Why I’m Hesitant to Let My Kid Watch Christian Movies

1. Because there is a really, really, really good chance that Kirk Cameron is one of the main characters.

And, let’s face it– Kirk isn’t a very good actor. Every time I see him on the big screen it ruins fond childhood memories, singing “as long as we’ve got each other, we’ve got the world spinning right in our hands…” as Growing Pains was about to air over our 13 inch, black-and-white television.

As someone who has made his professional living in the arts for the last six years, I want my beautiful little girl to appreciate good art. Plus, I really want to protect my fond memories of the Growing Pains theme song.

2. There are no gate-keepers to determine what a “Christian movie” actually is.

Every time I see a supposed Christian movie marketed as “Christian”, the first question in my head is, “says who?”

Who gets to determine what a Christian movie is? No one, that’s who. The problem with this is that many well meaning Christian families who are making an honest attempt to let their children watch something good, might actually get duped into showing their kids crap.

There’s no such thing as a “Christian” movie– just like there’s no such thing as a “Christian” worldview. When movies get billed as being a “Christian” movie (usually because Kirk Cameron is in it– see rule #1 again), families are less likely to go into the movie thinking critically and with discernment. The label of “Christian” causes one to put their guard down and just blindly receive whatever is about to be put into their mind. And, isn’t that the behavior they warned us about when we were in youth group?

I’m not going to let my daughter watch “Christian” movies until I’m confident in her ability to know for herself what God really is like. I want her to be able to stand up and shout: “Nope, that’s not what God is like. He’s way more loving than that.”

3. “Christian movies” are a great vehicle to spread bad theology.

Just like unwashed hands are the breeding ground of nasty head colds, “Christian” movies are the perfect breeding ground to spread a nasty cultural infection of crappy theology.

Just look, for example, at the Left Behind series (ugh, see rule #1, again!). This genre has become an absolute cash machine. While the movies sucked (see rule #1), there’s now a remake with Nicolas Cage which might actually turn out to be an entertaining flick. The problem? This is once again going to drive poisonous, dispensational theology deeper into American subculture.

Back when I was still a fundie, I saw the movie Six, which was about the mark of the beast. I actually went out and almost got a tattoo of a cross on the back of my neck so that if I were ever beheaded for refusing the mark of the beast, the last thing my executioner would see would be the cross.

Yeah, bad theology in movies can lead to some serious mistakes. Thankfully, I got a massive sleeve of a koi fish on my arm instead, but I digress.

The danger with the upcoming Left Behind movie is that undiscerning Christians will have their false belief in raptures and tribulations solidified, thereby dooming another generation to poor Christian ethic (something I wrote about here and here). Furthermore, those outside of a Christian tradition may see the movie and actually think that “end of the world” nonsense is part of the historic, orthodox Christian faith, which it is not.

It is a lose/lose situation– except that Nicolas Cage frees us from rule #1, which is a big, big win.

I view my top responsibility in life to be the role of teaching my daughter what God is like. It’s a hard job that will take years of commitment– I’m not going to throw that away by letting her watch a “Christian” movie that will fill her mind with bad theology and render her with a twisted or conflicted view of what God is like.

 4. I don’t trust the Kendrick brothers.

If you don’t know the Kendrick brothers, let me fill you in: they’re the new game in town when it comes to Christian movies. Their film production company, Sherwood Pictures, is a ministry of their church– Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia.

Now, to give them a little credit, the types of movies they produce (Courageous, Fireproof, Facing the Giants) are better than what I had growing up as a kid- at least in terms of special effects, plot lines, etc.

However, I don’t trust them. In part, this is because this is an outreach of their church– and to be honest, if I wanted to go to Sherwood Baptist Church, I’d move to Georgia. Also, they’ve violated rule #1, yet again- which is no way to win this critic over.

More seriously, however, there were a few dangerous messages in their movies Fireproof and Courageous:

In fireproof we see the main character is struggling with a porn addiction that is killing his marriage. While addiction, porn or otherwise, is a serious and overpowering struggle some people have, this movie actually made light of it. As he smashes his computer and puts it in the trash, we’re led to believe that breaking serious addiction is actually that easy.

It’s not. Addiction is hard to beat, and even when the addictive behavior is gone other behavior patterns remain which need some serious therapy. The message that you can just “repent” and walk away from addiction via willpower alone and everything else works out? I’m not a fan of that message, because it makes light of the real struggle so many face.

In the movie Courageous, they departed from subtle nuance and jumped straight into racism and sexism. As my wife and I watched this film, we were repeatedly mortified with the racist/sexist stereotypes perpetuated throughout the movie: the big black male running from the cops, the Mexican gang-banger, and the out of work Mexican with the bad accent (at one point, the “Christian” who hires him for some odd jobs asks if he’s in the country legally). With sexism, we see the father of a teenage daughter ask a boy who invites her to the mall “what his intentions are”, as if his daughter is some sex object whose main value is her body.

So, I’m done with you, Kendricks brothers. I’ll watch your movies since I’m a Christian commentator, but I’m not letting my sweet daughter watch your stuff. My daughter faces enough racism, and the last thing I’m going to do is fog her mind with more stereotypes about her color and accent. Plus, if she ever struggles with addiction, I want her to know that she doesn’t have to try to just throw it in the trash and do it on her own– we’re here to walk with her through that, should it ever occur.

5. I don’t want to reinforce the false notion that some art is “Christian” and some art is “secular”.

As my old preaching professor, Haddon Robinson, used to remind us– there’s no separation between secular and sacred. I want my child to know that a critical mind is something you never turn off, and that you can’t simply compartmentalize art as “Christian” or “not”. I want her to know that all truth is God’s truth, and all beauty is God’s beauty, and that you can find every bit as much truth and beauty from 8 Mile as you can from a Kendricks brothers flick. I want her searching for beauty everywhere she looks- I don’t want her thinking that good stuff exists “here” but you won’t find God “there”, wherever “there” is. I want her to know she can find God everywhere.

But I also want her to know that she can find garbage that will poison her mind everywhere, too. Even in good intentioned “Christian” movies.

Which is why, until I am confident that she can watch with a critical mind and say “That’s not what God is like– God looks exactly like Jesus”, I’m not going to just pop in a Christian movie for her and leave the room.

Until then, we’ll be learning lessons of struggle and redemption from 8 mile.


About Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey, is an Anabaptist author, speaker, and blogger. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Theology & Missiology), is currently a 3rd year Doctor of Missiology student (a subset of practical theology) at Fuller Seminary, and is a member of the Phi Alpha Chi Honors Society. His first book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, is available now at your local bookstore. He is also a contributor for Time, Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, Evangelicals for Social Action, Mennonite World Review, has been a guest on Huffington Post Live, and is one of the CANA Initiators. Ben is also a syndicated author for MennoNerds, a collective of Mennonite and Anabaptist writers. Ben is also co-host of That God Show with Matthew Paul Turner. Ben lives in Auburn, Maine with his wife Tracy and his daughter Johanna.

You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


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