Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Guest Post

Today, we have a special guest! My friend, Joshua Hoppman, is a Christian cinematographer and homeschool graduate. Below is his article on violence in films. Enjoy!

Is Violence In Movies Unbiblical?

When you look at the long list of films being produced today, you see a common factor among most of them. That common factor is violence. Should I watch them? What does the Bible say about it? How should Christian films portray violence?
            As a Christian it is hard to ignore the fact that films today are one of our culture’s downfalls. Films entertain, but also subtly teach, indoctrinate, and instruct. With the amount of violence in films today, I’m not surprised at the amount of violence in our culture. Murders and killings are shown in many movies today and suicide is a popular ingredient to films as well.  Compare that with our culture today and you see that violent films definitely have an effect.*
So how should Christians respond?  Well, we can turn to the Bible and find that it also is filled with violent stories. “Huh?  Jael killed a military general with a tent peg? Samson slayed one thousand men? Joshua fought and killed how many men at Ai?” It can seem a little confusing at first when you realize how much violence is in the Bible.
Well, first of all, does the Bible give graphic, gory, descriptions of violence? The Bible gives the accounts of a sinful world living during a particularly violent time in history. Second of all, does the Bible glorify the violence? No, the Bible does not glorify blood and gore at all. In fact, the more you read the Bible, the more you begin to see the powerful redemptive story of God’s love for a sin-laden world that turned its back on Him. The violent stories in the Bible all serve a purpose to bring this, and many other messages to us. Compare those stories to the ones shown in films today. There is an obvious difference. One glorifies the sin; the other glorifies the Creator who has the victory over all sin.
How should Christian films show violence? I believe the Bible is the perfect example of how to portray it. Christian films, or any other films for that matter, should not show violence to glorify or show it in excessive amounts. That is just appealing to the flesh and sin nature. However, showing no violence at all in certain scenes can come across as corny, or unrealistic. There must be proper balance between too much and too little.
As viewers we need to be careful what we take in. What we watch needs to stand out as being different than that of the world (Romans 12:2).  Keep in mind one of my favorite (and most used), verses from the Bible which says; “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”.  - Philippians 4:8
Also remember Ephesians 5:15-17 which says “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”

*Edit: As I was writing this, a young man walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and killed 28 people, mostly children. Is this what our culture is coming to? Please be praying for the families who lost loved ones.* (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/14/police-respond-to-shooting-at-connecticut-elementary-school/ )



  1. Good Job Josh! How true that we are to walk circumspectly, redeeming the time, for the days are evil!

  2. Joshua, good thoughts. You make a good point of needing to have balance between too much and not enough to draw out the emotion you want the viewer to feel. I think the important thing is the maturity of the viewer. Too many young (and I mean young) people watch movies they are not emotionally mature enough to handle. When you understand the ramifications of the violence there is a big difference in how you process it. One thing I think we've lost in our society is innocence. We are careful to not allow young children to read and re-read Song of Songs. Why? Young children are not mature enough to understand what GOD is revealing in those verses. In time, we can share the beauty of those chapters and how they fit in our lives. I think it's the same with a modest amount of violence. In moderation and with maturity, I think that a story can be made so much more powerful with ALL of the truth shown - good and bad. I just don't think most people in our society understand what quantifies as moderate or mature. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!!

  3. Thanks for doing this guest post, Josh!

  4. Mrs. Heckendorn,
    I agree with you. However, I also believe there are certain films that no one, no matter how mature they are, should see. On top of that, the maturity level of adults are going lower and lower. Especially the men in today's culture. That has to do with the effect of movies because most men in lots of films and TV programs are shown as immature. How do you think the women are shown? While the men are being stupid, the women need to "step in" and do the men's jobs. Thus, the rise of feminism in today's culture. I know you can't blame the media totally for the way our culture behaves, but it is a very big factor that contributes to the decline of our nation.

    Your welcome! Thank-you for posting. :)

  5. Great post, Alicia. I've watched a lot of films (and I have played a lot of video games). I agree that violence in movies is often way too graphic. However, most of the 'M' rated games I've played are nothing compared to say, the ending of 'Braveheart' or the latest 'Rambo'.

    For those who don't know, Braveheart depicts Wallace's hanging, drawing, and quartering in sickening detail. The newest Rambo (besides the ugly picture of geriatric Stallone without a shirt) features brutal scenes with realistic depictions of the terminal effects of the .50 BMG round, which goes on far too long and can only be to shock/disgust/otherwise mess with the audience's heads.

