I wish I could see Oppenheimer, the Christopher Nolan movie that collected $80.5 million in its opening weekend. Its theme is fascinating: one of the most pivotal moments in history is brought to life through outstanding performances by superb actors. When Janet and I saw the previews while viewing another movie, we decided on the spot that we needed to see the film.
Then I discovered that the movie includes scenes with explicit sex and nudity. The director explained that he wanted to show that the depicted romance transcended politics. But there is no moral way to justify immorality.
And make no mistake: the scenes keeping me from seeing Oppenheimer are immoral.
Millions of people committed adultery last weekend
Jesus was clear: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). The same is true for women who look lustfully at men. According to Jesus, Oppenheimer caused millions of people to commit adultery over the weekend.
Once again, scientific research substantiates his point. Studies conclusively show that viewing pornography (which is what the sex scenes in Oppenheimer constitute) changes our brains in damaging ways, quickly leads to stress, addiction, and escalating behavior, fuels mental illness, and negatively impacts love, marriage, and intimacy.
In addition to the psychological effects of pornography, consider the spiritual: lust, like all sin, grieves and stifles the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). This means that viewing the nudity in Oppenheimer not only damages us—it keeps the Spirit from working positively in and through our lives. We suffer both the harm of lust and the lost opportunity of holiness.
And there is the matter of our public witness. What will those who watch Christians watching the sex scenes in Oppenheimer think about the sincerity of our faith? What about those who watch us enter or leave the theater or who otherwise learn that we saw the movie? This is one reason we are commanded to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
James warned us: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15). Death to our psychological well-being, our spiritual health, and our public witness.
Rob and Laura slept in twin beds
If Oppenheimer was the only dangerous offering in today’s media world, that would be one thing. But it’s not. Far from it, in fact.
With the advent of streaming services, “regular” television programming now regularly includes nudity. Movies that were once available only in theaters can now be watched by anyone of any age with an internet connection. And the ongoing sexual revolution has so normalized sexual immorality that we hardly notice when an unmarried couple in a television show or movie sleeps together or a married character has an affair.
Including the word damn in Gone With the Wind was scandalous in 1939. The 1961 Dick Van Dyke Show depicted Rob and Laura sleeping in twin beds because the censors did not allow married couples on television to sleep in the same bed. The percentage of top-forty songs with sexual content has more than doubled since 1960. As sexual content in advertising has become more pervasive, it has become more explicit.
All that to say, avoiding Oppenheimer, while vital for followers of Christ, is only one step in a broken culture that surrounds us daily with pervasive immorality.
Political evolution in three stages
In End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration, complexity scientist Peter Turchin explains political evolution in three stages. In the precrisis, a faltering state faces multiple challenges from various elite factions. In the crisis, legitimacy is lost, the state collapses, and conflict emerges over the spoils. Then “a new monopoly of authority” arises in which the winners focus on “gaining routine acceptance of the reconstructed political, religious, and social institutions.”
I find his theory relevant to today’s topic. In the fifties and sixties, the prevailing Judeo-Christian consensus regarding sexual morality faced multiple challenges from elite factions in academics and popular culture. Over time, the legitimacy of biblical morality has been lost. Now a “new monopoly of authority” has emerged which seeks to gain “routine acceptance” of sexual immorality in “straight” and LGBTQ relationships.
This is why you and I must obey God’s command to “put to death whatever is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). And it’s why we need to replace the negative with the positive: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Ask the Holy Spirit right now to identify any unconfessed sin in your mind, heart, and life, then confess anything that comes to your thoughts. Claim God’s forgiving grace (1 John 1:9). And ask him for the strength to resist the next temptation, to see it as the poison and cancer that it is, to reject it before it spreads through your life and soul.
Make this commitment: “Do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27 NIV). Right now.
Goliath was once a baby
In yesterday’s Christian Post, pastor and author Greg Laurie made an observation I’d never considered: Goliath was once a baby. Then, of course, over time he grew up to become a giant.
Laurie notes: “Sometimes, our ‘giants’ start out pretty small. You might be dealing with a little thing in your life, or at work, or within your marriage. Maybe you’ve taken some small liberties you shouldn’t have taken. Then you nurture the little thing. You feed it. A curiosity turns into a fascination. A fascination turns into a habit. A habit becomes an addiction.
“And one day, you discover that your ‘little liberty’ has turned into a full-blown giant.”
Are there “baby giants” in your life today?