I don’t think the decision on whether we watch a movie is as simple as asking whether it has drugs, alcohol, sex, cursing, or evil behavior in it. But I am already getting ahead of myself . . .

I remember when I was a pastor at Stonebair Community Church. There was this lady that was trying to get her foot in the door of the church to hold a seminar on the dangers of Harry Potter. This is when the movie was first coming out and everyone was already reading the books. She attempted to tell us about the sorcery and witchcraft that was in it and how it was not a good movie for kids. We sent her on her way (to the church down the street!). There were simply bigger fish to fry. (Besides, I think we were all going to watch Harry Potter that night.)

One of the things that I believe is that culture is “amoral.” What I mean by that is that we need to be careful when we talk about the Christianity and the culture. Often the way we talk about it is in terms of Christianity vs. the culture or Christianity vs. the world. Culture is amoral in that in-and-of itself, it is not good or evil. It can exhibit traits of either. The world is not evil. The world without God (which is what we often mean) is evil because it is in rebellion toward God. But culture can be, and often is, a very good thing. Entertainment, arts, music, technology, government, and the like can be used for good or evil.

Take movies for instance. In so many ways, Hollywood can be a gift from God. The expression of creativity, instigation of laughter, and the opening of the imagination is a God glorifying venture. However, very often it can be a tool for evil, transforming worldviews by the powers of entertainment. An ancient Greek philosopher once said (and I paraphrase), “You can have the government, military, and schools, but give me the music and I control the people.” I have a feeling that today the this same philosopher would say the same thing about Hollywood. There is so much power there.

I love movies. Probably too much. Definitely too much. I always think about whether something is beneficial or not. I am continually asking if such and such movie is promoting good or evil. I often don’t know. However, I have come up with three rules of thumb that I use in evaluation. This is especially helpful when it comes to what I will let my kids watch.

Forgive my acronym, but it fits: CAN. You know…as in “Can I watch this daddy?”

Before I list them, understand that these three are in relation to sinful behavior in entertainment. The question is not simply does the movie contain sinful behavior (which is often where we stop), but does it have sinful behavior in relation to these three.



Is the sinful behavior celebrated? In other words, does the movie glorify the bad behavior.


Is the sinful behavior accessible? This speaks to the practical nature of the behavior. Is it something that we can expect people to actually do?


Is the sinful behavior normalized? This speaks to the cultural acceptance of the behavior. Is it something that says “Everyone is doing it, you should not be afraid to do the same?”

Now let’s flesh this out some. I am not saying that all of these things have to be present. Nor am I saying that only one will have to be present.

For example, take Harry Potter. Here we are almost a decade later. They are still making Harry Potter movies which gross a few hundred million each. Kids are still seeing them and they are still reading the books. Witchcraft is still evil. But you know what? I have never once in my life seen a warlock. We are not having a witch epidemic in this country. Even if you saw every one of the movies and read every one of the books there is virtually no chance you will be involved in more witchcraft than if you had not seen it. Millions of dollars and tons of time has been wasted by the church on all these Harry Potter warning campaigns. Why? Because the fantasy of Harry Potter is not accessible. It is just not the issue here in America. A young boy has no more likelihood to become a warlock by watching Harry Potter than does the same kid have a likelihood of becoming a superhero by watching Superman. The same is true with the Twilight trilogy. I have yet to see any vampires produced. Remember Star Wars and its relation to pantheism? One of the most watched movies of all time and you probably do not know any pantheists. While one might be able to argue that the “bad behavior” in these movies is celebrated, we have to realize that, for the most part, the accessibility is just not there. It is fantasy. 

Now take celebration. Often I find that movies contain bad behavior that are both accessible and normalized, but not celebrated. This is often a very good quality. A good illustration is country music. I live in Oklahoma where we love country songs. Its all about divorce, drinking, and bars. Bad stuff right? However, this does not mean that it always has an negative influence. You know what happens when you play a country song backward don’t you? You sober up, get your truck back, your girl back, and your dog back. The point is that in many (not all) country songs, they have so much bad behavior, but the consequences are depressing and sad. The behavior has serious consequences. It is not celebrated or glorified at all.

