Christianity between us and you." If you wanted to hurt us -- you have. I would say that your favorite passage in this discussion (I John 2) "condemns" you from our perspective just as much as it "condemns" us from yours.

1/23/2006 04:59:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Ryan, you are lumping my comments and beliefs with those of others. Is that fair? Also, it would appear that you aren't even reading the passages (God's Word) and commentary (words of someone other than me) that I have used.

I also didn't realize that I needed to explain all of our common beliefs. I assumed that you remembered who I am and that your familiarity with the prerequisits for working at Northland would have given you a pretty good idea about what I believe.

I am praying that God will work in all of our lives to show us each where we need improvement, and I am consoling myself with the fact that God is ultimately the One who changes the heart so there is no point in continuing this discussion.

1/23/2006 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ryan,

I'll make an attempt to answer the question posed to us that I think you're referring to that we haven't answered.

The question is, basically, "so what criteria do you use when choosing movies."

My answer is that asking us to give you this goes against one of the main points of your original article (a point which I agree with). Namely, that a lot more should go into analyzing movies [and I'll interject books and other media as well] than just a simple list of criteria by which we judge it (whether that be the "big three" or "big five" or "big 25").

If I were to write what I use to analyze movies, I would have to write a book, and I don't have the time for that (nor do I have the attention span to write something of that magnitude).

I know I never got to your original article (at least not all of it) because that wasn't why I jumped into the discussion. I jumped in primarily based on comments made by others, and some of your final comments in the original post. I agree with you that the big three are not sufficient for evaluating any form of art.

I did not intend to offend you, or evade anything. I did not have the time to comment on and respond to everything that was written. I'm sorry for any abrasive or judgmental comments I may have made.

1/23/2006 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Abigail said...

"I'm assuming you have children"

Hah, no. I do not have children yet; however, I was taught well by my parents and my siblings do have children (some of them at the age that they are learning what is pretend in life and what's real)

I thought this would be obvious...but I'll explain it anyway. I guess you wouldn't understand the way I was raised (and as far as I know, how many children in a Christian home are raised) since you don't know me. :-P

I'm not advocating sitting down with your children, necessarily, and having a "talk" about movies. That is not what my parents did, and a lot of times, making a big deal out of it is a bigger incentive to not listen (we all have our rebellious leanings). In any case...as a family we watched movies fairly often, and when as a small child I was frightened, or as a teenager I was drooling over some actor, my mother constantly and quietly reminded me by saying "It's just television" or "in the movies, anything's possible" etc. I'm saying that teaching your children about movies, as with anything, is a gradual process, evidenced by your life and also by your day-to-day teaching. My dad also made a point of muting cusses when he could or remarking consistently of his disapproval of the unecessary (as always) use of vulgar language.

So...although I don't have kids, I understand from what I have experienced and seen that parenting is not "let's sit down and tell them what they need to know so we've got it out of the way", but a process that takes years of careful preparation and nurturing. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." That is essentially what I'm trying to say. If you implant the basic principles to apply to their lives, providing that they are following God's will, they will do what is right.

I know I'm offtopic a bit(I rather tend to do that...), sorry. I do feel, however, that these discussions will be less necessary in the future if we do teach our children properly. This has been an interesting discussion. (dittos, Matt ^ for your above comment)

Ok, I'm done.

1/25/2006 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Bob M said...

You guys and your isolationsim. HOw are you ever going to preach the gospel to every creature if you become Monks? Joel, you'd be a sad monk if K ever left.

1/26/2006 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Howdy Bob! What do you mean by isolationism?

1/27/2006 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Bob M said...

Ryan said, "isolation is sometimes the answer concerning certain (probably many) points of the pagan culture in which we live."
Jan 20, 12:54.

And then Joel at 1:20 pm said "I'd just like to go on record as being for isolationism and the re-institution of the eremitical orders. If my wife ever kicked it, I'd be considering it hard. "

1/27/2006 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

The word is being used in several different ways in this thread, and I think folks might be talking past one another with it.

The word actually describes national foreign policy. Its meaning may serve as a useful metaphor in describing the independent local church.

Ryan seems to be advocating a limited sort of isolation; I think it was called separation from the world when I was a kid. I think I agree with Ryan; most likely everyone on this thread agrees with him in principle, if not in application.

Our opponents on this thread picked up on this with a stock straw-man, using the word "isolationism" perjoratively. Their reinvention of the word in this context seems to charicature us as ostriches with our heads in the sand, which is at best unkind, and at worst a refusal to wrestle with our ideas.

1/27/2006 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Todd,

I won't respond to your antagonism except to say this:

Separation from wordliness is one thing, which all of us on this thread agree is biblical. Doing your best to avoid anything that has anything to do with our culture as your way of avoiding worldliness is not biblical, and certainly doesn't follow the example set for us by Christ.

Setting up standards for yourself to avoid being worldly is also a biblical principle, and I commend you for that. However, trying to call us ungodly and worldly because we draw the line in a different place is definitely unbiblical.

You are definitely advocating an isolationist policy in regards to worldliness. And to show that I am not redefining the term isolationist, here's what the Oxford American English Dictionary has to say about it:

isolationism |ˌīsəˈlā sh əˌnizəm|
noun
a policy of remaining apart from the affairs or interests of other groups, esp. the political affairs of other countries.

1/27/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Fitzage,

Trying to call us isolationist because we draw the line in a different place seems to charicature us as ostriches with our heads in the sand, which is at best unkind, and at worst a refusal to wrestle with our ideas.

Separation from wordliness is one thing, which all of us on this thread agree is biblical.

If so, then you yourself call ungodly the worldliness from which you separate. If you do not call it ungodly, then on what basis do you separate?

1/27/2006 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Yes, I call worldliness ungodly.

No, I don't call other Christians who I know are not trying to be worldly ungodly just because I don't agree with every stand they take.

That's what Christian liberty is all about.

I think I'm done.

1/28/2006 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger Bob M said...

Todd,
I know what Ryan was talking about. At least I think I do. And I was being obnoxious on one hand, knowing that you guys are comfortable with your masculinity. Then on the another level I was being sardonic. I bleed that.

2/02/2006 11:40:00 PM  

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Immoderate: Christian goes to the movies

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Christian goes to the movies

I am painfully aware that the current fad among young evangelicals and, more and more, among young fundamentalists is not to criticize movies. How doth the argument typically go? Something about how any protest against movies is pure legalism or whatnot. After all, even Touchstone and World magazines have movie reviews! And what is the difference between going to a movie theater and watching a DVD/VHS movie in your living room? Well, actually that is a good question for those who insist on a dichotomy between the two. But I typically resist such dialectical revolutions of cultural norms. Anyway, I am quickly digressing into incoherence.

My main grievance is the naive (pardon my French) approach of many Christians to the movies. I am now speaking of the test of the Great Three exerted by Christians upon movies:

1. No female nudity or sex.
2. No swearing--er, at least no "using the Lord's name in vain."
3. "Not too bad" violence.

Yes, there they are--the "holy three" of movie standards. Yes, good Christian, if the movie passes this great and reverent test, the movie is good. Of course, if the movie is "really, really good," then we can perhaps ignore one or two of these precious (and, oh, so legalistic) standards. As if these are the only elements of danger for believers! What about irreverence or the idea of tolerance? What about sentimentalism (loving the wrong things too much) or brutality (loving the right things too little)? Are these elements not present in the vast majority of the films being belched up by the world? Let me let you in on a secret: movies do not become good simply because you have "Curse-Free TV."

O, yes, I hear the objection: but after you watch it, then you can "talk about" those negative elements. Sure. Whatever. Talk all you want. Which is more persuasive: your debunking all these ideas by "talking through them" or your entering into the story and its supporting world-view with your whole person, allowing the art to communicate to you as it is intended while you sit there passively taking it all in? Perhaps I am proposing a false dilemma; but my point here is rhetorical. Why do we believe that we can escape this? Perhaps we really do not understand the power of movies.

You see, most Christians really worship on Friday night. That is the apex of their week. They have given themselves over to the working the entire week, probably working too much (you have to make a living, don't you know), and so they finally get to "unwind" and "take in a good movie." This is their escape. This is their joy and delight. Movies are their way of worshiping the Entertainment Deity. And now they poor themselves into their rite, complete with libations (soda pop) and meal offerings (popcorn). And they completely let go. This, after all, is the real power of movies. For one to watch a movie as it was intended to be watched, one must give himself over to it, and allow himself to be swept away. He must enter into the lie. The greater the lie, the greater the movie. And how do we know the movie is good and "harmless"? As long as it meets the standard of the Almighty Three. And here, while our guard is most down (we already know it's a good movie--remember the test?), the world comes in unawares and subtly convinces us of its moorings. You see, "the Great Three" is really simply a surface danger; I believe the real danger lies below, and, because it comes in so subtly, Christians are more prone to fall prey to these underhanded elements. To a certain extent, I am not even talking about anti-Christian themes like adultery or gambling. I am speaking about world-views. The real danger of movies is not at looking at a naked woman, but the redefinition of modesty. The greater danger of movies is not the actors' taking "the Lord's name in vain," but arrogant disbelief. The violence of movies is nothing compared with the idea that it is cruel to execute a murderer. These things are more dangerous, because they are more subtly present. And we wonder why the church is worldly.

104 Comments:

Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

But Ryan, we all need an escape, I mean, to keep our sanity, we need to escape, right?

Somebody once suggested that this is the nature of the idyllic imagination, and that it subverts the moral imagination, but that fellow must obviously need a little escape himself, eh?

The great thing about being a Christian is that we know what to watch for and can filter it out, not like the non-Christian who is actually influenced by all that garbage. We can sit back and just ... enjoy ... the ... movie ... mmmmmm, yesssss.

Drink the Cool-Aid, children, and you'll feel no pain.

1/17/2006 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Oh, yes. An escape from the Kingdom.

How do you break it to American evangelicals that they are not going to be able to watch Braveheart or The Sound of Music in the Millennium?

1/17/2006 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Todd, though sarcastic, you're actually right. The Christian is to filter out that which is contrary to Scripture.

I agree that the Christian should not place that which is deliberately evil in front of his eyes. Films like Brokeback Mountain infuriate me, especially when they are honored with awards that used to be reserved for movies that were actually well written and well acted. When the purpose of a medium is to blatantly promote evil, it should be avoided.

HOWEVER, to take your "subtle philosophies" argument to its logical and necessary conclusion, we would all stop reading newspapers, blogs, classic literature, theology books (besides the Bible itself); stop frequenting any retail stores, gas stations, restaurants, Christian college dorms; stop talking to anyone besides God Himself in prayer; stop listening to any music (Bach) that might have the slightest "philosophy" difference; in fact, we'd have to stop leaving our houses all together because that would mean intentionally opening ourselves up to those "subtle philosophies." In fact, didn't the translators of the NIV slip some worldliness into the very words of Christ? (Easy, I'm jesting on that last one).

I realize in the environment I'm writing in here that I will be glossed over as "worldly" because I really enjoy watching movies. I also enjoy listening to music, reading books, and watching ball games. My question is, since when did we become anti-entertainment? And, is the Christian who watches King Kong in the theater two hours before reading the book of Romans -- for the third time that week because he's completely overwhelmed by it -- more or less worldly than the Christian who constantly criticizes others in the Church for doing things he deems "worldly?" Which one is spending more time focusing on the things of the world?

Our minds do sometimes require down time and it's not evil to choose quality entertainment to enjoy during said down time. You take your Shakespeare and Bach and I'll take my Lord of the Rings and Matrix (I realize it takes hundreds of years for a work to no longer be worldly, but I can't help myself).

1/17/2006 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

You take your prime rib and tomato soup and I'll take my bubblegum and rat poison any day.

