Boundless Magazine Openly challenges Christianity Today's review of Sex in the City

Ted Slater from Boundless Magazine writes an open letter to Christianity Today calling for repentance over their review of Sex in the City: “My advice to you, the editors of CT, in the words of Jesus: repent. Don’t make excuses. Don’t try to spin what Christians find offensive in this movie. Don’t try to point out the virtues of this movie that redeem it. Just humble yourselves and repent, and pull your God-dishonoring promotion of this vile movie.”

About Alan Noble

(Co-Founder/Editor/Columnist) is a part-time lecturer at Baylor University. He received his PhD in Contemporary American Literature from Baylor, writing on manifestations of transcendence in 20th Century American Lit. He and his family attend Redeemer Waco, a PCA church. Alan's passion is studying how believers can be a faithful presence in culture to the glory of God and the edification of others. In addition to editing, Alan writes his column, Citizenship Confusion for CaPC.

---Follow Alan on Twitter @TheAlanNoble and on Facebook.

---For questions, comments, or interest in speaking engagements please email me at noble.noneuclidean [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Yes, this is exactly the kind of writing that will help Christians take Christian writers seriously. *sigh* First there’s MOVIEGUIDE®, now Boundless. I’m starting to think naming your child Ted might be damaging in some way.

    Serious question: How do you think Christians should respond to this sort of thing? Do we take it seriously or stick it in the crank file with the Shakers and snake-handlers?

    The Danes last blog post..20080606

  • Alan Noble

    Dane, I love how you got the copyright symbol in there.

    I think we need to take it very seriously. There’s a pull among Christians that deal with culture between the theories of culture and freedom and individuals. On the one hand, I think we have the freedom to watch films like Sex in the City, but on the other hand we need to be very careful not to encourage someone else to fall into sin or to sin ourselves.

    On the conservative side of cultural engagement people tend towards legalism because it is comfortable. And on the more liberal (freedom loving) side people tend to forget or downplay how the media can lead us to lust or covet, they forget that real people will watch these films and may be tempted.

    Our freedoms must always be subservient to obedience; however, obedience to man-made laws is foolishness and ultimately a form of idol worship.

    We need to take discussions like this seriously so that we can sharpen each other. I don’t think it is blatantly clear how Christian critics should approach and review such films, so dialogue is a good way of figuring things out. But the dialogue must be fruitful, and in my opinion, Slater’s post is not fruitful. To be honest, I have not read CT’s response to the letters they received, so perhaps they haven’t been speaking in an edifying manner either, but I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Alan – I think that the discussion of moral issues and the Christian consumption of popular media is an important one and as you framed it, quite valuable. That’s why I more or less take the articles and discussions on CAPC seriously—because they’re generally coming from exactly the direction you put forth.

    Whether one agrees or disagrees with any given article, one has the sense that discussion might be fruitful. One has no sense of that when confronted with Slater’s propaganda. Slater, in response to CT‘s admonition that some adults will be offended by the film in question, asks:

    By “some adults,” [does Christianity Today] mean those who take the call of Christ seriously, to flee sexual immorality and pursue a life of righteousness? And that other, less conscientious adults should disregard the pursuit of holiness and “enjoy” (to use a term from the original review) this portrayal of illicit vulgarity?

    Slater takes the tact of a troll. The notable thing is that he’s not trolling a forum, trying to bait posters, but is working the same level of skullduggery in an actual post.

    Generally, the wisdom of the internet says Don’t Feed the Trolls. So do we treat Slater as he presents himself? (As a petulant child, better seen and not heard.) Or as we would wish him to be? (As a reasonable human being who has the ability to string lines of thought together and come to conclusions that rationally follow from supported premises.)

    I think it’s good that we discuss Slater for the same reason we discuss Jack Thompson, Noam Chomsky, and whatever other intractably odd personalities that run around promoting their own particular brand of weirdness. These people need to be discussed, because many of them are charismatic and will draw followers. But I’m not sure we have any responsibility to try to foster discussion with them.

    Maybe we do though. Maybe trolls are people too.

    The Danes last blog post..20080606

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Ahh! I just read some of the comments on Slater’s post and died a little inside. I take back everything I said about treating Slater as nothing but a troll. What kind of world do we live in where an article like that is cheered as a defense of the gospel? Have people not heard of the gospel that they imagine Slater’s post had anything to do with it?

    Colour me flabbergasted. Maybe I just don’t run with the Focus on the Family crowd enough, but I really didn’t know it was this bad out there.

    The Danes last blog post..20080606

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    I see you don’t care for my writing style, which was admittedly pretty strong. In this case it was born out dismay that CT editors not only affirmed the very positive review of “Sex in the City” and dismissed those of us who question why a Christian review would promote it to their readers, but then went on to say that viewing “Sex in the City” was indeed a “good” thing. Please note that the reviewer “enjoyed” the movie and found it “refreshing” — a movie that included “a lot of sex and nudity.”

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts, though, on what I was responding to: the review and the defense of that review. CT is an important publication, and I think it’s significant that they would speak in such glowing terms about a movie that the review acknowledged is “soft-core porn.”

    Ted Slaters last blog post..Turning Ten

  • http://opuszine.com/ Jason

    I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call Mr. Slater a “troll”. However, there is a tone to his writing that goes beyond “dismay”, and instead, borders on mean-spirited and sanctimonious. Like the passage quoted above, the letter is full of little more than potshots.

