Truth, Lies, and Videotape

Last winter millions of Americans lined up to see a 20-year-old movie. The central theme of the film was the idea of a mystical energy force that binds all things together. That movie, of course, was Star Wars, and the spirituality it promoted has been rightly described as a variant on New Age mysticism. Now, does that mean that Christian parents should forbid their children to see Star Wars? Absolutely not, says Christian film critic Denis Haack. The Star Wars films have become cultural icons, and it’s far better to help our kids discern and critique the movies’ spiritual component rather than simply to outlaw them. In fact, Christian parents need to use all the media to help their kids think critically about the culture around them—and to detect the spiritual messages, some of them subtle, that are contained in films, television, and magazines. When watching a movie with their kids, Haack says, parents should help them identify the filmmaker’s world view. Children can learn to do this by analyzing what the film’s characters believe about life and death, right and wrong, and the existence of God. For example, in Star Wars, the main character, Luke Skywalker, is taught that "The Force" is an energy field in all living things and that the energy field is both good and evil. This is nothing but a New Age update of Hinduism. Once children learn to identify what is unbiblical in Star Wars, then they’ll be more astute in recognizing New Age elements in other films. Next, parents should explain why the Christian answer is superior to the one the film offers. For example, in the 1986 comedy, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, a teenage boy tells one lie after another to his parents and to school officials—all of whom are portrayed as blithering idiots. The underlying message is: It’s okay for kids to defy adult authority, so long as they’re smart enough to get away with it. Parents ought to use films like these to remind their kids that the moral message communicated in a film can be flat-out wrong. God’s commands are for our good, and no matter how great a film may otherwise be, its message can be pernicious if we fail to counter it. Movie producer David Puttnam has said, "Every single movie has within it an element of propaganda." In that case, parents have their work cut out for them. Of course, we can protect our kids from the worst films, but we can’t shelter them from everything. Instead, we need to learn how to use the media as teaching aids for the truth. One fun way to do this is to have a regular family film night. Every week or two, rent a video and watch it with your children, or choose a film at the local multiplex. Afterward, encourage your kids to critique the film’s various messages. For more ideas on how to help your kids analyze films, read the speech by Denis Haack called "Demystifying the Hollywood Mythmakers." It will help you teach your kids to discern the false spiritual teachings in those flickering images up on the screen—and to respond with biblical truth.


Chuck Colson


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