Showing R-Rated Movie Clips in Church

I heard from an arts leader in California this week who was struggling with whether it’s advisable or not to show a scene from an R-rated film in church, assuming the scene itself is appropriate. Would the church be seen to be endorsing the entire movie, and is that ok? I thought back to some of these decisions at our church, and remembered that we showed a clip from We Were Soldiers and Saving Private Ryan, and I think those are R-rated. My friend wondered if the decision was to go ahead, do we need some kind of verbal or written disclaimer, stating that we are not necessarily recommending the film, acknowledging its rating, and leaving the decision to the discernment of each attender?
So what do you think? How have you handled this in your church? I would love to hear from you, and so would my friend.


A Guy in TX said...

The irony inherent in that question is the fact that The Passion of the Christ, which even released a "Church Resource DVD" with clips from the movie, is a Rated R movie. Obviously, there's leeway in using clips from that movie, but is it the exception that proves our unwritten rules?

Our pastor fears that showing clips from questionable movies equals endorsement, whether or not it's explicit. I disagree.

While we shouldn't be flippant about what's shown, we also shouldn't add to what sometimes feels like a compartmentalizing of the church and the world. Reality is R rated and dark; we're to be light.

I do like the idea of the disclaimer.

More opinions, please. I'm just as interested in other views.

Her said...

Last wknd., our message was about sin crouching at the door (Gen. 4). To help our sheep grasp the brevity & depth of this subject, we showed a 2-min. montage of scary/popular scenes from
R-movies, where the bad guy (or Jaws) was crouching...No scene was inappropriate, nor disclaimed. But it helped. Personal note: an estranged 2nd cousin of mine watched it online...said it was something she really needed to hear. In retrospect, I'm grateful we used this medium.

Eric Frisch said...

I'm in favor of using whatever is effective... if a clip from an R-rated movie is right on the money for the message we're trying to get across... we should use it. Half the time when we've used movie clips... I wouldn't have even been able to figure out what movie it came from if I hadn't known in advance! Unfortunately, we aren't always talking about happy things in life... I think sometimes a clip that's a little bit "edgier" can be exactly the right thing to drive the point home.

Clark said...

I'm old enough to remember the old story of a man asking his Pastor if he should give a portion of the money he won at the casino to the church. The Pastor's response was, "The world has had it long enough, time to give it to God." And he gladly accepted the parrisoners contribution.

It may be a stretch to say we are 'sanctifying' something that created for a totally different purpose and mindset than how we are using it, but I wonder how much truth there is in saying, "The world has had it long enough, now let's use it for God purposes".

If you are contrasting the world's view with Christ's view, using worldly artistic expression can usually accomplish that quite nicely when laid next to the scripture. I guess I would have some boundaries. I wouldn't use a clip from "Porkies" or the like. But there are many clips from R rated movies I would find useful.

And yes, we have struggled with this. Big discussion erupted when we used the sitcom theme from "Friends" for friends day.

James said...

I think we need to be cautious to not get caught up into the post-modernism thinking of "the end justifies the means." This logic will lead us down a path of hypocrisies.

I would have to say that even if the church puts a disclaimer they will associate the movie with the one who's presenting it. If the pastor doesn't want to be associated with the movie (perhaps because of some immoral story line) then it might be best to find another illustration.

I like the idea that Her said her church did with the montage of clips... this is probably a good approach because the audience won't tag any one clip to the pastor, which is different than when there is a clip from only one movie shown.

Personally, if I was showing a movie clip I'd need to ask myself if the movie promotes immorality. Lets give the example of Brave Heart. Great movie and is filled with clips that could be used in sermons. There is some crude humor I'd have to consider, but there is a scene where William Wallace commits adultery by sleeping with the king's wife. This is an immoral act and it something that needs to be considered when displaying the movie. I am leaning towards being alright with showing Brave Heart sections because the movie seems to be trying to show an irony rather than promoting adultery... or perhaps I'm justifying the movie. I think these are valid things to analyze when considering a movie in church.

Blake said...

Certainly I would use a disclaimer somewhere if you can't endorse the entire film. But remember, you're not showing a rated R MOVIE, you're showing a RATED G (sometimes PG) CLIP. "The following PREVIEW has been approved for ALL AUDIENCES by the MPAA." I think, with this wisdom, we can effectively communicate the message of Christ's grace, love and hope with the use of video while not compromising our values.

bw said...

i'm not so sure i understand/agree that thinking that states "the ends justifies the means" is post-modern. can you clarify?

i think that just as much as some think we need not get caught up in post-modern thinking, we need to be just as aware of modern, compartmentalized thinking that leads people to brush broad strokes, and characterize things (movies, words, thoughts, actions, songs...) as either "good" or "evil," without much thought to the presence and reality of paradox that is talked about in scripture, and that i see in my life and faith.

i don't claim to know how the movie rating system works either, but i'm not so sure i want to get my litmus of good and evil from MPAA either. that sounds kind of silly, actually.

paul said to be all things to all people... now that sounds kind of postmodern, doesn't it? i think if people are already connecting with rated R movies, and we can redeem that, and connect them to jesus through that, why not? turn some water into wine... hang out with local hookers... that's pretty revolutionary.

my experience in the evangelical, american church tells me that we have such a history of frowning on the world, and ostricizing ourselves (and the world) that we have some un-doing to do. but that's just my slice of the evangelical world as well...