To go or not to go?

– By Samuel Thambusamy

How do we respond to the question, ‘Is it right to go watch a movie?’ The usual answer is a big ‘NO’. There’s nothing wrong with the answer if it is accompanied by a right understanding of the gospel and a thoughtful consideration of modern world’s demands on young people. Sadly, that is not the case.

The traditional proscription of movies is due, firstly, to the excessive amounts of sex-sleaze and mindless violence. But, aren’t sex-sleaze and mindless violence available 24 hours at the comfort of one’s homes? At least, every movie must pass through the strictures of the Board of Film Certification and inappropriate scenes are dealt with accordingly. But, at a push of the button one can get access to unlimited sleaze on the Television and Internet. And then, can this argument be sustained for movies such as Gandhi, Men of Honour, Omar Muktar to name a few? (You could also add a lot of regional titles to the list)

Secondly, it is held good movies, if any, are rare to comeby. But aren’t we entirely guilty for the dearth of good movies. Producers find it profitable to follow audience tastes because quality movies don’t make it big. So, if a bold Cheran, Bala or Thangarbachan give us an offbeat Tamil movie built around a good social theme we don’t care to encourage them. We stand guilty of making even sensible moviemakers compromise on quality and resort to filming ‘item’ numbers. If only we encourage good story line and themes it is sure to make a trend that others would follow.

Thirdly, it is argued that cinema is a bad influence young people. True, but this argument can also be extended to books, magazines and other things at their disposal. I do agree that some movies present and promote values in contradiction to the gospel. But, can our young people be insulated from all the available moral choices. Young people have never been in a ‘safe-zone’, particularly in a post-modern world. They are in the midst of a ‘moral’ supermarket and they are required to make a careful choice. Merely shutting them out is no solution. We need to build them up spiritually to face the onslaught of the worldly influences.

Fourthly, it is argued that movie halls are evil places that Christians should be avoided. Underlying this is the strong belief that movie halls do not and cannot glorify God. I find the double speak – you can watch movies on Television but can’t watch them in the theatre – quite strange. Not many can afford to watch movies in the comfort of home with specialized gadgets to enhance audio and vedio effects. What’s wrong with a movie hall anyway? How different it is from other public places we frequent? Few years back, didn’t some churches rent out movie halls to conduct their worship services? Can we say all our corporate offices glorify God and yet we have no problems working there?

Fifthly, it is believed that movie going jeopardizes effective Christian witness. Going to a movie hall is not only bad for your spiritual well being, but for other ‘ weaker’ brothers as well. Most young people do not consider watching movie as a bad thing or a wrong thing (at least in private). Most young people continue to visit movie halls ‘secretly’ despite injunctions. Why give rise to hypocrisy? I would say that watching the movie along with non-Christians is a great help to share our Christian values. We can make a quick evaluation of the movie and share with our friends what we are less likely to agree with and most importantly why? Moreover, our choice of movie can also offer a window to the value we hold to dearly. Given the dominance of the secular mindset the gospel needs to be shared innovatively. Any in your face presentation of the gospel is only going to make matters worse. Cinema, then, can be used as a major point of reference for a discourse on life. If the early Church fathers used the dominant Greek philosophical categories to build their faith reflections why not use today’s dominant categories to build our faith reflections. Post-modern hermeneutics relies a great deal on ‘artistic penetration’ and we will do well if we build our religious discourse using cinema as a tool.

Lastly, not everyone goes to watch movies with such a mindset. But what’s wrong in going to movies for purely entertainment purposes. If reading a book is OK, if going for an ice-cream is OK, if going to Family Entertainment Centers (FEC) is OK and if an occasional eating-outs is OK, why not go for Movies for just plain fun? There is an urban-culture that is emerging and entertainment is at the heart of it. We do need to make a Christian evaluation of entertainment at the earliest.

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