1/17/2006 04:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Scott you forgot to add that in 100 years the rat poison will be on the same level with the soup.

I don't know Ryan, now you are faced with the insurmountable task of demonstrating that Bach's Mass in b is superior to the Matrix and that the philosophy of Peter Jackson is somehow inferior to the philosophy of Jonathan Edwards.

But if you could explain exactly how the suble influence of the movies works I'd be impressed.

1/17/2006 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Okay, Nathan. Let me try to respond to your inquiry.

First, let us establish what I did not say. I am not trying to argue that we should never watch movies (though I am nearly arguing this). What I am trying to argue, and if you read me carefully I think it was clear, was that Christians hold up a pretty lousy bar for testing movies. Were I to argue that we should not ever watch movies, I would use different (though perhaps similar) argumentation. My main point was that the usual test for deciding whether or not a movie was right or wrong stinks. My secondary point, though not argued explicitly, is that Christians are worldly and that movies and entertainments in general are idols in their lives. I would consider myself guilty of this charge, at least.

Now in your response, you said, "When the purpose of a medium is to blatantly promote evil, it should be avoided." That's an interesting statement. "Avoided" is a pretty loose word. I am not sure how much we can avoid some of these media that promote evil, but I do know that we should not be loving them.

The point of my whole discussion was that the nature of movies is particular to itself, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, any dramatic arts. You cannot exempt yourself or you do violence to what the art wants to do. Not only so, but by the very nature of how we approach movies (that's where I started talking about some Christians' worshiping Friday nights), they cause us to "relax" and "be entertained." Notice how "be entertained" is a passive verb. I am arguing (though not very carefully) that there is something unique to the nature of movies that all of these other things do not have (you list, "newspapers, blogs, classic literature, theology books (besides the Bible itself); stop frequenting any retail stores, gas stations, restaurants, Christian college dorms; stop talking to anyone besides God Himself in prayer; stop listening to any music (Bach)"). Nevertheless, many of these things you would do well to be without. But back on the topic, movies demand your complete surrender. Your approach to them means that you do not have your guard up. I do not want to rehearse my whole argument here, but I am differentiating movies from other forms. When you read a book or the newspaper, your involvement is different than your involvement in watching a movie. Perhaps I could be accused here of arguing along subtle lines of distinction. But, with all candor, I do not believe, based on your own admissions, that you are in a position to judge that.

Concerning your remark about the Christian who goes to the movies and reads Romans upteen times a week, I can only say that perhaps he should read it only once very slowly. Reading it three times is obviously not having an impact on him. Okay, that was a bit sarcastic. Let me say it this way: this is a false dilemma. Whether or not someone who reads the Bible constantly frequents a movie theater does not establish or disestablish the prudence or morality of attending movies. People are full of contradictions. Who cares? Let's say that you read the Bible more than I do and you go to movies and I don't. Again, who cares? None of these examples do anything to destroy the validity of my argument. It only gives me a hypothetical (or even a non-hypothetical) as an experiental test to my premises. What do you want to counter with? An argument that the Apostle Paul (who wrote Romans) never went to a movie, so that we should never go to movies? [P.S. Did the Blessed Apostle ever visit dramas while in Athens?--that's a rhetorical question . . . no need to quote 1 Cor 15 and get into speculation!]

Concerning your last paragraph: Listen, I am all for leisure and enjoying leisure. That really does not take away from anything I said.

Finally, Joel asks "how the subtle influence of the movies works I'd be impressed." And I suppose it would not do to simply say, "read Richard Weaver." Perhaps I should say instead that one should listen to the Birzer lecture I have linked on the side bar. Nevertheless, let me give this a shot (but don't shoot back if come up short, please!). Movies, like many other things (such as fantasy novels and other art and language) bring with them a value structure based in their language. We enter that world when we hear them speaking in the language of their culture. And, again, movies are more powerful to move the individual into this world than any book or poem or painting. That is not to say that these media are not powerful towards these ends. Richard Weaver says concerning the print, "If the realization of truth is the product of a meeting of minds, we may be skeptical of the physical ability of the mechanism to propagate it as long as that propagation is limited to the printing and distribution of stories which give 'one unvarying answer'" (Ideas Have Consequences [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948], 96). Yet movies, again, because of their explicit nature and overwhelming speed in delivery, do this to a heightened degree. Again, Richard Weaver says, "The movie producer is a maker almost to the extent of the poet, for he is working with a means capable of transforming subject matter. His production carries the evaluative power implicit in all dramatic representation, and it is, in the usual course of affairs, employed for the purposes of entertainment" (Ibid., 100). I am, by the way, when I say these things, not holding a great distinction in mind between "movies" and television drama.

1/17/2006 09:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Abigail said...

Hmm...interesting article. Seems a bit extreme in my book.

Part of Weaver's article placed a large emphasis on the effect this will have on children. However it seems to me that if you can't teach your children what is right and wrong, and what is real and unreal, then it'd be your failure as a parent, not Hollywood's failure as a movie industry. (Not to say that censorship should be thrown completely out the window...)

If you think your children are too naive or easily influenced to watch some movies, great. It's a good thing that you're careful about letting them see too much too early (before they understand how much of it isn't real). But I hardly think that going to see The Piglet Movie with his 3 and 5 year old daughters is going to cause a problem for my 30 year old brother.

As far as the subliminal messages that movies send, yes, we understand that they are there. In fact, I find most of them quite obvious. However, if we know that, say for example, Disney is sending subliminal messages that homosexuality is normal/okay, then our children should understand that Disney makes funny movies but they're just pretend.

...isn't that the point? A diversion not from the Christian life - that is why we are still on our guard to filter out that which is unclean - but from the stress of monotony.

Ryan, I believe you overstated Nathan's position based on his comment about Romans: "Concerning your remark about the Christian who goes to the movies and reads Romans upteen times a week..."

He was saying that he has read it through 3 times that week because he was overwhelmed by it, a statement which to me speaks of a careful yet voracious hunger for the Word. (Pretty sure I'm reading you right there, Nate)

So, I do believe there is valid concern about the influences of the world and movies and entertainment in general on the Christian life. As long as it comes after Christ, our Christian duties, our ministry to others, and especially our families, there is a place for it.

And TVGuardian, annoying though it may be, does help with a few of those nasty wordses.

1/17/2006 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

There is a Better Way. But folks don't want to hear it.

Stop watching TV. Stop reading the newspapers. Avoid the movie theatre. Stop listening to pop music. Stop reading whatever drivel is coming down the chute from the popular press.

Start reading classics. Start listening to classics. Start imagining, start dreaming, about what is good and pure and beautiful. If you are immersed in pop culture you can't. Period.

I know all the stock answers in protest to this absurdly reactionary stance, so if anyone wants to trot them out, feel free; I gave them all myself before I chose the Better Way.

I am not always consistent in following the Better Way, but when I foolishly stray into pop culture, I suffer mental hangovers comparable to the worst that Jose Cuervo has to offer.

1/17/2006 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

"You take your prime rib and tomato soup and I'll take my bubblegum and rat poison any day."

"I don't know Ryan, now you are faced with the insurmountable task of demonstrating that Bach's Mass in b is superior to the Matrix and that the philosophy of Peter Jackson is somehow inferior to the philosophy of Jonathan Edwards."

Wow. I thought I had a good handle on this whole sarcasm thing, but I can see I'm way out of my league. I'll ignore those two in favor of the [still biblically unsupported] comment from Ryan.

I've heard the whole "movies are more involved" line of thinking and I choose my subjective personal experience over the experts, sorry to say. I am no more or less involved when I'm watching a movie than when I'm reading a book or listening to music (except the occasional background music, which I don't do often). The issue is whether or not I will become an athiest by watching movies more than by reading Nitzche (purely for research for my class, of course). I would argue that the most involved we are in our surroundings is when we're simply going through real life. That's like a movie on crack - wider screen and better surround sound. Come to think of it, the Director is the best.

That said, how does our coworker's swearing (Sorry, perhaps I should explain that I am a lowly layperson who works in the SECULAR workplace - people do all kinds of things. Of course, without the movies and the rest of our elusive "culture," they probably would act like church mice.) or the sudden appearance of the porn rack at the gas station differ from movies? Oh, I got it! With movies, you can actually choose what you see! So, really, a good movie is actually better than going to work or buying a soda at the gas station (tongue firmly in cheek).

I would argue that the ones "escaping" (todd) are not the ones who enjoy selected movies, but the ones who find it easier to write whole segments of the arts off categorically because they just don't know how to deal with them.

Ryan, I'm sure you noticed that when I'm writing I use examples that someone might relate to. These aren't intended to be all encompassing position statements on my part, so I'm not sure why you jumped on the Romans example. Since this is obviously an environment that judges spirituality based on self-imposed standards of conduct, I thought that was a good example. Guess not. What I was trying to say is that in my experience based on the churches I grew up in (all culture is evil) and the church I am currently in, the people that exhibit the higher degree of love for God and others and that are genuinely seeking the truth of His Word are people that also partake of alcohol, watch good movies, and choose to not require adherence to a standard they created in areas of music. Does this mean we show the Passion on Sunday morning and jam to Jars of Clay albums on Sunday evening? Of course not. I haven't changed that much. I and the leadership of our church are very much opposed to most songs that were written during the "revival" surges in our country (lack of depth and doctrinal maturity) and opt for works by the likes of Wesley and Watts more often than not. The issue of "appropriateness" comes into play, just as it did in the Old Testament when God set up stricter guidelines for temple worship than for everyday life. So, it's funny that my church music now is more conservative than it used to be while my personal music is less.

Back on topic, I simply don't understand the philosophy that says "movies affect you more so the slightest bit of unbiblical philosophy should be avoided in them, whereas it's fine to let these philosophical differences have free reign in other areas of the arts." When I read Macbeth, I don't start saying "damn" all the time and trying to kill people, just like I don't when I'm done with the Matrix. I don't go to Jonathan Edwards for entertainment, since that would make me kill myself. I do however go to him for theology -- well, at least a little. I love Bach as much as the next former music major, but I don't let his chosen liturgy form influence what I'd use in my church. The thought is abhorent, but if I were even to watch Brokeback Mountain, I would not come out of the movie coming out of the closet.

I think that ignorance is bliss and how I long to regain it. Don't over estimate the Evil Power of Movies. They are not inherantly worse or better than other art forms. I believe it's the Bible that seems to indicate our responsibility is to make sure we're not sinning. I realize the next big stop for this conversation might be Christian liberty, so I apologize to all my weaker brothers if I've cause you to offend (sin). If I have, my blogging power must be even stronger than the Evil Power of Peter Jackson.

1/17/2006 11:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Austin said...

There are actually movies that meet the 3 criteria?

1/18/2006 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Abigail, you seem to be missing both Weaver's and my point.

Nathan, if you don't buy my argument, fine. I do not think you are really interacting with it, you are simply dismissing it. Again, real life is not entertainment. And in real life you have a chance to respond to the philosophies. Nobody talks to movies. If you are doing it in faith (Rom 14:23), all I can say is that I disagree. But here's a questionf or you: What is the difference between your protests against Brokeback Mountain and my position? Degree?

Austin: beats me.

1/18/2006 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

And what is this comment all about?
"Since this is obviously an environment that judges spirituality based on self-imposed standards of conduct . . . "

Again, you are missing my point in that whole paragraph. Whether or not you go to a church that both loves God and watches movies is no concern of mine. It does nothing to establish your argument or disestablish mine. I am really not concerned about whether or not there is a group of godly people who watch movies. My primary point is that the vast majority of Christians are terribly naive about how they judge movies. Should I tell you that I know some godly people who are Baptists, ergo you should not be a Presbyterian?

