Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's time for beauty.

It's time for beauty.

I recently wrote about feeling convicted to throw away my copy of the movie, "Fight Club." I wrote that for years I threw it away only to buy it again. And the post got a lot of responses. People had lots of different opinions about throwing things away in general and Fight Club in specific.

I didn't do a very good job explaining why I might not need to watch Fight Club, but Paul does. Here is what he writes in Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Forget Fight Club, I think this verse is bigger than that. I think this changes the filter with which I look at the world. You see, I judge things by their potentional to hurt me. I look at movies and books and friendships and magazines and conversations and think to myself, "Is this poison?" Will this thing or person damage my walk? It's a "how can I not fail" way of looking at things.

But Paul flips that idea on its head. He says I am wrong. He says, the question is not, "Is this poison?" The question I should be asking is, "Is this art?" That is, is this something so lovely, so excellent, so pure that it will elevate my walk with God?

It's not about sorting through the snakes until you find one that isn't poisonous. It's about seeing the sunset and the things that are beautiful and true and powerful and bigger than me.

I like the book Fight Club. I think it says something powerful about men and our needs and where our culture is headed. I recommend that book all the time to Christians. But if I ran the movie, with the nudity and the sex and the violence and the destruction through the Paul beauty filter, what would I find?

I'm not sure.


Danielle said...

Tony Woodlief wrote a few pieces on this very topic at World on the Web.
I think they are a good read for anyone:

Anonymous said...

I resonate with your approach of "is this art?" although i think this question is likely to be highly subjective for people (as an artist i always hear people complaining to me about what art is or isn't). just like your post about censorship and forrest gump, i believe there is a fine line between completely avoiding something secular and knowing distinguish good cinema from "Truth".

although i can't think of any specific examples that i can cite, Paul and even Jesus were able to use secular examples to demonstrate God's supremacy. however, i do raise this question of secular means to non-secular ends, and his analysis is essentially the same as yours.

as for application, i think it's wise of you to recommend the book and not the movie. however, if i only had the movie to make a point to someone, i would probably still use it. and as always, thanks for a thoughtful post.

elephant said...

I haven't read the book, but I definitely consider the movie to pass the "Is this art?" filter. Is it beautiful? Well, it really depends on your POV. It's certainly not pure, but it is a fantastic and satisfying story.

Yes, there is sex and nudity in there. There is also vulgar language and smoking and drinking and lying and murder and violence and disrespect to private property and every manner of sin. That is to be expected, of course, in non-Christian art.

There is also a demonstration of the internal struggle of man between his conscience (Norton) and his flesh (Pitt). It shows how far we can deceive ourselves, even to the point of losing sight of who we really are. I'm sure there are plenty of other Christian-friendly themes, but those are what I can come up with before my coffee. :-) You might check out to see what he says about it; he frequently looks for Christian themes that seep into popular culture, even inadvertently.

Anyway, allow me to paraphrase Romans 14: "One man considers one movie more appropriate than another; another man considers every movie alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." Ultimately, while I think Fight Club is not only permissible, but quite good, that's something you need to struggle with and answer for yourself. Which, I guess, is what this post does. :-)

Stacy said...


"It's not about sorting through the snakes until you find one that isn't poisonous. It's about seeing the sunset and the things that are beautiful and true and powerful and bigger than me."

I can easily avoid movies like Fight Club (even though I've seen it and was amazed by it) but it's when things like Survivor & Dancing With The Stars & Project Runway get questionable that I start pointing out to God, "but it's non-poisonous!" Problem is, even non-poisonous snakes bite & hurt. Plus, they're SNAKES!

Great post.

Lee said...

I actually came away from reading this verse with the opposite reaction.

It strikes me that the very first thing Paul lists here is "whatever is TRUE." There are so many things in this life that are extremely difficult to look at but nevertheless true. There are so many works of art that utilize images and concepts that many Christians would find dangerous or distracting or tempting or ugly. Yet many times these things illustrate an important truth about the world and therefore us as well. And that makes them valuable. There is beauty in truth.

