Friday, September 04, 2009

Terrible Teletubbies

Get your “They let their kids watch what?!" attitude ready—we watched Rush Hour 3 with our daughters last night. Yep. We did.

Ooh! Ahh! Gasp!

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?

(Written a couple of years ago, I post this again ahead of an update coming soon.)


  1. Anonymous2:08 PM

    Love this!
    Bill Nieporte

  2. Anonymous3:45 PM

    I agree. I think we are on the same track per se, But I feel it necessary to point out a thought I have that we as parents are the highest degree of respect and morality our children will have to look up to ( God not withstanding) We should, I believe, go a little overboard in being protective in what we deem as 'okay'. But not too nutty. Take it too far and you miss out on teachable moments.

  3. Anonymous4:24 PM

    I thought that I was the only one who felt strongly about censorship! I was scorned because I watched The Excorsist with my child! It scared the living daylights out of him of course so much so that I found myself in a mtg with his teacher when he mentioned it to her. What I explained to her was that he walked into the room while I was watching it and he didnt leave nor did I make him especially since he seemed interested. When the movie was over he asked me if the movie were true. I let him know that there are some ppl who might think that were true and that as long as he prayed and believe that God would protect him. I could have gone further but he seemed to be happy with that answer. What he said to her to his teacher was that God would protect him from the girl coming down the steps. I share this to say that allowing your child to watch particular movies should open up a doorway to discussion. A doorway that is now closed for me and my son because I allowed ppl to change my views! And I shouldnt have.
    Cheryl Bell

  4. I censor. I watch things that I like and the kids are welcome to censor me, if they deem it no good (with biblical backup). Ditto for them. No one censors dad but he only watches Christian shows, so there is no need. No Family Guy. No whatever that show is where the same character dies in every episode. And especially no shows with ummm.... lots of naked women...the teenage boys of my house don't need any encouragement in that area.

  5. I think the key is watching it with them AND discussing it (I like the idea of pausing & discussing).

    We can't prevent it completely. As much as we say no to certain movies/websites/tv shows, we all seem to have worldly neighbours with dvd/internet/tv, who "think nothing" of it.

    Reminds me of a story I heard no so long ago. Three generations watching TV. Grandfather gets up and leaves the room part way through. After the movie the grandfather asks the father, "would you invite people into your house who you knew who lied constantly? Would you let people in who tell your kids about how they have committed adultery? Would you let women come in half dressed and sit in your living room?"
    The response, "Of course not!"
    "Then why do you allow the very same thing to come in through the TV, every day, every week?"

    The problem with reality is it is so darn persistent -Albert Einstein. I am grateful to hear your children are aliens to this world. My fear is my kids are not...yet... as they are constantly bombarded by worldly things. It wears us all down over time and we tend to forget the spiritual battle that's going on all around us.
    My feeling is without the discussion, the implication is acceptance.

  6. Anonymous12:02 PM

    Thanks Ralph, very helpful indeed, as plan to hv childen one day. Nd all the amo I can get in the meantime :-)
    Cleopatra Monday

  7. Anonymous12:03 PM

    love these two statements: "we don't want them living by standards, we want them living by Christ." and "want our daughters to know God, not try to be God." wow- what a dazzling idea! just think if we all were to take that approach!
    Heather Norman

  8. Anonymous8:38 PM

    Kevin Horton

  9. Anonymous9:23 PM

    I drew the line when the zebra (Chris Rock) exclaimed "Sugar Honey Ice Tea!" in the children's animated movie Madagascar a few years back. ;) Ok, no I didn't. The kids were a bit young to catch it, and I think it probably went over many adult's heads too. But say they had caught it... Indeed, an excellent opportunity to discuss things. I'm not trying to shelter my kids from life. I'm living it with them.
    Joel B

  10. Anonymous11:11 AM

    You answer some of my questions. Thank you, Ralph!

  11. Anonymous1:09 PM

    So very true! "Know God" is the best part!

  12. Anonymous2:11 PM

    You have certainly set me thinking Ralph, as usual. We often struggle with what to let our 8 year old watch, it seems like so many of the children channels now are flaunting sex, drugs and everything else and very often I wonder how to get the real message over to Chearra about it all. Your note has helped, so often I forget and approach things from a "standards" angle which is sending her the wrong message. I love your last paragraph... not living to preserve their innocence..... What a huge burden to carry around, and I must admit I have been dragging that one along for a while.There is so much more I would love to say but will save it for your next visit. Thanks Ralph.