Should Christian retailers sell movies featuring profanity?
Last month LifeWay Christian Resources made the decision to remove the movie The Blind Side from its stores following the complaints of Hopeful Baptist Church pastor Rodney Baker.
Baker told The Christian Post, "I pray that there will not be any more products with explicit profanity, God's name used in vain, and racial slur sold in our Lifeway Christian Book Stores." Baker takes seriously the commandment: "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain." - Exodus 20:7 ESV
Because of my involvement in the Christian film industry, I have friends on both sides of this debate over the inclusion of profanity in movies.
In my previous job at a Christian film production/distribution company, I screened new releases for my boss. We did not pick up for distribution any movies that included profanity. The owner had high standards and believed that God prefers to draw people to himself through pure means and not compromised Gospel presentations.
Critics of LifeWay point to the company's distribution of the movie To Save a Life as a double standard. This movie also contains words that will offend some Christians.
Blogger Tim George writes, "Words that The Blind Side uses sparingly come in generous portions in To Save a Life." This complain is not true. A simple comparison is possible because some movie critics count all the objectional words and list them in reviews. See Jesus Freak Hideout for its review of The Blind Side and Plugged In for its review of To Save a Life.
Another false complaint that George makes is: "How else can you explain LifeWay booting The Blind Side while selling Joel Osteen books like hotcakes? That’s the same Joel Osteen who told agnostic Larry King before a national audience that he couldn’t say how one gets to heaven."
This "hotcakes" complaint is false because LifeWay doesn't carry Joel Osteen's books in their stores or on their website. However, a customer may request a store order the book. Ed Stetzer explains LifeWay's policy here.
The Christian retail world is an unusual business. The distributors have plenty of stories of customers complaining about films. Some people complain about the film M10:28 which deals with the topic of hell as being too gory. Critics of contemporary Christian music have objected to the music on some movies like Fireproof and King James only preachers have refused to show a film if it features verses from another Bible translation.
One final observation. I have noticed several critics of LifeWay say that "realistic" movies are needed to reach the lost. The lack of profanity in Christian films will NOT limit the work of the Holy Spirit.