The Movie IT: Christians Who Condemn All Horror Need to Grow Up

I was interviewed by John Piper’s website in response to their questions about horror movies. Understandably, and respectfully, they do not share my appreciation of horror. But they were very open-minded and open-hearted to listen to me and give me a voice.

I really think Christians need to realize the tremendous moral power of the horror genre. It’s not for everyone, but God loves the horror genre, so Christians should at least respect it.

The movie IT, is a classic coming of age horror story of a group of young misfit outcasts who must not only face the returning supernatural evil in their small town, but face the fears and evils in their own lives in order to grow up. It’s not for the feint of heart, and it’s not perfect, but I think it exemplifies moral lessons in line with the Christian worldview.

Read on for the interview…

Here is the link to John Piper’s website for the interview.

If you appreciate the biblical side of horror, you’ll be encouraged.


15 comments on “The Movie IT: Christians Who Condemn All Horror Need to Grow Up

  • Alfreda Penney says:

    I wouldn’t say God loves the horor genre.
    As a Christian I don’t feel I need to ” Grow Up ” either or respect horror. The horror to me is that we are even having this discussion about accepting horror . Anything that feeds fear and exemplifies evil has no place in the Christians life. My grandfather use to say, “don’t let the devil get a foothold in your life.” I don’t need horror to show me moral lessons there’s enough of that in real life every day around you and on the news, inside our prisons and streets. When Christ encountered horror he cast it out . He used the power of the word to show us our moral lessons! Let’s get back to the BIBLE my friend!

  • Brian, I’m very thankful that your usage of Scripture exposed many passages and their connections that others desire to avoid. I’m especially amused when Tony seemed…unnerved by the implications of what you raised. I’m not seeing biblical arguments raised by critics, as much as emotional or conscience-related objections (which are fine, but if it relates to immature conscience, let’s be real about it).
    Great conversation, very enjoyable to read!

  • David Von Schmittou says:

    I read Hollywood world views a couple of times and heard Brian’s lecture series at a local church. A morally righteous horror film will put the fear of God in you. Gods using Brian to expose that horror exists in all true story. Without horror there would be no redemption. No cross no crown. The fact that we paint Yahweh and his only begotten Jesus messiah as mambipambi g rated weak cowards, just proves evil has already defeated us, and is firmly embedded and molding our worldview. The hypocrisy is disgusting! Brian has exposed the enemies most powerful tools used to accomplish this; the entertainment media. I say keep exposing our hypocrisy and shake up the so-called believers whom the Bible might
    liken to, the ” cows of Bashan.”
    1 ¶ “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’
    2 The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks. ESV BIBLE

  • Brian – on point again! While not a horror fan, I appreciate the fact that all genres of story telling are in Biblical texts. Re. the Church: so many wrap themselves in the “Bible” as insulation against reality – they never come out to fight the good fight. I see the mantra, “let’s get back to the Bible,” used avoid dealing with very real evil confronting us moment-by-moment. Jesus never ran from evil, nor did he ran ‘back to’ scripture. He wielded the power and fearlessness that comes from carrying the Word in his heart, mind, and mouth – ever ready to use it to save anyone afflicted by evil. He also knew his enemy – knew when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, and when to let Satan walk away. If horror films or any other genre of Hollywood product disturbs Christians, let them quietly stand outside a movie theatre, Starbucks in hand, and pray for movie patrons and against that which they believe violates God’s laws. It’s really simple to quietly and powerfully change things when we use the weapons of our warfare 24/7/365. If the world understood that power, they would be horrified!

    • Thanks, Miami.I appreciate the support. And I agree, we should be praying instead of merely complaining.

  • Leslie M Bystrom Jr says:

    What if a Christian likes the moral story so much, they decide to read the book? I understand that the boys have sex one after the other with the girl to find their way out. Kids are all under 18 in book. It was cut out of both versions of the movies.

    • Leslie,
      I am not familiar with the book. I haven’t heard anyone mention that. But yeah, that can become an issue that, if true, should be discussed. But I do think it is legitimate for parents to allow a movie while not allowing a book version, since the two are often very different creatures.