    For example, nowhere in the CT review do I get the sense that the reviewer was “ogling” — to use Slater’s loaded term — the sexual content in the film. Perhaps the reviewer could’ve been a little more, um, explicit in discussing the film’s sexual content and its moral qualities, but there’s not the sort of wholesale endorsement and celebration that the Boundless article implies.

    It’s obvious that Slater, and, if the comments are any indication, many of Boundless’ readers have legitimate issues and concerns with the film. Perhaps CT is wrong to review movies such as “Sex And The City”. Perhaps they are promoting its (im)moral messages by reviewing it. Perhaps they are “slyly encouraging [their] constituents to embrace sin as ‘enjoyable’”.

    What a wonderful opportunity to enter into a conversation in a spirit of humility and grace. If you feel they’ve erred, wouldn’t it be better to enter into some manner of a civilized conversation/debate rather than come out swinging with the public moral outrage? It’s easy to sling Scripture all over the place, but such an approach rarely has the desired effect.

    This whole situation reminds me of an incident a few years ago when Rex Reed blasted such directors as David O. Russell, Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Spike Jonze. There might have been some valid points somewhere in his statements, but it was nearly impossible to see past his vitriol and outrage.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Ted – I don’t mind people writing from the strength of their opinions, especially where matters of taste are concerned. What I do mind is when writers cast doubt on the faith of other believers without a very due cause.

    You characterized in your post the author of CT‘s Sex in the City review as being flippant toward the call of Christ, caring little for the pursuit of holiness, and setting her in opposition to those who take faith in Christ seriously. And you did so very much without just cause. It may very well be that Ms. Courtney either does not believe or plays host to an impoverished faith, but there was no evidence of such states in her review.

    From you article and your comments here, you seem to be labouring under several misapprehensions. Some selections:
    _____________________________________________

    1) You state that CT spoke glowingly about the film.
    This is in nowise the case. The original reviewer only gave it three stars, labeling it as slightly about average, spoke at some length about issues she took up with the film, and spoke guardedly about the parts she did appreciate. She correctly identified that fact that there was certainly offense to be found in the film and presented readers with the information they would need to judge for themselves whether such a film would be good or bad for their eyes and hearts.

    Neither did CT speak glowingly in its defense of Ms. Courtney’s right to review the film and not have her faith called into question. They described the film as objectionable and never wavered from that description. Their whole defense was based on the belief that Christians may engage the product of the world and remain unmarred by it, perhaps even becoming better for it and being better enabled to react to it.

    2) You misapprehend the call to flee immorality as being a call to never witness such.
    When you say, when referring to the use of some adults, “Do you mean those who take the call of Christ seriously, to flee sexual immorality and pursue a life of righteousness?” you are putting forth the idea that to witness a depravity is to enjoy it and to enjoy a film that features a depravity is to enjoy that depravity. Later, you state that CT is “so slyly encouraging [its] constituents to embrace sin as ‘enjoyable,’” not because they ever encouraged such a thing but because they upheld a reviewer who claimed that a film containing objectionable material, when finally considered, was a little better than average.

    Since you are evidently fond of pointing out fallacies (as when you mistakenly bring out the Straw Man accusation), you should recognize here the fallacy of composition. Enjoying a movie with illicit nudity no more means that I take joy in illicit nudity than reading this site means that you enjoy my comments here. Taking this treatment to heart, we would also have to say that anyone who enjoyed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe would be people who enjoyed it when the White Witch executed Aslan. Such people would then necessarily be rejoicing in iniquity, having enjoyed a film in which murder of innocents occurred (and more, was treated by the film as a Good Thing).

    Fortunately, we don’t view fans of The Chronicles in such a way. Because it would make no sense to do so. Neither does it makes sense to question one’s faith or opinion of objectionable material simply for the fact that such a one enjoyed a film that contained such material.

    3) Ms. Courtney never acknowledged the film as being soft-core porn.
    She never even mentioned it as being in the same neighbourhood as soft-core porn. What she did say was that the content of the film elevates it above soft-core porn. The same way greater content elevates Prince Caspian above the level of simple War Movie, lifts The Passion of the Christ above the place of simple Gorefest, and raises Schindler’s List above the bar set by simple Snuff Film. You flatout misread her words here.

    4) Your distinction between review and promotion is rather hollow and that whole section strikes of intentional misunderstanding.
    When CT states that it is a good thing to understand what the world looks like through the eyes of the depraved, you misinterpret that to mean that they are calling evil good. In no plain reading of the text can their words be so interpreted with any validity. How is it that you arrived at such an interpretation?

    5) You claim the support of Christ himself.
    You claim this for an argument based on misapprehension and misinformation. You claim the backing of the Lord of the Universe, Wisdom Incarnate, and he who is Faithful and True. An argument based in error and falsehood? Backed by the Prince of Truth?

    You are too bold and I fear for you.
    _____________________________________________

    In the end I can only reiterate that it is not your seemingly willful and intentional misinterpretation of both Ms. Courtney’s review and CT‘s defense of her review that lights my ire. No, opinions informed or otherwise are a dime a dozen on the internet. What enrages me and comes to deserve every moment of fury I’ve spent in reading your article, is the brute fact of doubt you raise as to the state of Ms. Courtney’s soul. You may have only been playing that up for effect, but it was disgusting. It is the amongst the foulest acts for a believer to tempt others to judge the soul of one of their own. Your words sickened me to my core and witnessing the self-righteous hatred poured out unabated in the comments on that thread only further my sense of horror if such is the state of the church (and more, if this is indicative of the true heart of Focus on the Family).

