What should Christians make of a movie that may be the highest grossing horror film of all time? Partake and engage, or turn tail and run?
There are some serious reservations any biblically minded Christian should have when approaching a spiritual “horror” film. We know our flesh and blood is not the only reality of this world (Eph 6:18). Satan, demons, and spiritual darkness are real and are nothing to trifle with or take lightly.
For those who would be more given to feelings of terror and overwhelming fear during and after such a film, abstinence should be the wisest choice. Yet we must also gird ourselves with truth: there really is nothing to fear in Christ our eternal Protector. Those with faith in Christ have no cause for fear when approaching fabricated evil or even hell itself, for there is no torment in perfect love (1 John 4:8).
You’ve probably heard the secular definition of “Puritanism”, you know: “That sneaking suspicion someone, somewhere is having fun.” Christians don’t run campaigns against fun, they embark on missions for freedom in Christ. All sort of trite interpretations of “fun” could leave a person in bondage of biblical proportions. It is a mark of spiritual maturity to acknowledge that some forms of media avert our eyes from King Jesus and His liberty from every form of darkness.
But I do believe there is some subversive truth that can be dug out of exploding box office sales of this spiritual thriller. Movies like “Paranormal Activity” presuppose real “evil” in the world, even “spiritual evil.” People, even unbelieving ones, have physiological and emotional responses to many such films. You don’t scream, sweat and shake from watching a twisted Fairy Tale; you respond in those ways only if you truly believe what you are watching has some ground in reality.
To be honest, I’m still a bit freaked out by the slobbering trolls in that all time classic horror movie “Ernest Scared Stupid”. I’m pretty sure I spent much of that movie with my head in the chair and my butt in the air. My mom should have known that such a movie was not eight-year old friendly.
Some scars never heal.
But Paranormal Activity (and Ernest Scared Stupid), in a strange way affirms the biblical stance of spiritual darkness. Relativism, postmodernism, and secular humanism have very few coherent explanations for our inherent fascination and fear of the ethereal.
Films like Paranormal Activity 3 can bring up some provocative questions, and someone needs to be there to answer them with gospel truth.
Now certainly, Hollywood horror flicks leave the biblical worldview half undone. In these films, the gospel of Jesus Christ is never offered as the only blazing light to pierce the disturbing demonic darkness. But I wouldn’t expect Hollywood to be in the business of evangelism or spiritual warfare in the first place. That’s where we should come in. The gaping void left by insufficient worldly wisdom must be filled with the other-wordly supremely sufficient gospel (1Cor 15:1-4).
I’ll forgo the opportunity to partake in the Paranormalmania. I haven’t watched (much of) the previous two. My wife and I tried to watch the sequel after it came out on Redbox, but after the first 15 minutes we both felt weirded out enough to shut it down. This is a personal conviction, not a sweeping mandate I would put on anyone else. If I want to come face to face with disturbing levels of evil, I need to look no further than my own heart and motives. My selfishness, self-righteousness, and general bent towards hypocrisy are much more scarier than a trumped up faux story line with average effects and below average acting.
The evil on the screen is Hollywood. The evil within is real. Praise God the victory over my evil is equally real and realized in the cross of Christ (Colossians 2).
I doubt a new law can be constructed here for the Christian. Some should certainly forgo the opportunity to sow into a horror film that will gross enough to put a sizable dent in the Ethiopian hunger crisis. All who watch it need to honestly ask themselves as ambassadors of the kingdom of light: Is the best way to pierce the eternal darkness by investing our time and money into commercialized darkness?