For the past couple of weeks, the Papyrus has run “Christians Rated R” part I and part II discussing why and how Christians should go about engaging Rated “R” films. (We have worked to provide a method/argument for a way of coming to these films on their own terms while still retaining a Christian identity). This week concludes this series with a final installment that explores an “R” rated film in an attempt to put our thoughts into practice. I have chosen for this piece a film from the late 90s entitled The Boondock Saints. Essentially, the film is about two Irish brothers who, after defending themselves and others in a bar fight, are attacked by low-level enforcers for the Russian mob. The brothers end up killing the enforcers, after which they receive a prophetic call from God to go and smite out that which is evil so that “that which is good may flourish.” The brothers go about systematically tracking down members of the Russian mob and other criminals who they believe are doing evil things. In this process, they develop a relationship with a federal detective who tries to discern whether or not what the brothers are doing is righteous. The brothers believe that they are acting in the truth and justice of God, for they are doing what is necessary to keep the tyranny of evil at bay. The overall sentiment of the film is that the indifference of good people is a worse evil than intentionally evil actions.
Last week, in response to the Papyrus opening up the entertainment section to reviewing rated “R” films, Austin Schumacher posted an article providing an argument why Christians should engage such films, even when they have received this rating because of objectionable or offensive content such as gruesome violence, blatant sexuality, or profane language. In this he cites reasons of the need to portray the reality of life in art - life can definitely be gruesome, blatant, and profane at times - as well as the fact that our sacred texts include stories with similar content. In discussions with me, Austin thought that I would do well at providing a part II to his initial article on “why” Christians should engage these types of film, and therefore, I have been drafted into tackling the idea of “how” Christians should go about this engagement. I have decided to go about this by first developing a theoretical model for engagement that can apply to all types of art - not just film - and then take the model and practically apply it to an “R” rated film to provide an example of how this theory works in practice. The application will come in the final installment of “Christians Rated R” next week, and this week I will focus on the theoretical aspect of engaging art. Because I’m splitting this into two weeks, this week’s article may seem to stray a bit on the broad side - away from films specifically - but hang with me until next week, and I hope it will begin to make a bit of sense.