    The Danes last blog post..20080610

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    Dane,

    I’m puzzled. You condemn me for critiquing CT’s promotion of SATC and their subsequent defense of that review. But then you yourself go on to critique me. How is what you’re doing any different from what I did?

    You condemn me for supposedly questioning the “state of Ms. Courtney’s soul,” but then go on to question the state of my soul. If what I’ve done is so bad, is not what you’re doing at least as bad?

    Did I say that Courtney’s words “sickened me,” that she’s practicing “self-righteous hatred,” that she is “disgusting,” that she’s committed “amongst the foulest acts,” that she “enrages me,” that I fear for her, and so on? No, those hateful words are not mine.

    Again, I want to ask you and the rest in this discussion: Do you see nothing wrong with a prominent Christian publication that uses words like “refreshing” and “enjoy” and “well-developed characters, smart dialogue, interesting plots and sub-plots, and a ton of heart” and “thought-provoking, vulnerable, and relatable wrestling with life” and ” wrestling with complex new realities of life that I wish I saw more of in Christian circles” to encourage its readers to go view a movie that includes “a threesome, a naked man in a shower, some steamy makeup sex” and the “sex scenes between married folk”? I didn’t get all that upset when the original review came out; I did get more concerned when the publication made an editorial decision to stand by their advocacy for viewing this movie.

    You’re free to condemn me for my writing style and my deference to Scripture. Sure would be cool, though, if you’d take a look at what I’m concerned about, rather than merely pick apart my words and try to tear apart my character.

    Ted Slaters last blog post..Turning Ten

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/featured/podcast-22-pop-cultures-startling-lack-of-restraint-viol Richard Clark

    From the Editor of CAPC:

    This is a discussion worth having, and I am hoping it can continue on in a way that is edifying and helpful.

    It’s an issue that’s full of intricacies and deserves a full discussion. Tuesday we’ll be publishing a podcast in which we discuss the review of the film as well as the various responses.

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    Thanks, Richard. I found the “letter to CT” on the following page better written than mine:

    http://spurgeon.wordpress.com/2008/06/11/sex-and-the-city-christian

    He’s a word surgeon; I admit I’m not so skilled.

    Ted Slaters last blog post..Turning Ten

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Ted – You misunderstand. I never condemned you for critiquing anything, let alone CT‘s review of SATC and defense of that review. In case of point, I never condemned you at all. I did, however, suggest strongly that you had done wrong. And more, I never suggested that the wrong that you perpetrated was remotely connected to critique—in fact, I was careful to make that distinction in the beginning of my response to you.

    See, here’s the thing. I think the question of whether a believer should give even a guarded recommendation of media containing offensive material to be a worthwhile question, something worthy of discussion and worthy of critique. Had you confined yourself to the discussion of the matter and the topic, I wouldn’t have been bothered in the least even had I disagreed with you.

    Instead, you forewent discussion in favour of calling into question the faith of both Ms. Courtney and of CT‘s editors. That alone is what merited my response to you.

    Hopefully, you can see the difference between what you did and what I did. You criticized the CT contributors and presented them as people who don’t mind sexual immorality, do not care to pursue righteousness, encourage believers to embrace sin. You present them as the mouth-piece of Satan. I criticize your words, demonstrating their inaccuracy, and then speak of why I found them to be so harmful. Your focus is on the character of your targets. My focus is on the problem of your words. At best, you suggest Ms. Courtney is a pretty horrible example of a Christian. At worst, I present you as mistaken and perhaps misled.

    At no point do I call into question the state of your faith and your devotion to Christ. That is why my response was different than yours. I think you’re wrong, not a bad Christian. You appear to think Ms. Courtney is both wrong and a bad Christian.
    __________________________________________

    As far as your question goes, I haven’t seen the film and likely won’t as its subject-matter does not so much appeal to me—so I can’t say whether the review’s slight recommendation on the film’s behalf was merited or not. But I will say that it’s certainly possible that all those things positive statements could be true of a film that also houses such offensive material. As an example, I’ll used Schindler’s List, a film Focus on the Family promotes as “important” and claims that it had Oscar-worthy acting and cinematography. Spielberg’s holocaust re-enactment is fraught with elements that on their own are highly offensive. Nude men and women of all ages. Murder, violence, gore. Sex and sexuality. And yet, the film as a whole overcomes such depravities and objectionable material and is actually better for it. So using this as an example, we can see that it is possible that a film can contain disgusting things and still be worthwhile.

    Whether Ms. Courtney’s evaluation of SATC is accurate or not is another question, and not one you’ve asked.

    As to CT‘s response? I think it was probably justified in like of the silly responses they were getting. I mean, really, how else were they to respond to such clearly inadequate critique as:

    “How can any Christian who takes the Bible seriously want to watch (or review) Sex and the City?”

    “Anyone who could actually find something redeeming in [Sex and the City] is too awfully familiar with the world.”

    “Sex and the City is a pornographic film. You should either abandon your stated Christian aims and mission statement, or stop condoning pornography.”

    “Is this really Christianity Today??? Are you guys really serious about Jesus, the Bible, holiness, and biblical truth?”

