The MPAA: Catering to Our Inner Pharisee [Part 4]

Posted: August 16, 2011 by jperritt in Uncategorized
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Today we’ll conclude our critique of Christians misusing the MPAA as an inspired rating system from the Holy Spirit.  If you’ve missed the previous entries of this four-part series, please click here.

One last caution we have for Christians who solely base their movie watching on the MPAA, is the fact that we miss an opportunity to better know our Great God. We hit on this a little in the third part of this blog, but we’ll consider this with a slightly different emphasis today.

John Calvin once said, “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God.”  Movies are stories, stories about fallen mankind.  Yes there are movies we must abstain from, and we must also realize that the movies one can watch vary from individual-to-individual.  When we watch movies that disturb us and have accurate portrayals of our sin, let those cause you to reflect on our perfectly, holy God.  When we see the endless evils mankind is capable of, by contrast, it should help us better grasp the perfection that is only found in God.

If you’ve seen M. Knight Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, the protagonist and antagonist could not be further opposites.  David Dunn [Bruce Willis] is a man who has never had an injury.  He’s been in extreme accidents where he is the sole survivor and walks away without a scratch.  Elijah Price [Samuel L. Jackson] on the other hand, has broken just about every bone in his body.  He uses the assistance of a cane to walk and has been wheelchair bound many times in his life.  His accidents occur so often, the kids called him Mr. Glass.

The movie-goer should be amazed at Dunn’s unbreakable nature.  The severity of the accidents he’s been through, sans injury causes characters from the movie (and us) to shake our heads in disbelief.  However, Price’s extremely breakable character only magnifies the strength that has been given to Dunn.  This is the reality Calvin was illustrating.  Contrasting our sin to God’s holiness magnifies that all the more.  Film can depict fallen mankind in a unique way that helps us to understand our holy God in a new light.

Not only is this true of the villainous in film, but this is also true with our heroes.  Every hero has a weakness.  Superman’s is kryptonite, Batman’s is the fact that he’s human, and the above mentioned Dunn’s is water. Even when we look to the Bible, the heroes are flawed.  Noah got drunk and naked after the flood, Moses disobeyed God, David slept with Bathsheba, and the list is too long for the disciples.

We love to worship mankind and turn our heroes into something they are not, that is, perfect.  When you watch movies with great heroes, appreciate them and realize that every hero is a type of savior.  Every hero is attempting to deliver people from some danger, but every hero of the silver screen is flawed.  Therefore, it’s a good practice to reflect on the many ways the hero falls short of the True Hero.

We must remember that sin can be depicted on-screen without endorsing it.  Depiction of sin, whether it’s PG-13 or R, can help us appreciate our holy God better.  Whether it’s the sin of the hero, villain, or just the average Joe, it can bring a depth to our depravity never explored, and if viewed thoughtfully, can bring great glory to God.

To sum it all up, the MPAA was designed to be a helpful guide, but it has long stopped being a guide in many Christian’s minds.  Understand that it can cause us to be lazy and hinder the practice of discernment, understand that it also oversimplifies our sin by making things too black and white, and also understand that sin can be a good teacher.  Although there is much sin that is praised and worshiped at the local box office, God is more powerful than evil and often uses it to illustrate good.

The MPAA has done a great job of training us to see films in four to five categories, but it’s a habit Christians need to break.  It’s time for us to wave goodbye to the MPAA and embrace the discipline of discernment.

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