I’ve never been to a movie at a movie theater. For some of my audience, that’s a remarkable and nearly unbelievable fact. It is also a fact that we have a new movie theater in town; we pass it when we go to church. It has garish LED lights in front that can be seen a mile away and that hurt one’s eyes if he looks directly at them.
I don’t think attendance at movie theaters is a sin in itself, and I’m actually more inclined to shrug my shoulders when people talk about the new theater. The content of the movies shown I feel a little more strongly about. Frankly, the prevalent anti-God content leaves me quite uncomfortable.
My children are pretty ignorant of movies, but they are very interested in the movie theater. It’s flashy, exciting, and obviously a fun place to go (a fact I don’t deny). I’ve wondered the best way to respond to their interest.
My point is not to discuss movies. I’m particularly interested in how I as a parent respond when something we don’t allow looks fun. Growing up, my parents’ response was to give good reasons for why we did (or didn’t do) what we did. They gave us those reasons before we were asked by our friends. They emphasized how our choices were better or more fun. They filled our lives with happy, busy activities so we didn’t have much time to consider the forbidden ones. I think those were good responses, and effective: by and large, my brother and I hold many, if not most, of the practices we grew up with.
Am I drawing undue attention to the forbidden? Sometimes just mentioning the forbidden can be a temptation. If, as you leave the room, you tell your child not to put peas in his nose, what will he do? Should you tell a child not to lick a frozen flagpole? Sometimes we introduce a topic too early; sometimes we simply give too much information. We need wisdom to know if and when and how to point out a problem. Sometimes rearranging a schedule can avoid a potential bad influence. Going down grocery aisles without the bad magazines might be the best option. In our case, we never mentioned the building, but the bright lights caused the children to start asking questions. We do have the option of simply taking another route that does not pass the theater. If the problem persists, that seems to be the simplest approach (even though it might take an extra few minutes to arrive at church).
Am I giving good reasons for our actions? They want to know why, and I want to tell them, though this is a particular challenge for a preschooler. I don’t want to say “All movies are bad” because that’s not true. I don’t want to say “We don’t go to movies” as though we’ve made a super spiritual decision others haven’t matured enough to make. The real reasons we’ve made this decision is a little more complex than they can understand, so I can’t exactly give those reasons either. We have said “It’s better to watch movies at home” and given reasons they can understand (if you have to go to the bathroom, you don’t miss any of the movie). We’ve mentioned the cost, and we’ve also mentioned that we have more fun hiking or going exploring in our jeep. Those do make sense to them, but they’re still asking about movies.
Am I keeping them busy? It’s easy to forbid something without making the effort (sometimes sacrificially) to provide activity in its place. We say we go on hikes, but do we? Or do we spend all weekend cleaning because mom slacked off during the week? Am I willing to engage their mind and thoughts? I don’t think this means pointing out birds in the opposite direction of the theater as we drive past, but I do think when I say “We have more fun” it has to ring true. Television and movies are formidable competition.
I will also point out that this is one benefit of being a stay-at-home mother. I can take the time to run errands and clean so that weekends are free for happy activity, I’m not too tired to make cookies in the evenings, and should my children go to school, I’ll be here when they come home.
We haven’t come to any conclusions. So far, we’ve simply repeated our reasons (with variations on the theme) when they ask. We’ll see if the questions persist, increase in intensity, or taper off. In the meantime, I need to be praying specifically what God would have us to do. What do you think? Have I missed something? Are there any scriptures that would give insight for this topic? I’m still thinking.