    • Leslie, if you’re referring to Stephen King’s “It” in your comment, you’re right. It’s very telling that this scene was left out of both the TV miniseries, and the much darker film. I think it’s deletion from cinematic adaptation tells you everything you need to know about its gratuitous nature and relevance to the story.

  • I first read your dialogue with Tony Reinke before coming here and I’m grateful for having read it. It was a thought-provoking dialogue so thank you. I want to speak for myself and say that I often ask or state things ignorantly or narrow-mindedly. Scenes in the Bible can get bloody, they are horrific and terrifying. I’m reading Jeremiah and God is showing me that His unrestrained anger is something that cannot be withstood. He is the God of love but also the God of wrath. I don’t believe in a sissified, needy and impotent God. My comment is two-fold, to agree with (part of) and respectfully differ from your view.

    1. Agree

    Not all things shown on television are bad. Not all horror movies (perhaps, but only because I haven’t watched all the horror films there are) arenecessarily bad and definitely not all ‘Christian’ movies are Christian. There can be very good messages in secular films that can help you minister to the lost. People can resonate with what they know and what you’re trying to tell them about God. You can separate the wheat from the chaff. But perhaps here is where we differ.

    2. Differ

    I personally struggle with watching television and feel very convicted when I do. You could attribute this to a weak conscience but even when I watch movies that teach good messages about friendship, growing up and sacrifice I’m confronted with the problem (for me) that it doesn’t point to Christ. Paul said he was determined to preach nothing but Christ and Him crucified . He also said that the Colossians should seek things of above where Christ is. Both point to Christ. So instead of redeeming horror movies that have a few good messages but compromising material why not point to the horror you yourself have seen in the Bible and to movies and books that do point to Christ? There is the danger that those who watched the movie will look for the book and be sure to watch the sequel but not open the Bible and I think you said the book has a sex scene (I could be wrong here) so that’s where they might go.

    And Hollywood is mainly concerned with 2 things, I think, showing you want you want to see and bringing you back to see more. They appeal to our flesh more than our spirit and that’s a red flag for me from the outset- the intention. The impact shouldn’t be to feed your flesh which wages war against your soul or to make you a couch potato but should kill the flesh and encourage us to go out there and actually live. And preach the Word. NOT invest in a lifetime of watching other people make their living while life passes us by.

    I hadn’t heard about ‘It’ before I read the dialogue and afterwards I read the plot summary on Wikipedia. I shared the dialogue with my two Christian friends who have both watched the movie. From them I learnt that the movie has swearing. And their opinion was that said you were merely trying to justify a bad thing. They watched it but they’re in the fight to stop watching such films.

    I struggle with watching television because I love watching it. I love horror films. For lots of reasons- I love acting and it’s an escape, a faulty but alluring one. Nevertheless, I am a merciless critic and so a terrible person to watch a movie with if all you want to do is take it all in. I look at the hero and villian, the explicit and implicit messages and its effect on me. But afterwards I’m left wondering ‘what’s the point?’ I already know what’s good and bad. If I want to engage the culture why not Google it and then minister to people about it? It’s safer, for people like me, at least. Why do the separating when God’s already done it and told me what’s good and what’s bad?

    Instead of saying I have a high threshold for immorality and swearing on the big screen why not work on lowering that threshold? It’s like asking how close can I get to this instead of saying how far away can I get from it?

    The pure in heart will see God. I want to see God so I try and keep my mind as pure as possible and to think of things that are good and that deserve praise…. I’m trying to feed my mind with things that will not poison my soul. I will admit, however, that I don’t fully understand the good role movies can play in a Christian’s life because it’ s mostly done a lot of damage to me.

    Wanting to honour and see God is what keeps me away from most TV shows and movies. I want to, as the Psalmist says, ‘set the Lord always before me’. I think every Christian should assess their motives before tuning in or going to the movies. Will that movie add to your holiness or detract from it? Is it a safe leisure time activity or threatening? I don’t always make the right decision but I hope to- better today than yesterday and more tomorrow than today.

