Sunday, November 21, 2010


Recently I rented a movie on the Iraq war called “The Green Zone”. I wanted to see what kind of reviews this movie got so I searched the internet. One of the reviews I found was by a division of “Focus on the Family” called “Plugged In”. I know that “Focus on the Family” would rather call “Plugged In” a Ministry, but I disagree with that classification. Let’s just call it their “Corporate Entertainment Division” or “CEP” for short. Ok, I’ll just call it by its name “Plugged In”.

As I checked their review of “The Green Zone”, an R rated movie for the obvious reasons most war movies are R rated – violence and language, I noticed that “Plugged In” reviews all kinds of movies, video games, and music. By that I mean that they review movies, music and games that are OBVIOUSLY not appropriate for Christians to watch, hear, or play. Disclaimer: I know what you are thinking, “The Green Zone” is R rated so it also is not appropriate for Christians (Me) to watch. I agree. But, it is R rated because it deals with the realities of war, not because it glorifies violence, sex, drugs & alcohol use, etc…Think about this – Did you see the “The Green Berets” with John Wayne? A good clean war movie, but did it truly reveal the realities of the Vietnam War? Don’t think so. So I believe there is a valid difference between movies that are attempting to reflect the reality of a situation (drug use, crime, war) versus movies that just glorify the same subjects for pure entertainment or exploitative purposes.

But I digress. Let me focus on the movie reviews in “Plugged In”. “Plugged In” reviews movies such as “SAW”, “The Hangover”, “American Pie”, “Friday, the Thirteen”, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, to name a few. Basically, they regularly review horror movies, slash-fest movies, crude teenage comedies, sex filled movies, raunchy humor movies, action/vengeance movies, etc… Now, I can see why a believer would want to read a detailed review of a movie that they may not be certain whether it is appropriate to watch or not, such as crime dramas, war dramas, some sci-fi films, and epics such as “Braveheart”, “Robin Hood”, or “The Last of the Mohicans”. But, do we really need reviews of movies that are OBVIOUSLY inappropriate. Unlike a book, you can judge a movie by its cover, or should I say by its poster and movie trailer. Moreover, the rating system tells you exactly why the film has received the particular rating. If I see a movie poster with a barely dressed sorority girl and a psycho killer holding a bloody knife, I think it is safe to assume that it is not appropriate to watch. I don’t think I need a review telling me the “Positive Elements”; “Spiritual Content”; “Sexual Content”; “Violent Contents”; “Crude or Profane Language”; “Drug and Alcohol Content”; and “Other Negative Elements”. The movie is inappropriate for obvious reasons.

Are “believers” that naïve? Are we that Innocent? Come on, let’s stop being foolish and use common sense.

Mt 10:16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

My main beef with “Plugged in” is the fact that by providing such a service under the guise of a “ministry” they are not helping believers make appropriate entertainment decisions, but are actually encouraging Christians to embrace the world system and accept worldly culture. A “Christian Ministry” reviewing R-rated, raunchy films, gives credibility to the argument that “Christians” are no different than the world and just conform to the world.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The name of this “ministry” even hints to the consequences of having a “Christian organization” review such films. It unwittingly “plugs in” believers to worldly entertainment and unintentionally gives it credibility. By reviewing such films “Plugged In” is indirectly giving them legitimacy and creating “excuses” for believers to go see inappropriate films. How, you ask? Well, “Plugged In” encourages “believers” to see inappropriate films by finding “Positive Elements” and “Spiritual Content” in ALL the films that they review. At times it is just plain absurd with examples such as “Crucifixes adorn several scenes” or “One of Jennifer’s victim’s clutches rosary beads in his bloodstained hand”. What? This is positive and spiritual!?!

This in turn creates a false justification for us to go and get our fill of the lusts of the flesh and the lust of the eyes by seeing an inappropriate movie because it contains some “positive” or “spiritual” (whatever that means) aspect. Kind of like when people were finding Jesus and the Gospel all over the “The Matrix”. Heck, Christians wrote books about it and flocked to the theatres because we now had a valid justification for seeing gratuitous, glorified and stylistic violence. I can see the same happening with “Plugged In”. I can just picture it now:

“Let’s go see ‘Jonah Hex’”.

“Honey, its rated R”

“I checked in ‘Plugged In’ and it has Positive Elements such as that ‘When he shoots an antagonist who falls out of a window, …, he offers the bartender a coin to pay for damages’ ”.

“I don’t know honey; it looks very violent and full of sexual content”

“It’s not so bad, it has Spiritual Content such as a ‘mystical healing ceremony’ and the hero has the ability to ‘momentarily revive corpses with his touch’”.

“What about the barely clothed heroine, won’t you be lusting for her all throughout the film? Just like you did when you forced me to go see ‘Transformers’”

“ Uhmmm, the sexual content is not that bad, look ‘Plugged In’ states there is no explicit nudity and the girl must have some moral values, after all she ’longs for a real relationship’”

“What about the language?”

“Look, it is not so bad, ‘Plugged In’ says that they only use God’s name in vain once and Jesus name is only abused three times. They don’t even use the F-bomb.”