The Bible does the same. There is so much bad behavior that is accounted for in the Bible. Think about it. If Hollywood were to turn the Bible into film, it would most definitely be rated “R”. However, the evil actions are not celebrated.

I remember Denzel Washington, who is a Christian (from what I hear), would not play in the movie Training Day unless his character was killed at the end. He said that his character was so evil that he must suffer the consequences of his bad behavior. The question here is not whether or not the evil is present, but is it celebrated?

An opposite example is the 80’s sit-com Cheers. Some of you can hang with me here. It was my absolute favorite show on TV. I never missed an episode. What a cast. However, Sam Malone, the show’s central character, could not be accused of being a Christian moral example. He was a womanizer. Not only this, but he was a heroic womanizer, celebrated by every passer-by in every episode. The celebration of womanizing was a problem. It could create a sense in the viewer (especially males) that in order to be “successful” and liked by everyone, you have to be as much like Sam Malone as possible. Not only is womanizing celebrated, but it is accessible. People actually can and do become sexually promiscuous. It actually is a temptation.

Finally, another characteristic I look for is the normalization of the behavior. Sometimes the behavior, while it may not necessarily be celebrated, is accessible and normalized. A normalized behavior is one that everyone is doing. If there are no consequences, and the people who are participating are the “heroes” of the story, then this can have a negative influence. For example, premarital sex is normalized in most entertainment today to the point that if one does not participate, they are the odd fanatics. In the end, people want to be “normal.” I want to be “normal.” This is not the issue. The issue is who do we let define normal? When bad behavior is normalized, whether it be premarital sex, homosexual behavior, drunkenness, or otherwise, this can be a sign that the entertainment will have a negative influence.

There are other issues involved, I know. Is this or that evil behavior gratuitous? Is the entertainment meant to be historical? These are all issues to think about. But what I have found is that these three questions cover most issues, whether it be movies, songs, or any other way we engage in entertainment.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    36 replies to "What Movies Will I Let My Kids Watch?"

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      Did you know that apart from Harry Potter, Power Rangers is also a big no-no in most Indian Christian households? Moreover, it is a sin to go watch movies in the theatre, but it is not a sin when I can watch them on my TV. Not just R-rated, but ANY movie. Sheesh!

    • Jason

      I love Cheers! Oh wait–there was a larger point to this post! 🙂 These are good criteria and I appreciate your thoughtfulness. As a dad of four young and impressionable children, I am very aware of what they see and hear. As I think you imply in the post, more than the externals (language, visuals, etc) are at play when viewing tv and movies and listening to music (though these externals can’t simply be ignored) and it is these deeper meanings/messages that give me pause.

    • Valerie Coffman

      You said, “Culture is amoral in that in-and-of itself, it is not good or evil. It can exhibit traits of either.” But by definition, amoral refers to something that is outside the realm of moral questions, like a desk. Something that is neither moral nor immoral. Culture is definitely within the realm of moral consideration, or we wouldn’t be talking about this subject. It may seem like a minor grammatical point, but I thought it was worth making. I agree with you that parts of it can be moral or immoral, and I appreciate your comments about where to draw the line for yourself and your family.

    • cherylu

      How does this verse come into play in our deciding what entertainment is approrpriate for ourselves or for our children or grandchildren?

      “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is *lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, *dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8

    • Dale

      It really depends on what the meaning of “dwell” is. Many assume that “dwell” is akin to “exposure” and that we should only expose our self to things that are virtuous. It cannot mean this though because even Jesus exposed himself to tax collectors, prostitutes and in some cases demons.

      When a person dwells on something this means they are turning it over in their mind, considering it or reasoning through an idea. A good example is when someone angers us and we project all of the bad qualities of humanity onto that person, or when we rehash the same argument in our minds while growing increasingly bitter.

      On the other hand we can choose to show grace to the one who angered us and think about the good qualities of that person.

      A movie could contain violence (just as the world does), lust (just as the world does), and many other sinful traits but also convey an incredible message. An example of this is American History X. The primary characters were Nazi skinheads. There was a lot of racial language; there was murder and rape and even sexual scenes with nudity. Many would claim that it was a bad movie because of that but the anti-racism, anti-discrimination, anti-cult message was unbelievably powerful. The realism of the movie conveyed the point to me better than any sermon or speech I’ve heard (including MLK’s I have a dream speech) Coming away from that movie I didn’t dwell on the sinful actions of the characters but the rehabilitation of one and the possible consequences of sin that another suffers.

