blind sided

There has been a bit of commentary on Lifeway Christian bookstores bowing to Southern Baptist pressure to stop selling the movie “The Blind Side” because it contains some profanity and racial slurs. The comments I have seen have been entirely critical, ranging from “This is what’s wrong with Christian bookstores” to “When will Christians stop acting like curmudgeons?” I am sympathetic to this argument (and I am embarrassed by much of what I see in Christian bookstores), but I think the critics might be blind to the other side.

1. These Southern Baptists are not calling for a boycott of the movie (it may be bad but it’s not Disney bad). They simply don’t want it sold in their denominational bookstores. This strikes me as a reasonable request, and doesn’t prove, as Eric Metaxas suggested, that “there is no pleasing Christians. They always seem to be looking for something to be mad about.” These Southern Baptists aren’t attempting to engage the culture at large, but are simply saying how they want to live amongst themselves. What does it matter to us if they choose to live a bit more narrowly than some of us might?

2. Thank God for Christians who take seriously the call to holiness. We may not agree where they draw the line, but we need to hear their voice, even—and especially—when we disagree. In a year when the Hermeneutics blog at Christianity Today ran a piece praising the virtues of a pregnant Jessica Simpson posing nude on the cover of Elle, we desperately need to hear from those who still care about purity.

Here’s the money quote from the story on Simpson:  “I choose to see this cover—this beautiful picture of a naked and pregnant woman—as an Edenic reprieve from the shame that women are saddled with….I choose to see this cover as an opportunity to freely stare and smile at this woman, at her fearfully and wonderfully made body as it holds yet another fearfully and wonderfully made life, being knit together by God, and declare Simpson, her unborn daughter and all of us—no matter what the state of our bodies—good.” And all the junior high boys said “Amen!”

Recently I was reading an inspiring book by a theologian I admire, when he mentioned, for no apparent reason, that he “saw the new James Bond movie over the weekend.” That startled me, and made me wonder what his theological heroes might think. Here’s a list of Christian leaders in chronological order, and you tell me which one you could imagine watching and recommending a James Bond movie:

Jesus, Peter, Paul, Tertullian, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Wesley, Barth.

If you said “Karl Barth,” you would be right. Is it a coincidence that the only one who would watch a James Bond movie is someone from our own age (Barth died in 1968)? Does this mean we are more enlightened, more in tune with our freedom in Christ, or might it suggest that we have lost something that used to matter to Christians?

To the point, I enjoyed “The Blind Side” and don’t remember being offended by its profanity or racial slurs. But I still wonder, is it possible that these Southern Baptists seem extreme, at least in part, because we have fallen off the other edge?

13 Comments

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  1. Amen and amen! Well said Mike… Balanced, fair and biblical. May God return us to a love of holiness!

  2. Good word, Mike. I appreciate your spirit.

  3. Thanks, Mike! Stated what I sometimes sit and wonder about: SLIPPING STANDARDS OF HOLINESS! Since “holy” and its derivatives occurs at least 850 times in Scripture, maybe we’re missing something?!?!

  4. Well, yeah, Barth’s the only one who could watch a James Bond movie, because he’s the only one who was alive and on earth when there were James Bond movies to watch.
    BTW, I can totally see , Kierkegaard catching a Bond film too…

  5. Zach beat me to the punch…

  6. Zach: Your exceedingly literal hermeneutic is typical of fundamentalism. Is this a cry for help?

  7. Jonathan Shelley July 10, 2012 — 9:14 pm

    Mike,
    To answer your question:
    Peter would have, but he would deny it later;
    Paul would, so long as no weaker brothers saw him;
    Tertullian did until Sean Connery dropped out, but then he gave up on the franchise for losing its purity;
    Augustine would not, since Bond’s lifestyle would seem too tame compared to Auggie’s youth;
    Anselm would, and then contemplate whether Bond is a spy greater than which no other spy can be conceived;
    Aquinas would try preaching the gospel to Bond until Bond was begging to be let out of the movie;
    Luther would just to irritate the Pope;
    Calvin – well, his habit was to go to the movie theater and buy a ticket for whatever movie was starting next, leaving the choice to providence;
    Edwards was too busy writing sermons and books, even though his children would have begged him;
    Wesley would be at the theater preaching to the crowds, and Charles would have written a hymn to the Bond theme song;
    Barth found inspiration in Bond’s relationship with Ms Montypenny.
    So I guess your question is really, what would Jesus do, or perhaps, how can we live Jesusly?

    See what good use I get out of my seminary education?

