If you saw "The Blind Side," you still remember how it made you feel. The 2009 film tells the true story of Michael Oher, a black orphan adopted by a white family whose compassion was motivated by their Christian faith. Oher went on to star in college and is now playing in the NFL. The film received positive reviews from numerous Christian websites, including Focus on the Family. Christianity Today, the largest evangelical magazine in the world, commended the movie and even provided discussion starters for use in Bible studies.
Now, however, LifeWay Christian Stores has pulled "The Blind Side" from its shelves. The reason: a Florida pastor plans to introduce a resolution at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting that "expresses dissatisfaction with 'The Blind Side' and any product that contains explicit profanity, God's name in vain, and racial slur." LifeWay, which is owned and operated by Southern Baptists, has chosen to withdraw the movie, though the pastor plans to proceed with his resolution.
If Christians shouldn't see "The Blind Side," what movies depicting life in our culture should we see? If Christian publications have uniformly endorsed the movie, why are Southern Baptists deciding three years after its release to make this an issue? As they prepare to elect their first African-American president, should this controversy be their focus?
However, this is a thornier issue than it might seem. How much profanity is too much? If a movie about Christians includes non-believers acting in ungodly ways, do we endorse their behavior by watching the film? At the same time, nearly any artistic expression can be interpreted as immoral by someone (I remember when Jerry Falwell accused one of the Teletubbies of promoting homosexuality).
Jesus faced this issue of perception vs. reality when he confronted his critics: "John [the Baptist] came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners'" (Matthew 11:18-19a). What's the solution? "But wisdom is proved right by her actions" (v. 19b). The outcome of our cultural decisions demonstrates their wisdom.
Withdrawing from culture won't work. As Dr. Skip Ryan wisely observes, we are to be in the world but not of it, but we are equally tempted to be of the world but not in it. Christians can be as ungodly in the church as in the community. In deciding how to engage culture, here are the questions I ask: What would Jesus do? What would most advance his Kingdom? What decision leads to God's peace (Philippians 4:6-7)?
It's good when the ship is in the water – that's what ships are for. But it's bad when water is in the ship. Are there any leaks in your soul today?