For me it's not saying that a thing must have ALL of these qualities -- just one is enough to make it worth pondering.

So Fight Club, while filled with images that might be difficult to look at or reconcile with the purity of spirit we are called to develop, still obviously speaks some bit of truth to you. To me, Paul is saying that this makes the film valuable. To me, running it through Paul's filter leaves much worth considering.

Prodigal Jon said...

Lee, that is awesome. That is why I write in a public forum, to see different sides of an issue. Thanks so much for sharing that version.

Anonymous said...

"Is this art"

That's refreshing and new for me. I like it. Thanks for the post.

Shannon said...

i've also struggled with issues almost identical to this , with books , movies , music etc . nice to hear another's idea about the subject . you've def given me something to think about ! :) great blog !

larissa said...

it's so weird that you posted this. (i found you via los.)

i was just told someone this week! i said that i don't think i ever need to watch that movie again, even though i thought it was outstanding the first 10+ times i watched it. it was profound and shocking and of course the cast of half nude, sweaty males that included Ed Norton and Brad Pitt was quite, um, well, er...let's just say i really liked the movie.

but at this point in my life, i just don't think i need to ever watch it again.

the person i told looked horrified that i could say such a thing, but that's just how i feel about it. i don't need to really see it again. good call!

Josh said...

Stacy, non-poisonous snakes bite much less frequently than dogs & the way they move & their coloration, in my opinion, is much more of a work of art than our canine best friends also. Love creation, please!

Blake said...

The Paul Beauty Filter, huh?

That is both encouraging and convicting at the same time.

Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years said...

You are *too* sure what you would find; I dare say you're just afraid to commit to what you know is right.

:) I'm sorry. Did that sound maternal of me? Ahem.

That's why they burned all their stuff in the book of Acts, don't ya' think? Gone, gone, gone!

Matt said...

I recently started a book by John Piper called "Don't Waste Your Life." Definitely worth reading, but my point is what he says about the excellence of things. He doesn't say this specifically, but the point is that they Pharisees did everything that wasn't awful, and they did it very well in fact. But they didn't look at Jesus.

This is the Almighty Creator of the Universe, that we're talking about. Yeah, the Guy who we have rebelled against since the beginning of time. How can I dare look Him in the face and say something as 12-year-old-ish as "well, it wasn't THAT bad."

Sean said...

I don't have time for one more blog in my feed. I just can't add more distraction to my day. A full-time artist, father and son, I am not adding anything more.

Did I tell you I just added the blog from Prodigal Jon?

Keep writing like this, my brother. The "art filter." Wow. Right. On. Target.

Faith Hope Love Mama said...

Just came across your site (stuff christians like) and I am enjoying it thoroughly. I must come back and read more when I'm not trying to get three kids out the door.
In your reference to temples, is that from George R.R. Martin? It's been a while since I have read but it sounded like his. Just curious.Blessings.

Anonymous said...

Paul would pretty much recommend you be smote if he caught you with that movie, you better buy it again and throw it away

Ben said...

Bam!!! Another beauty Jon! Thanks for sharing your heart.

Kristen Schiffman said...

Two things: This post is, in my opinion, rather genius. I feel this is something Christ has been teaching me lately.
And two: Your 'Stuff Christians Like' blog is THE best blog I've read. The concept and the content are awesome.

Sovann Pen said...

This blog is cool; if Tyler Durden were a Christian he would be wrestling with this very issue imo :)

I love this quote.

"Tyler Durden: Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off. "

Fight Club was disturbing and profound. My MMA coach recommended it to me and at the time I was wrestling with dichotomies in my life.

I don't recommend it for everyone but I like to use movies for therapy and I think it brings up some interesting existential themes.

Anonymous said...

But Lee,

We're supposed to do something about the "truth" (with a small t) that is Fight Club and other things like it. We can't give "true" stuff a pass, because it's true. I think Christ wants us to look at these truths and respond appropriately - stop looking at them and share His Truth about how sneaky Satan's approaches are in these last days.