Star Wars & Christians - Part 2

This series is adapted from episode 11 of the Reason Together Podcast found here.

Series outline:

I. What is the content?

A. Are there dangers to moral purity?

B. Are there dangers to behavioral and social expectations about violence?

C. Are there dangers to one's Biblical theology?

II. What is the frequency in which you watch it?

A. Are there dangers to your time, productivity, and growth?

B. Are there dangers of being identified with its culture?

C. Are there dangers to your financial stewardship?

1. What about boycotting Hollywood?

2. What if you have disposable income?

III. What is your reason for watching it?

A. Can entertainment have a Godly reason?

B. Can escaping reality be a healthy form of entertainment?

C. Can nostalgia be dangerous?

IV. What should Christians do about Star Wars?

A. Is isolation from it the answer?

1. Can you have education in isolation?

2. Can you hurt your testimony by isolation?

B. Is having no restraint the answer?

1. What do you think you can handle?

2. What do you think about future generations and moderation?

Last time we opened the topic of Star Wars with the question, “What is the content?”. Specifically, we asked what the dangers are to moral purity. Next, we need to examine what the effect of cinematic violence is on the mind.

In an age in which occasional mass shootings are becoming an almost expected part of our culture, is it true that this is brought about by a societal acceptance of violence as a means of entertainment? If so, what impact does a movie like Star Wars have on this? These are hard questions. I would be naive if I thought I could provide you with any kind of definitive answers about the influence of cinematic violence on the Christian mind, or any mind for that matter. I could cite many sources that claim cinematic violence enables social violence but it seems there are just as many sources that claim it has no such effect. So, we’re left having to make a different approach to the subject.

What is observable, at least from an anecdotal and logical standpoint, is that exposure to cinematic violence can certainly chip away at someone’s innocence about sin. Christians are to remain “simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). However, does “simple” mean isolated from it? Not really. The word ἀκέραιος translated “simple” means “unmixed”. In the same way that oil and water can be placed in the same setting and not mix, a Christian in the world is often exposed to things that he ought not to be “mixed” with. This means that the common saying that we’re “in the world but not of the world” is actually true. However, the choice to expose one's self to cinematic violence is just that- a choice. It’s a voluntary decision to watch it. Does that make it a wrong choice? Will watching a movie like Star Wars make me “mixed” with violence, i.e. a violent person? The answer is, possibly and possibly not. We just can’t definitively answer that.

The more important question is, does being in the world and not of it then sanction a Christian watching any form of cinematic violence without restraint so long as he does not condone or mimic it? A Biblically tempered conscience would say “Not at all.” Therefore this question is not one I can answer for you. My opinion is that some cinematic violence is gratuitous, or no other purpose than violence and gore for the sake of violence and gore. Personally, I avoid that. Other types of cinematic violence drive the narrative. It’s literally part of making the story work. I’m drawing no hard and fast lines here, but at least in the case of the original Star Wars trilogy, the lightsaber duels, the blaster fights, all seem to drive the story and the character portrayals. Most of the cinematic violence in those films made in the 1970’s seems to be somewhat innocuous. The prequel films include what I call gratuitous violence that does not drive the narrative. Also, the special effects of the original movies clearly appear like special effects. The later films attempt much more realism. The violence of the prequel films seems very dark, making the villain’s evil seem “cool”, whereas the violence of the original films seems centered around the heroism of the hero, making him look victorious if that makes sense.

Again, I’m not trying to draw hard lines here for you. I’m reasoning with you out loud. I’m not saying that Christians should watch anything with violence. I’m also not saying that Christians should avoid all cinematic violence. Graphic stories exist in Biblical history as well, think Jael with her tent spike, and Samson smiting the Philistines “hip and thigh” which means he literally ripped them apart. These things tell the story without the attempt to make violence appealing to the reader or to necessarily condone the individual's actions in each case. It’s simply part of what happened and you can’t know the story without knowing about the violence.

So, reason through these things for yourself. Most importantly, don’t violate your own conscience. Much more could be said about this particular point. As always, have the mind of Christ, be saturated with the Word of God, and often issues that the Bible does not directly speak to will become more clear. Remember, we a building a Biblical “filter” of principles to run our entertainment through, and we’ve only applied a couple principles thus far in parts one and two. Next time we will build out our “filter” even further by examining if cinematic portrayals of false religion can affect your own theology.

Pastor Thomas Balzamo is the pastor of Colonial Baptist Church of Norwich, CT and one of the hosts of the Reason Together Podcast. This series is adapted from episode 11 of the podcast found here.

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