Should Christians Watch Horror Films?
By Fin Sheridan
The horror genre is as broad as the responses to the title of this article. So let’s first begin with a definition of what I mean by “horror films” and then go from there. Wikipedia defines ‘horror film’ as ‘a movie that seeks to elicit a physiological reaction, such as an elevated heartbeat, through the use of fear and shocking one’s audiences… Horror films often deal with viewers’ nightmares, fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown. Plots within the horror genre often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage into the everyday world.’
Whilst painting a broad “Should Christians do this or not do that?” brush stroke isn’t always the most helpful, or indeed, right approach, there are many things that it’s appropriate and right to say “no” to, even when that “no” is unpopular. Cards on the table from the start: I think horror films fall into that category.
The Bible obviously doesn’t directly condemn horror films – or any movies. What it does speak to, clearly and repeatedly, is what we look at and what we think about. A smattering of examples:
“I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.” Psalm 101:3
‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.’ Philippians 4:8
‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. Test and prove what pleases the Lord. Have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.’ Ephesians 5:8-11
“Everything is subject to change because of the new life in Christ.”
Let’s dwell on that last verse for a second. ‘Walk as children of light’. That speaks to our identity and our activity. We belong to the light now and so we should walk like it. Everything is subject to change because of the new life in Christ. All that we did before will have to be reviewed because the fundamental foundation of who we are has changed; we were once darkness, now we are light.
To revisit the definition of a horror movie for a moment, ‘plots within the horror genre often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage into the everyday world.’ How, as children of light, does it truly honour our new identity to devote several hours of our lives to intentionally watching intrusion of evil or darkness into a world we have been called to fill with light? Maybe that feels heavy or unnecessarily intense but is it really that extreme? There are much harder elements to carrying out the call of Christ than being careful with what movies we watch: this is not real sacrificial Christianity.
Adopting this outlook is most challenging however, because we cannot just stop this train of thought with horror movies. We need to review much of what we blindly consume as ‘entertainment’. So, I avoid reading articles like this one from Desiring God which call into question whether Christians should be watching shows like Game of Thrones. Why? Because as I read, I lower my eyes and shuffle my feet because I simply cannot give one good rebuttal to those questions. There simply isn’t one.
Should Christians watch horror films? Well, we each have to decide where our boundaries lie, with the conviction we each have from Scripture. Romans 14 deals with this exact issue: discussions about special days, which food was permitted, etc were controversial topics of the day. Paul helpfully recommends that “each should be fully convinced in his own mind”. The Pharisee within each of us desires to not only decide what is acceptable for ourselves but to also decide for others – and then sneer when they choose differently.
Figuring out how to live as ‘light’ in a world still filled with darkness is part of the tension of the Christian walk – and a hyper asceticism isn’t the answer. Much is permitted! Yet not everything is beneficial. It is helpful and right to regularly ask ourselves: is what I watch, and therefore what I allow into my spiritual atmosphere, really helpful, healthy or right? Does it honour my new identity as a child of light? And if not, is it such a sacrifice to simply choose to watch something that does?