“They don’t use the f-bomb! Well why you didn’t say so. This is practically a family movie, let’s take the kids”

Such a conversation sounds absurd, but I am sure it happens as we now have this tool to grade how far we can take our sensibilities and how much we can get away with before we grieve the Holy Spirit. This absurdity led me to write to “Focus on the Family” expressing my discomfort at the nonsense of reviewing obviously inappropriate movies.

I wrote:

“I only have one question. Why do you bother reviewing horror films, films obviously filled with sexual content and crude jokes, i.e., teen flicks, adult comedies or ultra violent action films, etc... Why do you review PG-13 and R rated films that are obviously rated as such because of their improper content. It does not take rocket scientist to know the contents of a film, unlike a book you can just look at the cover or should I say previews.

What a waste of time and resources. I am truly starting to wonder whether you just use this as an excuse to watch all the filth and call it a ministry. I used to give you the benefit of the doubt, but looking at the movies you have been reviewing, calling this a ministry is just absurd. At the rate you are going you will soon be reviewing pornographic movies for their ‘spiritual content’. No wonder Dobson left."
[Sorry, but had to throw that last jab in there]

In response, they forwarded me the following pre-made response:

“Thanks, [I deleted my name to avoid the hate mail] for sharing your candid feedback with us. We're glad to have the chance to get back to you.

We've heard from others who share your concern about the fact that Plugged In’s reviewers evaluate R-rated movies. To learn why we feel it’s important to do so, we encourage you to read Plugged In’s “Frequently Asked Questions” Web page.

Again, thanks for sharing your views so honestly. We hope our reply has clarified where we're coming from.

Focus on the Family”

I searched Plugged In’s “Frequently Asked Questions” Web page and found the following response:

Question: Why do you review R-rated movies? Shouldn't the rating say everything I need to know?

Answer: According to a poll of Plugged In Online readers, 70% watch R-rated movies. [Does that make it OK? I don’t care if 99% of their readers watch R rated films, there is still no need to review them]. Additionally, since many R films target teens (especially raunchy comedies and horror flicks), our reviews help families navigate this prominent area of the culture. [You mean “worldly culture?” Is not that what discernment is for?]. By reading our reviews, parents gain a clearer understanding of what Hollywood is aiming at their kids, and what their children's peers are consuming.[Parents who care for their children already know this]. Also, by having a content breakdown of R movies, parents can articulate why a particular film fails to meet the family standard.[I guess parents need advocates in order to be able tell their kids why they object to something]. Beyond observing a "label," this reinforces moral boundaries for adolescents. [I guess the R-rated sticker and the Word of God does not create a firm enough boundary, so it takes a detailed review of the film to draw the line]. A California mom alluded to this benefit when she told us, “Last weekend my son, age 16, saw a very disgusting film at a friend's home. Only after that did I find your website. [Notice she already knew the film was gross and disgusting so where is the need to review such a film]. This created a very meaningful two-hour discussion with him on values and media choices. However, the next weekend he asked to go see another R-rated film.[I guess the meaningful discussion did not go as planned] We said 'no.' [The conversation should have ended there, but because we now have “Plugged In” the son can challenge his parent’s judgment & authority and replaced it with the expert movie reviewers at “Focus on the Family’s” ]. My son then asked, 'How about if I check it out on that website Mom likes?' My husband, smiling, said, 'Sure! [They must know better than us, and our discernment, since all they do is watch inappropriate movies all day long and review them] 'A few minutes later my son emerged from the office and said, 'You guys wouldn't want me to see it.'" [Notice he did not say “I shouldn’t see it” or “it would be offensive to the Lord” he just knew that he would not be able to convince his parents, who already knew better in the first place. I don’t know about you, but this example only taught me that “Plugged In” functioned to undermine the authority of parents who already knew better].

Even with such an inspiring example [not], I would not drink their cool-aid. Sorry, but their pre-fabricated response merely reinforces my position on this issue. The fact that 70% of your readers (whom I am supposed to assume are believers) watch R rated movies does not justify the compromising of Christian beliefs and values by unnecessary reviewing such films. The fact that born-again Christians actually have a higher rate of divorce (27 %) than nonbelievers does not justify me leaving my wife. Moreover, if a parent is doing his job, they would be aware of the “raunchy comedies and horror flicks” that Hollywood uses to target teens. I mean this is no secret, just turn on your TV. Are parents really that naïve or disconnected? Their own example demonstrates that parents who care about their children’s spiritual well-being do not need “Plugged In” to tell them that “The Hills Have Eyes” contains prodigious violence or that “Jennifer’s Body” is simply a film that exploits lusting teens. Heck, the movie title alone tells you so! But hey, I guess since we live in a “modern” society where Christians adopt the world systems and are no different than unbelievers, we do need a service were a “believer” gets to [in sacrificial love] watch a bunch of inappropriate films and reviews them for us. So that we, the poor naïve Christians, are not surprised when we go see the latest R-rated action flick and the drunk anti-hero drops the F-bomb as he shots the “bad guy” in the head, while a half naked stripper dances in the background. God forbid we have to endure by such a scene when all we wanted to go see was some good, clean, R-rated entertainment.

Romans 1:32 who, knowing the righteous order of God, that those practicing such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but have pleasure in those practicing them.