    None of those comments are interested in discussing whether the film actually merited Ms. Courtney’s well-caveated review. They are simply interested in questioning the faith of ostensible believers. They condemn people not ideas. And for that, CT‘s response seemed to be entirely merited.
    __________________________________________

    Also, I never condemned your writing style, nor your deference to Scripture. My problems with what you wrote were wholly concerned with content rather than style. As far as Scripture goes, I think deference is the right way to go. I do think though that despite your evident love of Scripture that you misapplied Scripture to the situations you were describing, partially because you misunderstood the situation and so were unable to properly apply scriptural wisdom.

    The Danes last blog post..20080610

  • Alan Noble

    Ted,

    Let me respond to your question:

    Do you see nothing wrong with a prominent Christian publication that uses words like “refreshing” and “enjoy” and “well-developed characters, smart dialogue, interesting plots and sub-plots, and a ton of heart” and “thought-provoking, vulnerable, and relatable wrestling with life” and ”wrestling with complex new realities of life that I wish I saw more of in Christian circles” to encourage its readers to go view a movie that includes “a threesome, a naked man in a shower, some steamy makeup sex” and the “sex scenes between married folk”?

    Frankly, no I don’t see anything wrong with the reviewer pointing out aspects of the film that were done well. That is her job. The alternative would be to ask her to lie, to ask her to pretend that simply because certain scenes were immoral the characters must be flat and the plot was shallow.

    As believers we are called to praise what is praiseworthy. If the complexity of the characters is praiseworthy, then the reviewer should tell us. And she did.

    It would be nice if we lived in a world were all films which promote immorality were poorly made, but that is not the case. We must be honest in our evaluations, which means we must be willing to admit when a director accomplishes something praiseworthy, even in a film that has elements that are not praiseworthy. The alternative is deception.

    (Please note, I have not seen the movie, so I am not claiming that the reviewer is correct in her assessment, only that theoretically it is appropriate for Christians to praise and condemn aspects in the same film).

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    The Dane, you wrote that I’m “calling into question the faith of both Ms. Courtney and of CT’s editors.”

    I didn’t intend that. I question their *wisdom* in so highly praising a movie that they admit is “soft-core porn” (OK, soft-core porn that’s been “elevated” by the characters’ wrestling with various issues). I also question the editors’ decision to continue standing behind such a glowing review, saying it’s “good” for Christians to view such things in order “to see what the world looks like through the eyes of even the depraved.” While it may indeed be “good” to view certain media to better empathize with non-Christians, at some point the damage to one’s spirit that’s caused by such excursions isn’t worth it. Do you not agree? Would you watch, for example, “Deep Throat” in order to gain insights into that world? Or snuff movies to gain insights into that world?

    Alan Noble, if this movie in fact included complex characters, that would be one thing. According to the New Yorker ( http://blog.beliefnet.com/crunchycon/2008/06/christianity-today-hearts-sex.html ), though, the movie’s characters are weak, the dialog is weak, the plot lines are weak, and so on.

    Check out the reviews on RottenTomatoes.com to get a better idea of the vapid quality of this movie, a movie that seemingly only fans of the TV show could like.

    Ted Slaters last blog post..Turning Ten

  • http://opuszine.com/ Jason

    “While it may indeed be ‘good’ to view certain media to better empathize with non-Christians, at some point the damage to one’s spirit that’s caused by such excursions isn’t worth it. Do you not agree?”

    Not to be facetious, but isn’t that were personal conviction, as led by the Holy Spirit, must come into play?

    I know Christians, folks for whom I have very great respect, who find value in Michael Winterbottom’s “9 Songs”, a film that contains scenes of unsimulated sexual intercourse between its actors. They fully acknowledge the film’s problematic side, while still finding value in it. But for me, personally, I doubt I would be able to see past the film’s problematic aspect to see the value they see.

    But which one of us is right? Or being more Christ-like? Are they seeing something false? Has their vision has been clouded, their faith has been compromised by their lusts? Or is my faith weak for not being able to withstand temptation to see the value in such a film?

    Admittedly, that’s a bit of an extreme example, but I hope it makes my point. I’m not arguing for moral relativism here, but I am arguing that our convictions are not the same. And we must be faithful to those convictions as led by the Holy Spirit.

    “Alan Noble, if this movie in fact included complex characters, that would be one thing. According to the New Yorker ( http://blog.beliefnet.com/crunchycon/2008/06/christianity-today-hearts-sex.html ), though, the movie’s characters are weak, the dialog is weak, the plot lines are weak, and so on.

    Check out the reviews on RottenTomatoes.com to get a better idea of the vapid quality of this movie, a movie that seemingly only fans of the TV show could like.”

    I wonder: are there any movies that you find feel have merit, that have received less-than-stellar ratings on Rotten Tomatoes? For example, “Prince Caspian” — which you bemoaned received a lower score in CT than “Sex And City” — currently only has a rating of 66%, which while higher than “Sex And The City”, is not exactly what I’d call a glowing score. Additionally, I bet I could find plenty of reviews that describe “Prince Caspian”‘s characters, dialog, and plot lines as weak. Peter Travers’ or Michael Phillips’ perhaps?

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    Jason, you asked, “Not to be facetious, but isn’t that were personal conviction, as led by the Holy Spirit, must come into play?”

    Yes. I agree 100%.

    I do question the spiritual maturity of any Christian, to be frank, who enjoys what’s considered “the most explicit film in British film history.” God did provide coverings to Adam and Eve for a purpose, perhaps for the same reason He had the sacred Ark of the Covenant hidden within the Holy of Holies. Some things are too precious for common viewing.

    Guys who say they’re not affected by pornography are either eunuchs or liars. Or have become inured by repeated exposure to it. In my opinion.