Finally, I have one more remark. You said, "I believe it's the Bible that seems to indicate our responsibility is to make sure we're not sinning."

Remember Lot's wife.

1/18/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

How long before evangelicals control Hollywoood?

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17866401%255E2702,00.html

Now there will be a persuasive reason to quit watching movies.

1/18/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Funny, Joel

Some Christians want to win the culture wars. I would be happy with Christians reforming (reclaiming, whatever) the culture in our churches.

1/18/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

To Todd Mitchell,

I don't know what classics you read, but most classic literature is full of ungodliness, and not always displayed in a bad light, either.

Also, what advantage is there to a Christian not knowing anything that's going on in the world? There is definitely a place for newspapers. Of course you could get most of your news off the internet, and then you get to see banner adds of half naked women for personals websites and such.

Unless you want to completely cut yourself off from what's going on in the world, you can't avoid these things. God did not call us to be hermits.

1/18/2006 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Fitzage: "I don't know what classics you read, but most classic literature is full of ungodliness, and not always displayed in a bad light, either."

Much is, yes. To understand where I'm coming from, start with Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and then read Richard Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences.

Fitzage: "Also, what advantage is there to a Christian not knowing anything that's going on in the world?"

The latent presentism in this sentence is like blood in the water for us, my friend, but I will simply say that the historically myopic and slavishly Pavlovian claims of those immersed in pop culture to "know what's going on in the world" are amusing, to say the least.

Fitzage: "There is definitely a place for newspapers."

My parakeet agrees.

Fitzage: "Of course you could get most of your news off the internet,"

Read Ideas Have Consequences and we can talk about "news."

Fitzage: "and then you get to see banner adds of half naked women for personals websites and such."

Pop culture is a broken cistern, isn't it?

Fitzage: "Unless you want to completely cut yourself off from what's going on in the world, you can't avoid these things. God did not call us to be hermits."

You have created a false dilemma. This is like saying, "Unless you want to be completely transformed, you can't avoid being conformed. God did not call us to be holy."

1/18/2006 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Wow.

I had to look presentism up. For those who didn't:

"uncritical adherence to present-day attitudes, esp. the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts."

But then I looked that up in a dictionary that was published in 2005, so it's probably pop culture. At any rate, you're accusing me of uncritically accepting modern values and concepts, just because I don't uncritically accept your values and concepts. That is a rather large leap.

I am, in fact, very critical of our popular culture, but I don't see how accepting as a replacement the pop culture of decades or centuries ago is any different than what you erroneously accused me of.

Knowing what is going on in the world is a responsibility we have. To know what's going on in the world, one does not have to be conformed to it. Granted, any news you read (whether published by a Christian or a pagan) will have a slant placed on it, no matter how hard the author tries to say otherwise. That doesn't give us the right to tuck our heads in our little holes and say "I'm holy because I don't have anything to do with pop culture."

We are to be in the world but not of it. Granted, this is getting quite a bit off topic, but I don't see how hiding your head in the sand to protect yourself from pop culture does anything to help the cause of Christ, or personal holiness.

I've hard about these people who only know about the world from what their pastor says, because they won't open a newspaper or watch tv. I wasn't sure they actually existed though.

1/18/2006 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Last Friday night my wife and I decided to use a couple gift certificates for The Cheesecake Factory. When we went in, I was struck with it all, with the atmosphere of decadence and materialism and general worldliness. To a certain extent it's there--even in our restaurants. I still ate there, but I kept saying to myself as I waited (for 75 minutes to get a table!), "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

The point of this story is not my personal piety, for that mask would too quickly be pulled off. Would I ever tell someone that it is a sin to eat at the Cheesecake Factory? Absolutely not. But they had better not love it.

Listen, fitzage and Nathan. I am not exactly sure where you guys are coming from. But it seems you are stereotyping us as a bunch of fundamentalists with which you are too familiar. Instead, perhaps you could actually read what we are saying, and with us lament the worldliness of the church. Perhaps you could even admit that I may have a couple points right. I am not asking for full-blown acceptance here. But instead of accusing us of legalism and "sticking our heads in the sand" (a somewhat rhetorical phrase) and whatever else because you associate us with some charicature of your past, perhaps you could instead honestly ask yourself, "do I love the world?" When I ask myself this question, I am often disturbed by my answer. So please, instead of protesting something I did not even mean to say, perhaps you can join us in slowly moving the door of our tent away from Sodom.

1/18/2006 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

You know, I've been wanting to say this somewhere, but I haven't had the guts to post it at the orange river, so this thread is really as good as any.

What, really, is the big deal with this whole End of the Spear thing. I mean, don't get me wrong, it is a big deal, but why are we surprised? To put it bluntly, only people who love Hollywood and who look for any "Christian" excuse to watch movies would be upset by this.

I guess for someone who doesn't own a TV, this wouldn't have even entered my world.

1/18/2006 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Well said, Ryan.

Scott, your comment reminds me of something I said in my last post, "We should not wish to revive Barbie so that the Bratz and the Flavas dolls will go away." I am as disgusted as anyone out there about this scandal, but I'm perhaps even more disgusted that the goal of most seems to be simply making a more acceptable movie.

1/18/2006 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I am not sure what all the hooplah is about. On a certain level, I understand the outrage, but I am not a big letter writer. This really should not surprise us, anymore than the ordination of persons as bishops who have sex with other persons of the same gender. We have lost the Culture War, and we've very nearly lost the Christian Culture War.

Why would someone want to patronize an obvious attempt of Vanity Fair to make money off of Christian's death in the first place? I think to get upset about this says that we actually would have gone to see the stupid movie if the part of Nate Saint was played by some pious fellow like Robert Jones III instead of this Allen guy. I don't go to movies. I laugh at the folly of movies produced for Christians, and wonder who the square-eyed believers are who mindlessly succumb to the Entertainment Gods. Can you hear the chant now? . . . "Give me Christian Entertainment . . . Give me Christian Entertainment . . ." Reminds me of Night of the Living Dead. Hmmmmm. I love irony. Just think about that title.

I digress.

One thing I do know, is that now you, Scott Aniol, have polluted the waters. I have descended into the abyss of the blogosphere discussing this crazy thing. . . . and we usually keep things above the bar around here, too. I guess that means my traffic will increase, though, now that we've tapped into the stream. I have enough fundamentalist popularism left in me to be obsessed about TRAFFIC (and I'm not talking about the movie).

Here's a group participation question: What do think Jesus' favorite movie would have been?

1/18/2006 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

You're killing me!

I'm terrified that somebody might actually try to answer that question with the name of a movie.

I'll buy you a piece of cheescake at the Cheescake Factory if you post that question here.

1/18/2006 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

And break my streak of consecutive days not posting at SI? You've got to be crazy.

I double-dog dare you to do it . . .

Though it'd probably mysteriously "disappear" like your comment did the other day.

1/19/2006 12:03:00 AM  
Blogger Andy Efting said...

I'm not exactly where you guys are on this topic but am very sympathetic. If you really want to get depressed, you can read John Frame's reasons for Christians to go to movies at his Theology at the Movies site.

1/19/2006 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger fitzage said...

And what would have been Jesus' favorite piece of classic literature?

Ryan, I wasn't responding so much to your article as to Todd's extreme views on not knowing what's going on around you.

1/19/2006 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I'm not sure Todd's views are that extreme.

1/19/2006 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Todd's views are extreme in the sense they are not shared by most and in the fact that they are the result of some informed thinking on the subject. Let us have more of this extremity.

1/19/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Wow, I ignore this for a couple days and it goes south!

Ryan, et al.: How does one even get approved to post on SI? I was rejected and my complaint letter was met with "You sound upset" from the powers that be. Anyway...

Andy: The article you link to is excellent. It says what I've been trying to more succinctly and less sarcastically.

Ryan: I realized the Backside Mountain reference in my second comment was just plain retarded. Yes, I wouldn't become gay by watching it, but no, it's not related to my problem with the "subtle philosophies" argument you're propagating. From what I hear, there's nothing subtle about it. Since that caused some confusion about my stand, I apologize. Reference the other examples I used right before that.

Ryan: So as to not continue to appear like I'm not actually addressing what you're saying (though I think my thoughts were valid since somehow we've moved into being uncomfortable spiritually even in RESTAURANTS), let me say this: why are we so weak spiritually that we think we must reform either The Culture or The Church Culture in order to do what God put us here to do? As Christ sat to eat with the sinners in His day, was He thinking "man, I'm not going to do this again 'cause these people have unbiblical ideas and I just know I'm going to fall prey to them." When Paul purposely entered into discussion with the Greek philosophers, was he really thinking "I shouldn't be doing this because they might convince me of something BAD, and besides - what will the deacons think if they saw me here?" Were Christ and Paul trying to change that culture they immersed themselves in? YES! Did they think the best way to do that was to hang out at the temple with blinders on? Absolutely not.

I don't see much in the Bible about what people did for fun, but there's enough indication that they did do things purely for enjoyment. Peter and others liked to fish, David liked to dance and sing, and Adam and Eve liked to just run around naked. Solomon was wise, but seemed to have only one thing on his mind: singing. Of course I'm digressing, but my point is that people were allowed to be people in the Bible. I'm having a hard time coming up with a single person (including Christ Himself) that behaved in this isolationist mode that you all are glorifying as the only way to keep ourselves unspotted from the World.

I guess I'll have to dive into pop culture this evening so I can determine what the heck The Edge of the Speak is. Never heard of it.

1/19/2006 02:20:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

There are extreme postions for everything.

One extreme would be no media (Ryan, I understand you aren't that extreme.) and the other extreme would be absorb it all with total disregard.

Both extremes are wrong.

Even though Ryan's post is about movies I'd like to discuss music for a moment. Who created music? When God created everything did he not say that it was all good? Yes, sin came in and tainted everything, but that is all it did. A good mental picture I heard recently is a seminary library that was flooded in one of the recent disasters. Those books are tainted by the dirty water, but it didn't change the words in those books.

I'm assuming that nobody believes that music is bad, and everyone can agree that music can be used in bad/evil ways. I personally don't like Faust because there is too much emphasis on the evil and it gave me the creaps, but that doesn't mean that we should avoid all operas.

We can't say from scripture that movies were directly created by God, but He created music (which has always played a huge role in movies) and he created our desires for drama.

I also believe that anything (even devotions) can be sinful if the heart attitude and approach is wrong. For instance, a dissatisfied individual who uses romance films to feel a void/need and an individual who does their devos with the wrong heart attitude or motivation.

Yes, we don't need to to subject ourselves to senseless violence, bad language, etc., but I think your approach to a movie matters. For instance, I know someone who watches movies just looking for anything that could be remotely wrong and pointing them out. She will even go so far as to read the street names in the background and see if she can find a reason for offense. I think that sensoring movies or having someone verbally pointing out perceived problems in a movie actually defeats the purpose because it draws attention to the offense.

I work for a general contractor, which means that I hear the language that you avoid in movies. It is a part of life that cannot be avoided by very many people. I do not use the language or even quote other's use of it. Perhaps I've become a little more desentitized, but I don't think that you shouldn't watch a movie just because of poor word choice. If I had small children who are learning to speak, I would try to avoid it until they were old enough to understand.

I believe that each person is responsible for determining what movies they will watch and why. I don't think there is one universal correct answer for everyone; however, I don't believe that there is anything wrong with watching your movies in the movie theater. The reasoning I have heard for not watching them in the theater is because people might think you are going to watch "that bad movie". If people assume that you are seeing the bad movie, then maybe you should take a look at your testimony. On the other hand, if we apply that same reason to other areas in our lives we can't go into Blockbuster or Family Video or pay for our gas inside the station because people might think we're getting something we're not.

