Light a Candle Against Violence

See You at the Theater

Just weeks after Newtown, the top box office movies in America are “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” and “Django Unchained,” two grotesquely violent films. That’s a problem.

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Eric Metaxas

In the days following the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, there were those who spoke of a “turning point” in American politics and culture. Surely, they reasoned, the horror of what happened would alter the trajectory that, in their estimation, had led to the death of twenty little children and eight others.

Just weeks later, events have proven such sentiments to be wishful thinking. That’s when “Texas Chainsaw 3-D” knocked “The Hobbit” out of first place at the box office. In second place was Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”

What both films have in common is that they are unspeakably, disturbingly, sadistically violent. In fact, their sole aim is the depiction of the killing of people. Period.

“Django Unchained” is a revenge fantasy featuring extremely cruel characters who inflict torture and death on their enemies. Let’s face it; Tarantino’s films are infamous for their extreme violence.

The “Texas Chainsaw” movies, like all “slasher” films, are not-even thinly disguised exercises in vicarious sadism. Human bodies are treated like carcasses in a slaughter house. Filming the movie in 3-D only serves to cynically heighten the sense of participatory slaughter.

The idea that such movies are playing so soon after the Newtown tragedy is beyond the pale. And what does it say about us? The fact that they are playing to packed houses is itself a nightmare. Hollywood has set an ugly tone and has aided and abetted the worst in our national character.

I’m happy to report that Django star Jamie Foxx has said that Hollywood cannot “turn its back” and deny the impact of violent films; good for him. But Tarantino is unrepentant. When pressed on this matter by NPR’s Terri Gross, he called the suggestion “disrespectful” and expressed annoyance at the line of questioning. To her credit, Gross continued to press him on the subject. And the church should follow her example.

While we may not have the chance to confront Tarantino or others involved in making these films, we can still express our horror and concern. And folks, we must.

And here’s something else we can do. I am today calling on everyone, but especially on Christians and churches, to gather outside theaters where these two films are playing and to politely (and legally) protest these gratuitous displays of violence. Perhaps hold a candle-light vigil for the victims of the violence in Newtown. I grew up ten minutes from where those events happened, and if you think those parents aren’t upset by films like these, you’re wrong.

Also, be sure to invite your non-believing friends and neighbors to join you. Every American has a stake in the kind of culture we live in. And by the way, this would be a great opportunity to get teachers and school students involved in an important, real-world exercise in free speech and civic responsibility.

Folks, this is one sure way to get the attention of the studios, distributors, theater chains, and the news media who should be covering this.

The other way is, for heaven’s sake, don’t spend your money on such movies. Instead reward responsible film makers and go and see quality films like “Les Miserables.”

President Bill Clinton once said “there’s nothing wrong with America that can’t be fixed by what’s right with America.” I don’t, to put it mildly, always agree with the former president, but he’s absolutely right about this. Protesting the glorification of violence is something that Christians and non-Christians can and must do together for the common good.

It’s time for us to make our voices heard.


Further Reading and Information

Quentin Tarantino On Violence: 'It's Disrespectful' To Newtown Victims To Blame Hollywood Violence For Deaths
Christopher Rosen | Huffington Post | January 4, 2013

Chainsaw 3-D' carves out No. 1 debut with $23M at the box office
Associated Press | January 6, 2013

Epic of the Heart: 'Les Misérables' Comes to the Screen
Gina Dalfonzo | BreakPoint Online | January 8, 2013


Concerning the comment "quality films like “Les Mi
I am a film student in high school, and my grandfather sent me this article with an attached note stating, "My prayer is someday, you will make a difference within our God forsaken movie industry."

I would just like to make the point that while yes, Les Miserables is a wonderful and quality film, it is just as violent as Django Unchained. In Les Miserables, there are topics ranging from raping women who are working as prostitutes and torturing prisoners to the French Revolution where an entire barricade of men are shot down on screen.

Both Django Unchained and Les Miserables are based on a violent period in history which means in order to properly portray these stories, the movies must include the violence.
If you disagree with a director's style, such as Mr. Quentin Tarantino, that is your own opinion. Don't go see his films if you do not want to be exposed to that, but you should not try and embarrass him or guilt him into feeling bad because you disagree with his style. It is his artwork, and he may display it the way he chooses.

Also, if you're going to suggest a quality film to a Christian audience, choose something that would actually fit into that category, such as Courageous directed by Alex Kendrick. That is a quality film without gore and violence that the Christian family would enjoy.
Even "Evil" People Still Can Tell Biblical Truth
@Richard Wallace

You questioned Mr. Metaxas' judgment because he quoted Jamie Foxx and Bill Clinton, who have both engaged in frankly ungodly speech and behavior. Still, God can work through even ment like these to convey His truth.

For example, Foxx is correct that Hollywood should be more responsible in the movies it produces instead pretending to play no role in the school shootings like Sandy Hook. The racist and idolatrous statements he made in previous interviews does not negate this truth.