    Back to my original point: My concern is that a prominent Christian publication would use such glowing terms in speaking about this movie, and that the editors went on to affirm this review. I hadn’t intended to say anything about specific individuals who choose to view it.

    I appreciate how the tone of this conversation, while still animated, has become more productive.

    Ted Slaters last blog post..Turning Ten

  • Alan Noble

    Ted,

    We need to set some things straight here. It seems that you are concerned because CT published a glowing review about a movie with explicit sex scenes. However, when I brought up how Christian reviews must give honest evaluations of all elements of a movie, you said, “if this movie in fact included complex characters, that would be one thing.”

    Now it sounds like you are concerned that CT published a low quality review overall (the link you posted also takes this approach to the issue), which is an entirely different issue.

    So which is it? Are you concerned that they gave a glowing review to a film with explicit scenes or are you concerned because there were explicit scenes and the movie lacked anything praiseworthy?

    If it is the first concern, then I would point back to my comment about giving honest reviews of all elements of a film.

    If it is the second concern, then you need to clarify and restate your argument in your letter to CT. You are no longer making a moral argument, but an argument about the ability of their reviewer to discern good dialogue, plot structure, etc… And then I have nothing more to say, since I haven’t seen the movie (and have no intention to).

  • http://opuszine.com/ Jason

    “I do question the spiritual maturity of any Christian, to be frank, who enjoys what’s considered ‘the most explicit film in British film history.’”

    I would ask similar questions, but I also hope that — based on my previous experiences with their comments and opinions, and based on the respect that I have for them otherwise — I’d want to hear their responses, and carefully consider them, even if I may ultimately reject them. If only because I hope they’ll do the same for me.

    “I hadn’t intended to say anything about specific individuals who choose to view it.”

    Again, not to be facetious or haughty, but please consider that just because you didn’t intend to say anything doesn’t mean you didn’t. What is said is not always what is communicated, and that goes doubly for a medium as impersonal as the Web.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/featured/podcast-22-pop-cultures-startling-lack-of-restraint-viol Richard Clark

    Ted, Alan’s right. There’s some sense of disconnect between your comments here and your “Open Letter” to CT.

    This would be one thing if they were both equal venues, but the truth is there are very few people who will discover your clarifications buried in the comments of our humble site and there are, well, a whole lot more who have read your apparent misstatements in your Open Letter.

    This is unfortunate, and I want to encourage you to take the opportunity to clarify your points in a venue where those who have read your post will see it. I think it would be helpful to sit back and reconsider some of your statements with some of these comments in mind.

    I agree with you that the review was, well, way too glowing. But your response was way too harsh. If you disagree, alright. But at least consider it as a possibility.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Ted – Okay, these comments are getting more to the valuable heart of the discussion.

    You’re right that at some level, the risk that the negatives of a film will have a deleterious effect on me causes me to avoid watching certain films. Of course, this threshold is vastly different for each person. I know a girl who is deeply offended by bloodless PG-level violence and cannot watch a film with anything approaching the Three Stooges-style aggression. I know others who aren’t negatively affected by Fight Club or Raging Bull levels of violence. Perhaps their struggles lie elsewhere.

    Same thing with sex and nudity. Some people react differently to such things. I can almost guarantee you that if my wife sees Angelina Jolie in a film with her shirt off, her faith will not in the least be thwarted.

    A lot of this is cultural too. I grew up in a house on a beach in Southern California. From the time I was three I was surrounded all summer long (and spring and fall and winter to lesser degrees) by men and women in very little clothing. To me, seeing a woman in shorts and a bikini top is like seeing a woman in a sweater. Not a lot of difference there. For a co-worker who grew up in an entirely different culture, however, seeing a woman with even the slightest cleavage sends his mind into turmoil. He won’t even visit the beach, knowing that his spirit will be harmed. Two very different reactions to the same material.

    As well, I am an artist and the son of an artist. I am in no way unfamiliar with the naked human form, male and female. It doesn’t bother me to see nudity in the same way it bothers others, and it is only within certain contexts that I even am able to understand nudity as sexual. I imagine many surgeons probably have similar experiences.

    The point is that each person ought to know their limitation. And ought not judge someone else for having different limitations. As long as we’re all about the fallacies, what we have here is a hasty generalization. When we see a description like “SATC contains a threesome, a naked man in a shower, some steamy makeup sex, and sex scenes between married folk” and think to ourselves, Well, that would certainly not be healthy for me to watch, and then convert that to mean that no one can watch such a movie without damaging themselves, we reason fallaciously.

    The fact of the matter, none of that sounds very tempting to me. I think of these things differently and my mind categorizes things viewed in film or art differently than your mind does. This doesn’t mean I think you should watch the film nor does it mean that I would say that such things are no big deal. What it does mean is that I realize some people will be okay with the film and other people will be tormented by it.

    What the CT review offers is an honest appraisal (whether one agrees with the reviewer’s taste or not) of the film and enough information so that those who struggle with seeing particular things will be equipped enough to know wehther this is a movie they can safely attend without fearing for their soul’s purity.

    p.s. You should really stop saying that CT gave the film a glowing review. In no world is a three-out-of-four-star rating and the admission that the film is missing the one thing that made the TV version great (supposedly, I’d never seen the show either) something that can be construed to be a glowing review.

