To most of my friends, I am probably the greatest comic book movie nerd that they know. I’m OK with that. Up until the birth of our son in January, I’ve seen almost every Marvel movie on opening night – and I’ve often gone to see the movies more than once while they’re in theaters. I generally read the comic book stories that the movies are based on prior to the theatrical release. I rejoice that we live in a world where I can complain that a Justice League movie just isn’t as good as any of the 19 Marvel movies that have been released.
So it probably comes as a surprise to most of my friends that I have not seen Deadpool, one of the most significant comic book blockbusters that has yet been released. But this was not my original plan prior to its debut. I was just as pumped as anybody else to go see the movie before it came out in theaters. I even had opening night tickets. But while I was on my way out the door to the theatre, I saw an article come up on Facebook which highlighted the graphically sexual nature of the film. The article explained how the film included a lengthy sex scene, a sexual montage, male and female nudity, and masturbation.
What’s one little film with some obscene nudity? It’s not like I make a habit out of watching porn or anything right? Can’t I just let this one slide? Who will really know?
I instantly knew this would be a film that would violate my Christian conscience. But I also knew I was seeing the film with a friend who wouldn’t particularly care about the nudity or question my judgment for seeing it. What’s one little film with some obscene nudity? It’s not like I make a habit out of watching porn or anything right? Can’t I just let this one slide? Who will really know? These were the thoughts that initially ran through my head.
It was at this moment that I needed to determine whether I was willing to take Jesus at his word. Did I really believe that he was better than anything the world had to offer? Was I willing to leave behind something that I knew would bring me entertainment for the good of my own soul?
But this post isn’t really about Deadpool (2). The film is only one of the most recent battles in the war that I wage for my soul. On one side of this conflict is Jesus and all that he promises to me if I trust him in faith – goodness, meaning, value, true love, beauty, and eternal life. On the other side is all of those things which I think will bring me satisfaction but really will only lead to death – the selfish desires of my flesh, my eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).
I have had a complicated relationship with entertainment since I became a Christian nearly 8 years ago. At the time, I was obsessed with a show called Spartacus which was filled with graphic nudity and sexual scenes. Initially, I was unbothered by it. As a year or two passed, I started to think that this show probably didn’t line up with my Christian confession. At that point, I was so enthralled with the show that I just decided to follow it through until it ended a couple years later. I wish I could go back and unsee all that I saw.
The film is only one of the most recent battles in the war that I wage for my soul.
When it comes to sexually-charged entertainment, I have often made more mistakes than not. I watched the first season (and half of the second season) of House of Cards on Netflix, knowing that its sexual nature and morally reprehensible lead characters left me scarred toward a pursuit for the things of God. I’ve started watching several other Netflix shows before I learned my lesson that most of their new series are pornographic in nature, and need to be checked before I begin watching them (I like to use the IMDB Parents Guide). Although I have not yet watched an episode of the hit series Game of Thrones, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a desire to do so.
But, say some people, you still watch entertainment with other kinds of sin in it (such as violence), so why are you being hypocritical about not watching sex? To be consistent, wouldn’t you need to stop watching just about anything?
In other words, the Christian is able to appreciate redemptive storytelling which can reflect the conflict with sin and the reality of its consequences. What the Christian should not appreciate is any kind of storytelling which makes sin tantalizing or virtuous.
In all of its storytelling and historical accounts, the Bible never hides from the reality of sin and its consequences in this life. Those who commit excessive acts of unjust violence are punished. King David has an affair which ultimately leads to the downfall of a nation. It is the struggle with sin that not only makes these historical accounts good storytelling, but that also leaves us with lessons to take heed of in our own present lives.
In other words, the Christian is able to appreciate redemptive storytelling which can reflect the conflict with sin and the reality of its consequences. What the Christian should not appreciate is any kind of storytelling which makes sin tantalizing or virtuous. That may be in the form of alcohol or drug abuse, graphic nudity, or it may be excessive and graphic gore (as is the case of most horror movies today).
Many Christians are aware of the biblical passages which talk about protecting the things we see with our eyes and refraining from sexual sin. Jesus says that our eyes are the lamps of our body, and when we keep them clear from sin, our whole body is filled with light (Matthew 6:22). If our eyes cause us to stumble, he says, it is better to pluck them out now than spend a whole eternity in darkness (Matthew 18:9). Adultery does not merely consist of physical acts, but whoever even looks at someone in lust commits adultery in their heart (Matthew 5:27-28).
The list goes on. The Apostle Paul commands us to leave everything behind and flee as fast as we can from sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18). Consider how whenever the Scriptures lists out sins for us to avoid, sexual immorality almost always comes first (Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3, Colossians 3:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, etc.). We could either dismiss this as mere coincidence, or perhaps it is God conveying to us that sexual sin is a gateway to all kinds of quackery and moral deterioration in our lives?
Yet I find that the enormous weight of the Scriptures in this area seems to have little effect on those who already enjoy watching sexually-charged entertainment. It is a dark night in our soul if the severity of Scripture’s warnings regarding sexual immorality stir little conviction to keep watch over what we are taking in with our eyes and lusting after with our hearts.
So I will instead try to make one final appeal to your moral conscience. In a #MeToo world, does not entertainment media like Deadpool or Game of Thrones convict us of complete moral hypocrisy? Almost everyone agrees that pornography has had disastrous consequences on our society: men who can no longer relate to women, rape culture, the objectification of women, little understanding of consent, and the entire sex trafficking industry. All of these things are largely driven by the pornography we consume as a society.
A recent New York Times article highlighted the horrific state of sex and consent on college campuses. One of the repeated themes of the article is how college-aged men are unable to separate real sexual encounters from the pornography they have consumed. Read the stories for yourself. I don’t know of anyone who could read these real-life accounts without concluding that pornography has led us down a road of terror and heartache.
It’s easy to be against something when you can constantly re-draw the lines so it no longer applies to you, isn’t it? But keep in mind that the graphic sexual nature of movies like Deadpool or shows that are premiering on Netflix today would’ve been considered pornography by our society just a couple of decades ago. So on the one hand, we admit that pornography has harmful moral consequences for our society. We say that we are against sexual abuse or women being treated like less-worthy objects than men. But on the other hand, we re-draw the lines so that the kind of entertainment we enjoy no longer counts as the very thing that we say we are against.
It’s easy to be against something when you can constantly re-draw the lines so it no longer applies to you, isn’t it?
How morally inconsistent and hypocritical can we be? How can we be against rape culture but celebrate Game of Thrones (which is known to have plenty of scenes of rape and incest)? How can say we want to protect women on account of #MeToo but rush out to see Deadpool on opening night?
There’s an old wives’ tale about an elderly woman with a pet boa constrictor. She would always allow it to snuggle with her at night. One day a vet came over, and the woman told the vet how cute it was that her pet boa wanted to cuddle with her at night. Surprised, the vet said, “No, this isn’t what is happening at all. He doesn’t want to cuddle with you. He’s sizing you up until he knows that he’s big enough to eat you!”
This is how sexual sin works. Every time we numb ourselves to the dangers of it by watching sexually-charged entertainment, we are getting into bed with a monster that is just waiting to devour us.
On the night of Deadpool’s release, I ultimately decided that Jesus knew what was better for my life than I did. He has proved himself faithful, he can be trusted with what is best for my life. I called my friend to let him know I would not be joining him that night and that I’d be returning my ticket. Has it been difficult not to see a film that many of my friends love? Yes. Has it been hard not to be able to talk about what everyone else is talking about? Absolutely. Do I regret my decision? Not one bit.
And although that battle may be over, the war for my soul rages on.