      Movies are like any other action we take as a Christians. We must be discerning in what we watch so that we can be careful not to be drawn into dwelling on the wrong thing.

    • cherylu


      If I understand what you are saying correctly, I agree with you at least partially. It is certainly one thing to watch something for education, but another to watch it for pleasure.

      Michael spoke of the Twilight movies in his article, for example. I haven’t seen them, but I must say I don’t think people go to them for education, but rather for entertainment purposes! Specially, younger folks that are still often quite impressionable. Are we not usually “dwelling” on things that we go and sit and soak up for entertainment? I would doubt that many of the kids that watch these movies leave them and immediately put all of it totally out of their minds and not “dwell” on it at all. If they did, would there be so many of these movies made and would they be such a big deal?

      Are we really following what the instructions Paul gave us in Philippains tell us to do if we allow ourselves or our children this type of of entertainment?

    • daniel


      I thank you for what you said here. I have 3 little boys and this info is helpful as it systematizes (sort’a) the way I try to approach things.
      Something I also do is take the bent of my children into account. I have watched Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars with my 5 year old (he was 4 at the time); but I wouldn’t dare watch it with my 2 year old when he turns 4 or 5. He’s not wired the same. they respond differently to the same stimuli. I take that into account. But I do like the “CAN” for a general starting place.

      Thanks for the post!

    • Linda

      Two of my favorite movies are “Donnie Brasco” and “Road to Perdition”. Both rated R for violence and language. However I would show them in an instant to teenagers. They both fit the criteria Michael suggested.

    • Ed Kratz

      Creativity and the wonder of the imagination are both worthy items to dwell on. In whatever you do, give glory to God.

    • cherylu


      I have no idea if I am understanding what you are saying in your last comment in regards to the questions I asked above, or even if your comment was in any way addressing what I asked.

      Would you mind clarifying a little bit?

    • mbaker

      I do think we have to take the age thing into account. Years ago, we used to watch a show called ‘Unsolved Mysteries’. One night, they had a show about aliens at Roswell, and my daughter took it to mean that aliens were an everyday occurance. Despite our explanations to the contrary, she was convinced these aliens were real and we went through several months of having problems with her sleeping alone because she was convinced that she could be kidnapped. This despite all her Christian teachings.

      I think we adults have to remember while our view of such things is more mature, and we while are able to separate the real from the imaginary, children aren’t. So whenever we decide which TV programs and movies to watch, I think we need to take that into account.

      My daughter, who turned 30 this year, still talks about it, and I still feel badly about assuming she would know the difference.

    • Dale

      I think the divide of watching for pleasure vs watching for education is a red herring. Watching something for pleasure that display sinful acts isn’t necessarily sinful. Reading something for pleasure that displays sinful acts also isn’t necessarily sinful. The Bible contains all manner of sinful acts and people read it for pleasure.

      If you made the statement that watching something that contains sinful acts for the pure enjoyment of the sinful acts displayed is something to be avoided, I would agree with you. However Michael isn’t promoting that, nor defending that.

      If you made the statement that when watching something that contains sinful acts you should guard yourself from being overly engaged by the sin presented I would also agree with you. But that is no different than any other aspect of our lives. I have heard of people becoming lustful when reading Song of Songs. Would you recommend people not read the Bible because of that?

      If you made the statement that one should learn ones trigger areas and avoid movies that cause you to dwell on sinful things then I would agree with you. This I think is where the rub is. Some want to classify certain types of movies as all bad when in reality people struggle with different things. I was able to watch American History X without without once desiring to become a skinhead, kill black people or rape someone.

      If you made the statement that people shouldn’t watch any R or PG-13 movies because these movies will likely display some level of violence or sexual content and might trigger someone to dwell on something sinful then I would certainly have to disagree with you. Everyday we do things that might cause someone to dwell on something sinful. Should we seal ourselves in our homes so that we don’t risk this. Most men live their lives in a space where we cannot discern what is in their heart and ultimately it is between them and God. We should not attempt to be God.

