Just recently I checked out a movie at the local library. I’d seen previews a long time ago. It seemed to be a charming story about a shy guys’ attempts to form a relationship with the female of his dreams, the adorable, erstwhile “Amy.”
And maybe that was what the film was about.
I don’t know. I lasted about five minutes.
I hadn’t even gotten settled down in my ‘movie-watching’ position before I started having serious second, third, and 15th thoughts. Apparently, whoever wrote the script has a very limited vocabulary. I heard more swearing in five minutes than I generally hear at work in a month. More than I’ve heard in my favorite films which include the Godfather trilogy, Scarface, Goodfellas. More than in Eddy Murphy’s movie of his skits, “Delirious”, another of my favorites.
I was getting everything ready to enjoy the movie, but kept turning around because, every other word literally was something offensive. Truly. The way the guys talked to each other didn’t have a trace of respect. I wondered if guys in the traditional home of foul language, the locker room, would get so rude.
I thought about myself at my worst, totally out of the church, with numerous excuses to justify it. Even I hadn’t managed to plumb that kind of low, and trust me, I sunk pretty deep in those days. I was known as someone who, in a warehouse of mostly men, could tell jokes and make comments that embarrassed men who were worldly to the bone. The first five minutes of “Chasing Amy” outdid me.
I turned it off.
I felt a little silly complaining about it. But the library where I got it belongs to a school that prepares people for the ministry. I had no idea why it would be available for general check-out. When I did, somewhat sheepishly complain to the person in charge, she checked, and told me that it was part of a class project on pop culture. The professor in question would show snippets of it in order to explain the things that pass for ‘normal’ in today’s culture.
I questioned the wisdom of using such a teaching device. Most of the people I know who are preparing for ministry do not come from “Leave it to Beaver” homes where Pepsodent smiles and G-rated lives are the norm. Most of them are broken people who, if healthy, acknowledge their brokenness, and offer it to God for healing before they step out to minister. Even those with more functional and wholesome upbringings mostly acknowledge the parts of themselves that brought them to the cross in the first place.
I wondered, at first, if it was not enough to be broken already? Why be reminded? Common sense and the Holy Spirit tells us the difference between good and evil. Our human will allows us to choose. Do ministry students (or anyone else) need to see a film to show us what evil and brokenness looks like? Don’t we already know?
Years back, I was impressed by a story of a martyred missionary who, early in life, prayed (perhaps unwisely) that God ‘break his heart with the things that break the heart of God.” This martyr was one of my heroes, and so, I prayed the same prayer.
I was ready with a laundry list of what I expected would break my heart. Poverty. War. Hunger. Child Abuse. Domestic violence. Yet, in the time that followed I found other things crowding forward that would totally rock my world.
Rudeness. Bigotry. Dishonesty. Lack of charity. Intentional cruelty. Manipulative behavior. Greed. Selfishness. Narcissism. Those were the things which, that year broke my heart. Finally, I begged God to end the ‘experiment.’ I no longer wanted to have my heart-broken by the things He had to deal with. In many ways, in a very human way, I just didn’t want to know. It was too much.
I think that we, as Christians, and even those who are not, make choices in a broken world, what we will filter in and out of our lives. I have a friend, preparing to be a minister who has no problem watching movies that make me squirm or feel totally offended. I feel somewhat like a pharisee if I talk to him about it, so I don’t. I know that everyone has different places where temptation can hit us and leave us open to sin. I don’t believe in saying “Just because its bad for me, its got to be bad for you, too…else you’re not a Christian.”
Why? Frankly, because I know how weak my walk as a Christian can be. I know how I struggle with doing things that people I admire seem to do daily, and without seeming hesitation. I know how much pressure I put on myself to be a ‘super-Christian’ and how much condemnation I pour on myself when daily, sometimes hourly, I fail. Pressure and condemnation that Jesus would never, for one second, send my way.
Perhaps the movie offended me because it reminded me of how profanity and a lack of sensitivity for others was once a daily part of my life. Perhaps that is one of my weak places still. I certainly know how I get in traffic….especially when I’m late somewhere. If someone in the car was listening to me then, I don’t think much of a witness would be there. For me, that film and those like it, in ‘pop culture,’ is poison, to be avoided at any cost. I need to listen to my spirit, which tells me this has no part of entertainment which happens in my home.
Okay, so one more thing. Other than a questionable teaching device in a class for ministers to be, what do such films actually teach? I know I made a choice when I looked at the rating and saw it was marked “R.” Generally, such films leave little to the imagination in various ways. Does it teach what creators of entertainment consider’ real life?” Is such language, behavior and descriptions of behavior Hollywood’s idea of ‘normal?’
If so, I’m glad to be abnormal.
I hope my reaction doesn’t mean that I’m growing old and closed-minded. I hope it doesn’t. However, I’m not so sure. Maybe the ‘real’ world really is like that. Maybe I’m the one who has carved out some place of sanctuary, some fantasy place where people act better than what I see onscreen. Or maybe not.
I work in a very worldly restaurant. Most of the folks are unchurched and/or unsaved, and will tell you that. Yet, even there, I don’t see the kind of behavior that I saw in just five minutes of a supposed ‘romantic comedy.’
Without a day in the classroom, this film gave me a rather interesting lesson. What I think the world is like, and what others think the world is like, is obviously different. And even fellow Christians might camp out with the ones who prefer blue language and crude actions in the name of not being proclaimed ‘uncool.’
“That’s their world” I can almost hear one of my friends in the ministry saying. “To reach them, we have to understand it.”
True. But I don’t have to wallow in mud to know that if I do so, my clothes will get dirty. I don’t have to walk in front of a bus and get hit by it to know that its not a good thing to do. Some things are just common sense.
For me, I’ll be a bit more careful when checking out movies, no matter where I get them. And if my conscience ‘pings’ me, I’ll just stop watching, as I did with this film. I can make those choices as a citizen of a free society. I can exercise my freedom of speech and hopefully not sound like a prudish spinster.
Finally it is up to us. The world is out there. Its lost, dying, needing a savior. It’s up to me, you, the church, every day to reach out and bring those folks in. If it takes sitting by them while watching a movie that’s questionable, perhaps that’s okay. But perhaps, it is even better to say to the person the reason why you don’t wish to watch things like that anymore. To tell them about the change that God has made in your heart. To give them freedom to do as they wish, but not to dirty our own souls in the process.