Similarly, despite his failure as a husband and father, Bill Clinton is still correct how what is right with America would solve the country's problems. We in the church are supposed to be what is right in America by defending and living out God's standard when no one else will.

The bottom line is that we can't reject truth simply because we dislike the messenger.
Sorry for the confusion; I'm not sure what happened there. It may be that Jim/gromit changed his username, which caused it to change on all his comments.
Jim who?
OK. I've got it. I've got the smoking gun! I have on my rapidly aging computer a copy of this page showing the first comment, posted January 9 at 8:59 AM (I believe that is Eastern Time) as by Jim Sauer. It now, as I type this post, says posted by gromit45. This not only makes my earlier comment seem the ravings of a lunatic (perhaps it is), but makes one wonder about Gina D.'s post, which is addressed to Jim.
I try to review previous comments before posting my own, if practical (if there are 100 pages of comments, it's not practical). If artistwriter had reviewed earlier comments, (s)he might not have duplicated much of Jim S.'s comment, nor ignored Gina D.'s response to it. Yes, the entire comment is not a duplication, but the first couple of paragraphs largely are.
Media Violence
How many more people see identical (or worse) violence in the X-box and online virtual games that are available for purchase than those that go to see production movies? How many of the people who have previously commented play "war games" on their home computers or game boxes? Why did the "young adult males" who have perpetrated violent crimes over the past several years choose to wear the "costume" that they wore?
Les Mis? Yikes.
I agree with you on violence, my heart applauded this article as I read but my heart sank when you recommended 'Les Mis' as a quality film.

My daughter read the review on PluggedIn and I hated it that she did, just PluggedIn's review contained information that would be in a cheap, sensual novel. http://www.pluggedin.com/movies/intheaters/les-miserables-2012.aspx

One of our trusted friends shared she rated 'Les Mis' as 'V' for Violating her conscience. Her family walked out of the movie including her adult son.

Many Christians today are selling their souls to the gods of Entertainment and Culture.

When will Christians not only make a difference but BE different?

I sincerely thank you for the opportunity to share my opinion.
Hollywood Out Of Touch & Unredeemable
Folks, let's face it, Hollywood is totally out of touch & unredeemable. Their product thrives on three ugly & unhealthy human traits to "entertain" American viewers & they are profanity, bloodthirstyness, & perversion. Even Disney "family" movies are loaded with unrelenting toilet humor. Ever since the late '60s movie dialogue has been inundated with profane language, gross violence, & gratuitous sex. There are very few movies from the late'60s to the present that are viewed in this household. My two favorite movie actors (John Wayne & Steve McQueen) were outspoken in their dislike & disgust for gratuitous sex, profanity, & violence so prevalent in movies since the late '60s. If both were alive today in Hollyweird they would not be working due to their non-conformity. Neither were perfect in their personal lives, but cared about what kind of product they put out. In short they respected their viewers. Today's Hollyweird does not. There has been ONE, only one movie made in the last ten years which was more than worth my money & it went practically unnoticed upon release. Also it was NOT a Hollyweird production. For those Christians who missed it watch & enjoy:
Movie violence
What does “reacting with compassion” in this post-Newtown world by the movie industry that “capitalizes on violent and crude entertainment" – not to mention gore – actually mean?

Quoting Evil People Favorably
Mr. Metaxas:

That you would quote Jamie Foxx favorably when he called Obama "our Lord and Savior" and said of his movie, "I get to kill all the white people --- how great is that!" , I seriously question your judgment. Also, quoting Bill Clinton favorably is beyond disgusting. I'm sure Hitler said something nice once and a while, but that doesn't mean it is worth quoting. Quote honorable people, not evil people. You destroy your own argument.

Richard Wallace

Bryan, TX
Jim, I read that Plugged In review, and honestly, most of the imagery they speak of goes by so quickly (with much of it in the shadows or in the background) that I can't believe they even saw it. I saw the film myself and missed a great deal of that. I have this mental image now of Plugged In reviewers standing five feet away from the screen and peering through giant magnifying glasses, because I don't know how else they could have caught all that. :-)

More to the point, some stories cannot be told without a certain amount of disturbing imagery. "Les Miserables" tells the story of people who have fallen about as low as anyone can fall, and let's face it, that's not going to look pretty. But this means that God's grace, when it comes to them -- and yes, we are explicitly told that it has come to them -- shines all the more brightly.
Les Mis is quality?

BreakPoint: "...go and see quality films like “Les Miserables.”"

From pluggedin.com: Twenty or so prostitutes plying their "trade" beneath the docks expose just about as much skin as is possible in a PG-13 film, cupping their breasts, and shaking their torsos and backsides in the direction of potential customers. The famous "Lovely Ladies" song speaks of sailors "poking" the women and dropping their "anchors." And we see quick images of some of them doing just that in the shadow-shrouded grime and filth.