Paranormal Activity 3: What Say You, Christian?

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?

Bryan Daniels

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Steve Jobs and The New American Idol

“R.I.P. Steve Jobs”

That was the moniker plastered across Facebook statuses and Twitter feeds yesterday. The anointed king of the digital age had fallen, and the adherents of Mac mania were in mass mourning.

He was a brilliant man. As one Facebook poster aptly stated: “Whether you own an Apple product or not, your life has been affected by the mind of Steve Jobs.” 

Jobs was a master innovator, a creator of epic proportions with a following that included almost cultic fanfare. His yearly keynote addresses were more anticipated than a president’s State of the Union address during a World War. The products he worked so hard to create were digitally masterful and aesthetically pleasing. Admittedly, I’m not a member of the Apple tribe. My wife and I own IPODs we both enjoy but that is the limited scope of our Apple experience. I’m a PC user, not a Mac (sneers welcomed), but particular branding is not the issue here.

My Idol is More User Friendly Than Yours

A wider story is being told. The death of Jobs highlights a strange cultural phenomenon. The new-found idol of technology has manifested itself as a primary rival for the affection of this generation. Idols come in all shapes, sizes and packaging. Anything that becomes loved, admired, or worshiped more than the one true God is an idol.

A recent survey proves most young women (18-25) check their Facebook in the morning before peeing. I see it daily in the high school students I teach. The minute you glance away from them they are browsing the web on their IPhone (or Droid) or changing the song on their IPOD. Their technology is a natural extension of their body. They’d rather get their lunch taken away than their digital lifeline.

I’m ashamed to admit the hours I can waste in any given week by browsing fruitless sports blogs, social media sites and YouTube videos.

Even churches parade their “state of the art” high-definition high-speed equipment before congregations. Flat screens, surround sounds, and streaming services are all potentially good things. But if the human heart is a perpetual “idol factory” as John Calvin was fond of saying, then we need to be careful with how we treat (and talk about) these mere tools for ministry. It’s a nice bonus if a church can have all the up to date equipment, but by no means is it crucial to the health of a church. Revival has broken out countless times throughout church history with little more than a preacher and a few hungry hearts.

Living Rooms used to be a place of family fellowship centered around family relationships. Living Rooms have now become “Death of the Family Rooms”, all seating situated and centered around the dull glare of screen that plasters images and messages that have no good bearing on our souls.

Facebook Is My BFF

The idols of this age have taken on a different face.

They are now altogether faceless, inanimate technological objects with no capacity to love us back. A crooning teeny poster boy with a love song is being replaced by a cold hard drive that only speaks 1s and 0s. We have 800 Facebook “friends” but feel completely alone when the grips of depression or doubt take hold of us at night as we stare blankly into the ceiling fan.

All objects of manmade ingenuity have the ability to numb and distract, but none have the ability in themselves to deal with our most pressing need(s): Grace.

I realize how disingenuous this must sound coming from a man who maintains a blog, Facebook and Twitter account, and a variety of other Google services. My laptop and flat screen get daily play. I am simply a fellow wanderer in this wilderness. I am only pointing out what seems apparent at this juncture of our wandering: the golden calf of my ancestors has manifested itself anew with convenient handheld simplicity and slick marketing campaigns.

The death of Jobs was not just the death of an innovator for some people. The death of Jobs was the death of their fixation with the newest, brightest, coolest, fastest, and user-friendliest. It was the death of their enabler, the death of their provider, the death of their “fix.”

Let me be clear: Jobs was just doing his job.

But the simple force of Scripture may apply to those who have passionately followed him all this time:

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” (Exodus 20:4)

“My little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21)

The death of Steve Jobs is a tragedy.  Allowing the spiritual death of idol worship to continue to grip us would be a much greater tragedy. May we continually go back to the cross where Christ was crushed for our idol worship, and back to the empty tomb where he was raised so we could live like free worshipers of the one and only God and King.

Bryan Daniels