There are many, many films that explore the devil’s existence on earth. From classics like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Omen,” and “The Exorcist” to newer films like “Satanic” and “Nothing Left to Fear,” you can scarcely flip through your cable or streaming options without coming upon multiple options with hellish themes.
Many films on the devil depict innocent people fighting his dark power, which may make it feel more acceptable to watch. As Christians, should we set up different parameters for our viewing that exclude these demonic stories? I struggle with this myself, as I am drawn to darker dramas, mysteries, and thrillers. I have prayed about this and can share these questions I have asked myself, as I seek God’s counsel on this topic.
Is This Film a Gateway for Evil?
When we view films with devilish content, we are spending several hours immersed in darkness. While some argue that this is just entertainment, and therefore clearly separate from real life, we are nonetheless being drawn into a cinematic version of hell. Is the devil actually using these films to gain traction here on earth? The devil is sneaky and draws on our worst human impulses. French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire once said, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” When we think of the devil as entertainment we forget the reality of his evil — and his ability to ruin, to wreak havoc, to destroy.
Are we playing into his hands when we casually watch a movie like “The Exorcist,” even though it features a priest’s fight against evil to save a child’s soul? Ephesians 4:27 states simply and clearly: “and do not give the devil a foothold.” These films are a foothold, which means a way to begin to enter our lives. The question is this: are these films just entertainment, or something more? If there is any chance that they are tools of the devil, it is best to steer clear.
Am I at My Best When Watching This?
Sometimes it is exhausting trying to be worthy — we can all probably admit we have felt that. We are human, and we need encouragement and prayer, and God’s daily help, to stay on the right path. After prayer on this, I think a lot of our spiritual exhaustion comes from living in an ever more complicated world that is increasingly drawn into darkness and cynicism. When we experience spiritual exhaustion our defenses lower, and we slip into times of personal apathy. What does it matter in the big picture, we may think, if we watch a film that features devilish themes?
This is exactly when we must put up the good fight. When we are in church or after prayer time, it feels easier to be good — we have been fortified by our relationship with God. But when we are more under the world’s influence and have this spiritual tiredness, we must work harder to stay on the right path. It might seem like a small thing, to turn off a movie that drags us into considerations of hell, but to the Lord, it may in fact be the most meaningful thing you do that day. Ask Christ for his help in this seemingly small thing, as the Apostle Paul outlined, because his power is made perfect when he helps you: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (1 Corinthians 12:9)
Have You Considered the Goal of These Films?
As Christians who care about our daily influences, we must employ wisdom when it comes to our viewing choices. Movies are a business, designed to make money. As society becomes more fractured and cynical movies do, too, reflecting the times in which they are made.
“Horror films were wildly popular on streaming platforms over the past year, and 2020 saw the horror genre take home its largest share of the box office in modern history,” noted Coltan Scrivner. “In a year where the world was stricken by real horrors, why were many people escaping to worlds full of fictional horrors? As odd as it may sound, the fact that people were more anxious in 2020 may be one reason why horror films were so popular.”
As Christians, we are called to a different path, being in the world, but not of it. Romans 12:2 reminds us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Does it matter, you may ask, when we are in a darkened theater or in our own family rooms, these choices we make? We are still going to church, saying prayers, and communicating with God, after all — these are just our “off hours” spent on mindless entertainment. But do Christians get “off hours?” If the Lord knows the number of hairs on our head, and cares about all aspects of our lives, it certainly makes sense that he would care if we are choosing to watch the devil, that destroyer of lives, on our screens.
What Can We Replace These Movies With?
As I have prayed about this, being a movie lover who is sometimes drawn to darker themes, I have decided not to watch representations of the devil in any form onscreen. I think movies and tv shows are a foothold for the devil into our minds. Today people spend more leisure time than ever in front of the television, and this time matters — to God. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” 1 Peter 5:8 warns. Much of that prowling today is done through technology.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm,” the bible tells us in Ephesians 6:13. Maybe what looks inconsequential — watching “fiction” about the devil — could play a role in our societal and personal downfall. With so much that we can’t control, isn’t it good to know that there are things we can control, things that will be pleasing to God?
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline,” 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us. May we joyously turn away from evil in all forms, to use the power God gives us to live lives that honor Him.
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Deirdre Reilly is a writer and editor, and her commentary has appeared on various websites including CBN.com, FoxNews.com, and others. Her new book, “The Pretend Christian: Traveling Beyond Denomination to the True Jesus,” details her own personal journey through doubt and fear into true belief. You can connect with Deirdre via www.deirdrereilly.com, or follow her on Twitter at @deirdrewrites.