I think the biggest issue here is deciding why you are going to set the standards that you set and what are your decisions based on? Standards shouldn't be set to avoid having to deal with heart/spiritual problems. And if you are addicted to TV and movies or have a desire to watch the wrong kinds avoiding them isn't the answer because you will only transfer that addiction elsewhere. Avoidance doesn't deal with the root of the problem.

1/19/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I tempted to respond to my Western Presbyterian friends, and I probably still will. But at this time, I want simply to make the comment that I continue to have the feeling that we are not really dealing with the content of my original post.

1/19/2006 03:25:00 PM  
Anonymous St. Augustine said...

But at that time, in my wretchedness, I loved to grieve; and I sought for things to grieve about. In another man's misery, even though it was feigned and impersonated on the stage, that performance of the actor pleased me best and attracted me most powerfully which moved me to tears. What marvel then was it that an unhappy sheep, straying from thy flock and impatient of thy care, I became infected with a foul disease? This is the reason for my love of griefs: that they would not probe into me too deeply (for I did not love to suffer in myself such things as I loved to look at), and they were the sort of grief which came from hearing those fictions, which affected only the surface of my emotion. Still, just as if they had been poisoned fingernails, their scratching was followed by inflammation, swelling, putrefaction, and corruption. Such was my life! But was it life, O my God?

1/19/2006 07:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

St. Augustine on the subtle working of the movies! And why we so . . . persistently resist the extreme notions of what used to be known as Christianity.

1/19/2006 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Nathan, first: I am not sure how one gets on Sharperiron these days.

you said, somehow we've moved into being uncomfortable spiritually even in RESTAURANTS. You obviously trust the world much more than I do.

you said, why are we so weak spiritually that we think we must reform either The Culture or The Church Culture in order to do what God put us here to do? (etc . . . ) You said you were going interact with what I was actually saying, right? When I did present this either/or? Since when is a prioritization of one option over the other supposed to be "weak spiritually"? How does this advance the conversation. Comments like these tempt me to not even respond to you, or even to go on a deleting comments binge. My first responsibility is to the crises in our churches, I believe, before those in the world. I do not feel compelled to fulfil any cultural mandate. I let the Carnells and the Henrys of the world worry about that. Moreover, Christ may have been concerned with redeeming culture, but only in the sense that he offered them the promised Kingdom. The chosen people could have realized in Him all that God had planned for them, but they rejected him. Paul was not trying to change the age but win the persons in the present age to "the age to come." I realize that it is quite likely that we may disagree over eschatology, but you're not post-mil are you? I have no problem with conversing with the unregenerate with the hopes of their repentance and conversion. But movies are not dialogue. In fact, movies are the direct opposite! You are doing no talking. You are not "trying to change that culture," you are sitting there listening--only listening, and more than listening, I would argue. There is no parallel between Paul speaking with Greek philosophers in Athens and your sitting in front the movie. Zip. Zero. None. But even if they were, movies are much more subtle than reading philosophy (which I do) or even listening to a philosophical lecture--your intellect is not as engaged with movies in a critical way. You are being entertained.

you said, I don't see much in the Bible about what people did for fun, but there's enough indication that they did do things purely for enjoyment. . . . people were allowed to be people in the Bible. I'm having a hard time coming up with a single person (including Christ Himself) that behaved in this isolationist mode that you all are glorifying as the only way to keep ourselves unspotted from the World. You are presenting a false dilemma. But let us assume for the moment that we are indeed saying that watching any movies is sin (which no one has said). Are you assuming here that every form of humanist enjoyment is morally acceptable? What about self-multilation? What about sexual enjoyment outside marriage? What about drugs? Nobody is saying that we should not enjoy life nor the humanities. We are saying that not every form of enjoyment is good. If you have to take an extreme position of our argument (and twist us into saying things that we never said to begin with), you may want to reevaluate what you are really arguing against. A charicature, prehaps? You doth protest too much, me thinks.

ALF, you said, [God] created our desires for drama. I'm not sure how you are going to establish that one. I challenge you to prove it. Just because we have desires for something does not mean God created it. You should know that there are several centuries of Christians who would not be favorable towards drama.

you said, I think the biggest issue here is deciding why you are going to set the standards that you set and what are your decisions based on? Standards shouldn't be set to avoid having to deal with heart/spiritual problems.

Remember Lot's wife.

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: [19] Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) [20] For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: [21] Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

1/19/2006 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Yes, remember Lot's wife. God commanded her not to look back, but she was so enthralled with the world that she couldn't resist.

She had a spiritual problem that no amount of artificial standards could change.

You seem to have the impression that we "Western Presbyterians" think that we are to be like the world, but that is not what we are saying. You are taking it farther than we have.

Yes, there are things we should avoid, and we should not set wickedness in front of us; however, the artificial dichotomy that you are trying to create between movies and other media doesn't exist. At least it doesn't exist for everybody. Adina and I do not sit back and passively watch the screen and get absorbed into the story. We usually critique the movie as we go (not out loud, of course, if we're in the theater because that's just rude).

In fact, it is easier to get carried away by a book because it requires you to engage your imagination -- a much more compelling influence than movies.

Also, many people think the book of Job was used as a drama to be acted out. This isn't proof that the Bible condones drama, but an observation as to it's possible use.

I have been in a Cheesecake Factory once as well. I didn't stay and eat, because I was just getting desert to go. But I'm having a hard time seeing what caused your reaction. It had nice enough decor, I suppose, but there was nothing particularly decadent about it. The lighting was dim so you didn't even have to look at the decor if you didn't want to.

1/19/2006 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

"I'm having a hard time seeing what caused your reaction."

q.e.d.

1/19/2006 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Matthew (fitzage), okay. you are finally interacting with me.

First, let me say that I have only responded to direct remarks. I am not taking anything too far. We are being criticized for erecting "external standards." I believe that holiness demands that we do not love the world. This is about the heart. Stop making my desire to see the church reform their approach to the cinema as a mere external (movies as idolatry was a large point of my original post).

Second, I am not trying to create an "artificial dichotomy." I am saying that one exists. You seem to disagree. If you critique the movies while watching them, you are not really giving yourself over to them. This is unnatural, in my opinion. I know some people do it. But the better the movie, the less you are able to do it (I would argue).

You said, In fact, it is easier to get carried away by a book because it requires you to engage your imagination -- a much more compelling influence than movies. Now I have acknowledged the power of books throughout my coments, and I have no intention of backing down here and now. But to say that movies are less powerful than books is one I think you are going to have do more than assert. It seems, to me at least, to be made merely to get your point across, and nearly laughable at its face. I am not trying to be mean here, but why are the all the little fat kids in America watching movies and TV instead of reading books? For the same reason they eat McDonalds instead of the green beans. Appetite, man. Appetite.

You said, Also, many people think the book of Job was used as a drama to be acted out. This isn't proof that the Bible condones drama, but an observation as to it's possible use. Yes, I've heard of that. Tell me, do you believe it? Do you really? Explain to me why scholars characterize it as such. What are their arguments? Why do you embrace it over rival interpretations? Why even bring it up if you don't accept this interpretative framework for the book?

Finally, I stand by my Cheesecake Factory comments. But perhaps someone could tell me how the world works. You men claim to be humanists loving the drama and enjoyment and all this. What do these things mean? What does architecture communicate? Why do you think they dim the lights? I guess some illustrations are just wasted.

1/19/2006 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Why are there rounded corners on this page? Why is there a drop shadow? Why is Ronald McDonald's hair red?

Seriously, Ryan? Now marketing, advertising, design, and illustration are all forms of worldly expression? Come now. Just like you polish a sermon, some Madison Ave geek tries to polish the look of a place or their advertising to sell them - to get people to like it. Why did you choose the color of your Bible?

Instead of Western Presbyterian, I'd prefer to simply be called Christian or Former Baptist. Whichever. I give up.

1/19/2006 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

The day I sell a sermon is the day I should resign my pulpit.

1/19/2006 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

"The day I sell a sermon is the day I should resign my pulpit."

So the day a marketing exec sells a beer is the day he burns in hell. Okay, got it. As goes cheesecake, so goes selling.

This is something I found that seems to accurately portray the picture I'm getting in my head. It just keeps getting deeper and deeper, largely, I think, because your side has the philosophy of "there's no turning back now." I'm sorry that I came across your post and shared the link. I know how it is to have those hateful people out there in blogsville actually question what you're saying. I noticed that doesn't happen all that often on Immoderate.

Final parting thought (or blow): don't presume that you are spiritual and so your personal standards are inherrantly right for us all. Don't imply that we have the same head issues Lot's wife had when she was longing after real sin and we're simply questioning a philosophy that wants to pick and choose what cultural elements are acceptable. If you want to act (if I may use a movie term) as if you're opposed to the unbiblical influence of culture, at least give a consistent treatment.

No, we can't talk back to movies. What this has to do with what is right or wrong is beyond me. And no, we can't talk back to 90% of the authors we read, either. So you'd have to say we would actually be talking to others about what we've read. Okay...and how does that correlation not carry over into movies?

You wrote off my thought about how real life is much more involved than movies by saying that real life isn't entertainment. That doesn't change the fact that whereas one can't escape real life, one can choose which movies he watches and thereby is actually less apt to be unintentionally influenced by wrong philosophies. There is no off switch in real life and there is no exit door. Now, granted, you can talk back to real life, but I have yet to see someone walking down the street yelling at the immodest woman on the billboard, quoting Scripture to the porn they stumbled on in the bookstore, or even keying the paint of a car with a pro-choice bumper sticker. As sick as I am of hearing the term "false dilemma," I think I am far less guilty of putting them forth than those of you that say "pop culture is bad -- classics are good." Classics are just pop culture that actually lasted. There's no difference in the amount of "subtle worldly philosophy."

And that's all I'm saying. Maybe. What else you got?

1/19/2006 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Fitzage,
To group books and movies in the same class of media would make Neal Postman roll over in his grave. In his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, (referenced by others) he posits an important distinction between “print based” and “picture based” media that might help in this discussion:
“The printed page revealed the world, line by line, page by page, to be a serious, coherent place, capable of management by reason, and of improvement by logical and relevant criticism.” (p. 62)
In other words, the last time you read a book you were able to critique the writers words. And if you didn't understand them, you could reread a section until you did. In fact, the writer was good enough to lay out his thought process SO YOU COULD FILTER OUT wrong ideas. Even more so, having read a book, you could say, “I agree” or “I disagree,” or “That's true” or “That's false.” Printed media naturally lends itself to intensive examination—and you're right it does involve a person—much more than any movie ever could.
Think of the last time you watched a movie. Was the experience the same as reading a book? Were you able to underline the good parts, or reread the unclear parts? Did you ever think--”Wow, that's false” or think, “That's a stretch.” For that matter, ever seen a movie with footnotes? And if that's not enough, think of the speed of the “media intake.” When I'm at top speed I can read about a page and a half per minute of intense prose--with understanding--if I've had my 9 hours of beauty rest. And if I get to a point where I am unclear about what the author's trying to do, all I have to do is drop back a few paragraphs to catch the flow of thought. Usually it's because I missed an important sentence or subtle piece of punctuation.
Now take your average movie, or TV commercial, or sitcom. How many times do they change screens or shots or angles? The avg. is 10-20 times per minute (yes I've counted—Jerry Mander in his book, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, put me up to it). Just when you are drawn into one picture, they flash another one at you—why? Because they are try to “create” action or a sense of “movement” But they are certainly not trying to “frame an argument.”
I'd like to see anyone [besides that speed reader guy on TV ;-) or a seminary student] read 10-20 pages per minute. Are the movie producers doing so because they want you to really “ponder” what's going on? When's the last time you pressed the “rewind” button to ponder over a scene? I normally did it when I saw something “cool,” not to reflect. Movies tell stories in pictures. And pictures, by their very nature, are limited in what they can represent. They can only represent the physical and the concrete. They are very surface; they can never deal with the unseen or abstract. May I say, pictures have a very “limited vocabulary”? When's the last time you saw two people arguing theology in pictures? :-) Furthermore, how does one tell a “true” picture from a “false” picture?
Therefore, movies and books are two entirely different media. Reading one is not the same as watching the other. But, if you still don't believe me , try and draw a picture of what I've just said. Or, instead of writing something in response draw a picture to “refute” me—if you can. :-)
One of Ryan's points is that the medium of movies, by its nature, is biased in favor of not thinking. I think such a thing is called “propaganda.” And having a silly standard of no SVS (Sex, Violence, Swearing) or using the TV Guardian makes one a slave to such propaganda. And I am not saying, at all, that you have such a standard--nor anyone else on this blog. To have such a standard would only demonstrate the poor grasp one has of the nature of the medium of movies.
And all that being written, we have not even discussed the incredible differences between the print medias, i.e. 'news' vs. “serious literature.”

