After having seen Inside Llewyn Davis for a second time — it is growing on the Harts — I am intrigued by the exchange between Trevin Wax and Alissa Wilkinson about Christians watching movies. Wilkinson advocates seeing movies, in part, as a way of knowing what our neighbors are talking about. This facility will allow us to love them better and perhaps even evangelize. Wax thinks the idea of watching The Wolf of Wall Street as either neighbor love or pre-evangelism is a stretch. In the narrow confines of this debate, Wax largely has a point, though his fears of “heading down a rocky terrain without any brake system working on our vehicle” is at odds with the no-brakes approach of the apostle Paul who said everything is lawful. (Paul’s brake was whether something was beneficial either for us or other believers — a pretty complicated question but not necessarily so if you’re not blogging about what movies you see.)
What is missing from this classic evangelical approach to culture — either it helps with evangelism or it needs to bolster our moral posture — is (all about) I. What if I watch a movie simply because I like it, that is, I enjoy certain actors (George Clooney) or directors (Joel Coen) or writers (Ethan Coen) and I go out of my way to follow what they do. It is like acquiring a taste for a kind of food that some people might find objectionable — like sweetbreads (the thymus and pancreas of calves or lambs). If it’s on the menu, I generally order it. And if the Coens come out with a movie I see it. Why? A theological explanation could be that this is how God has providentially overseen my life so that I am predisposed to sweetbreads and the Coens.
That is way more theology than I think is necessary to justify such mundane affairs as food and movies. I understand that simply “enjoying” something can be a route to escapism or obesity — that is, not critically reflecting on what we watch or eat. But I see no reason why we can’t have a fuller account of enjoyment as a sufficient reason for seeing a film. If all things are lawful, maybe they are also enjoyable.