Tis the season…of summer movie blockbusters, just around the bend. Robin Hood, Iron Man 2 & Twilight Eclipse are just a few titles that will don the cinema marquees and rake in fistfuls of dollars–not to mention the hearts and minds of our teenagers.
It’s been about six years since Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ hit theaters in 2004. You know what I consider to be one of its best, barely-noticed legacies? That is was rated R. I loved the uncomfortable irony of it all—that this film, which many Christians considered to be one of the greatest evangelistic tools of our day, was labeled with the scarlet letter of the MPAA movie rating system. That meant that this film about Jesus’ triumphant love would share the same rating as brash films like Pulp Fiction, Superbad, Saw V and Sin City.
Of course I loved The Passion for more that its R rating. I was elated to see the greatest story ever told conveyed with a lot of Scriptural accuracy, a real budget and genuine artistic sensibilities brought to bear. What also elated me was that many preachers who elevated the (often arbitrary and inconsistent) MPAA rating system to sacred status and made “Thou shalt not see R-rated movies” the Eleventh Commandment were forced to re-think the issue. They had to begin to ask questions like this:
- “Can an R-rated film have redemptive value—and can it have more of it than a PG film does?”
- “Does this mean that PG and PG-13 movies are always safer and more accurately reflect a Christian worldview?”
- “Can God’s truth, beauty and goodness be found in other films that don’t star Jesus as the main character or fail to have an overt Christian message like Fireproof or Facing the Giants?”
My aim is not to debate the value of R versus PG rated films or the competency of the Motion Picture Association of America. There’s a bigger story here…