Ben

1/19/2006 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I am so not following you guys.

1/20/2006 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That's not to you, Ben.

1/20/2006 12:05:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

"I am so not following you guys."

Me either, now.

1/20/2006 12:08:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

And that is to you, Ben.

1/20/2006 12:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Nathan,
I think you may be misreading Ryan. He is not a foot stompin', movie bashin', liberal assasinatin' fundamentalist. He is not arguing about going or not going to the movies (directly) or making a list of movies not to see and checking it twice. Any old school
"fundamentalist" can do that! Nor is he trying to be a little chirping cricket on your shoulder. He is trying to help us reflect on the medium of movies and assess whether or not our criteria for partaking or abstaining is worthy of the paper it's printed on or the mind it is couched in.
And thus far in "christian America" the criteria has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
p.s. I'd love to READ what you have to WRITE in response to my post--because I'm not artistic enough to draw pictures. Nice picture, by the way, but it's of no resemblance to the immoderate Ryan I know! ;-)

1/20/2006 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Wow, Ben. I've been spilling pixels for three days and have yet to summarize my point so well.

1/20/2006 12:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Nathan,
In short, I am arguing that the medium of movies and the medium of books is entirely different. They have inherent biases that cannot be overcome. Books come in pages. Pages can be turned at the reader's will and after having been comprehended. Pages are made of words. Words are the "stuff of thought. Thought (among other things) separates man from beast.
Movies come in pictures/photographs--to the tune of 10-20 different ones per minute. Photographs (and I distinguish these from paintings) are not thoughts. They don't argue for or against, true or false--they just are.
You do not read a book the way you watch a film. A book you can filter because you are dealing with words. But how do you "filter out" bad pictures? And this is Weaver's point. It is not the high slit or revealing blouse that's the [real] problem. Any person can say porn is wrong. But that is not the sort of discernment Phil. 4:8 calls us to. If there is anything true, honest, just, etc. THINK on these things!

1/20/2006 12:30:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

I hinted I wouldn't say anything more, but I have Postman's book right here in my hand, and have read it. Seems a lot like the pop wisdom of the world critiquing the pop entertainment of the world. For those that have never read the book, Mr Postman is not a Christian, so his book is full of potentially crippling pop philosophies.

I went through this line of nit-picking the little ins and outs of media with music (wilted plants, anyone?). Besides the fact that these "experts" publish much that is simply a load of, well, you know (I tried real hard to kill my plants, couldn't do it), since when (sorry, Frankie G, I have to go here) are Christians so enamored with what secular experts have to say when it comes to our practice? I thought we were a "Bible alone for faith and practice" group. Perhaps we should read the expert Darwin for advice on biology or Roe v Wade for thoughts on prenatal care. It's all well and good to read interesting studies, but letting them dictate our faith (yes, faith) and practice is a dangerous road I don't care to go down. I would also have to say the same thing about Christian authors (Rick Warren?) who propagate something that sounds good on the surface, but is opposed to Scripture's teaching. Did Postman write his book for any sort of sacred purpose? If not, what was his purpose? Fear of losing the old-fashioned culture he loved or something of the sort? Is that perhaps why Christians attack modern culture? I realize it's a lot to ask, but can someone here honestly answer those questions? Culture has been constantly changing since Creation, but suddenly it becomes our mission to destroy it. Culture contains much that is good, even healthy for the Christian. For instance, there's been a surge of organic food on the marketplace. Do we avoid it because it's part of a modern culture or accept it because it actually is much better for us? Back to the issue, then, do we reject a phenomonal series like Lord of the Rings on any grounds other than "it came out of culture, or specifically, out of Hollywood?"

I must be the most naive Christian on the planet, but I really think the Bible alone has some good things to say about what we should and should not do and believe. I also think that as interesting as it might be, the speed and dexterity that we fill our minds has nothing to do with the actual content we're filling with. So get back to what I want to know about: Biblically, how is one medium better or worse than another, assuming similar content? Or, how is today's popular entertainment worse than that of 300 years ago?

"I am so not following you guys."

Though I keep re-reading the comments and original post, it seems I'm still missing the point somewhere. Can somebody on my side of the debate explain how I'm not arguing the right topic? I'm lost. I'm evidently protesting too much, but it seems to me like I'm arguing against the recent comments. Am I perhaps not linked into the Matrix anymore?

1/20/2006 12:36:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Ben,

I of course would have to concede that as media go, movies are the closest to "real." They are supposed to be exciting (for the most part), and, yes, they do use cuts to speed (or slow) the action. That's a good editor/director's job. I see nothing sinister in this, as I've heard argued with pop music videos. To say that's inherrantly bad would mean blinking your eyes is also bad because it creates the same type of sequence cut.

So, yes, books are different than film in some ways. What you guys are arguing, though, is that it's impossible to shut out the content of a movie. Perhaps this is where I am actually disagreeing. I think this is simply an assumption based on either the way you personally watch movies, or on something you've read that is evidently not worth the paper it's on. Even if I went for the full two hours of a movie without looking away or changing thoughts one time 1) how does 2 hours of good content differ from 5 seconds of reading an inappropriate or unbiblical phrase and 2) I still don't understand what makes movies a worse experience than the encounters of real life. As I've said, I choose the movie I watch based on the things I do and do not allow into my mind -- based on my honest evaluation of my own spiritual maturity. I don't just wander into any flick and give myself over to it, and I don't know of anyone (saved or no) who does. And, you'd better believe I evaluate what I'm seeing, if for no other reason than to be able to recommend (or not) the movie to a friend.

PLEASE tell me I'm arguing the original post now.

1/20/2006 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ben, I was not saying that books and movies are the same. I was, however, comparing apples to apples: movies, which tell a story, to novels or classic literature, although I did not make that completely clear. You seem to be comparing movies to books that are trying to make an argument about something or other, hence non-fiction.

Someone who writes a story tries to draw the reader along just like a movie tries to do. The point remains that an idea is still much more powerful when it enacts your imagination than when it lays it all out for you; hence story books can be much more powerful than movies.

In regards to newspapers being much different than books: duh. They are communicating different information, and have a lot less time to do it in. Are newspapers perfect? No. Is there bad stuff in newspapers? Most definitely. Is it good to know what's going on in the world? Absolutely.

Todd, what is q.e.d. supposed to mean? I'm guessing it's another sarcastic jab, but I don't get it. And I still don't get the problem with a nicely decorated restaurant.

1/20/2006 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/20/2006 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Nathan said, "What you guys are arguing, though, is that it's impossible to shut out the content of a movie."

Where have we argued this? What I have argued is that shutting out the subtle themes of the world is very difficult, and, even so, not as persuasive as the movie. I have argued that because movies are entertainment they are more prone to allowing the world's mores to affect you. But having said all this, I have not, nor would not say that it is impossible to shut the themes out. This, I believe, is part of the problem some here are having in understanding us. We are not setting up an "either/or." We have been trying to speak of tendencies. But because most Christians have a reductionistic, surface way of judging what makes a movie good, they ignore the real threats movies pose. Now make no mistake, I take a very conservative approach to movies, but I have tried to very careful in what I am arguing for and against here. It seems you keep wanting to shove me in one ditch or another. I am trying to argue that someone who watches a movie as entertainment (which entails that your guard is largely down) is more susceptible to the subtle persuasion of the motion picture to enter into and share with its sentiments.

You said, "I must be the most naive Christian on the planet, but I really think the Bible alone has some good things to say about what we should and should not do and believe. . . . . So get back to what I want to know about: Biblically, how is one medium better or worse than another, assuming similar content?"

The Bible simply does not address motion pictures in any way. Nor does it address the superiority (or similarity) of certain art forms over others. You've got to add categories. You have to add your understanding of movies. If you're looking for the Bible to condemn movies, you'll be looking for a long time. But neither does bless them. You're trying to make the Bible speak to things it does not.

1/20/2006 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

No sarcasm intended with q.e.d.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q.E.D.

1/20/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Nathan,
I think you are arguing for the original post. What I have attempted to demonstrate thus far is that the medium of books allows for more critical judgments than does the medium of picture. I think that you would agree that we need the element of TIME in order to think—and I also think that you would agree that movies do no give us the amount of TIME we would like. We cannot reread, underline, or check the footnotes like we can a book.
So, if I have understand you correctly you have agreed that movies have an inherent bias against extended thought when compared to books; but you have also correctly pointed out that just because movies (generally) mitigate against thought you dont' necessarily and “uncritically give yourself over” to a movie. In other words, it is still possible for you and for me to filter and sift through a movie. Agreed. Nothing we have said to this point negates this.
But we need to move from the question, “Do movies lend themselves to evaluation?” (yes, they do, though precious little compared to books) to some more important questions: What kind of criteria are used when evaluating movies? Secondly, are these criteria sufficient?
What sort of criteria, what kind of tools do you and I use to evaluate writing? Well, we hav the toole of speling, the, tool, of, correct, punctuation; the tool of CAPITAL & lowercase letterS, the tools of grammar—subject/verb agreement, pronoun agreement, misplaced modifiers, etc., the tool of logic, the categories of true vs. false, and on and on. In words other, writing itself lends to very evaluation easily. ;-)
Just reading my last sentences you have picked out the many mistakes and mixed up grammar I've (purposely) written. This simply means that you have your English senses exercised to discern between good and evil English. You have the tools and the time to use them. Your English teacher would be proud! But can we use the same intricate tools of thought for movies?
What sort of criteria do we use to evaluate a movie? For example, how does one evaluate the heroine, the main female actress in a movie? Is she a good actor because she remains fully clothed? Is it because she doesn't swear or beat people up?
When you saw KING KONG, what criteria did you use?

1/20/2006 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Abigail said...

Ryan Mitchell said: Abigail, you seem to be missing both Weaver's and my point.

Really? I'm sure you're going to explain your statement rather than implying my own ignorance and/or idiocy. If you're going to address my post, address it.

I was taking part of Weaver's post and pointing out valid concerns about future generations. I have seen children who were allowed to watch whatever they wanted, and not taught what was real and unreal within the entertainment industry. That is my main concern about movies and entertainment. (I am not addressing much of your original point, because I feel that it is somewhat pointless to do so...others have already made those arguments clearly enough)

In any case...using Paul's statement: "All is lawful for me, but all is not expedient..." If we are careful what we put in our bodies and minds, we can worry less about what is going to come out. Discernment is needed; true, but isolation is NOT the answer.

If you choose not to go to movies in the theater, or watch them in your home, because you do not feel you can watch them carefully enough - or for whatever reason - good for you.

I, however, make my own choices on the subject.

1/20/2006 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Abigail, you said, I'm sure you're going to explain your statement rather than implying my own ignorance and/or idiocy.

