Hollywood has an annual habit of releasing a certain genre of movie-a brash, blatantly hedonistic, celebration-of-vice kind of movie. This year's offering, Project X (released in March and, as of last Tuesday, available on DVD), promised piles of drunkenness, sex, and skewed reality to the malleable brains of America's youth.
No doubt that its fans saw it as a radical, progressive vision of how far the youth in the world have come from prudish antiquity. But in the context of history, the partiers of Project X look prudish next to the licentious maniacs leading Rome circa 54 B.C. Just ask the Apostle Paul. He dealt with Project X-style episodes in the churches he planted, and, more importantly, taught believers how to react properly, as he did in a letter to the Corinthians:
"… Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?" (1 Corinthians 5:2)
That question rings in the air, even today. Shouldn't Christians feel grief for those poor teenage souls grasping desperately at nothing, trying to fill desires with vast quantities of emptiness? But, whether in first century Corinth or 21st century California, the message seems to be that sin is an overwhelming power, a substantive, pleasurable thing to be grasped and held, though it slay you.
To the Christian watching these sin-ematic displays-though I hope they're not watching-the sheer volume of blasphemy and transgression can be discouraging. But sin is not substantive-it is the absence of substance. The real existential material is virtue. Those youths can party all night, but the only thing they will gain from their escapades is more desire-a clear sign their desires have not been fulfilled. They don't understand that purity brings true satisfaction. As usual, G.K. Chesterton put it beautifully:
"Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. … Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming."
The Christian's natural reaction to the kind of blatant disregard for God's standards found in films like Project X is usually anger, which is right and proper. God hates sin, but God also grieves when His creatures feast on death-giving, vacuous vices. So should we, but we should pity those youths trying to fulfill heavenly desires with devilish pleasures like we would pity the man dying of scurvy who rejects life-giving lemons for lemon drops.
There are Christians who see no problem viewing sin-celebrating movies. As biblical proof, they may hazily cite Jesus saying, "Judge not lest ye be judged," conveniently leaving out the call for moral vigilance that follows. Others believe such movies will not change them in any way, seeing no need for self-censorship: "I'm not going to do any of that stuff!" But both groups delude themselves. Real, meaningful, relational life cannot be experienced or shared through sinful indulgence. People who submit their eyes, ears, and mind to hours of pure ungodliness and claim to be unaffected are dancing with folly and soon will fall.
The psalmist says the blessed person's "delight is in the law of the LORD." It follows by simple logic that God's law must be something delightful. Integrity must be fulfilling, and goodness must be perfectly sumptuous. We know Christ's righteousness in us is powerful enough to fulfill our deepest longings in the most wonderful and subtle ways. Project X-ers need to hear of that righteousness, desperately.