    • cherylu


      You said, If you made the statement that people shouldn’t watch any R or PG-13 movies because these movies will likely display some level of violence or sexual content and might trigger someone to dwell on something sinful then I would certainly have to disagree with you.

      Again I think you were right that a lot of this discussion depends on what you understand the word dwell to mean. In one list of 13 English translations of this verse, 11 translations simply used the term, think about or on for the word dwell. http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Phl&c=4&v=1&t=KJV#vrsn/8

      Obviously, we can’t live in this world without ever thinking about things that don’t fit the criteria of the Philippains verse. But I would also think that it is pretty hard to go to a movie with sex, violence, bad language, etc. and sit and watch it for pleasure without a thinking about these things, at least to some degree, that we truly don’t have to be doing. If these things are the opposite of what God has told us to dwell/think about, why are we so often eager as Christians to put ourselves in places where it is inevitable that we do so, at least to some extent?

      This is somethng I have been dealing with myself recently. Only my issue has been with books I am reading, not with movies. I am an avid reader and always have been. I was given a Kindle for Christmas last year. Any of you that has one knows the endless reading possibilities that are almost instantly available to you if you have one. And many of them are even free! God has recently strongly convicted me about one of the books I was reading at the moment. It was very well written and was a fascinating story–the kind you can get lost in and don’t want to put down. It was even Christian fiction! But there were a lot of elements in it that just didn’t line up with the Philippians 4:8 instructions re what we as Christians are to be thinking about, and I had to stop.

    • cherylu

      Continued as I ran out of room for my last thought:

      I have always been taught and believed that what we read, watch, listen too, etc, does have an effect on us–often even more then we realize. If that is indeed the case, why as Christians do we want to put ourselves in places where we truly don’t have to be and think about–at least to some degree–the things that are the opposite of what God has commanded us to be thinking about or dwelling on?

    • Gary

      As a follower of Christ, the primary set of criteria that I should use to make decisions in life is by looking to God’s Word. The impression I get here is that the criteria developed to use for your decision of whether or not to watch a movie is really man-made. Having lived an incredibly sinful life before I knew God (not just sinful as in separation from God but sinful even in the eyes of our world), I have become acutely aware of the incredible and insidious effect of our cultural venues. I firmly believe this is learned discernment and not weaker brother Christianity. Our culture is guided by situational ethics and this article sounds more like a defense of your life than a breakdown of what Scripture might actually say on the matter. My human nature is deceptively evil so II stand on the side of avoiding most movies (not because of weakness but because of how it will bring glory to the one who died for me).


    • Dale

      I think you make some valid points and we probably aren’t all that far apart on what we believe.

      why as Christians do we want to put ourselves in places where we truly don’t have to be and think about–at least to some degree–the things that are the opposite of what God has commanded us to be thinking about or dwelling on

      Realistically there is very little that one has to do in order to survive. You need food, shelter and clothing. It could be argued that anything beyond that is putting ourselves unnecessarily in a position to encounter something to cause us to think about unwholesome things. You could live in a shack, wear sackcloth and eat out of a garden. Want a nicer place to live? That opens you up to interacting with realtors, builders, bankers, etc…and some of these may want to cheat you. Want to put a nice couch in your new house? You have to go to the store where you may run into some tempting eye-candy which invokes lustful thoughts in you. You may think that is a ridiculous extreme but it exhibits the problems with rules based living (well rules imposed on other people). Somewhere out there is someone who lives a more spartan life than you do who thinks even the mildest form of entertainment is wrong because it may tempt you to think about wrong things. My grandmother was a southern Baptist who wouldn’t have a deck of card in her house because she thought a 7 year old playing go-fish could lead to gambling.

      Where do we draw the line at what is acceptable? You’ve drawn the line with your life as the standard. It could easily be drawn in a different place by different people.

    • Dale

      I think your post exhibited the way one should live and should allow other people to live. You were convicted about something you were doing and are taking steps to correct that. Can you trust the Holy Spirit to work in another persons heart to convict them when they cross a line they should not cross?

      The attitude you express is what lead to the rise of asceticism and eventually monasticism but how that relates is a whole other topic that will have to wait for another day.