    I would say that the appropriateness of depictions of violence depends on context. For instance, the landing scene at Omaha Beach in 'Saving Private Ryan' is incredibly graphic; however, it is a depiction of the harsh realities of war. It is sickening to watch, but is probably nearly as close to real ities of combat as it is possible to film, and is definitely not glorifying combat.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sean! I agree that ratings don't really matter anymore. I recently watched an unrated "family friendly" movie that showed some violent stabbing/shooting scenes. We actually ended turning off the movie.

      Viewer discretion is always advised. Don't go by ratings or what other people say about a movie - go by your own conscience and with a discerning heart. :)

    2. Sean,
      It's true you don't go by the ratings. There are some PG or G rated films I wouldn't recommend watching.
      As for video games; they have as much effect as movies do (In fact that's why I like to refer to video games as "interactive movies"). There are lots of really graphic video games out there, and they keep getting worse and worse as the years progress.
      The Bible is always the best way to judge a film and also ask yourself; "What message or worldview are the filmmakers trying to convey here?" "Knowing that Jesus is here with me, would He want me to watch this film?" "Is the main character or hero/heroine of the movie someone I would want as a role model?"

    3. Joshua,

      I agree that Biblical discernment is required. I am somewhat biased towards games because I enjoy playing them (and I built a great PC to do so). I do not watch much television at all. And I only watch movies I really want to see.

      Some games I definitely would not play because of their content. I filter out (and laugh at) worldviews I don't agree with in the games I do play. I disagree, however, that all games are merely interactive movies. Some are, certainly, but definitely not all. I enjoy games that take a "sandbox" approach that allows the player to decide how to complete objectives. Strategy and challenge!

      I approach movies and games as works of fiction. Even if they have objectionable content I remind myself that they are not real and are not to be emulated in real life. And of course, parents should be proactive in what they allow their children to watch and what games they are allowed to play. M rated games can't be purchased by individuals under 18, but parents buy them for their kids all the time... Such is the world we live in.

      And on that note, I'm really looking forward to seeing "The Hobbit"!! :o)

  6. Thank you for this post. Although i really like action movies, I shy away from most of them. Not only because of the violence, but because often, extreme gore/violence go hand in hand with the disregard for Human life. I find it amazing all my pro-life friends who love movies who's main characters who kill and think nothing of it. It is so sad how so many Christians are being sucked into the worlds way of thinking and they don't even know it.

    1. Yep, there are many movies that have made "bad guys" look like "good guys". Our culture looks up to these characters and mimics them even though sometimes they don't even realize it.

  7. Very good post, there certainly must be balance when it comes to movies with violence. I'm curious as to what peoples thoughts on the Passion of the Christ movie with it's extreme accurate depiction of the crucifixion? Should a Christian watch the movie? I have seen the movie (the only rated R movie I've seen before) and it deep impact on me when I saw it (I could not hep but be brought to tears).

    1. I'm sure Joshua will reply in person to you soon.

      As for me, The Passion of the Christ was not actually that accurate of a depiction. It was far worse. Yet, it is my personal opinion that God gave us what we needed to know in His Word and I am not entirely certain we need to be watching movies on it. I've been moved to tears just reading the account or hearing my FBI teacher verbally describe it from God's Word. However, my problem with that film rested more on its Biblical inaccuracies and Catholic bents. I dare say that is one film that an individual must be led by the Holy Spirit as to whether or not see it.

    2. Thank-you for your comment Sir Joshua David. (Great name by the way, coming from my totally unbiased opinion! ;D)
      I saw the Passion and was pretty disappointing in the end. The story was good and way more accurate than most Hollywood biblical epics. But the whole focus on the movie didn't seem to grab me.
      I believe the violence in the movie was pretty accurate to a point. The way the violence was portrayed almost seemed too accurate. It was just too much. It seemed like the film was trying to draw in the crowd that looked for violence just for the purpose of tantalizing their senses (Like I said in the article, not the correct way to portray a violent scene).
      Now, if this film did indeed bring people to Christ then I applaud Mel Gibson's efforts.
      Now granted, he did show the Resurrection briefly at the end which is not what I was expecting coming from a Catholic director, but that scene was just way too short. The whole message of the movie seemed to end really quick in a 15 second clip?
      And what was with that creepy "demon baby" that the devil was holding during the "cross bearing scene" anyways? Poor child actor. :)
      And since he was a Catholic, of course he focused on Mary for most of the film.....
      All-in-all, I don't regret seeing the film the once, but probably won't see it again. The focus on the violence was overboard and not for the right reason. It brought a new perspective for me on what Jesus went through, but when the film ended, that was pretty much it.
      Does this film bring glory to God? I leave that for you to judge.


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