The Dark (K)night

Today my wife and I are in lovely Estes Park Colorado taking a few days break and enjoying each other’s company.  After 21 years of marriage she is still far and away my favorite person in the whole world.  A newspaper was outside our hotel door this morning so we perused it over breakfast.  USA Today reported that the new Batman movie will likely smash all box office records and only stop short of Titanic for overall gross revenue.  This breaks my heart.  Only a few weeks ago I spoke in church about making good media choices and to evaluate humbly before the Almighty God (who calls us to holiness) what we are consuming.  I wonder how many Mountain Springs members who said “amen” in church to good choices stood in line for hours to see this movie?  

My son (17) was offered a free ticket by some friends at church on Friday night and he turned it down.  He had seen a trailer for the movie and sensed a warning in his spirit about the film.  He wanted to see it, but opted out.  I am proud of his choice.  You may wonder if I think that seeing this film will corrupt you.  No, one film (or song, or video game, etc) will not cause you to turn your back on God and sin habitually for the rest of your life.  Now if you live in that place and feed yourself on that garbage, yes of course it will.  But I want to focus on another point, the fact that God may just well be allowing darkness to cover this land of ours. 

There have been many prophetic words of late from people I trust and who hear clearly from God, that God might well be allowing this to happen.  Due to habitual sin and turning our backs on Him and His ways, He is now lifting the hedge of protection on us.  Precedent is set for this all throughout the Bible, and having just come off of a study of the wilderness experience of the Israelites, I can see how the God of judgment in the Old Testament many times dealt with those who turned their backs on Him very harshly.  The first book written in the Bible reports an interesting exchange between God and Satan on this point.  Job 1:9-10a reads “So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?”  Then in verse 12a God says “behold all that he has is in your power…”  It appears that God places hedges of protection and blessing and then also makes the decision to lift them. 

Kay Arthur recently said that “calamity” is coming to America because we have not done the things we should as a church.  John MacArthur believes we are seeing the “debased mind” spoken of in Romans 1 right in our midst and God will do as he says in verse 28 “God gave them over to a debased mind.”  Our very own Senior Pastor Steve Holt speaks of the “restrainer” lifting off of America.  Another prophetic word from a member of our body came on Tuesday last week and said in part “It is a time similar to when the angel of death passed over the homes. It is now night time America, and you will now go to sleep in the bed you have made.” 

Which brings me back to The Dark Night…I mean Knight.  The new Batman movie is nothing short of a horror flick that pluggedinonline.com says “The Joker forces us to imagine every cut and tear. He makes Jigsaw from the torture-porn Saw flicks look positively ethical.”  Fellow Jesus followers, I say this to you – we are called to be “salt and light” and a “city on a hill” by Jesus (read Matthew 5:13-14).  We were rescued out of darkness into His marvelous light, to proclaim His praises (1 Peter 2:9).  We are called to preach the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone (Acts 1:8 and Mark 16:15).  We are called to holiness and yet we fill our hearts and minds with putrid garbage. 

A woman in our church wrote me an email today regarding the message I brought about redemptive and non-redemptive qualities of media we intake.  She said “Your chart has helped me nail down why I take part in certain things and not others, why we allow Cinderella but not Aladdin.  I could never explain it before.  I have always just said that God has different rules for different families about some things, and for our family, we feel He has us do one thing or the other.  Now I have a tangible way to explain it to the girls.”  So if it’s so obvious to this mom, why did so many of us “Christians” go see a flick this weekend that glorifies heinousness?  

USA Today reports that it should have been rated R – I understand most people and reviewers are saying this.  Interesting that in this same newspaper there was an article about people abandoning Christianity because they couldn’t believe that a “good” God would allow so much hurt and pain the world.  The Dark Knight’s villain “The Joker is as horrific a villain as I’ve ever seen onscreen—an embodiment of nihilism, a manifestation of pure, unapologetic evil.” And we spent over $150 million just this weekend to glorify this monstrosity.  Yet we immediately blame God for all the “bad” stuff in the world?  Does anyone see the double standard here besides me?