    • Norm

      C. Michael Patton provides a neat way to evaluate entertainment (CAN). Here’s a different take on the Harry Potter phenomena using Michael’s formula.
      Does the movie celebrate bad behavior?
      The Bible condemns witchcraft (Gal.5:20).

      Is the behavior something we can expect people to actually do?
      Two anecdotes.
      Dr. Ed Murphy has written a standard text called “A Handbook of Spiritual Warfare”. In that book he describes how his daughter was affected by a curse which came through an amulet her boyfriend gave her.
      My wife used to re-stack books in a school library not far from Stonebriar CC where Michael used to pastor. In that library were “how to” books specifically teaching children (we’re talking grade school) how to cast spells and practice witchcraft.

      Is everybody doing it?
      Not everybody was doing it when the first Harry Potter movie came out. But I believe Harry Potter was a “gateway” movie. Today there has evolved a new normal (or paranormal).

      Have you noticed how popular vampires have recently become? Why the craze? May I suggest the “innocuous” Harry Potter opened the door to a normalization of the paranormal?

      Children now want to make tattooing their career. Children now want to go to vampire movies because “everyone does it”.

      Culture may be amoral but it is not neutral. It will absorb whatever is the lowest moral, ethical or spiritual common denominator. Avatar may have been a beautiful movie but it’s title is not neutral. An Avatar is a Hindu god and the producer of the movie is an advocate of eastern religions.

      I wish handing out a laundry list of do’s and dont’s would settle the argument but it has much more to do with spiritual discernment and a determination to be Spirit-led rather than culturally conforming.

      In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus us taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Does this…

    • cherylu


      While I understand what you are saying in your last two comments, it seems to me that there is a point that you are maybe missing here.

      Michael’s article is talking about going to movies where we know there wil be sex, violence, bad language, etc. If we are going to such a movie for the sake of entertainment, and these things are prominent in it, are we not deliberately walking into a situation where we will be knowingly thinking about the exact opposite of what Paul instructed us to dwell/think on?

      When living in this world, it is obvious that we are going to encounter these things often, but should we walk into them deliberately–knowing very well they are there ahead of time–for no other purpose then an evening of enjoying ourselves? Does that follow the instructions Paul has given us on the the things we are to think about? To me, I simply can not see how it does. At least not in the run of the mill movies out there today where Christian values and principles are not held up. Although there are exceptions to that, I am sure.

      I guess maybe the bottom line in what I am saying here in relationship to your last comments is that I am certainly not advocating monasticism–we do live in the world. But I don’t think that gives us a reason to very deliberately put ourselves in places where we know we will be going against what Paul told us in Philippians 4:8–certainly not for the sake of something no more essential to us then a night of entertainment at the movies–or being lost in the plot of book.

    • Michael T.


      Don’t have time here to go into too much detail. However, to compare Harry Potter to the “pharmakeia” condemned in the Bible is as far as I can tell a false comparison. The practice being condemned in the Bible was a cultural practice related to the worship of Pagan deities, not the practice commonly thought of as “witchcraft” in modern society (though this could certainly be sinful since it is generally connected to Wicca which in some circles involves the worship of Pagan deities – Still I have met a lot of people in my life and have yet to meet a genuine Wicca practitioner).

      It must also be noted that the word itself here seems to be of uncertain translation anyhow (maybe Hodge could shine some light on this as he is quite knowledgeable in the Greek language). Every source I look to seems to give a different set of translations for it. Some extreme sites on the internet will even tell you that this word refers to and condemns the taking of drugs or medicines (relying on the fact that the words pharmacy and pharmacology are derived from this word) and therefore Christians should never take any prescription drugs no matter how beneficial they may be.

      “But I believe Harry Potter was a “gateway” movie.”

      Are you making a slippery slope argument here? Sure seems that way.

    • Elaine Kennedy

      I suppose it was amoral whether to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Isn’t eating fruit ‘cultural’? Worldview imbeds itself in culture, and whether it is the hex signs of PA or the witches’ brew of Harry Potter, or the white lady of the Philippines (as viewed in local soap operas)–these have their inception in something deeper than surface culture. Whether or not I should watch the movie or take a picture of the hex sign or view the soap opera isn’t the same as ‘eating’ of the fruit of the values that are expressed and set out for me to accept. I think the “fruit” in the garden of Eden was not just taken into their mouths, but it was accepted into their hearts and lifestyles–and that, perhaps, is the difference between what I should read or watch and what I should live out in my life. Emphasis should not be legalism; it should be life!

