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Sex on the Silver Screen: Reader Follow-up

I recently wrote another entry in my ongoing series Sex on the Silver Screen (this one titled A Scenario to Consider). I laid out a scenario, asked some questions, and invited readers to submit a Letter to the Editor as a means of fostering dialog about the topic. As promised, here are some of the representative responses I received.

To answer your questions about how I would feel if my spouse participated in a sex scene: I would feel very strange, if not repelled by the idea. And I cannot imagine my church friends or pastors doing such things. Even if I was part of the Hollywood filmmaking world, and could convince myself that it was all make believe, I would still be uncomfortable with the idea of my husband participating in a vicarious affair like that. “Vicarious” and “virtual” both mean looking like you are doing something, without really doing it. That is why I personally stay away from R movies (though the ratings aren’t always reliable). It is hard nowadays to find movies with intricate storylines and interesting characters which do not have some degree of sex scene. A similar problem is horrible murders or rapes on the screen, and TV police shows in which the people describe what happened to them. The sex scenes feed fantasies, and can make one discontent with one’s ordinary life. Thank you for bringing this up. You are right to be concerned.

–Sarah G. Victor, ID

I’ve sometimes been bemused to read about loopholes Jewish people use to get around Shabbat restrictions. Your article today helped me become aware that there might be a giant log in my own eye. Many of the defenses I instinctively reach for so I can keep movies or shows with sexual content don’t stand up to scrutiny when considered in this light.

–Matthew L. Sydney, Australia

This article has truly opened my eyes to the sin I’ve been committing when watching these scenes. I am brokenhearted thinking about how I have mistakenly believed this sin to be a private one between God and myself…not considering how my actions have encouraged and endorsed sin on the part of those involved in making the film. I confess that I have not loved others as I have been loved. My new standard for viewing entertainment is: Would I be comfortable watching this with my small group? Thank you for your forthrightness in addressing this issue and continuing to call your readers to purity and holiness in all aspects of our life.

–Denise T. Danville, IN

This was a good article regarding sex on the silver screen and how we should respond as Christians. You asked some questions near the end of the article, of which I would say “no” to all of them. No it wouldn’t be good to see a Christian member of our congregation nude for all the world to see. No this isn’t to the glory of God, no we wouldn’t allow a member to continue in behavior like this. It simply isn’t appropriate for us as Christians to watch this kind of movie. There is so much that is inappropriate on TV and in movies today it’s very difficult to find anything “good” to watch. Maybe we’d be better off reading a good book, or watching carefully selected Christian DVD’s about some material that is edifying and is worthy of God. That truly is one question we should always ask ourselves…”Is this going to glorify God.” “Does this reflect my Christian values.” If the answer is no…then we simply shouldn’t do it. Sex on the silver screen is one of those “no’s” for a christian. Thanks for the article. As always it’s a good thing for our consideration.

–Ingrid, Kelowna, Canada

This series gave a voice to a concern I’ve been having for myself and other believers I know over the past several years. I, myself, first found it difficult to watch programs with sex even when fast-forwarding, then I stopped watching shows with this content for the most part. What I find most troubling is how many believers I know of that are watching the program Game of Thrones. Christians aren’t just watching these programs, they are posting about them on social media, praising them, and recommending them to others. I’ve never been okay with the idea that you gain a level of spiritual maturity or confidence that you can participate in sinful behavior and be unaffected. Your scenario has so many implications that I believe are quite valid and relevant. Why do we allow this acceptable (or at least in secret) sin, when we certainly wouldn’t allow the scenario you brought up? Why are we soft on pornography, when we wouldn’t even blink if a man or woman was frequenting brothels, clubs, etc?

–Jacqi R. Texas

You may be wearing a pair of shoes put together by children working in a factory where they are paid little and their lives are at danger due to an unsafe work environment. You may be using a phone that is put together by people under abusive conditions and a factory that poisons the surrounding area with toxic waste. You may have given a diamond ring to your significant other that directly funds warlords who wield their power to kill civilians who stand in the way of the warlord’s mission. You may shop at a retail store (to purchase food and other goods) that supports/promotes sinful behavior. You may read websites propped up by ads that titillate and prey upon the weaknesses of brothers and sisters in Christ. You may live in a home where illegal immigrants were used to build it, breaking the laws of your country and mistreating the workers at the same time. You may have investments in large funds spread across numerous companies, some of which may support sinful causes or simply operate in a sinful manner. You may live in (and therefore put money towards) a city where debauchery is celebrated as part of its livelihood, yet never participate directly yourself.