No idiocy intended. Weaver, in fact, is not addressing children and the movies, though you said in your earlier post, "Part of Weaver's article placed a large emphasis on the effect this will have on children." He states that as a obvious fact and quickly moves on from there. Weaver is speaking of the effect of the movies on adults. Thus my remark that your missing his point. This was not meant to offend you, but to make a simple observation. I try not to operate a trash-talk blog.

And my name is Ryan Martin.

Just to be clear, isolation is sometimes the answer concerning certain (probably many) points of the pagan culture in which we live. For example, I isolate myself from the strip club culture and from the drug culture and from the R&B culture (et al.). The question is (though not really, i.e., we have not really been discussing the validity of that question here) whether or not movies is a part of the pagan culture from which me must isolate ourselves, or, if so, to what extent.

1/20/2006 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I'm going to revise the statement I just made. I said, "isolation is sometimes the answer concerning certain (probably many) points of the pagan culture in which we live."

I am not sure that I am ready to say "probably many." I have to think about this more. It may be many, but I just want to be guarded in what I assert.

1/20/2006 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Abigail,
You are right. We are obligated as Christians to practice discernment. And isolationism is certainly not the answer. But we are not arguing for that here.
I am curious as to how you would teach your children b/c I have none of my own yet. (I'm assuming you have children==please forgive me if I assume wrong)
Let's say you're sitting down with one of your children and having "the talk"--about movies! What would your instruction include? How would you help your child sift the "real" from the "unreal"? What makes one movie better than another? What makes one movie "true" and another "false"?

1/20/2006 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ah, but Todd Mitchell was arguing for isolationism, just not in those terms.

1/20/2006 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Good question, Ben. I was going to ask the same thing.

1/20/2006 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Fitzage, what do you mean by "isolationism?"

1/20/2006 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

I'd just like to go on record as being for isolationism and the re-institution of the eremitical orders. If my wife ever kicked it, I'd be considering it hard.

1/20/2006 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Now we are getting somewhere.

1/20/2006 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Perhaps, Joel, you could elaborate as to why you have the view you do. This might be helpful for our discussion.

1/20/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Misanthropy

1/20/2006 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Hmmm. I suspect that may not be helpful.

1/20/2006 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Fitzage,
Perhaps a clarification is in order. Instead of using the term “argument” think “proposition” or “sentence.” My summary of Postman's analysis of print media applies to novels, fantasy, history, philosophy, etc. The genre is not the issue.
Books & movies tell stories. Books & movies draw the reader/observer in (and I would argue that books involve much more of the person than a movie—unless you are going to the “feelies” in Huxley's Brave New World.) However, books & movies do not tell stories in the same way. That is the point.
Books use words, movies use pictures. Because movies use pictures they are at an inherent disadvantage to convey certain types of information. Sex, violence, sports (Action!) does well on TV. Why? Because TV cannot portray the subtler, abstract things of life. For example, take the following sentence and translate it into a mental picture—no words allowed!:

Ben & Fitzage sat typing at their computers.

Pretty simple sentence and even I could draw a stick picture of it.
But try this one:
During a winter day Ben & Fitzage comfortably sat at their old computers discussing the philosophy of watching movies.

Draw me a picture of what “the philosophy of watching movies” would look like. Kind of hard, eh? Try this one:
“Alexey Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper place.” (The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky)
You couldn't draw it. I couldn't draw it. In other words, there is a limit to what a picture can express.
Therefore, because the picture is limited in the amount of info it can hold, movies are made of lots of them—who wants to stare @ a postcard for two hours? This means a person watching movies is bombarded by thousands and thousands of different scenes per movie, with only seconds to see each scene. No one, that I know, has the time to process each picture in the same way he can process a sentence. Because the scenes move so fast people naturally resort to filtering out the easiest stuff—swearing, nudity, violence—because whose mind works so fast?
Here's one for the imagination: Imagine you are taking a drink of water from a fountain. You stop every once in a while to take a breath, right? That is like reading a book. Read a sentence/take a drink. Stop. Reflect/breath. Take another one, etc.—at your own pace.
Watching a movie is like drinking from a fire hydrant of pictures. Once the movie starts you can barely keep your mental mouth over the nozzle. Where I come from that's a great way to drown (physically and mentally). Sure, when we watch movies we don't swallow the “big stuff”--but who ever said you needed 50 gallons to drown. I heard a teaspoon would do.
Don't read me as saying movies are bad, or that isolationism is the answer. We have to filter out many things in our lives; but there are few things that match the speed and simple deception of movies.
So, how do you keep from drowning on all the pictures? How do you filter out the good, the bad, and the ugly? What are the criteria that you personally use? I am guessing that it is more than just the normal SVS (sex, violence, swearing) rubric. I'm curious. So, go ahead, make my day! ;-)

1/20/2006 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

One cannot truly engage his community's culture until he has disengaged from the pop culture of the Great Stereopticon. Disengaging from pop culture is the antithesis of isolationism. Consider the irony of millions of Americans confident in their knowledge of the world As It Really Is told to them by the News Industry and "cocooned" before the Great Connecting Screen. Now that's isolation.

Like a smoker who discovers his sense of taste and smell after kicking the habit, so can Ryan, who has chosen to pursue the Better Way, see The Cheesecake Factory with new eyes.

He who has ears, let him hear. I invite all who will, sincerely and without any sarcasm: Unplug yourself. Take off the blinders. Transcend your culture. And come out of isolation.

1/20/2006 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

It would appear from Ben's comments that the only books he reads are nonfiction. I have never read a book for pleasure with a pen in my hand, etc. So I think that you should only be bothered by such inabilities when watching a documentary.

Also, assuming that people do not rewind to "re-read" a portion of a TV show or movie isn't accurate either. I don't recall doing so in order to ponder something; however, I often do so, if I didn't catch or understand something, etc. (This would be one of the benefits of watching almost everything prerecorded.)

Also, the critique of a book's grammar, spelling, etc was pointed out. If I'm remembering right, the only things mentioned to be critiqued in a movie were things like language, modesty, and violence. Not to say that these aren't items that need to be critiqued, but movies have other items to be critiqued as well. I like to watch/critique the acting ability, the story (is it believeable/realistic), the cameraman's ability, the computer generation, the stunts, etc.

Also, another thing that I haven't seen mentioned on this post is whether or not all violence, etc. is bad? Those with the filters, does it also filter out movies that have violence associated with war?

Another question I have does the role of the bad element affect your decision to watch something?

For instance war is violent, but if the movie isn't dwelling unnecessarily on the gore or someone who's loving the killing, should we not watch the movie because people are killed?

What if the movie is about some guy who realizes he is a terrible person and changes his ways? Are you going to not watch it because he WAS a bad person even though it was portrayed as being wrong?

I agree with Nathan that the speed of camera shots isn't a problem. Consider how many times your eyes move about to observe your surroundings. (While sitting in front of your computer doesn't count.)Those shots are used to direct your attention to things like a narrator in a book. They are also used for providing easy ways of doing retakes when something didn't go as planned.

Ryan, your reference to Lot's wife has me wondering if you understand what I was saying. Perhaps the following will help you understand.

Think of people who quit smoking. The majority of them are only trading one addiction for another, because the root problem wasn't taken care of. Only the symptom - smoking. For a biblical example the story of how the demon was evicted but nothing was there when he came back so he moved back in with a bunch of other demons (Matt. 12:43-45). To go back to my smoking example, people usually quit smoking several times and it gets harder each time.

So all that to say again that standards shouldn't be set to avoid having to deal with heart/spiritual problems. And if you are addicted to TV and movies or have a desire to watch the wrong kinds avoiding them isn't the answer.

One way to determine if you are addicted to something or if it's an idol, check how you react when something interfers with it or how you act without it. Think of the dad who can't be interrupted when he's watching his sports or the news and the person who can't help you on such and such a night because his show is on then.

1/20/2006 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

How come things rarely get this fun on my blog?

1/20/2006 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Todd, well said.

Alf, let me explain something. That lists do not ensure spirituality is something that is so much of a given around here (believe it or not), that we (probably wrongly) do not even say it. Of course, giving up movies is nothing in and of itself. Our love for Christ frees us to give up whatever we like. We want so badly our love for Christ to grow that we will foster it with whatever it takes. We are willing even to cut out our eyes. But isn't this the point? How easy idolatry can be? Did I not refer to this in my original post?

Let me ask you a question, ALF. Could one of the children of Israel have had an idol in his house and still love the LORD Jehovah? Was their getting rid of idols even necessary for their "spirituality," if I may use the phrase? If not, then why did God tell them to get rid of them? Let me give another, more contemporary example. Let us suppose that I struggle with gluttony. In my struggle with reigning in my appetite, I discover that I over-indulge with junk food in particular. I love the munchies so much that I simply cannot control my eating them (I realize that a condemnation against gluttony may be popular as a condemnation of movies, but work with me here). I determine that junk food is major stumbling block for me in my lust for food. Now, of course, you are not going to automatically love God simply by throwing all the junk food out of your house. But if this is something you are tempted to love more than God, why even have it with 50 feet? Why even give yourself an opportunity to sin? Perhaps this is why Paul said, "Share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No soldier on service gets entagled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him" (2 Tim 2:3-4, RSV). Therefore we believe that "keeping ourselves from idols," is indeed part of the answer. It is for this reason that we want to "remember Lot's wife."

We not only care about loving Christ, but we also care about refusing the myriad of things that are calling for our love out of the darkness of This Present Age.

Scott, I am glad someone is finding all of this entertaining.

1/20/2006 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Joel said...

Scott you need one of two things to make things interesting anywhere. Panache or misanthropy. Either one will do it.

1/20/2006 09:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Alf,
You might have read my comments, my friend, but you have yet to understand them. I'd love to hear what you have to say when you understand that there is a different between a picture and a word, bewteen a movie and a book (of whatever kind--fiction or not)
By the way, it might encourage you to know I'm enjoying some very good fiction belonging to that Lewis fellow. C.S. that is.

1/20/2006 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Misanthrope. Eremite. Other big words.

Woo hoo! I'm a cynic!

1/21/2006 01:08:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Seriously, though, in this movies v. books debate, I have yet to see where Ben has presented more than the no-brainer that movies and books are different. I'm sorry that fitzage, ALF, Abigail and myself seem to have taken the bait to argue that they're not really that much different, but we missed the point: why is different bad? Let's say they someday invent an intrusive way of media distribution that instantly publishes information in your mind without you having to sit through the 2 hour movie or 8 hour book read. Again, would this be bad? Would we have been the ones decrying Gutenberg's press that made information (good and bad) come so much faster to the general public? In this particular vein (not you Ryan, though you hint at thinking this way), there has been no biblical evidence presented as to why a form of media should be considered inherrantly bad. If a book presents the same philosophies, why is it not just as wrong in your eyes? After all, most of the bad philosophies started in written form somewhere (nothing new under the sun). Since introduction into the psyche only takes a split second (read or seen), this argument seems pointless. I have to assume that you're recognizing the already blatantly obvious science, but are taking a "those young geezers are just too fast for me" approach in practice. What does it matter if the information gets in my brain faster? Yes, I still evaluate it and yes, I still look to the Word for my worldviews, not any form of entertainment.

1/21/2006 01:54:00 AM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ryan,

But what happens when you put the junk food out of your house? What have you done? Nothing. It has made you no more spiritual, it has made you no less gluttonous because the junk food was not the idol. You will probably, instead, start eating too much green beans or something.

Yes, it may be somewhat helpful to remove the junk food from your house for a time as you are prayerfully seeking God's face and attempting to turn from your gluttony.