    • Dale

      I understand where you are coming from Cheryl. My point is that most of what we do everyday we don’t need to do and it is ultimately for our enjoyment. It may not be entertainment but it is for our enjoyment. The economic system we live in has created a society where we don’t have to toil all day just to survive. We have lots of expendable time and money. With that free time and money we deliberately place ourselves situations where we technically don’t need to be. Again you are drawing the line in one place where it could very easily be drawn in another.

      Look at the Muslim religion as an example of the extreme. (Now I’m not at all accusing you of being like this or that you are advocating this but I think it is worth looking at what happens when it is taken to an extreme). In many of those countries simple pleasures are denied and they make the same argument you are making. My point about asceticism wasn’t that you were advocating that but that those Christians, using the same logic you use, drew the line in a very different place.

    • Dale

      In Greek there are eight or so words that I can find that are often translated as “think.” (there may be more but I got tired of looking) Each one of these have a slightly different connotation. The most common usage is a word that means “suppose”, or “consider” or something that mean “to rise to one’s recognition” or something like that. The word used in this passage isn’t that word or any of the other words for think. The word he uses is the same word used in places where the meaning is more like “to give careful thought to a matter” i.e. dwell. Hebrews 11:19 is a good example of this usage.

      If Paul had used this first word I might be more inclined to agree with you (or I might consider it at least) because being in the sight of unwholesome things would naturally cause them to rise to our recognition. Paul didn’t use that word though.

      This is what gets to the crux of my problem with your interpretation. Paul commands us to dwell on good things. Paul doesn’t command us (in this passage anyway) to not go places where unwholesome things might be. Nor does he command us to not go places that might cause us to dwell on unwholesome things. It’s just not in this verse. I can see why you would extend that to not going to movies, nor do I have a problem with you doing so for yourself but to make a blanket rule based on a verse that doesn’t command what the rule enforces is dangerous. The Pharisees did something similar by making a rule that one could not walk more than a certain number of steps on the Sabbath because doing so would be work or could be used to covertly work.

      We need to be very careful about the rules that we impose on others that aren’t actually commanded by the verse we used to support that rule.

    • cherylu


      You may very well be right if the more accurate translation is as you say. If that is the case, then most of these translations truly leave something to be desired in actually getting the meaning across correctly.

    • mbaker

      While I can agree with a great many of your points, Dale, I think we certainly have to realize that Christianity is always going to be different from what the world considers okay. That’s a given.

      That doesn’t mean that we should live in a cocoon. I think the question here is really how much is too much?

      Over the years I have watched television and the movies progress from making people believe that married people all slept in twin beds, which is how far early television went to stay squeaky clean. Before I understood, that made me worry about whether my parents were moral or not because they shared a double bed. I also remember when a late night television host was almost fired for using a common three letter word for the back part of a human.

      Now anything goes. We even have porn movies on some cable networks. The point is we can’t control what is shown in our homes or theaters any other way except to decide individually decide what it is acceptable or not to us personally. However, in our children’s case we need to understand that because of their immaturity they may take things to be normal that are not, as I explained.

      To say that we adults shouldn’t draw the line somewhere because we might seem like legalistic Pharisees is a common fallacy we Christians seem to throw at those of our brothers who are more conservative. That does not answer the question, but begs one of its own. Like it or not, we have to be careful of what we do and allow simply because we do have God’s reputation to consider, as His representatives.

    • cherylu


      The more I think about it, the more I still have a problem with what you are saying.

      First of all, you keep saying that in our culture we go to places every day that aren’t always things that we really have to do where we are exposed to things that are not right. That is correct. However, my point is that in many of today’s movies we know before hand that much of what we will be exposing ourselves to by going to them is not right. It is not a matter of perhaps being exposed to something while at such a movie, it is indeed a matter of knowing we will be exposed to this wrong thing. And indeed, going there for the only reason of sitting there and watching and listening and thereby being exposed to it.

      Is that not different then going to a store to buy groceries and maybe seeing some eye candy, to use your term, that we can then ignore if we choose? After all, the point of a movie is to follow and process the story line. And if the story line contains evil elements, we will have to deal with it and process it.

