Do Faith-Filled Films Make You Feel Guilty?
by Phil Boatwright

Whether it concerns the aftermath of an abortion (40), or the struggle with marriage infidelity (Redeemed), dramatized precautionary tales for the Christian come at a cost.

40 is a pro-life documentary that examines the effects of abortion on our nation over the last 40 years since Roe v. Wade. It takes a straightforward stand and sends a warning to young women, making it clear that there is a subconscious price to pay for aborting a child. The film will no doubt have an effect on thousands of girls and women who have, until now, reasoned that they, not the unborn, are the only ones with civil rights. But what of the woman who has already undergone the procedure? How do these messages affect her?

Too often we defenders of the unborn come across as unfeeling or unthinking in regard to those who decided on that course of action. It should be stated that while I’ve never met a theologian who didn’t consider abortion a sin, it is one that can be forgiven. The woman who condemns herself for the deed need only ask for God’s forgiveness. If she does, she will find it. And one day, she will be reunited with her child. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just a stone thrower. Now, what was it that Jesus said about throwing stones?

Redeemed concerns a church-going businessman and 20-year-married man tempted by a beautiful associate. It is a potent, well-meaning warning that emphasizes how infidelity will haunt those with a conscious. Indeed, it is a film that should be seen by newlyweds and those getting ready to enter the 7-year-itch period.

But for those who have already repented of adultery, the experience of seeing films that exploit this subject can rekindle the fires of guilt. This reminder can sometimes be more destructive than spiritually constructive.

Ever wish you could push a button and go back in time to that moment that defined your character? Oh, how that would change your world if you could just go back and alter your decision. But we are reminded in Genesis that when Esau gave away his birthright for a bowl of soup, he later cried bitter tears over that bad judgment. His regret didn’t change the outcome. The point of that story (at least one point) is that we have to live with bad decisions. These choices are generally made from selfishness, ego, lust, or just plain stupidity. As time passes and spiritually is developed, those undoable acts can haunt us. And no matter how often one asks God for forgiveness, those of conscience are further frustrated by screen characters who made the right choice.

There is good news, which often takes a backseat in these movie parables. If you read closely, you’ll find most biblical icons had to live with their own transgressions: David, Peter, Paul, Moses, you name them. But though they were punished, and perhaps had feelings of tremendous unworthiness due of their folly, still, each was redeemed. They were loved by God and gleefully went on to serve our Heavenly Father.

So, since even our biblical heroes underwent negative character-defining moments, they repented, God forgave them, and they went on to serve Jesus and their fellowman - thus proving that no man is defined by one moment, but from a lifetime of moments.

Does that mean King David never again thought about the man he had murdered, even after doing penance and being renewed by God’s embrace? Did he just blissfully go through the rest of his life never thinking about that past evil act?

Maybe, but this raises one more question concerning our guilt. Even if we believe God has forgiven us, how can we forgive ourselves? Well, to truly trust God means that He can bring right out of our wrong.

If we are forgiven, will our prayers for those we’ve wronged fall on deaf ears? Satan will try to convince us that God won’t listen. And we worry that God may not listen, it’s only human nature. That’s when we must remember the importance of faith in our Heavenly Father, for nothing is more important in our relationship to Him than childlike trust.

I include myself among those yet unable to completely find absolution for past mistakes. We find little solace in films where the theme is more about not making the mistake than being forgiven for it.
There is comfort in Romans 8:1: “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus.” Remember this the next time you’re overcome by guilt.