9 Responses to “The Dark (K)night”

  1. July 22, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Mike — I appreciate your encouragement to think seriously about our entertainment choices. I wanted to see 300, the Matrix sequels, Sin City, and others … but after reading reviews determined it best that I not see them.

    We need regular reminders that what we ingest through our eyes and ears truly does affect us, sometimes polluting us, sometimes interfering with the Lord’s sanctification of us….

  2. 2 Phil Van Horn
    July 23, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Hey Pastor Mike,
    You are right on pretty much all counts save 1: the joker, in my eyes at least, certainly was not glorified. This film differs enormously from films like Saw and the like in that the joker is most decidedly an antihero. Absolutely, he is very likely one of the most evil characters portrayed on film, but he is not the hero. While this doesn’t change anything that actually happens, it drasticly changes the theme. This film ought to disturb you. It ought to make you angry. It ought to make you hate the joker and what he does. On all these counts, at least with me, it is successul. To me this us certainly not glorification, it is rather the opposite, an none of these things are necessaraly bad.
    I really enjoy Batman because he is unafraid to stare evil, even evil as disgusting as the joker, straight in the eye and say “No. Not right here, not right now, an not ever. Not as long as I am here to fight it.”. Fact is that we have an enemy that looks a great deal like this joker; he ought to disturb us, he ought to anger us, and as Christians we are in a war with him. To me these are redemptive qualities. Absolutely this should have been rated R, and we should not be spending much time with this, but in the end this film inspired me, and thus I don’t feel right writing it off as filth.
    That’s my 2 cents.

  3. July 23, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Good point Phil. I might have revised that sentence to read “yet by spending over $150 million just this weekend to support this kind of villian, we only encourage more of this type of filmaking in the future.” I.e. “Christians” sent a clear message to the film industry that we want more “Jokers.”

    John 15:19 says “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” If we drink of the corrupted fountain, how will anyone even know we are “not of the world?”

    Did you go to the movie for entertainment or apologetic edification? It’s the heart motivation that is the heart of the matter. Just a thought for consideration.

  4. July 27, 2008 at 3:14 am

    When I was a young punk I couldn’t get enough of movies like Evil Dead, Hellraiser etc, and fed this stuff over and over, because I had a depraved mind. Fast forward through salvation and now a decade and a half later, and I find great satisfaction in watching Little House on the prairie episodes because I actually feel good after consuming it. While there may be other good wholesome shows to watch, I thought it a great pity to have to search backwards almost quater of a century to find family friendly entertainment….

  5. 5 Christina Browning
    August 5, 2008 at 7:23 am

    Hey Pastor Mike, I enjoyed your sermon on media evaluation. I think you are right on target with the dark night, and I do not plan to see it. I think our country is going to be in for a wide awakening this next year with the election.

    As I have evaluated my own music choices, I have a question. I listen to edifying music all the time, except when I work out. I have found it hard to find Christian music that has a fast enough tempo for my cardio workout. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks….

  6. August 5, 2008 at 7:43 am

    You could check out anything from John Reuben, Relient K, the O.C. Supertones, the CD “Sunsets and Sushi” by David Crowder Band, and most definitely anything by Superchick. Hope that helps get you started – does anyoe else have some suggestions?

  7. 7 melodee
    August 27, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Hey, I have to agree with Phil on this one. I don’t normally watch anything that is not family friendly, and I wasn’t really interested one way or another in Dark Knight. It’s just not my type of movie. I can’t even remember the last rated ‘R’ I saw, but my older teens were interested in the movie, so I went with my 17 year old. I think Phil sums it up very well. The evil in this film is very ugly and real. It is a dark film to be sure, but I do think they drew a very clear line between the forces of good confronting the forces of evil. In that way, the fact that Batman stands for good, and is even willing to martyr himself to continue to protect his city is redeeming. It is not a horror film in the sense that Saw is a horror film. It is graphic and unnecesarily violent, (they could have left alot of stuff out for my taste) but it certainly does remind you that our enemy is ruthlessly evil and yearns for our destruction, and that there are still people who are willing to sacrifice their lives in order that others might live. In that sense it is redeeming because it makes you want to think that you would be willing to lay down your life for the good of your brother.

