The video below is from Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and is causing quite the stir among different Christian magazines and blogs. ChristianityToday.com posted a review of the film, Mark pointed it out in one of his messages (video below), one of ChristianityToday's writers responded to the video, and others have chimed in.
Here is the video...however, this post is not about whether Avatar is or is not demonic.
I have not seen Avatar so I am unqualified to respond about its demonic nature; though I think this might be an overstatement. I am providing the video because it is the basis of inspiration for this post...what is the role of modern entertainment for the Christian?
Here are a few of my thoughts:
All movies have a message they want to get across. In seminary I took a course titled, God and Person in American Film...It was by far the best and most interesting class I ever took. R. Robert Cueni, a guest lecturer for one of the classes, said, "Television exists for the sole purpose of convincing you that you need more stuff. They are not trying to get you to believe in a particular approach to life. Movies, however, exist to give you a certain perspective on life to get you to accept a new idea or way of looking at things."
That statement forced me to ask myself, "Are movies mindless entertainment?" The answer was no.
I think the biggest danger we face when discussing modern media is believing that entertainment is JUST entertainment. Writers, directors, and producers are preaching a message whether we realize it or not. That doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't watch it, but it certainly means we should be aware of that message and able to think the message through biblically.
Our first step should be to understand the movie's message. What is it saying about life? The human condition? The ultimate purpose of human beings? What is the movie's view of God or the ultimate being?
Then we should ask, "What does the Bible say about these things?" How does God's word respond to the beliefs presented in the movie? This is a critical step that we often jump over, but we shouldn't. God's Word and prayer based in our relationship with Jesus Christ should be the primary foundation for our beliefs.
Finally, we can determine which parts we agree with and which parts we disagree with. But...
Just because I don't agree with the message doesn't mean it isn't valuable. I have to understand the message first, but movies can serve many different purposes in our lives.
They can be a good example of a bad example. We can see in some movies where wrong thinking and action can lead even though the overall message of the movie was meant to demonstrate something the moviemaker saw as a positive.
They can define a worldview for us. While I disagree with the entire premise of the movie Powder, it was a good story and it gave a great narrative definition to some wrong beliefs about the universe, the ultimate purpose of human beings, and God. It defined a particular worldview that was and is popular about the "oneness" of the universe with all living things.
They are modern parables. Movies, even ones that are completely incompatible with a biblical worldview, tell great stories. Like novels, movies tell a story from a particular perspective, and, as ministers and Christians, we can use them to relate to people around us in terms and stories they understand. I think we have to start with understanding the message of the movie so we don't endorse it in its entirety, but we can use it to help us tell our story better. We can find within them great illustrations of classic themes: sacrificial love, bravery, honesty, etc.
Christians need to be careful about what fills their minds. I grew up in a very all-movies-are-evil setting. While my mom took us to movies, the church we attended frowned on them. While I certainly don't agree with that belief, I do agree with the underlying premise that Christians need to be careful about what they fills their minds.
Why? Because what fills our minds ultimately fills our souls. It is the reason behind so many whose lives are defined by the world's views rather than the Bible's. It is the reason why so many "Christians" can tell you all the latest stuff on their favorite movies and television sit-coms but can't tell you the last time they spent regular, quality time in God's Word outside of a church service. Jesus Christ and His Word must be the ultimate center of our lives, that which ultimately defines who we are as people.
Should some movies be "off limits" to Christians? Well, in a manner of speaking. There are some movies that no matter how good the "story" is I can't get past the genre. There is also a mistaken belief that before I can see something as wrong I have to experience it. There are many films and "entertainment" pieces that I don't have to see to know they shouldn't be filling my mind as a follower of Christ. While there are some lines that I think are fairly universal for most Christians...there are others that are more a matter of personal conviction.
Another good article is titled How Not to Exegete Culture.
What do you think?