Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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5 Resources to Help Christians to Be Discerning About the Movies or TV Shows They Watch

moviesMy wife Tammy and I love to go to the movies. Since we began dating 40 years ago, we’ve usually watched at least one movie a week. We also like to find television shows that we can “binge watch”. But to be honest, most films – that aren’t animated films targeted to children or faith-based – and even television shows (think of a popular show such as House of Cards or Mr. Robot), have some objectionable content or troubling worldview issues. So how can Christians be discerning about the movies or television shows that they watch?

Here are five resources you can use to help you be discerning in this area:

  1. When checking out the movies that are opening each week or a television show that we’ve heard about, I always start with the Rotten Tomatoes website. This is a very helpful site that will quickly tell you what the critics and viewers like you (referred to as “audience”), think of the quality of the film or television show. They do so by giving the film or show a numeric rating, which indicates what percentage of the critics or viewers gave the film or show a positive review. A rating of 60 or more on their “Tomatometer” is a “Fresh” review, while a rating of less than 60 is a “Rotten” review. Among other things, the site will tell you what the film or show is rated and why. You can also read reviews that are posted by critics and viewers. For example, a good film like Sully received a critic’s rating of 82, while viewers gave the film a score of 89. On the other hand, The Disappointments Room received a critic’s score of 0 and a viewer’s score of 22. That’s enough right there to tell me I probably need to save my money and take a pass on that film.
  2. The next site I’m going to check is Focus on the Family’s site Plugged In. This site provides a brief overview of the film and then includes helpful analysis about such things as the positive elements, spiritual content, sexual content and violent content of the film, as well as an overall conclusion. This can help you be discerning about a film you may have an interest in seeing. The site also includes analysis of television shows, music, games and books.
  3. I will often check Ted Baehr’s Movieguide site for content and especially worldview issues of a film. Dr. Baehr’s life’s purpose is to be used of God to redeem the values of the media while educating audiences on how to use discernment in selecting their entertainment.
  4. If a film is rated PG-13 or R and I have questions about whether or not I want to see it, I’ll often check the Kids in Mind site. This site will give you very specific information in categories such as sex/nudity, violence, profanity and helpful discussion topics from the film.
  5. To get another perspective on a film I’ll often check out Christianity Today’s Movies and TV site. I have found their reviewers to be less discerning about some films than I would prefer, but they do offer a brief but helpful “Caveat Spectator” section after their analysis of the film.

These are resources that I use to help me be discerning in the movies and television shows I watch. What do you use to guard your eyes and heart?

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Christians Get Depressed Too ~ Helpful Resources

Christians Get Depressed TooMost reading this will have either gone through seasons of depression themselves (including anxiety and panic attacks), or walked through those seasons with friends or family members.  In fact, David Murray in his fine book Christians Get Depressed Too, states that one in five people experience depression, and one in ten experiences a panic attack at some stage in their lives.

Though I have not personally experienced depression myself, I know many who have. And when on a medication intended to prevent migraine headaches several years ago I experienced significant anxiety symptoms. That better helped me to understand what those who suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks are going through.

I have been greatly helped by David Murray’s work on depression through his HeadHeartHand blog and his book Christians Get Depressed Too, which I recently read for the second time.

Below are helpful resources from Dr. Murray and others, to help those who suffer from depression and those who are walking alongside them.

  • Book Review of Christians Get Depressed Too
  • 25 Helpful Quotes from David Murray’s book
  • Resource list to give you help and hope

Continue reading

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Christian Piling On – Flag on the Play!

OK – how many of you have actually read Ann Coulter’s entire article before responding?
Yep – the headline was obnoxious, but the purpose was to get you to read on.

Accusations of Christian narcissism? That hurts my pride and self-esteem! Can we please mull over her comments before we shout our knee-jerk reactions?

Does it reek of elitism to spend $2 million to send Americans back to the USA to receive a special treatment currently unavailable in the rest of the world? The Good Samaritan might have sent ‘one of the least of these’ from Liberia to receive treatment instead. Or maybe ask that the $2 million dollars be spent to make more of the vaccine to be shipped over to Liberia.

Ann’s next question is a good one, “Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?” As she sarcastically states, “America is in a pitched battle for its soul but… no, there’s nothing for a Christian to do here.” Let’s be honest, you’re a lot more glamorous in your home church when you go on a week’s missions trip overseas than when you faithfully and quietly serve those in need here at home. Hence, Ann’s example:

Right there in Texas, near where Dr. Brantly left his wife and children to fly to Liberia and get Ebola, is one of the poorest counties in the nation, Zavala County — where he wouldn’t have risked making his wife a widow and his children fatherless.
But serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been “heroic.” We wouldn’t hear all the superlatives about Dr. Brantly’s “unusual drive to help the less fortunate” or his membership in the “Gold Humanism Honor Society.” Leaving his family behind in Texas to help the poor 6,000 miles away — that’s the ticket.

Would I dare make the suggestion that the $40,000 your church collected to send teenagers to help at the orphanage in Guatemala for a week be better spent? Maybe send the $40,000 to the orphanage to build their own school and send the teenagers to a local rescue mission to experience serving? Did the kids raise that $40,000 themselves by working – raking leaves, washing windows… or did mom and dad help them send out a few fundraising letters so other people could pay for their trip? More things to mull over before piling on.

People! (As my sister the teacher always says) – It’s not an either/or situation. We serve Christ here at home and overseas. Ann is just pointing out our desperate need to address “the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence” here in America. I think that would preach well on a Sunday morn’n!

Ann’s next point – are we tired of fighting the culture wars here in the good ol’ USA and instead go serve in third world countries? There’s a few folks that are vocal, but the rest of us (including me) sit back in our comfort and security and keep our lips zipped. I love Lecrae, a Christian rapper, who is taking on an entire rap/hip-hop culture in need of redemption. Not in an arrogant, ‘looking down my nose at you’ way, but entering in by using his gifts and making a huge difference.

By the way, I love medical missions and the hearts of those willing to serve and sacrifice in those areas, but let’s stay on point. We’re examining ourselves in regards to narcissism. We love to ‘throw money over the wall’ into Christian organizations, but are we really willing to get out of our comfortable lives and fly to Liberia, quietly serve at a local medical clinic or speak up against political correctness? Remember, my argument is that both are correct – medical missions to Liberia AND serving here in America. Since I’ve been reading Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I thought this quote from Martin Niemöller might spur us on.
Martin Niemöller (1892-1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

I ask the Christian community to set aside Ann Coulter’s inflammatory language (that’s what has brought her notoriety and it works!) and examine the questions she poses. We also need to question our reactions when someone says something we disagree with. Can we continue a dialogue, or just respond with “If you remain a fan of Ann Coulter after reading this, you are as pathetic as she is.” That name-calling stuff is just ugly; just as ugly as calling someone’s choices ‘idiotic’ or ‘pagan foolishness’. That sort of reminds me of liberal-leaning folks that call me a ‘homophobe’ when I disagree with them, or that won’t shop at Hobby Lobby, or won’t eat at Chick-Fil-A because they disagree with the owner’s beliefs. Hmmmm….

Are you willing to discuss this with me? If not, feel free to pile on. It’s time for some Christian courage. Bring it on! Or, I might just take a lesson from our dear President and avoid anything of substance or any controversy – fly to Martha’s Vineyard, shoot some pool and play a round of golf.

Tammy Pence, Normal, IL