The past few weeks have brought quite a number of interesting letters to the editor. These are letters written by readers in response to something I’ve written. I hope you enjoy them!
Letters on Sex on the Silver Screen
The first few letters deal with the few articles I’ve written on the subject of sex and nudity in movies and television shows.
I really enjoy your perspective on a wide-variety of topics. I currently work as a screenwriter and an actor in Atlanta, GA. I believe you have some solid points on this issue regarding the work Christians should be a part of in the entertainment industry.
During 2016 I lost my agent for not accepting a role of a man who ran a low-end strip club for a new Netflix series. Mind you, the pay from this series would have helped out my family quite a bit… it would have been a nice pay check and I would have built relationships with some well-respected talent in the industry. However, it required me to do things in direct conflict with my Christian faith.
When I’m not writing or acting, I dedicate my time as a bi-vocational pastor. I also have four children and an amazing wife. The choices I make in my profession have a direct impact on the lives I touch as a father, husband, and a minister. All these things are taken into consideration before I audition or write a word in a screenplay. It’s a lot like walking down a path with bare feet and being mindful of the rocks and broken glass that lie in the path.
However, the one item in your article I would take issue with is the idea of a church-going believer, a dedicated Christian putting herself in that situation to be filmed in that way—I’m not sure the church would deserve the right to admonish her for her choices. If she were taught properly in the first place and built relationships within the church I would expect her personal holiness would reflect those teachings. I find most Christians behave in a way that is acceptable to the community they are in. If she lacks the discernment of being nude on camera then she probably is in a church community that doesn’t equip her well.
That said, it’s easy to point our fingers at nudity while we turn a blind eye to violence or other displays of sin on screen or in theater. Actors are trained to leave themselves behind in pursuit of character to tell a story as true as possible. It’s a precarious situation to be in. The attitude I have in the choices that I make is that I should not do work that would be a detriment to my witness.
—Matthew H, Cummings, GA
I am the mother of five adult children. Their father and I raised them in the church and had a good community to reinforce our beliefs and values. I read this article with interest because purity was often encouraged and taught in our setting. This kind of article would be used to stimulate conversation.
One thing that has perplexed me is that while there is a lot of talk about sexual purity there seems to be a different standard when it comes to violence/murder/ abuse in movies and video games. I am new to your blog and you probably have addressed this at some point but the question remains, why are these two treated differently?
In the book, Reluctant Disciple, Kevin Roose is bewildered by his fellow Liberty University students who hammer down on sexual purity but spend hours on violent games. He comments that at his home university, Brown, those values would be upside-down. He expected that BOTH sexually explicit and violent movies/video games would bother the consciences of the Liberty students he lived with.
My husband and I practiced this double-standard but for the life of me I can’t think why. When I heard the explanation of a Shabbos boy I wondered if unconsciously we were glossing over the darkness with “boys will be boys” thinking. (Our girls weren’t interested in video games.)
—Kristina B, Wooster, OH
Tim: In these articles on sex and nudity in popular entertainment, I have deliberately maintained a narrow focus and avoided questions of swearing and violence. But you and others have raised important questions that deserve consideration. I may do that in the future or I may leave it for others to do. Either way, we are wise to prayerfully consider them.
Thank you for the much needed reminder of how we can outsource our depravity and gripe the Spirit with our “indirect” participation in certain situations or things. I can’t help but think that this notion could extend beyond just sexuality on the silver screen, but to also include material things that we take for granted every day. For instance, this shirt that I am wearing now probably involves small children working long hours in less than humane environments. As much as I would like to not admit it, I have put my voting dollars to keep this system running halfway around the world. Now this isn’t sexual sin by any means, but child abuse is also sinful and detestable in God’s eyes. By passively enjoying this shirt that I am wearing, would one consider this to be “outsourcing depravity” knowing exactly where this shirt is coming from or how and by whom it is being made? Or am I drawing a complete irrelevant comparison here…
—Ellen L, Toronto, ON
Thanks for the interesting article. It’s something that I’ve been wondering about myself. I have often had the same thoughts when I see articles saying that Christians should keep the Sabbath holy by going out to eat rather than doing the work of preparing the food. Isn’t that just outsourcing the lawbreaking? I get that it makes sense—unbelievers don’t think of working on the Sabbath as lawbreaking, and them doing so doesn’t make them any less right with God, so why not take advantage of this? However it does raise the question—if you managed to convert everyone in a town then who would prepare the food on the Sabbath?
