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Should You Criticize Movies You Haven’t Watched?

It is inherently problematic to condemn a specific film or television show from the sidelines, without personal experience of what that work of art communicates. When Christians dismissed Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 film Noah, for example, many of them did so on erroneous grounds, not knowing what was actually in the movie. Blind condemnation is dangerous and unhelpful.When it comes to pornographic content, however, we move away from the debatable and ambiguous elements of artistic merit, and toward more solid distinctions between right and wrong. Hypersexualized storytelling methods are an aspect worth criticizing. A Christian can—and should—condemn pornographic material without having to engage each instance on a case-by-case basis.Thus, I am comfortable and confident to condemn pornographic techniques used in any mainstream film, whether I’ve seen that film or not. Such condemnation is not unfair to the work as a whole. That is why I have spoken up about certain films I haven’t watched…

An Incarnational Approach to Racial Sympathy

It’s a scandalous concept: Hebrews 2 tells us, “[Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest…” (v. 17). God the Father is even said to have made the Son “perfect through suffering” (v. 10).The very thought is baffling. What was it about the perfect son of God that needed perfecting? Nineteenth century theologian Albert Barnes provides some helpful commentary:[Christ’s] subjection to his humble condition…made him such a Saviour as man needed, and qualified him fully for his work. There was a propriety that he who should redeem the suffering and the lost should partake of their nature; identify himself with them; and share their woes.It was necessary, Scripture tells us, for God the Son to experience human life and suffering, which somehow perfected His ability to sufficiently sympathize with us (see also Heb. 4:15). Jesus didn’t relate to us from afar; He drew near, suffering with humans, as a human—and ultimatel…

A Public Plea to the Director of CUTIES

Ms. Doucouré:Even though I have grave concerns over your feature-length debut, I am also troubled by the overt hatred you have received since Netflix picked up Cuties for mass distribution. The uncharitable names you’ve been given, the perverted motives imputed to you, and the death threats you have received are wholly inappropriate. They are tantamount to violence against both your humanity and the God who created you with dignity and value.I recently discovered an interview in which you shared from your heart the catalyst for writing and directing Cuties. Several things you said resonated with me:“Our girls see that the more a woman is overly sexualized on social media, the more she’s successful. And the children just imitate what they see trying to achieve the same result without understanding the meaning. And yeah, it’s dangerous.”“…isn’t the objectification of a woman’s body that we often see in our Western culture not another kind of oppression?”“I think all together we have to …

When the Culture War Turns Into Guerrilla Warfare

It’s not every day you get to hear a VeggieTales character read one of your articles out loud. Okay, so it was actually Phil Vischer (the voice of Bob the Tomato) who highlighted my recent piece, If You’re Fighting the Culture War, You’re Losing. More on that in a moment.In the article, published at The Gospel Coalition, I ask this question: “Is a warlike posture the proper response to an increasingly anti-Christian society?”The problem with the culture-war approach is not that it (rightly) discerns opposition from the world. The problem is in the chosen mode of response.By embracing the culture-war paradigm, many Christians adopt—likely inadvertently—an “all’s fair in love and war” perspective. After all, in a war you don’t turn the other cheek; you strike back as hard, or harder, than your opponent. That’s how wars are won. . . .To engage with our culture in a militant and hostile manner is to forsake our role as ambassadors. It’s trading our diplomatic visas for military dog tags. …

TENET (2020) – Film Review

I don’t typically include a synopsis in my movie reviews, and this will be no exception—in part because there is no adequate way to describe the plot of Tenet without simultaneously explaining too much and failing to explain enough. Let’s just delve into the review.As a reminder, I rate movies based on three criteria: objectionable Content (C), Artistic merit (A), and my personal Preference (P). (C-A-P. Get it?)CONTENT (C): 9 out of 10Nolan’s films are often dark, and certain characters, actions, and plot elements of Tenet are no exception. Nevertheless, the filmmaker shows a great deal of restraint, hinting at the evil of its villains without being gratuitous or sadistic. Take, for example, Andrei Sator, the main antagonist played with calculating coldness by Kenneth Branagh. Sator oozes menace, but mostly through words, facial expressions, and body language. Abuse and violence are often hinted at, but blood and gore are virtually non-existent. Tenet is a great example of how human d…