    The Danes last blog post..20080610

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    The Dane — I haven’t made a big deal out of the “three-out-of-four-star rating.” I’m not sure how else to convince you that the review is indeed “glowing.” When the reviewer uses phrases like “refreshing” and “enjoy” and “well-developed characters, smart dialogue, interesting plots and sub-plots, and a ton of heart” and “thought-provoking, vulnerable, and relatable wrestling with life” and ”wrestling with complex new realities of life that I wish I saw more of in Christian circles” … I certainly don’t see it as either denouncing the film or even finding it “just OK.”

    And again, again, my main concern is with the subsequent defense of the review, that CT editors would dig their heels in and stand behind the review. One silly review by one author can be dismissed as an anomaly or a mistake. But when the weight of CT stands behind such a review — one that promotes such a morally unhinged movie — *that* alarms me and requires me to stand up and try to bring them back to their senses.

    Ted Slaters last blog post..Working Man Hands

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    Richard — I’ve submitted a fairly long comment (um, three times), and it didn’t publish. Is it getting through and your comment moderation system is just holding it, or is it not getting through at all?

    Ted Slaters last blog post..Working Man Hands

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    Alan, I think you’re nitpicking. My use of the term “one thing” derailed my point: that the glowing review of SATC is problematic.

    Most “objective” reviewers find the movie dull, not a quality piece of work; most Christians, I suspect, find the abundance of sex and nudity to disqualify this movie as legitimate Christian entertainment. That the CT review lauds this movie — despite its vapidity and nudity — is perplexing. The commonality, it seems, among positive reviews of the movie is that the reviewers were fans of the TV show. That a Christian would find the series/movie redemptive because of the characters, despite it being admittedly “soft-core porn,” is bewildering. I’d rather explore that than my offhanded use of the term “one thing.”

    I’m not sure we’re getting very far with this. I try to explain my points, and “what you hear” seems to be something very different. Maybe if you take a look at the review on Plugged In Online ( http://www.pluggedinonline.com/movies/movies/a0004077.cfm ), you’d get a better sense of how I might evaluate movies. Note that while there’s a “Positive Elements” section, the overall sense is that any good aspects of this movie are outweighed by the bad ones.

    Also note the thoughtful observation in the “Spiritual Content” section. The movie is not deemed “refreshing” or “enjoyable”; the PIO reviewers don’t evaluate movies with their emotions, but with their higher faculties (check out the blog post on this topic, which should be published later today).

    Maybe I’m just wanting to encourage Christians, especially Christian reviewers who model media discernment by letting us in on their thinking about a movie, to weigh the merit of a movie with more than their emotions, but to think critically and biblically about a film, and even whether or not it serves us to view a particular film.

    Richard Clark — I wouldn’t have been “harsh” if CT merely published the review. But that they went on to essentially misrepresent and dismiss those who found it problematic, going on to say that it is “good” for Christians to view such things in order “to see what the world looks like through the eyes of even the depraved,” requires a firm “no!” from their peers.

    Again, my beef isn’t with individual Christians struggling to honor Christ in their media decisions. It’s with a high-profile Christian publication that is essentially encouraging their constituents to go to this soft-core pornographic movie, implying that “it’s good for your soul.” It is absolutely not. It may very well be better for that publication, in the words of Jesus, “to have a great millstone fastened around [its metaphorical] neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6) than for them to continue publishing such affirming reviews of damaging films.

    Ted Slaters last blog post..Working Man Hands

  • Alan Noble

    Ted,

    I just checked our comment moderation system and it’s not holding any comments. I’m not sure what the problem is. Sorry about that!

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/featured/podcast-22-pop-cultures-startling-lack-of-restraint-viol Richard Clark

    See Tom’s recently recovered comment above.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    @Ted – Okay, since don’t see the reasons why Ms. Courtney’s review shouldn’t be considered glowing, I’ll separate them out for you.

    The reviewer gave it a Good rating rather than a great rating. She expressed disappointment in the main storyline and it’s resolution. She compared it unfavourably to the television series, saying “the franchise shines best when showcasing the characters’ little, daily struggles and neuroses than when trying to make bigger statements.” She characterized the production as trying to shoehorn too many ideas, concepts, and characters into its runtime, and only succeeding moderately well at this. She further mentions that the film suffers for the absence of The Reason for Watching the Television Series (at least the main reason for her). And she talks about the sex scenes as being offensive and perhaps only there as a means of shocking audiences.

    Of course she also talks about the film’s positive aspects, which will largely be positives for people already made fans of the show. As you mention, she talks about how she enjoyed the characters and the storyline (for the most part, see her caveat above). She also found value in people actually dealing with the difficulties of a single’s life and difficulties (something that the church generally has not successfully accomplished). She spoke of other elements that she found to be of a higher quality.

    Taken as a whole, in her opinion, the positive elements outweighed the bad by a small margin. That’s all there in the review. If that’s a glowing review, you must read a lot of glowing reviews, because most films are average or slightly better than average and those are the kinds of terms that reviewers typically use. Presenting the positive as well as the mitigating factors. Generally, when one thinks of the term glowing, one imagines unmitigated support. For instance, I wouldn’t typically consider a review that said Movie A excels in Areas X, Y, and Z but could have done better in Areas E, F, and G to be a glowing review. A glowing review would not really go into the Buts.

    As far as CT essentially misrepresenting those who found it problematic, that’s not exactly what happened.

