Would You Be Embarrassed to Watch This Movie With Jesus?
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher
*Editor’s Note: This article is part of our parenting series. For similar stories, click here.
Reflection question: Would you be embarrassed to sit through the movie, TV program or other entertainment with your parents, your children or Jesus?
When we are alone (and sometimes with a worldly friend), we often deceive ourselves regarding the true nature of a movie or television program. If we ignore the faults in a movie we’re watching, then we will slowly be conditioned to condone, if not accept, a Non-Christian, unbiblical point of view.
When you learn to accept some vulgarity in a movie or other piece of entertainment, you set yourself up to accept some more vulgarity and then some more. Soon, you wind up supporting the very kinds of material you wish was not even made. There is a lot that all of us might hesitate to watch if we could imagine Jesus sitting on a couch with us. What we should consider is that he sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, so God is with us.
There are many other questions which we could ask to help evaluate a motion picture or other entertainment, but they may be boiled down to this: How would we like our loved ones to be inundated by the messages being communicated by the movie?
Reflection question: What was your favorite part? Why did you like that part so much?
Here you’re guiding children to think about how the mass media product relates to real life. Most important, you’re boosting a child’s self-esteem. Any time you ask children their opinion, you build their confidence tremendously.
If you make a habit of asking children their thoughts on things they watch or games they play, they become more attentive in expectation of a discussion, but be cautious. If the tone of your voice is angry, the child will find discussing media a dreaded event. If you come across as someone who hopes to be encouraging, children will be more open and honest, even when they know you won’t like some aspect of something they watched.
Reflection question: If you were an actor in this movie, video or other entertainment, what character would you be?
Children usually love to think about the character they feel most like, or would most like to be. Your child’s responses, of course, can give you insights into his or her wishes and concerns. Children are prone to accept role models and to accept the underlying belief systems these models exercise and demonstrate. In this discussion, a parent can expose worldviews and value systems that are inconsistent with Christianity and even dangerous.
Asking, “Which character would you like to have been?” is far less threatening than, “Did you notice the ontological nominalism in that?” The child who becomes used to discussing characters they like or dislike will be ready to discuss ontology as they mature.
Subsidiary reflection question: Would you do just what that character did, or do you think you would have done things differently?
This question gets children thinking about the plausibility of characters’ actions. It’s important to invite your child to consider whether a character’s action was the right choice – because sometimes creators of mass media products manipulate a character’s choice just to make the entertainment product more exciting. Children should know that this kind of thing goes on in Hollywood.
This too can be a fun discussion question, as opposed to a police-like interrogation. The goal is to get children thinking, not to get them living in fear of a grilling.
Reflection question: What did you like about the hero/heroine? What things were important to the hero/heroine? Are those things important to you?
Get children to explore the association between the character and their own lives. Children become aware of why they like a character: because the character made them feel good or because he or she did something they could do. Mass media product made for children oftentimes communicate positive values of honesty, loyalty and so on. So, perhaps, your child will respond to your questions with answers like, “Well, she was a good friend to him and believed in him no matter what,” conveying to you that your child is picking up on values. Together, you can also discuss a full range of solutions to the problem this character faced and possible remedies for their future problems with biblical guidance.
Media can be used to help build your children’s character when it leads to valuable discussions. If Pinocchio lies, and you see the horrible consequences, you can have a great discussion about the value of honesty without waiting for some emotional time when your child has been caught engaging in dishonesty. Such a preemptive, non-threatening discussion may help the child avoid the harder lessons.
Reflection question: What feelings did you have as you watched or listened to this media product? When did you feel sad, mad or scared? What part of the media product made the feeling change?
Can your child identify what he or she is feeling? Does the child realize that it’s the media product and the storyline that is making them feel that way? It’s important for parents to explore this because children need to put a name to their feelings, especially younger children who might not know the source of their feelings. Asking children questions such as these after seeing a movie helps them identify the source of their emotions.
What you must realize is that entertainment is created to maximize emotion and play on it like playing a symphony. Walt Disney once said, “For every laugh there needs to be a tear.” What makes entertainment entertaining is the emotion it arouses. Whether you arouse joy with THE SOUND OF MUSIC or OVERCOMER, or suspense with an Alfred Hitchcock movie or A QUIET PLACE, the thing that captures viewers and sells tickets is emotion.
There are many other questions which we could ask to help evaluate a mass media product, but they all boil down to how we would like our loved ones to be inundated by the messages being communicated by the mass media. If we care about others and about the Lord Jesus, we will take a stand against anything being communicated that undermines a biblical worldview and mocks our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Anything less than standing on His Word written denies our relationship with Him.
* Editor’s Note: These articles are adapted from Dr. Ted Baehr’s THE CULTURE WISE FAMILY book. You can buy a copy from www.movieguide.org or on Amazon.