  8. May 9, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I was recently on a trip and a friend loaned me “The Dark Knight” to watch on the plane. Having written this post several months back but never seeing the movie, my curiosity was piqued. I decided to pop it in and watch it on my laptop.

    I had to stop the movie since the flight was over and normally I would not have finished it because I wasn’t really enjoying it that much. But then I recalled that this original posting got a lot of traffic and lots of conversation, and honestly, some people were a little upset at me. I decided to watch it to it’s conclusion so I could post this follow up.

    My first impression as I watched is that the movie wasn’t as sadistic as it was originally reported to have been. Yes, the Joker was quite disturbing. They did a fine job with his makeup and Heath Ledger did a fantastic job acting quite insane, psychopathic, intelligent, and maniacal. But were elements of this movie “heinous” as I mentioned in my original post? Was this really “Saw-light?” (I will say parenthetically that the comparison to “Saw” is not unfair since the morality choice/murder/sicko-methodology combo thing would not be in The Dark Knight if it were not for that series of very popular films.)

    I’ll start with positives and a cool-factor. As mentioned before, Heath Ledger did a fine job acting. And the Harvey Dent/Two face character was also well done. Honestly, the Two Face situation was a welcome surprise in the movie even if I felt that just because they *could* show us graphically how disturbing he became, I wondered why they really needed to (back to the whole should-have-been-rated-R discussion). How can you ever really go wrong with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman? And Christian Bale is an acceptable Batman, really the best the franchise history I suppose. And the cell-phone radar thing was a really cool special effect and an idea that worked.

    Fast forward to the end of the movie; my first impression had changed. I had witnessed a man cut open and a cell phone/detonation device sewn into his stomach, then blown up remotely killing everyone in the jail/police station with him. I had seen people given a moral choice in pulling a trigger and killing hundreds of men, women, and children on a ferry boat before the people on the other boat made the same choice to kill them (yes, they didn’t do it, but I will point out that the vote taken was overwhelmingly in favor of doing it). We saw a hospital blown to smithereens room by room and during that time we do not know if the patients are in their rooms or not. And yes, there are the multiple times when the Joker takes his knife and slices open people’s faces just like was apparently done to him (though we never really know how or who did it, another dangling plot line). On this last point I heard people say “yeah but you didn’t see it on screen” which basically blows me away. In my most “duh” statement I have ever written on this blog: just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean we don’t know it was done. Do you really need to see it for it to be corrupt or if it’s off screen do we somehow place it in a redemptive category? I vote not since our minds can fill in the blanks.

    I didn’t like things about this movie that I guess others either a) overlook or b) somehow expect in a superhero movie: the plot line is thin and strays, I think the hero (Batman) is 2 dimensional, people pop up when you least expect with no explanation of how they got there, villains make silly choices, guys who should know better don’t, the police chief is always made out to be bumbling, Batman’s mysterious code of honor is cloaked in mysterious dialogue of mush, most of the action sequences are too dark to understand what is actually happening, and dangling plots abound. Normal fare for a superhero movie unless it’s named “Spiderman.”

    There are movies I have seen that delve into the depravity of the human condition and have sparked interest in discussing redemption. Batman did not do any of that but only left lasting impressions of gross images.

    In the end, I walked away with a “whatever” personal experience. The movie was not that good and the really bad guy (the Joker) didn’t get what he deserved, the really good guy (Harvey Dent) didn’t get what he deserved, and the “good” guy (Batman) didn’t get what he deserved (which is somehow where people come off calling him a “Christ figure”). But maybe America got what it deserved which was another movie with a bunch of Satan in it since we seem to love it so much.

    Some say Heath Ledger went insane portraying the Joker and his death was the result of the role. It seems Mr. Ledger got so close to the devil it likely killed him. I ask you to ask yourself and the Holy Spirit why you would get close to anything that has that potential? Kind of sounds like the forbidden fruit conundrum.

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