    I suspect the part you’re thinking of is when CT says, “But some folks believe that when it comes to a movie like Sex and the City, there should be no choice—they’ve decided that no one should see it, period…at least no one who calls themselves a Christian.” This statement is not, in fact, a misrepresentation of any kind, since that is the sentiment present in the excerpts they earlier quote. Things like: “How can any Christian who takes the Bible seriously want to watch (or review) Sex and the City?” The same sentiment runs thick in the comments to your own post—the idea no true Christian should watch such smut. In your letter, you say that CT believes “that those who disapprove of CT’s endorsement are calling for a boycott of it.” It wouldn’t be hard for CT to come to that conclusion—especially when there are people actually saying that no Christian should watch the film. I fail to see how CT is doing any misrepresentation here.

    The Danes last blog post..20080610

  • http://opuszine.com/ Jason

    “Again, my beef isn’t with individual Christians struggling to honor Christ in their media decisions. It’s with a high-profile Christian publication that is essentially encouraging their constituents to go to this soft-core pornographic movie, implying that ‘it’s good for your soul.’”

    Just to make sure that we’re all on the same page, I went back and read CT’s response to all of the SATC criticism. In my opinion, this is the most important part of the article:

    “…to slam us for reviewing the film makes no sense. Our mission statement is to help readers make discerning choices about movies — not to make the choices for people. Our review clearly warned readers of the sinful behavior in the movie, while also noting some of its redeeming factors — like the universal longing for love and companionship, what it means to be a true friend, and more.

    But some folks believe that when it comes to a movie like Sex and the City, there should be no choice — they’ve decided that no one should see it, period … at least no one who calls themselves a Christian. They think we should essentially have a three-word review: ‘Don’t watch it!’ But that’s not what we’re about. We trust our readers to make their own decisions; we won’t make those decisions for anyone.”

    However, I assume that this is the part of the article that you take issues with:

    “But here’s another reason for reviewing SATC and other uncomfortable films: It’s good to sometimes enter into the minds and worldviews of others, even of those we completely disagree with. It’s good to see what the world looks like through the eyes of even the depraved.”

    Based on your comments here and elsewhere, I assume you take with issue with that part about it being “good to see what the world looks like through the eyes of even the depraved” and interpret that to be a tacit endorsement to indulge in all manner of sinfulness and wickedness, or in this case, a “soft-core pornographic movie”.

    However, when taken in light of the earlier passage, I can’t really agree with that interpretation at all. Nowhere do I get the implication that CT has adopted the opinion that “SATC” is “good for your soul” as some sort of institutional, editorial stance.

    Perhaps it could’ve been worded a little better, but I think CT makes it fairly clear about their stance on films, and how they approach such things: “We trust our readers to make their own decisions; we won’t make those decisions for anyone.” In other words, I take that to mean that even when CT makes positive statements about a film that most people wouldn’t find objectionable, they still rely on their readers to ultimately use their own discretion and follow their own conscience.

    This might seem like a cop-out to you, and I can understand why — it allows for an awful lot of wiggle room when it comes matters like the one raised by the “SATC” review, and it requires more work on the part of the reader to do some homework. For example, they might need to read other reviews by the critic in question, so see how well their opinions and convictions seem to measure up with the critics. But I don’t know how a publication that serves as large and diverse an audience as CT’s can function otherwise without adopting the most fundamentalist and conservative of stances towards all films. (Nor do I see how forcing the reader to do a little more work to form their own opinion to automatically be a bad thing.)

    I have to admit, I’m curious: when you look at CT’s history of reviews, do you see this issue surrounding the “SATC” review to be the rule or the exception? Or, to put it another way, do you believe that CT’s policy, as stated in their recent defense, as well as articles like http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/commentaries/havewelostourminds.html, is intrinsically flawed and that, by and large, their movie reviews are causing Christians to stumble? Or do you think, overall, that their approach is fine, and that, by and large, their reviews are well-reasoned and worthwhile?

  • http://filmchatblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/sex-geeks-consumerism-morality.html Peter T Chattaway

    Ted Slater wrote:

    Check out the reviews on RottenTomatoes.com to get a better idea of the vapid quality of this movie, a movie that seemingly only fans of the TV show could like. . . .

    Most “objective” reviewers find the movie dull, not a quality piece of work . . .

    What on earth is an “objective” reviewer, and why should we automatically trust a non-fan’s opinion of the movie more than a fan’s opinion of the movie?

    I ask this as a life-long Trekkie who finds value even in some of the lamer Star Trek movies, and even though the vast majority of mainstream, “objective” critics would probably be quite happy to dismiss them out of hand.

    Yes, the so-called “objective” reviews written by outsiders can give us perspective. But so can the reviews written by insiders.

    Peter T Chattaways last blog post..Flashback: Sir Richard Attenborough, the Grey Owl interview

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    Peter, I’ll assume that your question is not merely rhetorical.

    By “objective” reviewer, I mean one who approaches a movie more clinically, more critically, more analytically than someone who’s just passively watching a flick and then writing that they “enjoyed” it because it was a reunion of characters from a TV show they enjoyed. I don’t care much about a mere subjective opinion; I want a review that digs into the themes and the consequential aspects of a film.

    This, in my opinion, is how the professionals do it: http://www.boundlessline.org/2008/06/plugged-in-and.html

    Ted Slaters last blog post..So You Wanna Be a Freelancer

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    I should add that a reviewer actually “models” cinematic critique for their readers.

    Michael Medved’s way of reviewing movies influences the way I watch and evaluate them. Same with Ted Baehr at MovieGuide.org or Adam Holz at PluggedInOnline.org or someone at CT.

