Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a number of articles under the heading “Sex on the Silver Screen.” In these articles I’ve been collecting my thoughts and expressing my concerns about an issue that I believe displays significant compromise among Christians today—our ambivalence toward watching scenes of explicit sexuality and nudity in movies and television shows. I’m hardly the first Christian to express such concerns, but I’ve done so by following a track that is unusual, even if not unique. Rather than focusing on our responsibility to guard our hearts and minds from corrupting influences, I’ve focused on our responsibility to love others. I’ve said that watching other people displaying their bodies and simulating sex for our entertainment is a failure to love them. They are, after all, human beings, divine image-bearers, husbands and wives of other people, and so on. We are, in fact, taking sinful advantage of their depravity by watching them doing things that we ourselves would never do.
I’ve received a good bit of feedback, some of which has been very helpful and some of which has been, well, not so much. Today I am going to solicit some responses in the hope that they will be measured and calm and contribute to the conversation. Specifically, I’d like to lay out a scenario and have you respond to it.
First, though, a brief warning. What I say below is perhaps a little bit explicit. I’ve done my best to be appropriate, yet by virtue of the subject and what many Christians are watching today, I have to give at least a little detail. Feel free to click “back” and read something else if that’s at all troubling to you.
For this scenario, you need to imagine that you are married. Your husband or wife has made a few movies in the past and is just beginning to gain a reputation in the industry. And now comes the offer of a great new role that could perhaps be the career-maker. But here’s the thing—it will require a couple of explicit scenes. Your spouse will first do a scene where she (or he) is alone but completely naked. It will last just a few seconds in the final production, but the filming will require disrobing in front of the film crew and a few hours of shoots and reshoots to make sure every angle has been captured just right. Then, of course, in the actual film, your spouse’s body will be drawing every eye for the duration of the scene.
The second scene will be an explicit sexual one–the kind you probably skip when watching a movie on Netflix. Your spouse and co-star will spend a couple of days shooting a scene in which they have sex with one another. Of course they will not actually have sexual intercourse, but their task over the many hours of takes and retakes is to make viewers believe they are. So they will kiss and touch and take their clothes off and fall into bed together and do their absolute best to simulate being in the throes of passion.
Before any of this happens, there is a stipulation in the contract which demands your spouse attend an audition that’s sometimes referred to as a “modesty check.” This is the opportunity for the director and a handful of crew members to ensure your spouse’s body is appealing enough (or perhaps needs a body double), to check that he or she isn’t too embarrassed to perform naked in front of others, as well as to account for any scars, blemishes or tattoos that may only be visible when naked.
Based on this scenario, a number of questions come to mind.
- Do you believe your spouse can participate in this movie and complete these scenes to the glory of God?
- Would you as a husband or wife, be comfortable with your spouse participating in such a film?
- Would you be comfortable knowing that your friends, neighbors, and family members are watching these scenes?
- If it was a friend’s husband or wife you had seen naked and simulating sex, would that potentially change your relationship with him or her?
- Would you permit a church member who acted in such a film to remain a member in good standing, to continue to serve in various ministries—let’s say singing in the worship band and doing pre-marriage counseling?
- If the pastor was the male actor in this scene or his wife the female actor, would he still be qualified to his ministry as a man who is respectable, above reproach, a “one-woman-man,” thought well of by outsiders, and so on?
I suppose you see what I am getting at here. As Christians we focus on the appropriateness of watching scenes of sexuality and nudity and generally skirt the issue by watching a “clean” version of the film or making use of the fast-forward button. But what I want us to think about is the fact that by then a lot of depravity has already taken place. Skipping the scene does not mean it was not created and that real people didn’t do very sinful things to make it happen.
It is my growing conviction that Christians who watch shows and films with similar scenes of sexuality and nudity are failing to obey the Second Great Commandment, which is to love their neighbor as themselves. Love for others would be to refuse to participate in their sin by refusing to watch the movies they’ve made. Instead, though, Christians are taking advantage of the willingness of unbelievers to do things they themselves would never do. And Christians are doing this all for the sake of entertainment.
So here is where I would like to solicit your feedback. Would you consider writing a brief letter to the editor in which you respond to this article and the scenario it lays out? I would like to collect them and then publish a few of the the best in a forthcoming “Letters to the Editor” column. Please keep them a concise and brief as possible! I’ll also keep an eye on Facebook discussions to see what crops up there.