  8. Can’t find anything to disagree with there. You make me so proud.

  9. I’m afraid to follow Jonathan, but last night I was listening to a lecture by Phil Johnson and he talked about how he was with his kids or grandkids or something in a movie theater, waiting for a Disney flick to start, reading through part of Augustine’s Confessions, when he came upon a passage where Augustine rails against the theatre (while sitting in a theater). Of course, the theatre of Augustine’s day and the cinema of today are not precisely the same thing, but there is definitely a connection and some of the same concerns for the believer. And yet, I’m sure whatever Phil and fam was about to watch was in no wise worldly (unlike, arguably, a Bond film–which I don’t really like watching because I hate the main character for being a slimeball). All the same, Augustine would likely condemn it (the act of watching any film) as do many modern fundamentalists, just for being “the theater.”

    But here’s the thing: modern day football answers to the gladitorial games a heck of a lot better than your average Pixar flick or PG rom-com answers to the Roman theater. Think about it:you’ve got very a similar structure where thousands of people gather and become intoxicated while watching men slam into each other and knock each other down in something of an organized fight for the ball, while women in tiny, lip-locking outfits kick their feet up above their head and otherwise act seductively. Why do almost all Fundamentalists today give a pass to that (their pet pass time, be it NFL or college or even high school) while emphasizing the unbroken line of Christians condemning “the theater” (and, by the fallacy of equivocation, the cinema)?

    As a cinephile, it would be much more comfortable for me to point my finger at something like football (but not boxing!) while defending the theater as “art” (which is, admittedly, a stretch 90% of the time) . For someone like you who has to be nagged for a year to even rent and watch “Luther,” it’s probably much easier to bring up the worldliness of going to the megaplex and watching an action movie. But organized sports are kind of assumed to be the innocent realm of guys. I know your main point was about the general trend, but I do find myself sometimes denouncing general trends from the pulpit, even while privately exempting my own part in them.

    All that to say, you may be right, but I’m going to see Spiderman tonight. But at least, after this blog post, I won’t fully enjoy it. 😄

  10. Zach: Good point about hypocrisy all around. It’s so easy to see the speck and miss the plank, as Jesus said. Just so you know, I picked up the movie “Doubt” to watch sometime this week. It’s only 4 years old so I think I’m doing pretty good. I am certainly not anti-movies, but I am surprised by the general lack of discernment these days. I also think that the popularity of the NFL has peaked, for whatever that’s worth. And Spiderman?! Zach, I didn’t think you would fall for a transparent Hollywood money grab. I hope you have $8 worth of fun!

  11. I beg humble pardon for breaking in on the scintillating satirical levity of the discussion for a perhaps more ponderous response.

    Would it be to much to say that I find the criticism of Lifeway and the SBC on this particular issue somewhat hypocritical and Pharisaical? How many of the critics of the “Blindside” decision are 1) members of a SBC affiliated local church, and 2) have ever set foot in a Lifeway book store? Just perhaps maybe those of us not affiliated in any way with the SBC should just plain mind our own business on an issue like this that is not as black and white as either side makes it out to be. But no, sadly, sanctimonious pontifical pronouncements proliferate profusely.

    And it is not like Lifeway book stores were the only places in the whole wide world where you could buy a copy of the “Blindside” DVD

    The broader Evangelical world has an opportunity to demonstrate we are not all cut out of the same mold, and there is room in our evangelical family for legitimate differences; an opportunity to demonstrate that we love our SBC brothers and sisters in Christ enough to give them space to arrange their own house as they see fit. regardless of what we may or may not think personally about some of those arrangements; to give them the benefit of the doubt even as we would want them to give us the benefit of the doubt if the tables were turned. Why are we so prone to wanting to “blindside” our own brethren?

    I suspect the unbelieving culture will little note or care what Lifeway and the SBC does either way. However; they just might notice if we loved one-another.

    Peace….

  12. Bill, we ARE all “minding our own business” by using this recent issue to ask reflective questions and have discussion about where the line is for each of us and whether the response at large is indicative of a good or bad trend in the Church today. I don’t see Mike judging the decision the SBC made (far from it)…
    Huffy Self-righteousness vs. pharisaical hypocrisy…WHO WILL COME OUT ON TOP?!!
    Hey, I somewhat restored the “satirical levity…”

  13. Rev. Z. Perhaps I should have added that is how I took Mike’s post and everyone else’s responses… I’ve seen other responses in other forums that in my mind were much less charitable.

    I should also say I appreciate the satirical levity… The good Lord knows we could use more of it at times…. 🙂

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