    When a reviewer looks beyond themes of “forgiveness” and sees that no true “repentance” takes place, that prompts me to reconsider the surface messages and take a thoughtful look at underlying messages and themes.

    When a reviewer says that they liked a movie because they liked the TV series, that they enjoyed it despite its pornographic imagery, that they found it more refreshing and relevant than their church friendships, how might that influence my movie-watching habits?

    Ted Slaters last blog post..So You Wanna Be a Freelancer

  • http://filmchatblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/sex-geeks-consumerism-morality.html Peter T Chattaway

    Ted Slater wrote:

    By “objective” reviewer, I mean one who approaches a movie more clinically, more critically, more analytically than someone who’s just passively watching a flick and then writing that they “enjoyed” it because it was a reunion of characters from a TV show they enjoyed.

    Well, okay, no argument there, as far as that goes. I like reviews that point our attention to the thing being reviewed rather than to the person writing the review, myself. But I must also concede that people sometimes bring highly personal perspectives to their reviews that are better acknowledged than not-acknowledged. For example, I was 34 years old when I got married and lost my virginity, and this inevitably affected how I responded to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, so I made a point of mentioning that in my review for CT. Likewise, single Christian women may have a perspective on Sex and the City that men such as you and I do not have. “Objective” criticism is well and good, but we should be careful not to turn criticism into a game of disection or vivisection that loses sight of the life that can be had in enjoying and “receiving” a film.

    Beyond that, it seems plausible to me that many of the “objective” critics you cite by way of Rotten Tomatoes are probably people who didn’t care for the TV show in the first place, so I’m not sure what their opinions of the film would be worth, really. Certainly I, as a Star Trek fan, will find reviews of any given Star Trek film more valuable or enlightening if they are written by people who “appreciate” the series as a whole. It is they, and not some caustic outsider, who can tell me whether and how a Star Trek movie lives up to the standard set by its predecessors. It is they, and not some caustic outsider, who can tell me what the strengths and weaknesses of the franchise really are, and whether the film tilts more to one side of that spectrum than the other.

  • http://www.boundless.org Ted Slater

    Peter, my use of the term “objective” was sloppy. I agree that no human can do anything “objectively,” including writing movie reviews.

    This conversation is helpful.

    Ted Slaters last blog post..So You Wanna Be a Freelancer

  • John

    Ted, I am afraid that neither you nor I are in the position to judge whether somebody is a “good” or “bad” Christian because they happened to overall enjoy a certain movie, and say that it *might* be worth the while of *adults who are mature enough to handle watching it.* Judging a person’s faith or the spiritual condition of an organization is up to God, and if we try to speak for Him in such a condemning manner, without Him literally telling us His position (via either personal revelation or scriptural instruction), then we have indeed reached the height of pretentiousness. Every Christian wants God on their side and to speak favorably of their views, so why should I trust you in particular? This is the main problem I have with you, and you seem to conveniently skirt around it in your comments. You keep going “Well, I’m concerned about this,” but your words about CT’s reviewer and their entire organization show a more judgmental and vicious attitude. You throw her and CT to the wolves, all for being concerned that Sex and the City was in some respects, more refreshing for the reviewer than Bible Studies. That should actually tell us more about the condition of our churches than the value of a specific movie. The church today has this appalling and damaging fear to deal with sex in any frank and honest manner, aside from telling our kids “Not until you’re married.” And naturally, people will look for answers and sift them out of cultural products when the church is not doing its job.

    When I see you and Ted Baehr, I am reminded of the Christians who subscribed to a venomous legalism and said that eating meat sacrificed to idols was intrinsically sinful. Of course, I presume you know how Paul corrected them – let each man live his life according to his personal conscience and individual relationship with God. If he can eat that meat and still worship Christ unhindered, then by all means allow him to do so, while being sensitive to the potential struggles in a younger Christian (and notice that it’s the *younger* Christian who does the abstaining).

    When Paul spoke in Athens, he not only familiarized himself with all the temples and idols and the Romans’ religious system; he even commended them for being religious people, who subconsciously longed to worship and befriend the Judeo-Christian God. Imagine that! Notice how he did not start off declaring, “You have followed the wrong religion, and you’re all going to Hell unless you follow Christ!” No, he pointed out the good aspects of the fervent belief in their religion, and seasoning his words with grace, gradually and convincingly presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why on earth can we not do something similar with worldly movies?

    Hellfire preaching has its place – Alice Cooper (yes, the rock star) actually became a Christian after listening to a hellfire type of sermon. But truth seasoned with grace is usually the way to go, especially if you personally have a problem with CT “endorsing” Sex and the City (actually, it was NOT an endorsement – why does one need to “endorse” every movie they like?!).

    I am open to correction on any of these points, but I want you to have the same openness to being proven wrong, Ted. Read Proverbs 9:9 and get back to me. It could be that you are taking heat from fellow Christians because we are less spiritual or “in tune” or less mature, when compared to you. Or maybe it’s because you’re wrong, and we’re trying to point it out. Be very careful in evaluating which one it is.

  • Pingback: Looking Closer » Blog Archive » Camerin did her job, and did it well. She noted virtues of “Sex & the City,” and criticized explicit sex scenes. So, Focus on the Family’s Ted Slater declared: “Christianity Today Rel

  • Pingback: Camerin did her job, and did it well. So Focus on the Family says “Christianity Today Relishes Sexual Perversion.” What gives?

  • Adam E

    This discourse is why I love CaPC.


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