by Stephen A. McDonald
I cannot understand why so many Christians are flocking to see Tinsel Town's latest mega hit, Lord of the Rings. Sure we have read all of the press on this movie, how it is a moral theme of good verses evil, how Tolkien was a committed Catholic and close friend of C.S. Lewis, but something is still coming up short.
A tightly held Christian grievance with Hollywood is the view that it is a champion of all things perverse in our world. If a subject is on the edge of society's morality, the silver screen will bring it to life in a way so real that it leaps out at you. Secondly is the common view that it is not "entertainment" to go to a theater and fork out $7.50 to hear people take the Lord's name in vain. The latter point is especially offensive to Christians, and is a major stumbling block to Evangelicals filling seats in the cinema super-plex.
Let's just say that Lord of the Rings is a decent flick. We'll ignore the fact that many in the industry say that the violence in the film greatly exceeds that of the PG-13 rating given to the film. My dilemma is that Lord of the Rings is not an isolated film, sure it may be (in the street's opinion) acceptable to watch, but the problem arrives when the studio releases their next film in a few weeks. Almost certainly it will have an "R" rating for sex, violence, or some other heinous acts. The Good Book tells us to have no parts of the unfruitful works of darkness. It is not one movie that is "good" and another "bad"; it is the position of an entire industry that has chosen to promote things that are offensive to the character of Christ. Films that straddle the fence of acceptability do nothing more than marginalize an already weak stance fronted by most Christians.
This is not a morality issue. It is not even a right or wrong issue. It is a Jesus issue. Christians need to live a life devoted to the principles taught by Jesus Christ as identified by the Holy Scriptures. To go to a movie (or rent one) and say, as we've heard numerous times, "It is a great movie, just close your eyes here or fast forward there..." That doesn't jive with our view of why Christ died on the cross for us.
I think that more needs to be said about the "good-overcomes-evil" message in Lord of the Rings. It is pretty clear that this is the major tenant that's used for Christian movie reviewers to give a "thumbs-up" to the flick. We haven't seen Harry Potter, but we've heard enough to understand that it is also a "good-versus-evil" theme. To further the point, isn't Harry Potter also a fairy-land fable with dazzling special effects, at a closer look the Silver Screen's version of Tolkien's book falls into the same category. Why have we Christians overwhelmingly given the nod of approval to "Rings"?
At heart is the continual striving of Christians to become part of the secular world. After years of bashing Harry Potter books, we got our chance to slam the screen version, and did in swift and unified fashion. With the advent of a rendering of Tolkien's "Rings", Christians get to show that we're not all that strange, and we can see the "relevance" of a movie about good and evil. The Christian Right so strongly desires to be part of mainstream Americana, that they will sell short their spiritual views and flock to see a violent movie that is definitely on the fringes of acceptability.
Lord of the Rings gives us Christians the chance, without attached or implied guilt, to stand at the water cooler and be part of the world we're called to be separate from.
©Copyright 2002, Stephen A. McDonald, www.bigtreenews.com
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