Last year, around the date the Oscar nominations were released, I put out a list of what I thought was the best in film nominations, called the Princes, something I had done for two years before that. On Oscar night, I released my winners. Among movies released in the calendar year of 2010, I saw 52 of them.
Today, the 2012 Oscar nominations were released. This year, there are no lists, no predictions, no reactions to the nominations. I didn’t even watch the Golden Globes or even care.
It’s such a weird turnaround. For me, the guy who was almost obsessed with movies for three years, it’s a crazy turnaround. And there’s only one way to explain it.
God changed my heart.
He decided to tell me that my unhealthy obsession with movies was something that I needed to drop and focus more on him.
It began at Snowbird Wilderness Outfitters, the camp I worked at this past summer. You’ve seen me write about it before, but if you haven’t, it’s a Christian camp in Andrews, NC, that loves the Lord, the Gospel and teaching kids about both hardcore, barely pulling any punches. A guy named Zach Mabry did a breakout called “Christianity and Entertainment” in which he discussed how Christians should relate to entertainment, specifically movies and music. He didn’t specifically say, “Don’t watch movies!”, but the way I took the breakout, I just broke. I talked to him for a few minutes after and basically came to the conclusion that I was wasting time, money and emotion on these things that in the end, are meaningless.
Funny, it sounds a lot like Solomon in Ecclesiastes.
He writes, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2). The Hebrew word for “vanity” is hebel, meaning “vapor; breath.”
Solomon then goes on to explain that there is nothing new (1:10) and nothing will be remembered from before nor after (1:11). One of the biggest statements he makes is 1:14, which reads, “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.” He calls wisdom “a striving after wind” (1:17), pleasure “vanity” (2:1). He says “what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind” (2:17).
But he does present one thing that intrigues me, and presents what is the best. Solomon writes, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind” (Eccl. 2:24-26).
Nothing except that which is from God is good. All is vanity, except from eating and drinking and finding enjoyment in toil in Christ.
This has really challenged me a lot lately. Have I really been seeking God in all that I do and doing all things for Him? Am all that I’m doing come from God? Am I clinging to and loving the things of God?
Solomon writes, “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him” (3:14).
So this is what I’ve gotten from this, and this is my opinion: movies that don’t glorify God are almost pointless. Based on how I’ve been shaped by the Holy Spirit, I quit movies. I stopped spending money on them, I stopped writing about them, I stopped reading about them, I stopped talking about them. All of those much less than I used to. I’ve still seen movies. Rarely on my own dime, but I’ve watched five or six movies in theaters in the last six months. I find myself discussing movies every now and then, sure. But here’s the thing.
Since I quit movies, I’ve been spending much more time in the Word, much more time in solid Christian fellowship, much more time listening to sermons from Christian teachers and much more time in Christian literature. I’ve read three Christian books in the past three months and am working through John Piper’s Desiring God on the side (when I say “working through,” I mean “working through).
I’m not saying that this is how everyone should be, I’m not saying that movies are evil, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t watch movies because movies are unbiblical.
I love Courageous. It glorifies God by presenting a biblical view of fatherhood while being funny and entertaining. I love Fireproof. It glorifies God by presenting a biblical view of marriage and relationships. I love Lord of the Rings. It makes a strong statement about redemption, one of God’s greatest gifts.
I’m not going to get into all of that. As I said, movies aren’t inherently evil. Like anything, they came from God. God put creativity and intelligence and artistic ability into man. But like most things, man has twisted it (99% of it) to make it something that does not glorify God.
Also, I’m not going for the self-righteous play here. I’m not trying to say that I’m better than everyone else because I quit movies. I’m just making a statement about what I believe about movies and how the Holy Spirit has shaped how I look.
I’m also not saying that Christians are wasting their time if they enjoy movies or make movies. I’m just saying that we need to be careful, as Christians, to not make film an idol over God and who He is. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
God is the only thing that fills all of those qualifications. Let’s live it.
Thanks for sharing your beliefs, Zach. And not to play devil’s advocate, but wouldn’t this be equivalent to giving up sports or any other form of entertainment that doesn’t involve God?
It would be equivalent to that. But movies is one thing that God especially convicted me of. I believe that some people can use movies and writing about them to glorify God, but that’s not for me. Sports could be that for me.
We shall see. With exceptions like Tim Tebow, I’ve always seen sports as the most secular section of a newspaper. By the way, did you enjoy Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close today?