When I had problems with 1) drinking too much coffee and 2) eating too much ice cream, did I put either of them out of my house? No. Did I overcome the problem with God's help? Yes, and I still eat ice cream and drink coffee, but in moderation. I recognized the heart issue (partly through my study of alcohol in the Bible) and dealt with it instead of with the items that I had problems with most frequently.

I'm also still not getting the Cheesecake Factory example. I'd appreciate an explanation of why it is so decadent in your eyes, other then "you're not enlightened so you won't understand."

1/21/2006 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Ben, I definitely realize that there is a difference between books and movies. One has the picture painted with words aided by the reader's imagination, and the other has the pictures there already and the mind must at times do the job of the narrator.

Neither of these forms is more evil or better than the other. You seem to be trying to make movies out to be inferior or something due to the fact that you say you can't reread, underline, and check the sources.

Movies and books each communicate in different ways, so for some things a book would be better but for others a movie would be. Some stories are better visualized because the story in written form would take too long to describe the scene and thus lose the reader.

You say that you are enjoying a CS Lewis fiction right now. So would that be a book or a movie? The movie is pretty good. I've seen it twice. I've read the books a number of times, but I've never underlined anything while reading it.

Ryan, you apparently still don't totally understand what I am saying about addiction and idolatry, and I do realize that you mentioned it in your first post. I hope Matt's comments help you understand. Perhaps you need to read Matt 12: 43-45.

1/21/2006 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Ben, I noticed that nobody has responded to you question about how you would teach your children about right and wrong in movies.

I'm assuming that you asked that question realizing that there isn't one correct answer. What would work for one child wouldn't necessarily work for another, and what would work with one movie wouldn't necessarily work with another.

Let's say that when you have kids you and your wife choose to either home school them or send them to a good Christian school. Most of their learning will take place in sheltered Christian environments from the home to the church.

Part of good training is using every day experiences to teach. There are some situations that we wouldn't want our child to go through, but we'd like them to learn from someone else's experience so when they get to a similar experience in their own life they will know what they should do. You have most likely experienced first hand a parent's public embarrassment due to a child's tactless outburst regarding his or her observation or the child who decides to try out the word he or she heard someone else use.

Some things you can use as teaching aids are books and movies. Using only books wouldn't be as effective since some things are better understood when seen.

As for explaining/teaching what's real and what's fantasy, that totally depends on the child. A child's imagination shouldn't be stifled since its development will affect the child's success in the future, but on the other hand the child should be able to comprehend the difference between reality and what the imagination creates.

1/21/2006 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Nathan, I really am beginning to feel like a conversation may be beginning. You asked, "why is different bad? I would say that if the form of drama is bad, it is not because it is different. I am not sure we have argued that different is bad. I think what we have been after is to say that motion pictures are different than books, and persuasive in different ways than books are persuasive. The communicate in different ways than books communicate. You seem to agree with this. So the question is how are they different? If so, is one better than another? Your science fiction illustration seems to take the side that all forms are okay, no matter what (I would say that I would be very hesitant to let information pass into my brain in a passive way, but perhaps I am misunderstanding what you are saying). Your point seems to be that no form is inherently bad. Here I am not particularly eager to get into a discussion of form, because of my confessed ignorance on the subject (the last thing I want to be is a fundamentalist who thinks he understands these things and goes spouting of his mouth like he does, you know?). I do want to address what seems to be your main point, though. You said, there has been no biblical evidence presented as to why a form of media should be considered inherrantly [sic] bad. The Bible does not speak to forms. Just as it does not say that any given form is inherently bad, it does not say that all forms are inherently good or even neutral. The Bible does not speak to this and we should not force it to.

Finally, Nathan, you said, If a book presents the same philosophies, why is it not just as wrong in your eyes? After all, most of the bad philosophies started in written form somewhere . . . (etc). My conention would be that books communicate differently from movies (please understand that when I say this, my argument is not that watching any motion picture is bad). Part of the way movies communicate is in the fact that they are entertainment, and entertainment devised in such a way as to feed the appetite for sense. Kids watch television and motion pictures instead of reading books partly because of the saturation of sense is so much greater. With books there is a voice and ideas, and books can no doubt communicate very persuasively. But you are much more an active participant. Movies are most of the time watched for entertainment purposes. In fact, they are created to entertain. Entertainment is much more prone to passive receptance than, say, a serious philosophical treatise. You are interacting wiht the ideas presented in a philosophical treatise. Throughout this thread, my point has been that when you are being entertained, you are far less prone to critical reflection. Think of the difference between listening to a pops orchestra play the James Bond theme and listening to a chamber orchestra play a Bach cantata. There is a difference between entertainment and serious art. Most people approach movies as entertainment. When they do, they are simply revelling in whatever is being presented on the screen uncritically. And, perhaps because the movies is somehow "good" in their eyes, they are even more susceptible to the things the movie is communicating. Let me give you an example, and I'll use a book to do it. I would say that a similar "uncritical acceptance" is going on when Christian women read Janette Oke books today. They are presented as "good Christian literature," and are presented as in a popular format as entertainment. So women just revel in them, and soon their ideas of the ideal man changes. Their idea of erotic love is formed by this "novel." Their idea of modesty and the marital relationship and whole bunch of other things comes in, largely unawares. Now this is potently present in this "Christian romance novel," but these elements would be even more persuasive in a movie version of these things, I think. The way a motion picture is meant to be viewed is with interuption, a continual stream of this world where love between a man and a woman is sentimentalized. Why is it so hard to change the channel on the television when you are in the middle of the program? I think both the movie and the book should be rejected outright. Does this help?

Finally, let me say this. I would assume that you have some standard for what makes a given movie unacceptable for a believer to watch. What would those elements be? We have asked this question many times in many ways. We have yet to receive an answer.

Fitzage, I am not saying removing the junk food "makes you any more spiritual." I never said that. What I am saying is that any spiritually minded person is going to "keep himself from idols." I think we are close to saying the same thing, but for some reason you don't want to be saying the same thing that I am. Your story betrays that you yourself are willing to "abstain" (for to take in moderation is still a certain degree of abstention) from certain things when you suspect you are loving those things too much. Tell me, do subscribe to Playboy? Are you in the habit of watching porn flicks? Why not? No is making the point that abstaining from movies is the key to a spiritual life. What we are saying is that we love Christ so much that we are freely choosing better things. We want to be the good soldiers of 2 Tim 2. We hold fast to the head, Christ. We condemn those who appear to love movies more than Christ.

Finally, Fitzage, you asked about the Cheesecake Factory illustration. My point was that the Cheesecake Factory struck me as representing the world and its system. It was everything. The dim lights, the trendy architecture, the decadent food offerings, the drunken debauchery (that's to get back at you for actually attempting to discuss your "credo alcohol" on this blog--don't even think about it), the music, and the whores (pardon my language) standing about in their slinky dresses. This statement will not go over well on this crowd, but I am even dubious of the place because many of my unregenerate friends tell me that it's their "favorite restuarant." But cast that last comment aside. I thought of 1 John 2:15-17, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (ESV). I was tempted to love the Cheesecake Factory more than God. So thought of that verse, and I said it to myself. And then I ate there. The world calls to us like a whore, asking us to love it more than our Beloved. I have an extreme distrust for my tendencies to love. I know my love for God flickers like a small candle at times, and would be quenched by the floods of the world. I want deliverance from that.

ALF, I believe you are citing Matt 12:43-45 out of context. If I may cite Craig Keener, "Jesus' point is what it says to that generation: althought Jesus was exorcising the generation, its evil leaders were setting it up to be demonized all the worse by rejecting Jesus' reign." This verse is not a stand alone discourse on the nature of removing "our sins", but a remark in the context of vv 22-24ff of the same chapter.

1/21/2006 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Nathan & Alf,
You're right, books and pictures are different. What you seem not to grasp is that although these media present information, they do so at entirely different speeds. Your ability to process one IS NOT the same as another. (I take it that I am writing to mortals here).
I'm sure you drive. I'm sure you walk. Walking is different than driving. (DUH!) But during which activity do you really get to know a place? Which allows for reflection and thought? You might scream along at 70 mph through the Upper Peninsula of MI, but you have yet to know it until you walk through its beautiful woods on your own two feet. Driving is INHERENTLY against seeing the countryside in any of its wonderful detail and intricacy. And don't imagine that you can speed along a part of the information super highway and not get highway hypnosis. (Don't imagine, and I don't either, that you or I can see EVERYTHING in a movie and evaluate or appreciate or critique it). Sure you see a blur of trees, maybe even a deer or two. Yeah, you “stayed in the lines”—most do—who cares? But don't flatter yourself into thinking you've “seen the countryside.” In fact, describe what you saw on your last trip to wherever you went, and then tell me what you've read in your last book. Hopefully, one will have more detail than another—otherwise you need to sue your 1st grade teacher for letting you watch Sesame Street!

p.s. Alf—the book, and it's great! :-)

1/21/2006 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben Nelson said...

Alf,
If you carefully read my post to Abigail again, you will see that I asked her "what" she will teach regarding movies, not "how" she will teach. I am asking for content, not method--that was what the original post was about in the first place.
As to teaching my future children (just a newlywed here) I will teach them by my example, by my life--whether or not I want to teach, for better and for worse. And you will teach by yours. That is sobering. And I would hope my example would reflect what I have learned not only on my own but also from my father and his experience. And I will not be perfect at it. But I don't intend to let Johnny Depp (sp?) teach my son about being a gentlemen. Actors teach by their example, too--whether they are nekked or not, swearing or not, killing or not.

1/21/2006 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ryan, you are correct in that I agree that idolatry is wrong. There is a difference, though, between something that was created specifically to be an idol (which is what the Israelites were supposed to put out of their houses) and something that becomes an idol because of it's use.

The idol in gluttony is your desire to satisfy your own belly at the expense of glorifying God, or perhaps the desire to have something other than God fill a void in your life. Removing anything in your life in an attempt solve the problem will do absolutely nothing because you have not removed the idol, and your desire will simply find another target.

My mention of alcohol was not intended to start a discussion on the subject, but to share what finally brought me to the realization that my immoderation in any area was sinful.

And, no, moderation is nothing like abstinence. Moderation is the proper use of something that God has given us to enjoy, whereas abstinence from the same thing is refusing gifts that God has given you to enjoy.

Porn is not a good gift from God, and therefore must be abstained from. This is a completely different matter.

Also, I think you are taking a part of the definition of Matt 12: 43-45 and making it the entire meaning of the passage, and misinterpreting it because of that. I think it is applicable to this discussion.

Thank you for explaining your Cheesecake Factory illustration. I must say that I haven't seen any attire at a restaurant of that nature that is any more immodest than what I see every time I go to Wal-Mart. Also, if I am going to a romantic dinner with my wife, I want dim lighting. It helps maintain the romantic mood. It also helps so I don't have to look at the whores around me.

In regards to "drunken debauchery," you must have hit Cheesecake Factory on a bad night. I can honestly say that I have never seen anyone get drunk at any restaurant, Cheesecake Factory included.

And what's wrong with trendy architecture? Is architecture somehow more godly if it has flying buttresses and such?

Ben, so now being able to more fully absorb the contents of a book as opposed to what you can do with a movie makes it less dangerous? I'm really confused now.

Anyway, I think I may be done with this. It's clear that it's not really getting anywhere.

1/21/2006 07:29:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/21/2006 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Nathan, your reference to Beavis and Butthead is telling.

I have similar contextual challenges; I frequently relate things around me to the idyllic superstructure from which I have struggled to emerge.

It is worth the struggle to free our minds from these cobwebs.

1/22/2006 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Ryan,

In regards to your comment "We condemn those who appear to love movies more than Christ." please read the following:

Matthew 7

Commentary

Both the passage and the commentary say pretty much everything that I wanted to about your comment.

