Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Get your “They let their kids watch what?!” hat ready—we watched Rush Hour 3 with our daughters last night. Yep.
I have been in the ministry for more than twenty-five years, much of it as a SINK—a single income, no kids guy. Over those many years I have watched countless families deal with what seemed to be the most important, life-dependent and life-changing decision in the modern world—what movies to let their kids watch. The family that watched The Wizard of Oz together was blessed with the scorn of the family that didn’t. “There are witches in that film, you know.” The clan that watched Star Wars reaped the shame on you of the clan that did not. “If you feel the force, you may be going to Hell.” And watch John Wayne in True Grit? “He says ‘Damn’ and ‘Hell,’ doesn’t he? You want your kids exposed to that?!”
On and on it went. The purple Teletubby, Tinkywinky, wanted to make your kids gay, Barney made it acceptable to be androgynous, and Looney Tunes cartoon characters advocated violence. I don’t know though. As many times as Daffy Duck got shot by Elmer Fudd without any real harm made me think shooting someone was useless . . . okay, and maybe a little funny. I know—I’m deth-pickable.
Everyone was so nervous and scared of damaging the innocence of their little darlings. Lots of arguments over which films were acceptable and which were not ended in split decisions; the ‘we would never’ group went one direction, while the ‘we certainly will’ went another. Newly acquainted families examined each other by asking coded questions like, “What do you think of Saturday morning cartoons?” or “How’s that purple thingy on that purple Teletubby grab you?” Answers determined friendships.
Look, I think film-going and film-watching is a worthy arena for discussion and debate. And I don’t advocate sitting your five year old alone in front of the God Father trilogy (I made him an offer he couldn't refuse.), neither do I recommend having your seven year old take in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by himself. You might find him whacking his cowering brother with a stick-sword afterwards. You shall not pass, demon of Mordor!
What I recommend (and what Sarah and I do) is that you go through life together with your children, talking and teaching and commenting as you go. Our girls, now eleven and thirteen, know who they are in Christ—the holy, blameless, radiant, not-of-this-world daughters of God walking the earth. My girls are aliens. They also know that they walk with those who are of this world, who do not have God living within them, and who cannot sow toward Him and expect to reap as they do. That’s a huge difference! It’s very defining. Because Sarah and I want them to know God and to find Him where He is (in them), we’re not too quick to establish standards of right and wrong. We don’t want them living by standards—we want them living by Christ!
So, when Chris Tucker (Jackie Chan’s oft-profane side kick) yells, “Damn! She’s so fine!” we’re likely to pause the video and ask questions like, “What do you think?” “Knowing what you know about the invisible, eternal world, and the visible, temporal world, how is he making that assessment?” “If this film were real and you were there, what would you do?” “If he’s a Christian, what’s going on with him that he talks like that?”
It’s so easy to say, “Oh, that’s wrong! God says that’s bad!” But I don’t think that’s nearly enough. That teaches our kids to live by standards of measurement, which means they’re set up to live as judges, condemning this, but condoning that. What pressure. Sarah and I want our daughters to know God, not try to be God. Besides, the God they know is not now counting men’s sins against them, but calling them to reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18,19).
So, when Chris Tucker yells, “Shoot his ass!” or when a scantily clad woman slinks her way on screen, it’s common to hear comments from our girls. “Why does he talk like that?” “What is she trying to do by wearing that?” “If she’s a Christian, she’s not knowing God very well right now. She must need help with that.”
We think that’s great. You may be certain that we closely shepherd our girls concerning the films and T.V. and internet they watch. But we’re not living in order to preserve the innocence of our daughters; we’re living in order to assist them in their life with God, to know Him and His opinion and feelings and thoughts for them and for others. And we think that kind of movie-born interaction and talk makes dirty-mouthed Chris Tucker and terrible teletubbies worthwhile.
What do you think?