There has been a lot of back and forth on social media lately regarding a couple of the new movies hitting theaters. Various Christians have posted their opinions about whether or not Christians should support the movies by buying tickets and/or whether children should be allowed to see them. This is one of those areas where God didn’t give us hard and fast rules, but general principles we can apply.
If you are trying to dedicate your kids to God, how can you know what movies you should allow your child to see? Are there issues besides glorified sin that should make you think twice before taking your child? (Ask my daughter about her first movie – rated “G”, but it absolutely terrified her. She practically crawled over her dad’s head so she could get out of there.) Are there any hard and fast rules for Christians to follow about movies?
I can’t make those ultimate decisions for you, but I can guide you as to which questions you should ask yourself before allowing your kids to see a movie.
- What is the rating? One principle I encourage parents to enforce is that we obey rules and guidelines, even when we think they are a bit silly. Allowing kids to pick and choose which rules they obey, sets them up for doing the same with God’s commands – and that will not end well. So if you decide to allow your under 17 year old see an “R” rated movie, you need to be with them. Another thing to understand is that when the PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984, it made a lot of standards shift downward. So what would have been a questionable “R” rated movie became “PG-13” and “X” rated movies often became “R” rated movies. (Hardcore “X” movies are now “NC-17”) If you want more information, here is the website for the group who gives out the ratings. Mind you, they do not screen by biblical guidelines, but societal norms. As those norms shift, the ratings may as well.
- What is the plot and the underlying message of the movie? Personally, I believe some plots and underlying messages are inappropriate at certain ages – even if they are appropriate later. Be very careful about the underlying principles of those who created the film. At times, they are subtly sending ungodly messages by the attitudes, words or actions of characters towards certain godly and ungodly things. Even if you think they are too subtle for your child to notice, over time these constant messages can gradually undermine your child’s belief system. The Pluggedin website by Focus on the Family goes into great detail about anything that could possible concern even the most conservative of Christians. I found that it helped us decide what was acceptable and also kept us from being blindsided in the theater. (After our daughter’s first experience, we learned the more thorough a movie review, the better!)
- How sensitive and/or susceptible is your child? To avoid nightmares and emotional scarring, it’s really important to know your child’s tolerance for certain things. Our daughter inherited my grandma’s “nothing sad, nothing bad” attitude – she didn’t even like ominous sounding music when she was little. Taking her to a violent movie was a formula for disaster. Likewise if your teen struggles with being tempted by sex, taking him to a movie that glorifies and promotes premarital sex is probably not the best idea. (Those movies often make it seem virgins are weird and something is wrong with them.) The world is scary, sad and tempting enough without paying someone to upset or tempt your child.
- Is that Christian movie really Christian? I have seen many “Christian” movies that were so off-base it was ridiculous. People often defend them because they “make people curious about God”. My problem is that most kids and teens will believe what they see and never find out whether or not it was true or accurate. Believe me, for years I heard from kids I taught that “Peter killed the rooster” after he denied Christ. I finally realized they had seen something on tv and it was almost impossible to convince them it wasn’t true – even when showing them scripture. Some minor additions might be okay to make it more visual, but be careful about movies that change the meaning or the basic facts of the story by their additions or changes.
- How is the movie being marketed? Often the trailers or star interviews will alert you to any agendas the creators may have had when they made the movie. If the movie also stars someone your kids admire, they will be even more likely to accept the underlying agenda. Once again though, just because it is marketed as having “family values”, “for kids of every age” “educational” or “Christian”, doesn’t mean you want your kids to see it.
- Just because it doesn’t glorify sin, doesn’t mean your kids should see it. Here’s where my background comes into play. I don’t care for movies that include what I call crass, bathroom humor or have characters constantly mocking or being mean to other characters. I don’t find it funny or fun, but I also don’t want my child thinking that is acceptable behavior. You will probably have your own standards. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids why you find a movie unacceptable.
I am not a fan of censorship in the larger sense because it can lead to religious censorship as well. As a parent though, you absolutely should censor what your kids are allowed to see. Explain carefully to them, why you don’t want them seeing certain films. Have a constant dialogue. As they get older, let them do the research and take part in the decision making – it’s an important Christian life skill. Just remember ultimately, Hollywood is about making money. When you purchase tickets, to them it’s a “yes” vote for more films like that one. Use your power carefully – and teach your kids to do the same.