1/22/2006 06:38:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Todd,

I had no idea that Nathan's comment had any tie to Beavis and Butthead. It's one of those comments that get repeated by many.

This is America where people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

1/22/2006 06:41:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

There are two ways to be consumed by the world.

1. Love the world and be consumed in the lusts thereof.

2. Be so consumed with the problems and sins of the world that you aren't doing what God would have you to do. (There are many ways this extreme can be manifested.)

1/22/2006 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Okay . . . my zon dumped cophee into the keyboard and novv I can't type w (vv), s (z), or f (ph). Thiz iz not a joke.

vve have repeatedly attempted to zvvay you to our zide.

It iz becoming increazingly clear that vve have a diphpherent idea oph vvorldlinezz and the Christian religion than you do. Pleaze go avvay, unlezz you vvant to actually converze coherently about thiz. My miztake vvaz actually believing that all oph you vvere vvilling to dizcuzz thiz. My error vvaz calling thiz a dizcuzzion. Phor all oph thiz, I apologize to my readerZ.

1/22/2006 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

That's hilarious, Ryan. But seriously...

1/22/2006 11:48:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

I'm sorry that you feel the way you do about what I've said.

I was concerned by some of your comments because it sounds like you are forgetting about the souls of the worldly people around you. Of course, the unregenerate do terrible things, but can we expect otherwise? Condeming and judging people (whether believers on not) is not what Christ has called us to do.

Since most people aren't going to just go check out a church we need to go to them. I'm not talking about necessarily going door to door. I'm talking about the harder stuff like being nice to the cashier and the pesky neighbor kids and looking for opportunities to share Christ in a humble manner remembering that nothing we do will bring that soul to Christ because it is totally Christ's work.

Unfortunately, Christians are known for being judgmental, mean people. The first step towards changing that stereo type is for believers to get along. If we can't get along with fellow believers, how can we be the lights the world needs?

I realize that this comment doesn't tie into the original post about movies, but I didn't feel like I could ignore something that was implied and mentioned more than once.

I would like to see more people's thoughts on the original topic of this post - movies. It seems that for some reason the conversation went weird directions.

1/23/2006 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

The stakes are too high for my downplaying important differences I have with other believers. I struggled for nearly a week to even bring the conversation around the point of my original post. You refused to do this, or to answer any other questions that we offered begging for clarification on your position. You did not even offer us the charity of understanding what we said before you critized it.

In the end, I have concluded that the impasse is a result of a different kind of Christianity between us and you--different ideas of worldliness and the dangers of worldliness; different ideas of the pleasure found in Christ. Any statement now of unity would be purely external and a pretense of what was actually there. You have made no effort to show that we share a common faith; in fact, at nearly every point you could, you attempted to show how our understanding of the faith differed.

My hope would be that if an unbeliever passed through Immoderate, that they would repent and turn from the world and embrace Christianity and all of its glory. That they would find in Jesus Christ greater joy than the sloughs of the world's offerings and entertainment. To confuse them that Christianity speaks with two voices on this subject may be even greater to their misunderstanding. And we need less misunderstanding with the claims of Christ.

The irony of all this is, of course, that it appears movies receive a more sympathetic hearing from you than we do.

1/23/2006 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

And let me add with all sincerity, that it is with great sadness that I wrote that last post. I, for one, hoped that we had more to fellowship over than our back and forth has since shown. I hoped that we still shared many things in common. I was mistaken, and, it appears, very much so.

1/23/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Okay, fine. We've addressed (discussed, debated, fought over) every piece of your original post, but here's a recap:

"O, yes, I hear the objection: but after you watch it, then you can "talk about" those negative elements. Sure. Whatever. Talk all you want. Which is more persuasive: your debunking all these ideas by "talking through them" or your entering into the story and its supporting world-view with your whole person, allowing the art to communicate to you as it is intended while you sit there passively taking it all in? Perhaps I am proposing a false dilemma; but my point here is rhetorical. Why do we believe that we can escape this? Perhaps we really do not understand the power of movies."

Believe it or not, everything before the above paragraph I agree with. I don't see, though, how you can say that we have not argued against this part of your post. Obviously, our arguments don't convince you, which is odd, considering you say "perhaps we really do not understand the power of movies," yet you offer nothing to prove how movies are so much more powerful. We brought up the fact that we DO NOT believe movies are "more powerful" than other genres of entertainment and have carried on better conversation in that regard with others in this post than you, Ryan. We simply fail to see how reading a book, for instance, with certain philosophies is any different than watching a movie with the same philosophies. Neither changes our worldview or our beliefs and I would argue that they don't/wouldn't change yours either. This is a simple statement of fact, based on observation, personal experience, and lack of any objective evidence to the contrary.

Your next and last paragraph is a simple judgment of all Christians who hold a different perspective of movies than yourself. They "really worship on Friday night" and "they completely let go." We've argued, this, also, that no one we know watches movies with this complete abandon and worship that you speak of. I personally have argued that one is no more or less "into" a movie than reading a book or listening to music. The Evil Sith that create the movies know this, too, which is why they play a reel asking people to PLEASE not talk on their phones, throw things, let their baby cry, etc. during the movie. For some reason, the people that actually make and show the movies disagree that one must inherently (sorry for spelling "inherent" incorrectly so many times) give themselves over automatically as the credits begin to roll.

We understand that unity in the Church is not at all what some Christians are fighting for. Might I strongly encourage all who are reading this to not skip through the first part of I John 2 on their way to judging other brothers for violating vs. 15. Verses 7-11 seem to be completely at odds with statements like "we condemn anyone [brothers in Christ]..." and with viewpoints that write relatively minor differences off to "a different kind of Christianity between us and you." If you wanted to hurt us -- you have. I would say that your favorite passage in this discussion (I John 2) "condemns" you from our perspective just as much as it "condemns" us from yours.

1/23/2006 04:59:00 PM  
Anonymous ALF said...

Ryan, you are lumping my comments and beliefs with those of others. Is that fair? Also, it would appear that you aren't even reading the passages (God's Word) and commentary (words of someone other than me) that I have used.

I also didn't realize that I needed to explain all of our common beliefs. I assumed that you remembered who I am and that your familiarity with the prerequisits for working at Northland would have given you a pretty good idea about what I believe.

I am praying that God will work in all of our lives to show us each where we need improvement, and I am consoling myself with the fact that God is ultimately the One who changes the heart so there is no point in continuing this discussion.

1/23/2006 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Ryan,

I'll make an attempt to answer the question posed to us that I think you're referring to that we haven't answered.

The question is, basically, "so what criteria do you use when choosing movies."

My answer is that asking us to give you this goes against one of the main points of your original article (a point which I agree with). Namely, that a lot more should go into analyzing movies [and I'll interject books and other media as well] than just a simple list of criteria by which we judge it (whether that be the "big three" or "big five" or "big 25").

If I were to write what I use to analyze movies, I would have to write a book, and I don't have the time for that (nor do I have the attention span to write something of that magnitude).

I know I never got to your original article (at least not all of it) because that wasn't why I jumped into the discussion. I jumped in primarily based on comments made by others, and some of your final comments in the original post. I agree with you that the big three are not sufficient for evaluating any form of art.

I did not intend to offend you, or evade anything. I did not have the time to comment on and respond to everything that was written. I'm sorry for any abrasive or judgmental comments I may have made.

1/23/2006 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Abigail said...

"I'm assuming you have children"

Hah, no. I do not have children yet; however, I was taught well by my parents and my siblings do have children (some of them at the age that they are learning what is pretend in life and what's real)

I thought this would be obvious...but I'll explain it anyway. I guess you wouldn't understand the way I was raised (and as far as I know, how many children in a Christian home are raised) since you don't know me. :-P

I'm not advocating sitting down with your children, necessarily, and having a "talk" about movies. That is not what my parents did, and a lot of times, making a big deal out of it is a bigger incentive to not listen (we all have our rebellious leanings). In any case...as a family we watched movies fairly often, and when as a small child I was frightened, or as a teenager I was drooling over some actor, my mother constantly and quietly reminded me by saying "It's just television" or "in the movies, anything's possible" etc. I'm saying that teaching your children about movies, as with anything, is a gradual process, evidenced by your life and also by your day-to-day teaching. My dad also made a point of muting cusses when he could or remarking consistently of his disapproval of the unecessary (as always) use of vulgar language.

So...although I don't have kids, I understand from what I have experienced and seen that parenting is not "let's sit down and tell them what they need to know so we've got it out of the way", but a process that takes years of careful preparation and nurturing. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." That is essentially what I'm trying to say. If you implant the basic principles to apply to their lives, providing that they are following God's will, they will do what is right.

I know I'm offtopic a bit(I rather tend to do that...), sorry. I do feel, however, that these discussions will be less necessary in the future if we do teach our children properly. This has been an interesting discussion. (dittos, Matt ^ for your above comment)

Ok, I'm done.

1/25/2006 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Bob M said...

You guys and your isolationsim. HOw are you ever going to preach the gospel to every creature if you become Monks? Joel, you'd be a sad monk if K ever left.

1/26/2006 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Howdy Bob! What do you mean by isolationism?

1/27/2006 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Bob M said...

Ryan said, "isolation is sometimes the answer concerning certain (probably many) points of the pagan culture in which we live."
Jan 20, 12:54.

And then Joel at 1:20 pm said "I'd just like to go on record as being for isolationism and the re-institution of the eremitical orders. If my wife ever kicked it, I'd be considering it hard. "

1/27/2006 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

The word is being used in several different ways in this thread, and I think folks might be talking past one another with it.

The word actually describes national foreign policy. Its meaning may serve as a useful metaphor in describing the independent local church.

Ryan seems to be advocating a limited sort of isolation; I think it was called separation from the world when I was a kid. I think I agree with Ryan; most likely everyone on this thread agrees with him in principle, if not in application.

Our opponents on this thread picked up on this with a stock straw-man, using the word "isolationism" perjoratively. Their reinvention of the word in this context seems to charicature us as ostriches with our heads in the sand, which is at best unkind, and at worst a refusal to wrestle with our ideas.

1/27/2006 09:54:00 AM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Todd,

I won't respond to your antagonism except to say this:

Separation from wordliness is one thing, which all of us on this thread agree is biblical. Doing your best to avoid anything that has anything to do with our culture as your way of avoiding worldliness is not biblical, and certainly doesn't follow the example set for us by Christ.

Setting up standards for yourself to avoid being worldly is also a biblical principle, and I commend you for that. However, trying to call us ungodly and worldly because we draw the line in a different place is definitely unbiblical.

You are definitely advocating an isolationist policy in regards to worldliness. And to show that I am not redefining the term isolationist, here's what the Oxford American English Dictionary has to say about it:

isolationism |ˌīsəˈlā sh əˌnizəm|
noun
a policy of remaining apart from the affairs or interests of other groups, esp. the political affairs of other countries.

1/27/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Fitzage,

Trying to call us isolationist because we draw the line in a different place seems to charicature us as ostriches with our heads in the sand, which is at best unkind, and at worst a refusal to wrestle with our ideas.

Separation from wordliness is one thing, which all of us on this thread agree is biblical.

If so, then you yourself call ungodly the worldliness from which you separate. If you do not call it ungodly, then on what basis do you separate?

1/27/2006 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger fitzage said...

Yes, I call worldliness ungodly.

No, I don't call other Christians who I know are not trying to be worldly ungodly just because I don't agree with every stand they take.

That's what Christian liberty is all about.

I think I'm done.

1/28/2006 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger Bob M said...

Todd,
I know what Ryan was talking about. At least I think I do. And I was being obnoxious on one hand, knowing that you guys are comfortable with your masculinity. Then on the another level I was being sardonic. I bleed that.

2/02/2006 11:40:00 PM  

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