It also strikes me that in order for us to have interesting fiction and entertainment, there has to be some conflict, which (unless there is some exception that I can’t think of) always involves sin. Even if it’s just someone being selfish or prideful, is it okay for believers to act these things out convincingly, drawing on times where they have meant these things in earnest to lend credence to the scene? If not, is it OK to outsource them to unbelievers?
I see of course that there is quite a distinction between acting as someone being selfish or aggressive and acting as someone who is having sex. When you pretend to be selfish or aggressive for a movie, you aren’t really harming anyone as they know you are pretending. However, an explicit sex scene still involves showing your body in a way that was meant for your spouse.
So overall I agree—I strongly prefer media where if sex is involved, it’s kept discreet or implied. That way you can still have it as part of the story, but there’s no need to be explicit. In fact as George Lucas failed to realize when he remade the original trilogies, certain scenes like the Wampa in the ice cave are often a lot more powerful when they are less explicit.
Here is something final to consider. If you watched Rogue One then you know that CGI is getting very, very close to climbing out of the uncanny valley and creating totally believable computer generated actors. In fact my kids didn’t realize that the actors in question were CGI characters. So I wonder whether in 20 years time whether we’ll still have human actors after all. How would this discussion relate to a sex scene involving completely CGI characters?
—Peter K, Australia
Comments on 10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling
Sir, you are free to have your opinion of this book, however if you call yourself a Christian how can you be so critical of a book that has brought millions of people closer to the Almighty? The average person who utilizes this book is not a critic, but rather someone who takes the time each and every day to spend contemplating the fact that the Heavenly Father wants us to be aware of His presence and guidance throughout the day. This is not to say that the Bible plays no part in readers’ lives, but rather that in this busy world it is easier (I hate to admit this, but it’s true) to pick up a copy of Jesus Calling and read for 3-4 minutes.
God bless you. I hope you can eventually admit that any book that brings millions of people closer to God is a good book. And shame on you for referencing the occult! Sounds to me like sour grapes!
—Mary M, Indianapolis, IN
Tim: I post this primarily as an example of the kind of email I receive on a frequent basis. It reminds me why I take time to write reviews of popular books, even when those books are of poor quality.
Just a note of thanks for the timeliness of this article as I have indeed experienced much temptation over how to handle a rather large financial addition to my life. Thankfully, your article (and John Owens Mortification of Sin) reminded that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” As a steward, I find that resisting temptation in the use of God’s stuff is always better when I see Him as the owner. And by the way, Owen may have some really heady writings, but boy is there gold in them hills for those who dig into what he wrote so long ago!
—Mike B, Spring Hope, NC
Tim: We can never go wrong with reading Owen! No matter the specific temptations to sin, his book helps us guard ourselves against them. Its power, of course, is in its deep rooting in Scripture.
Comments on The 2017 Christian Reading Challenge
I’ve been meaning to thank you for creating the 2016 Reading Challenge. I completed the “Obsessed” version of the challenge recently and loved it. As a busy college student, I’d put reading on the back burner. Doing the challenge helped me keep reading and make time to do an activity that refreshes me. I had fun finding books for all the categories and made a spreadsheet to list the books I wanted to read. The variety of categories helped me read in different genres than I would otherwise. Thank you again for using your gifts to serve me and other readers.
—Emily D, Louisville, KY