By: John Tuttle
Human beings remain utterly unique among the living entities of God’s created hierarchy. We have bodies like the members of the animal kingdom as well as immortal spirits, the same substance of the angelic beings, which instill life in us. The human soul exists as the spiritual dimension of who we are.
In a positive atmosphere, developing youth get inspired and spurred on to greater achievements by the ideal that they are individually, intrinsically special. Loving caregivers pass this notion onto the next generation. But why is every human person unique? What makes you special?
One of the key elements in the shaping of one’s soul is simply relationships. A soul’s uniqueness lies in its relationships with other people, our brothers and sisters in Christ. The soul, though spiritual and unseen, acts as a crucial part of who we are. The inner movings of the soul affect our entire well-being. Likewise, the actions of the body have an impact on the soul. In this wonderful and intimate association between the body and the soul, the senses of the body have a big role to play.
Senses—Windows into the Soul
The physical senses relay information to us about our surroundings, especially about the people we interact with. We learn about other people through the senses. We see them and how they act. If we’re good friends, we’ll listen to what they have to say. This impacts the shaping of a soul. And the condition of our soul affects how we, in turn, react to those around us.
When a great deal of sin taints the soul, the relationships the soul may have are often damaged. In other words, the standing of one’s soul is going to have an effect on the friendships, bonds, and meetings a person has with others.
Since we gain knowledge via the physical senses, the senses have to filter through a lot of information. Today, much of the information generated by media has become sensualized or sexualized. Again, the senses feed through to the soul. When the senses intake garbage, the soul is on the receiving end of the deal. When you take in impurity, the soul is the eventual dumping ground.
Temple of the Holy Spirit
The soul, intended on a temple and home to God, does not deserve to be a junkyard. Digital imagery, graphics, and movies have been employed to provide porn and suggestive visuals, invading the mind and soul of the viewer. This is certainly one of the most dangerous capabilities of the media—especially movies . But movies, in their frequently damaging portrayals, offer numerous threats to viewers’ mentalities and interpersonal relationships.
Movies are not merely a brilliant product of man’s ingenuity and a splendid medium for artistic expression, but they have the potential to be moving—to touch us emotionally, speaking to us on a deeply personal level. More than this, when built up by relatable characters and a good soundtrack, films have the power of making their way into the fondness of our hearts. Movies and video content are simply more memorable than many other forms of media. They become ingrained upon the minds of their fans. As you can imagine, movies have a significant capacity for influencing people on a cultural level as well as a more subtle and psychological one.
Sexual License in Movies
One of the most commonly addressed dilemmas that the moviegoer faces is indecent exposure, which modern society softens and dubs as “entertainment” or some raunchy excuse of “fine art.” Pornography on the screen deserves neither title. While the problem has been discussed at length in numerous Christian circles, it remains an element of so much of today’s so-called entertainment industry. Thus, it merits mentioning yet again.
Interestingly, it is this very issue – that of sexual indecency – that plagued the art of cinema in its earliest and humblest of beginnings. The reason vivid sexual representation is so dangerous to the soul is that it subjects the eyes to a frame of potential temptation, the mind to a very specific memory. There is no imagination in many of the clips I’m alluding to. What’s there is there. The eyes, the windows to the soul, have just gotten a graphic image slapped against their transparent panes.
As mentioned earlier, when the soul is damaged, its relationships with other souls are also damaged. A saddening yet common real-world example of this is the effect of porn on the male mindset. When a porn addict experiences sexual attraction toward a woman, he begins to see her as a mere icon, an object, a thing of momentary pleasure. This type of content wreaks so much unhappiness and pain in society.
Catholic Impact on Movie Ratings
Catholics who were aware of what early cinematographers were doing realized something had to change. The Catholic Church was key in helping to purge film-making of its obsessive pornography and other suggestive imagery. During 1930s, less than two decades after cinematic theaters’ inception, a portion of the American Catholic population constructed and supported the National Legion of Decency. This group called for the censorship of Hollywood productions. They desired a moral standard for movies. Inevitably, it was these foundational steps taken by American Catholics that paved the way to the MPAA rating system of modern day!
Yet, even with the MPAA system in place, risqué content and outright nudity are common inclusions in today’s cinematic works, and the youth are more than welcome to come experience it. It’s something, like pornography in all its forms, that has to be battled by the entire faithful Christian community.
Watch but do not become the Characters
However, immodest sexuality is only one element which often gets drug into films. Many movie characters, good and bad alike, are portrayed as having rather immoral lifestyles. It’s this inclusion that often makes it possible to bring in some context of a sensual nature. Beyond that, immoral characters produce a toxic atmosphere around themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes these questionable characters appeal to the audience at large.
The personalities and attitudes of fictional characters can begin to affect the mannerisms and mentalities of moviegoers. Just as one’s sight is deeply impacted by sensual depictions, so are many of the senses affected by the on-screen characters and their behavior.
Movies are unique in that they can show a person for who he or she is. It stands as the only art form which captures a genuine living, breathing, talking person. A movie is an expression which falls just short of conversation – conversation with the viewer. But because of its realistic medium, film provides characters that can interact with us, at least in part, like real people.
Be Careful in Your Moviegoing
Similar to how those around us shape who we become, the characters in films and on TV can begin to leave their mark on our own mode of interacting with others. A fictional character can actually have an effect on how we enter into relationships— and how we treat them.
Inevitably, the cinematic entertainment industry provides a general good, but a lot of its fruits must undergo our scrutiny and selection. Not every film deserves to be watched. Not every apple deserves to be eaten. The Catholic wishing to keep a conscious clear and a heart and mind in purity is called to be more judgmental in what he or she views.
John Tuttle is a Catholic man who loves discovering and preserving truth and beauty. His work has been featured by Those Catholic Men, Love Thy Nerd, Movie Babble, Publishous, Tea with Tolkien, Catholic Journal: Reflections on Faith & Culture, and elsewhere. He is the founder of the web publication Of Intellect and Interest. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.