"Aren't you afraid that you'll miss out on something good?"
That's the general reaction that I get when I tell others that I don't watch R-rated movies. Some wonder why I would willingly forsake any potential pleasure in life. Others believe some R-rated movies may include content needed for history or culture to be portrayed accurately. Such content is not always PG.
For example, Schindler's List takes place during the Holocaust and The King's Speech features a lengthy scene filled with cuss words. However, both films feature uplifting messages. Aren't these movies worth seeing?
Why not keep myself open to determining whether a movie is worth seeing on a case-to-case basis? Why set boundaries in the first place?
In a culture that believes in the freedom of the individual to the point that we feel entitled to specific privileges, it is hard for many people, even those that know me really well, to understand why I would limit these privileges.
The real question we need to address is not whether we are afraid of missing out but whether we are secure enough in our identity as a woman of God to relinquish our worldly "rights" and pursue holy living. When we set our eyes above, our worldly "rights" have no hold over us. Whatever we do, it will be to God's glory.
Note: this post is not about whether watching R-rated movies is a sin. It is about the process that led to my personal conviction not to watch R-rated movies.
In order to understand my reasons for not watching R-rated movies, we need to answer the following questions:
- What is an R Rating?
- By whose standards do I seek to abide? (Should I really desensitize myself to such content?)
- What am I really afraid of missing out on?
- Whose right really matters?
- How can I pursue holy living?
What is an R rating?
In order to understand why I don't watch R-rated movies, we first need to know how an R Rating is defined:
R-ratings require a parent or adult guardian to be present for an individual under seventeen years of age (or under eighteen in some states) to view the film. An R-rated film "may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously." (Emphasis mine.)
In summary, R-rating contains adult content: more sex, more violence, more language, more drug use—to the point that parents are cautioned about taking their children to see R-rated films.
R-rated content is content that I would not want streaming on my social media feed or playing on the screen while I'm with family or friends. It's not even content I would claim as a favorite part of any film I watch.
Should I desensitize myself to such content?
Some people tell me that I should watch more R-rated movies to desensitize myself to such content. They believe I won't be so opposed to watching such content if only I got used to seeing it.
They tell me that it's good and desirable to get used to seeing R-rated content. To let profanity enter my ears. To let bedroom scenes, violence and other brutalities fill my eyes. To taste these words on my lips and immerse my senses in such content.
I am aware that some films like Schindler's List portray violence and brutality to convey the wrongness of such acts. (There are movies with kid-friendly content that portray wrong actions for the same purpose.) I don't believe most people would watch the film and praise such acts. I also don't believe that I, or anyone, should just "get used" to watching such acts. We can't reduce such acts to a form of entertainment to laugh off.
When we see such content, we should seek to unite with each other to make a positive difference in the world. For example, Schindler's List informs us of events that took place during the Holocaust. We may leave the film asking ourselves how we can love others and make an impact in others' lives as Schindler did with the Jews working in his factory.
What am I really afraid of missing out on?
"Aren't you afraid of missing out on something?"
This question speaks to my heart because of all the questions underlying that one statement. Don't you want what everyone else has? Aren't you afraid you'll regret your decision? What really led you to your decision? How can you be so at peace?
Truth be told, I struggled over this decision. I knew that I didn't enjoy the content in R-rated movies, but I didn't want to let go of my right to watch such movies. I wanted to keep my options open because, as many friends tell me, I might miss out on a film that conveys a message of which I approve.
Our culture has taught us to covet being in the know and up to date on the latest trends. Most significantly, to the detriment of family values, our culture has taught us to covet our individual rights and to fear the loss of such rights.
Such fears deny the transformative power of the cross. Such fears declare that God is not enough. Such fears proclaim that the world is much more desirable than the eternal life and freedom from fear that Jesus offers through His redemptive love and grace.
The truth is that we called to a life set apart from the world. Yes, I can certainly partake of things from the world, but if such things are causing me to prioritize my rights, my desires, before the throne of the High King, then I need to cut such things from my life.
As Jesus said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell" (Matthew 5:29-30).
Whose right really matters?
I've realized that the only reason that I wouldn't put a restriction on R-rated movies (and above) is because I wouldn't want to give up my "right" to watch adult content on the screen. I opened myself to the idea that I do not need to watch a movie containing content that warrants an R-rating. In fact, there's already content or implied content in some PG-13 movies that I wouldn't watch, and the struggle over whether to watch R-rated movies was causing me so much stress that I was losing sight of my greatest need: the need for Jesus.
