Podcast #28: Christianity Today, Boundless, Sex, and the City

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Over the past few weeks, a discussion has been taking place in the Christian blogosphere. Here’s how it went:

Other noteworthy links: Jeffery Overstreet posts a long defense of the review. On the Boundless Podcast, Tim Slater discusses the issue. Tim Slater from Boundless clarifies his Open Letter. Jeffery Overstreet responds to Tim Slater’s clarification.

We didn’t really want to pick a side, so we blogged an aside which generated quite a bit of discussion. And today we publish a podcast in which Ben and I… well, we don’t really pick sides.

In this episode, we discuss why Christianity Today was right, why Boundless was wrong, why Christianity Today was wrong, and why Boundless was right. If it all sounds a bit confusing, wait until you hear us try to say it in audible words!

Also, we count down our top 5 guidelines Christians should use when deciding whether to see a film. Combine the two lists, and you’ll never see a film, ever! Guarenteed!

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  • My standard mode of operation in deciding whether I will personally see a film runs as follows:

    1. Do I like the director?
    2. Do I like the actors?
    3. Does the story look interesting?
    4. Did the hype interest me at all?
    5. Will the movie harm me?

    As I’m thoughtful enough films and ideologies and visual stimuli, ethical concerns don’t present a huge concern for me (so I’ll rarely look into what a movie is rated or what for). Still, I won’t see porn and I generally stay away from disturbingly violent films (the former because it is specifically designed to damage me and the latter because an overstatement of realistic gore makes me feel yucky).

    And since my time is valuable and I don’t have time to see many films these days, I’d much rather see quality films (hence my other four criteria).

    As for what I go through when choosing whether to recommend a film to someone:

    Is the film a good film
    Is the film’s quality good enough that I feel confident that it would not be a waste of time? Is it well-filmed, well-scripted, well-acted, well-edited, etc?

    Will this person like the film?
    How confident am I that the person will appreciate the film? It doesn’t matter if I think The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb is worthwhile or not—if I recommend it to my mom, she’ll disown me as someone who recommends worthwhile films simply because she does not appreciate that level of surrealism.

    Should they not see it?
    This features fairly largely into my recommendations for the high schoolers I work with. Most cannot see R-rated fare so I have to remember that when I consider recommending things. The sad fact here is that for the last forty years, the vast majority of worthwhile films are not films that they are allowed to watch.

    Should they see it?
    Will it be helpful, harmful, or neutral for them? Even if not harmful, will something in the film interrupt them to such a degree that they are removed from the experience of the film. For instance, we were watching Cinema Paradiso with some married friends of ours and there’s a scene pretty deep in the film wherein we are treated to a 1.5 second shot of a young guy rutting with the town floosie off the side of some country lane. They are fully clothed with the exception of the guys bare buns. For some reason, though she seemed to be fine with more overt shows of nudity/sex in film, that single scene tainted the entire film for the wife of the couple. So now I don’t recommend movies to her that include outdoor fornicative acts because though she is not stumbled by the sight, they do ruin movies for her. Or something like that.

    Hm, so I guess I only have four criteria for recommendations for others.

    The Danes last blog post..20080612

  • Excellent podcast, guys. Thanks for exploring questions and the stronger and the weaker aspects of Courtney’s review. I appreciate it.

    And I *do* agree with, entirely, that the moral content of a film AND its beauty are inseparable. I can’t argue with any of your points in this podcast.

    (By the way, the “defense” was written by CT Movies Mark Moring. The writers didn’t see it before it was published. I would have worded some things a little differently, and you get right to those points here. And yet, I am so grateful for Moring’s leadership at CT Movies. I grew up wishing that Christians would find the courage to engage arts with courage and insight, and Mark is steering that kind of ship.)

    I *will* though say that there is a big difference between an “endorsement” and a “good review.”

    I address that here:

    Anyway, thanks for the thorough, thoughtful response. It’s been an ugly debate, but an essential one all the same.

    By the way, Image journal (imagejournal.org) has just joined the conversation.


    Jeffrey Overstreets last blog post..At Image: Kelly Foster on “Why I Watch Sex and the City”

  • Ack! TYPO. I meant to say “Thanks for exploring tough questions and discussing the stronger and the weaker aspects of Courtney’s review. I appreciate it.”

    Jeffrey Overstreets last blog post..At Image: Kelly Foster on “Why I Watch Sex and the City”

  • I appreciate the thoughtful podcast, guys. Very insightful, very gracious.

    I do find the conversation among CT-affiliated film reviewers to be revealing.

    Ted Slaters last blog post..Perfect Happy Bubble

  • Just thought this might be a good quote to throw into the mix.

    From some guy named John Milton, from some thingamajig called Areopagitica. (Bless you!)

    “He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true wayfaring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat… We boast our light; but if we look not wisely on the sun itself, it smites us into darkness.”

    Jeffrey Overstreets last blog post..Don’t forget: You still have time to win a WALL•E poster!

  • Alan Noble


    That’s a great Milton quote. I just listened to the Kindling’s muse episode on Christian films. What was that definition of parable that you gave? That’s one I’d like to file away.

  • British theologian C. H. Dodd, in The Parables of the Kingdom, defined a parable like this:

    At its simplest, the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.

    I can apply most of my favorite movies with that description!

    Jeffrey Overstreets last blog post..New Miyazaki on the way!

  • Here’s another great quote from Thomas Merton to keep in mind in discussions like these:

    “As soon as you begin to take yourself seriously and imagine that your virtues are important because they are yours, you become the prisoner of your own vanity, and even your best works will blind and deceive you. Then, in order to defend yourself, you will begin to see sins and faults everywhere in the actions of other men. And the more unreasonable importance you attach to yourself and to your works, the more you will tend to build up your own idea of yourself by condemning other people.”

    Jeffrey Overstreets last blog post..New Miyazaki on the way!

  • Great points on the whole Sex and the City debate between Christianity Today and Boundless.

    I think the best way to really change the tides in instances like these is for Christian filmmakers to do do big screen adaptations of chick lit novels written by Christian women. “Emily Ever After” by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt is a good example. Also, Camy Tang’s Sushi series would be another good one.

    SolShine7s last blog post..Band Spotlight: The Golden Sounds