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Putting Out Fires (With Gasoline)

I’m a Hollywood Square


Have you ever had a morning where God used the teenagers in your group to smack you upside the head with something you’ve missed? I know, I know…all the time. I had one of these revelations a few weeks ago. During the coffee/fellowship time (or as I like to call it: Let’s watch the 5-year-olds put their grubby fingers on every single pastry), one of the girls says, “Hey, have you guys seen Hostel yet? It’s soooo good!”


Bl-l-l-l-l-l-ink. What did she say?


She goes on to describe a couple of the gruesome torture scenes depicted in this horror movie. A few minutes later, one of them quotes a line from another movie, to which others laugh knowingly.


“What’s that from?” I ask.


Wedding Crashers!”


My stomach started to feel the same way it does when I’ve eaten too many enchiladas. Then, as though divinely nudged to do so, I turn to two other teenagers and ask if they’ve seen The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

“Oh yeah…it’s funny!”


It’s not like I expect them to be comparing notes on Bambi or The Care Bears Movie, but c’mon! At least throw me an overused quote from Napoleon Dynamite…gosh!


Now, it could be that they’ve mentioned seeing those movies before, and it never registered with me, but to have a rapid-fire revelation like that was disturbing. These kids had a major disconnect when it came to movies. Would they have spoken nonchalantly about stealing, or cheating, or lust? No. But they didn’t have a problem with seeing and discussing these movies.


So I shared my experience with the youth pastor, and we decided to have a heart-to-heart with them the next week. In the meantime, he’d have the unenviable task of renting and watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin, while I’d be doing the same with The Wedding Crashers. We wanted to be able to speak intelligently about what exactly was questionable, without relying on “I heard this happens…” or “I read somewhere that…”


It was an uncomfortable conversation. We talked about things we’d seen in those two movies, and followed it with Scriptural references for why it was sinful. We followed it with a discussion of how seeing these types of movies—whether in a theater or at home—was essentially a vote advocating that type of behavior. We didn’t beat them over the head with it; we just asked them to think about whether they were prepared to cast that vote. In the end it drew us closer, I think, and it was enlightening to hear some of the kids say, “I had never thought about that before.”


Digging deeper, we came to what might be the main reason for the disconnect: Parents were renting these movies for the family! I don’t know about you, but I would have turned 14 shades of red watching any of these movies with my parents. It’s a difficult thing to tell churched kids that they may have to take the high road in their own homes.


I wish I could just advise them to stay home and watch something on TV, but that’s unrealistic…and not much better! My wife and I were flipping channels the other night—at 8 o’clock, mind you—and on regular network television we came across a wrestling show with a very…buoyant…woman wearing a dress that must have been held in place by some military grade adhesive that they use on tanks and space shuttles. It left nothing to the imagination of the numerous 10-year-olds I saw in the audience. Sigh.


It was so great to have a teen come up to me one Sunday morning and tell me how she and her boyfriend had gone to the movies, and she wouldn’t let them see an R-rated movie.


I love what does—getting kids to think critically about what they’re watching is incredibly important. But we also can’t ignore teaching them to think critically before they step into the theater or video rental store.

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Putting Out Fires (With Gasoline)

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