If I watch a movie, I want to watch one that allows me to draw closer to God and fellowship with other believers. (It doesn't mean that the films must always feature overtly Christian themes and messages, and it doesn't mean that I will always agree with family and friends on films. When we do get together, however, we can collaborate to find one that makes us all comfortable.)
That said, do I believe watching R-rated movies is a sin?
This is something we need to ask God for ourselves. What I will say is that, no matter the rating of a film, we need to examine our intention and the moral message of the film. First, we need to ask ourselves why we're watching a movie: is it for pure gratification / entertainment or because such content is important to the message of the film? Second, does the moral message of the film align with God's Word?
It may be that we watch a film only to find that it supports a belief or value that goes against God's Word. We can't hold ourselves accountable for that, and as appropriate, we may exit the film. If we learn beforehand that a movie supports teachings that go against those of God, we need to follow the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Some of us may not choose to support such films in theater. Others feel a conviction to learn what is going on in the world, so they are prepared to speak about it.
Again, it goes back to our intention. Are we looking for an excuse to enjoy a film, or do we truly believe there is a purpose, a learning or ministry opportunity, here? Listen to God. If we feel a strong sense of wrongness with a film, then we should follow our conviction to forgo watching the movie.
Most importantly, in all we do, we need to remember that the world cannot fulfill us; only God can. Instead of focusing what we perceive to be our "rights," we should build a lifestyle that reflects the life to which we are called as believers. In doing so, we will be equipped to shine as a light pointing to the work Christ has done on the cross.
For some, like me, this means not watching R-rated movies. Others may be at peace watching some R-rated movies on a case-to-case basis. What matters is that we listen to God and follow the convictions that the Holy Spirit gives us.
How can I pursue holy living?
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9)
The Bible doesn't tell us not to watch R-rated movies. Movies didn't exist back when the books of the Bible were written. Just because the Bible doesn't tell us not to do something doesn't make it right, however. We need to go to God in prayer and listen to what the Holy Spirit tells us. Paul's words to the Philippians confirm that we are responsible for making a judgment on what contributes to a holy lifestyle.
Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. He lived among them, dined with them, and worked among them. In many ways, his life did not look like that of many of his Jewish brothers in Christ. However, his mind was not set on doing these things for the sake of doing these things. His mind and heart were consistently set on the Lord and on sharing the good news of the cross.
Like Paul, we may live in the world, but if we truly believe in and accept the work Christ has done for us, our lives should be consecrated to Him. Whatever we do, we should consider what will allow us to draw closer to God, and we must be ruthless in cutting off the things that threaten to tempt us away from God. For me, this meant choosing to forgo all R-rated movies, so I could stop needlessly worrying over whether I should watch a given film or not.
Whatever we do, we need to ensure that we understand our reasons for doing so and that we behave in a manner becoming of Christ follower. We need to become a woman who listens to God.
When I feel a sense of wrongness while watching a movie, rather than attempt to rationalize why it's okay to keep watching, I need listen to the Holy Spirit and ask myself how I can draw closer to God. I need to abide in Christ and follow God's standards.
That's why we need to read the Bible and spend time with God in prayer. The more we come to know God and His divinity, the better equipped we will be to discern the things of God from the things of this world. As the saying goes, "you are what you eat."
In the end, is there a clear-cut line for what is appropriate to watch?
No, there is no clear boundary. Just because I don't watch R-rated movies doesn't mean that everything PG-13 and below is fair game. Within the PG-13 arena alone, there are many movies that I will not watch because of the themes they convey and the lifestyles that they condone.
What I choose to watch or not watch will not get me into heaven. However, what I choose to spend my time with will most certainly influence my walk in Christ.
I'm human. I have and will make poor decisions, but as much as possible, I seek to engage in activities that keep me focused on God. If something is causing me to stumble, then I need to go to God in prayer and, as needed, cut it out from my life, so I can keep my focus on God.
My walk with Christ isn't going to look like someone else's walk with Christ. What I've discussed today is where my conviction has led me regarding the film industry. The Holy Spirit may lead you in another direction. Whatever you do and however you spend your time, be prayerful on how it influences your walk in faith and whether it will draw you closer to God.