Focus on the Fantasy: How “Plugged In” Has Become Unplugged

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Focus on the Fantasy: How “Plugged In” Has Become Unplugged

Have you heard? Focus on the Family is now reviewing’pornography. A pornographic film based upon a pornographic book is about to be released to theaters nationwide, and Focus on the Family is reviewing it so that you’dear Christian’can know whether or not you should go and watch pornography. That’s right, a popular evangelical Christian ministry has as its stated policy the practice of reviewing pornography.

No, this isn’t satire. It isn’t a story I read from The Onion. It’s reality. It’s also nothing new.

Back in 2008, Plugged In provided for Christians a review of an R-rated sex comedy called Zack and Miri Make a Porno. One need only look at the title to see what this particular movie is about. I wouldn’t recommend any Christian read their review unless they want a description of what goes on on the set of a porn movie. This needed a review from a Christian perspective? I can look at the title, the rating, and the fact that it’s directed by Kevin Smith and give you a Christian perspective: STAY AWAY from this film.

In 2013, Plugged In provided for Christians a review of The Wolf of Wall Street, which was’according to the information readily available on all advertisement for the film’rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence. There is another name for movies that contain strong sexual content and graphic nudity: pornography. Again, this film needed a review from a Christian perspective?

Watching pornography is one thing. Justifying the watching of pornography is another. The critic for Plugged In has anticipated getting pushback for reviewing a pornographic film, so he has offered a preemptive strike against such critics in the form of an apologetic blog defending his choice to watch and review pornography. He starts thusly’

There are nine little words at the top of our site: Shining a light on the world of popular entertainment. They’ve been there ever since I’ve been here. In fact, they’ve been the central premise of our mission from the very beginning. And Fifty Shades of Grey is, without question, one of the most popular elements of popular entertainment right now’a movie at the center of conversation in countless break rooms and living rooms and even churches across the country.

There is a reason why this pornographic film is being talked about in break rooms and living rooms and even churches across our country: because people are voyeuristic perverts. Pornography has become a scourge not only on our nation but specifically upon the American evangelical church. Church members (both male and female) sit in pews Sunday and after Sunday pretending to be spiritual folk as they continue to harbor a secret love of pornography. Children are being exposed to pornography at an alarming rate. Marriages have been decimated because of a spouse that was entrenched in porn. Other marriages and families continue to suffer because of it. What is Focus on the Family’s response? Go watch it and provide a review of it for their readers. Using the logic presented here, they should also send reviewers to various pornographic websites’many of which are far more popular and generate far more revenue than a fictional book about a sadomasochistic relationship’and provide reviews of the sex videos available there. Does that sound positively absurd? Why doesn’t it sound absurd to Focus on the Family?

But the culture, including Christian culture, is deeply curious about Fifty Shades‘not necessarily a prurient interest, but a deep-seated desire to understand why this book and now movie, which would seem to cater to a small subset, has become such a phenomenon.

Christians already know why books like this are so immensely popular. It’s the same reason why temples filled with willing prostitutes were so popular back in the day of the apostle Paul. It’s the same reason why so many young people fornicating and why more and more unborn babies are being ripped apart in their mother’s womb. Not necessarily a prurient interest? No, I’m pretty sure the overwhelming interest in this book/film is entirely prurient. What’s worse is that Focus on the Family is fanning the flames of this interest. What’s even worse is that they are doing this in the name of Jesus Christ. Consider this quote:

I worked for several years as a daily newspaper journalist. And as a journalist, I knew that part of my job was to go into potentially uncomfortable places. It’s in those places where, I’d argue, journalists are needed the most. The same could be said for missionaries, who sometimes risk even their lives to bring God’s light to a people or culture in need of it. It’s not safe work. We all know that going in. But it’s important work, anointed by God as part of the Great Commission.

Uncomfortable places? Does this Christian critic believe a strip club to be an uncomfortable place into Christians should go into in the name of the Great Commission? What about a porn site? Should Christians visit porn sites so they can examine the content in order to warn others about the dangers of pornography? The Scriptures warn us to flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18), not run toward it in the name of evangelism. Even the lost knows that this material is trashy, why is it that a supposed mature Christian ministry hasn’t quite figured it out? It is a sad state for evangelical film criticism that watching pornography is viewed as important work, anointed by God as part of the Great Commission.

There is a legitimate need for film criticism for the glory of Christ. For far too long, pagans have dominated the realm of film/TV/music criticism. For pagan film critics, worldview is assumed and not really dissected against an objective standard. Gifted reviewers such as the late Roger Ebert was a gifted writer who made an art out of reviewing art, but his rejection of Jesus Christ was evident as he reviewed cinema. With sites such as Plugged In, there was a hope that the Christian worldview’with Scripture as the foundation’would provide some heretofore untapped insight into films as a work of art. At least in the case of Plugged In, that hope has been obliterated.

Pornography is not art. There is nothing beautiful, lovely or true about it. Porn lies about sex, it lies about relationships, and most fundamentally, it lies about God. Its foundation is not truth, but fantasy. It ensnares and enslaves. It appeals solely to our depravity. It debases image-bearers of God. You will never find a review of a pornographic film or TV show here at Gospel Spam. We have a simple policy regarding porn: we don’t review it. We review art here. Christian artists are capable of producing tremendous pieces that bring glory to our Lord. Pagans can even produce God-glorifying works of art at times. Throughout our short history here at Gospel Spam, we have strived to provide film/TV/music criticism from a Biblical worldview. There is nothing inherently wicked about movies, television, or music. All art is God’s art. One of our foundational beliefs here at Gospel Spam is that God-glorifying movies, television and music should be produced as much as possible. We want to be an encouragement for the Christian screenwriter, filmmaker, television producer, or songwriter.

While film/TV/music isn’t inherently evil, porn most certainly is. Simply because pornography has come out of the darkness of XXX shops and brown paper bags doesn’t mean it should be legitimized by evangelicals who are so willing to look culturally relevant they blaspheme our Lord in order to do so.

Plugged In’in their unfortunate choice to bring pornographic films into their scope of film criticism’have committed the error of conflating porn as art. I hope and pray that those in control of such things repent of their blasphemy and of causing brothers and sisters to stumble. The Lord Jesus Christ warned of a horrible fate for those who would cause a believer to stumble (Mark 9:42). Focus on the Family should heed that warning, because there is more than just their credibility on the line here.