      And that leads to my second point. Unless it is a very small, incidental item to the story, it has to be dealt with, thought about, and processed for the story to make any sense. We may not agree with it as being good, but we are still deliberately putting ourselves in a place where we have to think about these things.

    • cherylu


      That seems to me to still be within the realm of thinking about that Paul is using in Philippians.

      If that is the case, isn’t it defeating completely what Paul is telling us to do in Philippians 4:8 to go to a movie that we know has a plot where we do have to focus on these things to follow the story?

      We may never agree on this issue. But I do want to tell you that I have appreciated your tone and easy going way of discussing this issue. Things can often get hot very easily when opposing views are discussed on blogs, (even Christian ones!) So I am thankful for the way things have gone here.

    • Luke N

      I really like this post. This is a very good way to look at any form of entertainment. I would, however, suggest that you nuance your term “accessible”, look further than the primary behavior in a specific movie.

      The reason that I say to nuance “accessible” is because witchcraft is extremely accessible. Not too long ago, I was in college with a practicing witch who was very interested in bringing in anyone who was interested. I think that accessibility has been greatly increased do to the very medium we are using now. Granted, one movie or series of movies is not going to do all the work to get our children into a specific behavior or worldview, but just like Greg Koukl says “I want to put a pebble in their shoe”. He’s talking about giving people something to think about- planting a seed or watering a seed that might already be there. We have to remember that this goes both directions. When you have such a series as Harry Potter planting (or watering) seeds, and a resource like the internet to find local people who share the same interest, the possibility of danger increases dramatically.

      In regards to Harry Potter, I wouldn’t keep my kids from watching and enjoying it, but I would discuss it with them further, in light of the Christian worldview (I’m sure you do this, you just didn’t mention it), and provide an apologetic against such a worldview (TTP provides a great resource in the Humanity and Sin course- man is evil by nature and given the kind of power promised by the Wicca worldview, will use it for evil), while providing an apologetic for the better alternative.

      I also would not limit the bad behavior in the Twilight series to just vampire-like behavior. Lust was a major part of (at least the first) movie. Sometimes the major behaviors are easy to over-look because they seem so inaccessible, but the minor behaviors are the ones our children might pick up without us noticing.

      Great post, bro!

    • Rick

      What many discussions about movies or tv from an evangelical standpoint almost always lack is an understanding of art. Movies are a form of art, of course there is the really base form (something like Transformers) to the more quality (something like The Hurt Locker). Movies are trying to make art through the medium of visual storytelling, really no different form a Shakespeare play. Evangelicals tend to miss the forest for the trees by analyzing content as opposed to actual artistic merit and what the point of the story is. What is more, we tend to miss the point of good storytelling, telling something is authentic and real in a way that conveys something of the human experience. In this, most movies are trying to reflect the realities of the world we live in.

      I think we would be better served as a community by teaching people how to see and judge movies by their artistic merits and storytelling. How to engage culture and appreciate it and how to see the redemptive narratives that are pretty much in play in most movies.

    • Amaranth

      I’m going to try and tackle Harry Potter using the criteria mentioned in this article…because I don’t think that sinful behavior (and I’m including their version of witchcraft in that category) is celebrated, accessible, or normalized in either the books or the movies.

      Celebrated: Harry Potter has magic in it, but the story itself is not about magic. Witchcraft is simply the milieu in which the coming-of-age, defeating the evil villain story takes place. In fact, most wizards in the story don’t even see themselves as superior to non-magical people…and the ones that do are portrayed, rightly, as bigoted jerks. Magic is just part of a person, like hair color; it’s what the person does that defines them. And evil magic is NOT celebrated: people who do evil, by wand or otherwise, get what’s coming to them.

      Accessible: Witchcraft *as it is presented in the Harry Potter universe* is not accessible to normal people. It is fantasy. It bears little to no resemblance to actual witchcraft as it was practiced in the Bible or practiced today…in fact, the only real thing it has in common is the name. I know dozens of practicing witches and Wiccans, and trust me, none of them can open a door or make stuff fly through the air with a wave of a wand.