The Neglected Role of Popular Culture in Christian Parenting

There’s a saying that goes something like this: “You don’t fully appreciate something until it’s gone.” An opposite and equal truth is this: “Sometimes you don’t fully recognize your need for something until it appears.”Prince Naveen discovered that Tiana was what he never knew he needed. Narnia fans don’t know what they’re missing until they discover scholar Michael Ward’s findings about Lewis’ “secrets.” And I never knew I needed Avatar: The Last Airbender in my life until my wife introduced the show to me.*Yes, sometimes you don’t fully recognize your need for something until it appears.In the particular case of this blog post, the “you” is Christian parents, and the “something” is the book The Pop Culture Parent. With the combined insights of its three co-authors (one whom I know personally, one whom I know online, and one whom I stalk online), this resource explores a much-neglected facet of parenting: engaging popular culture with and for your children.In a society infatuated an…

The Hidden Meaning of The Chronicles of Narnia

What if there was a secret cipher that unlocked a meaning behind C. S. Lewis’ beloved Chronicles of Narnia? What if Lewis used a concealed template to map out each book in the series, with a specific contextual aim that can be completely missed unless you know exactly what to look for? That is the intriguing premise of Michael Ward’s much-praised book Planet Narnia.As an unofficial Lewis aficionado, my wife recently read through Ward’s book, pausing between chapters to relay what she had learned to me. The material in Planet Narnia provided for many a night of excitement, discovery, and discussion. Even as someone who has digested most of this book’s thesis second-hand, I find myself convinced by Ward’s paradigm-shattering work.Understanding the key to Lewis’s true and foundational intent for The Chronicles of Narnia unlocks the secret to numerous mysteries about the books:Why does Father Christmas make an appearance in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?Why is there a bacchanal in 

How Skipping Movies with Sex Scenes Prepared Me for the Coronavirus

To my shame, the initial response I had to COVID-19 was selfish—something along the lines of, “This is no big deal because only the sick and elderly are in danger, and I am neither.”
Thankfully, a couple online articles shared by friends of mine helped me see the self-centeredness of my position. With the necessary course correction these articles provided, my family and I became willing participants in the self-quarantine precautions widely recommended by both church and government authorities. We found the adjustment to be far easier than it would have been a few years ago.
What happened a few years ago? I instigated a practice that we might call “sexual distancing.”
The connection might not make sense without some explanation. Several years ago, I experienced a paradigm shift in my approach to entertainment choices. Because we live in a pornified society, it used to be that my primary, and often sole, criteria for evaluating a film or TV show wa…

THE CHOSEN and the de-Bastardization of Christian Filmmaking

If I had to summarize the typical faith-based film in one word, it would be “shamefully, embarrassingly subpar.” Okay, so that’s technically three words.
Here’s the deal. As a Christian who loves visual stories, I am, more often than not, ashamed and embarrassed by the lack of creativity displayed by those who claim adherence to (and often inspiration from) the original Creator. A few years ago, I wrote a piece entitled God’s Not Dead and the Bastardization of Christian Filmmaking. I meant every word of it, and I still believe what I wrote.
Suffice it to say, it is a rare thing for me to fully enjoy a faith-based drama. It is rarer still for me to fully enjoy and fully admire a faith-based drama.
Enter The Chosen, a faith-based TV show on the life of Christ, with multiple seasons planned.
Technically, I have already reviewed this show, and it’s not typical to write two reviews of the same piece. However, I have more to say about this work of art (in both the literal and figurative sense),…