Pass the popcorn: spiritual discernment at the movies

With the current debate about movie censorship, it's easy to jump on the bandwagon and criticize everything that comes out of Hollywood. Yet movies are about communicating ideas. The discerning viewer looks for universal messages irrespective of costume and location—insights that shed light on our own circumstances.

But with all the violence, gratuitous sex, and other tough scenes often depicted, what's a moviegoer to do? Obviously, parents can read about films before letting children see them, even check out the Web sites that most films offer and read reviews in newspapers, like The Christian Science Monitor. The responsibilities of parents don't stop because of the possibility of federal regulation of the industry.

Moviegoing, rather than being a passive activity, can be active, requiring the viewer to bring spiritual intelligence to the experience. If you bring a kind of spiritual discernment to the movies, you can look beyond the obvious and find rich qualities and messages sometimes located just beneath the surface—evidence of lovingkindness, generosity of spirit, moral courage, redemption, forgiveness. Movies are the celluloid parables of our day, told in diverse settings and languages, reinforcing the universality of what brings joy and satisfaction to people's lives, and what does not.

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'Odyssey in prime time'
January 29, 2001

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