      Also, I’ve heard a number of personal testimonies over the years from Pagans about why they abandoned their Christian or other mainstream religious backgrounds to pursue Wicca and Paganism, and I have yet to hear Harry Potter, or even pop culture in general, cited as a reason. People leave because they’ve been burned by their churches, or because they had too many questions, or because the faith they were brought up in just never really made sense to them. Honestly, I think that if someone were to watch Harry Potter and then go and actually research modern witchcraft, they’d get discouraged real fast. There are no instant spells or wave-your-wand-and-poof! something happens. It’s a path and a journey like any…

    • Amaranth

      Normalized: Witchcraft in Harry Potter is not “normal”, per se. Only a very small percentage of the population has the power at all, it’s not something that can be taught, and it really isn’t a defining aspect of any of the main characters. Voldemort would probably be just as evil even if he’d been born without magic. Practicing magic did not make him evil; his choices did. Yes, it’s okay/normal/acceptable to be a witch in the Harry Potter universe…but “witch”, as they define it within the story, bears so little resemblance to modern witchcraft that I don’t think it’s fair to relate the two at all. Neither the books nor the movies carry any overt or subliminal message that everyone should take up real witchcraft, or that witchcraft can make your life better. There’s just no real correlation between the two except in some terminology.

      In fact, one of the primary messages of the series is that witchcraft/wizardry does NOT make you a better person…it is what you DO with that power that defines you. Harry Potter had many of the same magic powers as Voldemort, and many of the same life circumstances. Yet Voldemort chose to use his abilities for evil, and Harry chose to use those same abilities for good. That’s the crux of the story.

      I don’t think Harry Potter has led to the recent rise of witchcraft….but rather I think the recent rise of witchcraft has led to authors having more freedom to tackle such subjects, and to more people wanting to read about such subjects. I’ve no doubt there is a tie, especially now that the series has been out a while, but the occult movement starting gaining in popularity long before Harry Potter came out…and may explain why Harry Potter became as popular as it did so quickly.

      Getting off my soapbox now 😛

    • Jim Jacobson

      Thanks for a thoughtful and intelligent post on the subject matter. I like the C.A.N. Good stuff.

    • […] This post by C. Michael Patton offers a good guide for making your decision after you’ve read about a movie. […]

    • Donna

      Please, please, please be very very careful when you speak in utter ignorance. Do you believe the bible to be the inspired Word of God? Of course you do. There were mediums, witches and necromancers in the bible. Do you not believe they still exist today? Do a search on Youtube to discover how easy it is for your children to become a fully fledged witch. It is part of my God-given calling to pray against witchcraft which is very, VERY prevalent in this country today. I personally know of people who have come out of witches covens and it is horrific the things they used to curse people with. The curses in Harry Potter are actual curses spoken by real witches so each time these ‘fictional’ curses are read out by anyone, they create power in the supernatural realm to bring about evil. I don’t really care if you believe me or not. We are all accountable to God. I beg you to please keep your opinions to yourself when you don’t know of which you speak. There are many damaged people out there in blog land who have been victims of witchcraft and they wouldn’t appreciate your laid back thoughts in claiming that they are not an issue. Please ask God for confirmation and wisdom. I am not here to criticise anyone. I just think we need to be more careful about what we speak out there as every word we say or type, affects someone and has a consequence. Thanks.

    • swordchild001

      I would like to dispute the Harry Potter issue. This is not necessarily about witchcraft and whether or not it matches to what “real” witchcraft is.

      he author is keen on emphasizing that this is ‘fantasy’- indeed it is fantasy- but that is the precise danger of it. God has created us to be as creative as He is- and our imaginations lead us dark paths… Before I became a Christian, and indeed for a while after I became a Christian I loved Harry Potter- I don’t hate it now, but in those before times I was heavily involved in fanfiction- of any kind, it was my own made up fantasy- and God had no place in it. I came across more and more sexually charged stories between characters, which then went on to porn or adult-themed writing- some downright perverse- and I was in my mid-teens…

      The fact that everyone was wanting to know who was going to end up with who etc just fueled this- so please be discerning… is this the kind of platform you want kids to grow in….? I have just seen the recent Disney- Oz- I loved the story as a child, but it is now much more potential for it to be an adult theme. For most children this would not be a problem. But it is important to not generalize with these things.

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