My point is not that these hypotheticals justify watching content where people are naked or simulating sex, but that you may have opened a whole new world of possibilities to consider when it comes to “loving thy neighbor”. We live in a world that is (and continues to grow ever more) complex and interconnected. Our seemingly innocent consumption can have greater consequences than we ever imagined.

–Joshua H. Las Vegas, NV

Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Three scenarios come to mind in response to your question.If I choose to eat brunch on Sunday after church am I causing the employees to sin because they aren’t honouring the Sabbath? 2. If I choose to buy a car, do I need to ensure that the manufacturer doesn’t run Sunday shifts so my car wasn’t made or assembled on Sunday? 3. By using a credit card, paying it off every month and taking advantage of the rewards program, am I benefiting at the expense of others who aren’t paying their’s off on time, allowing the card company to give the rewards in the first place? There are so many things we do/buy/enjoy that are available because of others choices and situations. Is it up to us to investigate every one?

—Darren, Hamilton, Canada

Hello Tim! I am a 21 year old college student who has been a born again Christian for three years. I just want to say thank you for the practical counsel that you provide on your blog. I must say that it is not a typical blog and you honor Jesus by doing what you are doing. The above article is a subject that I have wrestled with as a Christian. I purpose in my heart to avoid/ skipping sexual scenes. Here recently, I am leaning towards avoiding these films all together. The above article makes sense. What message do Christians send to the world when we buy these films and view them? You could ask that question about a lot of things, and many people may consider viewing these films while skipping the scenes to be a gray area or a matter of conscience. We must also consider what other sins occur in a film. Do we watch films with a few expicit words? What if I am a veteran and the film portrays the reality of a battle in Afghanistan? Is watching a violent military film with bad language that portrays the reality of the military subculture the same as watching a film with sexual scenes even if you skip them? Considering my battle with lust, I will be avoiding films with sexual content. The price of temptation is just too high. I believe that Christians must walk by the Spirt and ask the question of whether or not God is glorified. In regard to films, it must be considered on a case by case basis. I agree that we shouldn’t be watching people engage in simulated sex scenes or nudity scenes, but I wonder how we deal with the reality of sin in other films. I don’t want to promote legalism, but I do think Christians need to apply biblical principles when watching films. Soli Deo Gloria

—Antonio, Wartrace, TN

Thank you, Tim, for your sensitivity and focus on this topic. I think you are right on with your insights and your convictions. We are not loving these people by encouraging them with our patronage. I anticipate some of the disagreements you may receive will cite the Bible’s “sex scenes”. My response to this is that yes, the Bible is R-rated in places. The Bible’s descriptions of this fallen world show reality as it is – sin and its consequences. However, it is careful in its depiction and does not include gratuitous and titillating descriptions of body parts and activities. Ham was cursed after dishonoring his father. One component of that was a cavalier attitude toward immodesty. Let the wise take note.

–Jeff A. Germantown, TN

There really is a lot to examine in your article. This is as concise as I was able to get. Hope it comes across with some clarity. What is biblical love? It is the desire for the eternal good of the beloved. What is the sin? It is taking advantage of others in their sin for the sake of our own pleasure. Could it be that we, who are a people called to holiness and entrusted with the Gospel, are winking at our own sin and declaring to the world that we love the desires of the flesh as much as anyone? The consequence is this: we personally begin to lose our testimony about the hope and goodness of eternal life in Christ. And we injure the reputation and ability of the church to proclaim the Gospel because by our desire to entertain ourselves with (even live vicariously through) the sin of others. We’re saying

  • we really don’t love the Lord that much
  • we really don’t love the body of Christ that much
  • we really don’t love you
–Frances E. Fort Walton Beach, FL

Hi Tim. I have always shared the same conviction about explicit sexual content in movies and TV and am very thankful for someone like yourself speaking out so strongly about it. Christ died to save us from things like sexual immorality. Why would we then choose to be entertained by that?! Your recent piece, though, has put the subject in a totally new light for me. I had never thought of the issue as a failure to love others. The dictionary defines exploit in this way: “to use selfishly for one’s own ends.” I think this is what we’re really doing. I had never thought through what it takes to produce such a scene and that these actors are real people with real families. Thank you so much for your steadfast commitment to holiness.

—Meredith B. Marietta, GA

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