1. Totally relate to this. Good post. And for any snarky remarks brewing from others, I think it’s important to re-iterate here that we don’t give up worldly things because it’s, “The right thing to do.” We give up worldly things so that we can cling more closely to our greatest treasure, Christ, and to experience the love and peace and joy we have in him. If you don’t actually love Christ more than anything else, you won’t agree with this post.

  2. Michael Howell says:


  3. Joshua Cookingham says:

    Amen Brother.

    I remember starting out in film school and justifying a lot in my heart and mind due to the importance of the story, and even getting thrills from things like violent deaths if they were ‘dramatic’ enough, etc.
    God had to do some house cleaning in me when I saw how much it was affecting my walk. It’s still a process, but I’m a lot more sensitive to that small voice now.

    Good post!

  4. Good post. Something that’s been useful for me when navigating all of this is to consider why I like/watch a story, in addition to its affect on me. When it comes to a lot of the bad things in this world, I actually feel scared, angry or sad. So if I watch a dark story, there’s usually a subtle sense of trying to figure out how to overcome/avoid those bad things. The sins and dysfunctions of the world have always been the enemy in my eyes, so to speak.

    This isn’t a story, but a similar thing happened when I researched NPD and psychopathy a few years back. At that point, I was going through a hard time in my life, and learning that psychopaths existed just made me feel afraid and resentful. Researching them further was fascinating, since I love knowing how the human mind works, but the main motivation was understanding how to spot and deal with those people if I ever come across one. It ended up being good for me, because understanding problems makes me feel less helpless.

    If there’s a villain or whatever, it’s ok to find them interesting, but who and what are we rooting for, ultimately? Is it difficult for us to root for the good guys? Are we consistently rooting for the bad guys? If so, that’s a problem.

  5. notleia says:

    I swear, you’re becoming the adult that your teenaged self swore you’d never become. 🙂

    I dunno what it is about human psychology that gives us such a thrill from perversity. (Not necessarily pervertedness, but perversity.)

    • notleia says:

      Further thoughts: I also don’t like the purity game because there is no real way to know when you’re in the clear. Because the goal posts can always be moved further, because none of it is concrete enough to be remeasured with any effectiveness. Someone will always tell you that your doin it rong and everything wrong is your fault.

      The only way to win is to not play.

      • Sounds like you have some repressed guilt. There must be a Freudian theory I can apply to this…

        • notleia says:

          Nope, I’ve worked hard to get over the unwarranted guilt I never should have had in the first place. Look up “vaginismus.”

      • notleia says:

        On second thought, there is another way to win the purity game, for certain values of “win”: lying and cheating.

        People see what they expect to see, so follow the checklist of what they would expect for a purity-gaming person: regular attendance on Sunday and for the weekly bible study. Look respectable, maybe slightly frumpy. Look solemn and nod when it’s time to denounce gays, liberals, and “the world.”

        Also keep your yaoi manga password-protected, keep your backup Xanax stash in an old Tylenol bottle, and avoid going to the same liquor store twice in a row. 😛

        • Those are the least pure. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” If you hate “violent, domineering imagery,” you may want to change your opinion after reading some of the “violent, domineering” activities God has planned to inflict on people who live in that kind of hypocrisy.

          “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’ One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’ And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,” so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’” -Luke 11:39-52

          • notleia says:

            Except I don’t actually advocate the lying and cheating bit. More my point is just how much of the purity game is about performance.

    • I think we’re programmed to feel that way because it’s part of our lives and something we have to deal with in some way or another. If it holds our attention, then we’ll learn about it and deal with it, which is something we have to do. Some people deal with that instinct in a bad way, and others don’t.

      • notleia says:

        Well, take The Passion of the Christ movie. Would it have had as much gore as it did without the intent to titillate the audience? And yet church culture ate it up with a spoon and brought kids to an R-rated movie.
        I guess I’m just reinforcing a part of Carver’s point that even if you slap some Jesus on it, not everything is hunky-dory. Except I don’t care about stuff like Gothicky aesthetics or simple emphasis cussing that do no real harm.

        • I don’t know that the Passion was meant to titilate the audience. It kind of came across as trying to show the depth of Jesus’ suffering. A lot of people found it shocking, upsetting or disturbing, from what I heard. Of course, it’s hard to know the actual intent of writers and filmmakers sometimes.

          Though I agree that throwing a bit of Jesus into a story doesn’t automatically make it good.

  6. Jess Hanna says:

    Obviously, you are not advocating that the terrible things that happen in stories and real life be glossed over with a paintbrush full of whitewash. I think the point you are making is not to revel in the darkness while exploring darker themes, but seek to portray redemption through suffering.

    The world is a dark and terrible place decimated by sin. To pretend otherwise is to reduce its impact on real lives and make it easy to play the church game of giving lip service to empathy while diminishing the pain of others.

    The Passion of the Christ was necessary to wake the church up to the reality of suffering Jesus endured to save us from the stain of sin. The filmmakers goal was to accurately portray the brutal death He suffered for us. Sanitization of the reality of death, pain, suffering, and the daily horrors experienced throughout the world will accomplish nothing except clouding our perception of the persisitence of evil and feed our collective apathy.

    The verses you quoted and described are true, but they also have context. The world at that time was just as brutal and a multitude of people suffered unjustly. To focus on the goodness of God is not to ignore evil, but to defeat it with good.

    In my own writing, I describe darkness and evil without looking away. My goal is to show redemption, not revel in the horror, but to some extent creative types must immerse themselves in a subject in order to deliver an authentic impact.

    And, if you feel convicted based on your experince, by all means follow that conviction. God bless you and be well.

  7. Awesome post, Mark!


  8. Jason Brown says:

    Interesting to read this as I was getting bored watching the newest MK11 videos on YouTube. Plus gave up on Game of Thrones early in season 5 (also found it boring). My assessment was that the gore violence and action were waning as I was maturing. Reading this, perhaps it’s deeper than that.

What do you think?