    I don’t know what God has told you to do- maybe to watch as many movies as will allow you to minister to people- using it as an ice breaker or something but perhaps assess your emphasis. ‘God loves the horror genre’ sounds a little off to me. I can’t think of any horror movie that doesn’t contain something God is against, be it swearing, sorcery or sexual immorality. Horror movies tend to focus on the darkness more than the light and if the cast would only look inside their hearts for the goodness and strength therein they could overcome it but the Bible doesn’t teach that mankind is good no more than it teaches that ultimately we can save ourselves collectively or individually.

    So this isn’t necessarily an attack on horror movies but a warning for all movies.

    Thanks again for the post.

    • Stephanie,
      Thank you for your honest and thoughtful comments. I actually agree with much of what you wrote. I particularly agree that we should not be consuming so much entertainment that it makes us “a couch potato but should kill the flesh and encourage us to go out there and actually live. And preach the Word. NOT invest in a lifetime of watching other people make their living while life passes us by.” I could not agree more.

      I’m not going to be condescending and call you a weaker sister. But I do believe that everyone does have to work out different situations based on being honest with themselves and different people really do have different issues in these things. At the same time I would say that we should be careful not to justify the flesh.

      I think you might find my book Hollywood Worldviews to be of help in watching movies with discernment.

      And regarding the issue of sin depicted in media, I think the Bible is rated R and has quite a bit more explicit evil described in it than some Christians would be willing to admit. I think we need to face this reality if we are to have a Biblical approach to the issue. My first chapter in Hollywood Worldviews deals with this issue and you can get it free here
      I hope it is helpful.

      But I do think all your questions are definitely helpful ones to consider when one is trying to figure out their own views on the matter.
      Thanks again for taking the time to respectfully explain yourself. You were very articulate.

  • Horror films can reveal situations involving the supernatural one should never explore. For instance, though the following films aren’t perfect as artistic production, which isn’t our topic, “The Conjuring”, and “The Conjuring 2”, both do present possible consequences when one dabbles into occultism, or worst when magic is performed. As such, they are a warning and a suggestion one should turn to God.

  • Jennelle fideler says:

    As we speak my husband is watching an r rated movie about a boy who becomes possessed with the devil. He has sex with his sister. There is nudity. The ending? The preacher who tries to excorcise the boy has the demon possess him. Evil always wins. Good people always die–most definitely in horrible ways.
    I am two weeks pregnant and don’t really enjoy movies of blood death and oh yea incest. I find your comment that “God loves horror” as really broad minded. Every horror movie show cases good people as victims, bad people always win in the end, or in this case the devil.
    I honestly don’t understand anyone who enjoys horror to each his own but I can’t stand to watch other humans simulating suffering whenever there is very real very awful suffering. The fact that people go to these movies for the specific goal of “enjoying” or “relishing” the fear and the torment these actors act out in very realistic ways to me is bad taste. I want to Give money to the women who get raped in third world countries, give money to help the poor–fight the real monsters. I Don’t want to watch fake monsters destroy ppl on screen in every vile way they can and get away with it. It’s bad for my soul.

    • Jennelle, I understand your concerns and I would support them to a degree. I would not approve of all horror nor some of the exploitative excesses engaged in by some movies. And I don’t think it is for everyone. Just like I don’t think Romantic Comedies are for everyone. People have different sensibilities.

      But I beg to differ with you about the genre in principle. evil does NOT always win in horror movies. Most mainstream horror, evil always loses. Now, it is often shown that after victory, evil still simmers or survives even after it is defeated. But that is simply reality. In our real world, evil in never fully vanquished until Judgment day. Why? Because original sin in human nature is never fully conquered until then. Sin remains in this world until Christ returns.

      My main reason for saying God loves horror as a general statement is because he uses so much horror in his Word to communicate spiritual truths to us. This does not justify all of Hollywood’s use of horror, but it certainly justifies the genre biblically. I have written an article chronicling all the ways that God uses horror in the Bible. There are passages that I am sure you would not be able to stomach, such as Ezekiel 16 or 23. But they are there and God uses horror to show us how evil we are and in need of him.

      Please check out my article. I don’t think it will make you a horror fan, but it will at least show you the biblical validation of what God does.

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