Sex, violence warnings come to Christian movies
Tim Townsend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 29, 2010

Sex, violence warnings come to Christian movies

Sex, violence warnings come to Christian movies
Tim Townsend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
June 29, 2010

ST. LOUIS (RNS) — To get to

the movie section at Lifeway Christian Store in Bridgeton, Mo., customers pass

by shelves of books, CDs and greeting cards. The rack of Christian DVDs isn’t

huge, but it’s twice as big as it was a year ago and “growing all the time,”

said manager Francine Evans.

Some of the Christian titles

these days, she said, tackle “touchy subjects” such as drugs, domestic violence

or abortion.

“These are movies that deal

with issues that real people deal with,” Evans said. “Sometimes that’s what’s

necessary to reach people for God.

But the seals are needed.

They’re a good idea.”

The seals Evans anticipates

are part of a new system developed by the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Dove

Foundation to gauge the Christian values in films that contain sex, violence

and drugs.

For 20 years, the Dove

Foundation has placed a blue “dove” seal on any DVD it considered

family-friendly, from “Star Wars” to “Toy Story 3.” A new purple “Faith-Based”

seal warns of raw images or language in otherwise Christian-themed movies, and

a new gold “Faith-Friendly” seal indicates a Christian-themed movie that’s safe

for a family audience.

The launch of the new seals

is part of the International Christian Retailers Show, which is expected to

draw some 7,000 people from some 1,7000 Christian bookstores and 500 publishers

during its four-day (June 27-30) run here.

Book and music purchases

represent a significant portion of the stores’ annual $4.6 billion market. As

music sales increasingly go digital, retailers are expanding their DVD

offerings to recapture those sales, said Curtis Riskey, executive director of

the CBA (the former Christian Booksellers Association).

In 2009, Christian retail

sales of music declined by 1 percent from 2008, but Christian retail sales of

videos increased by 26 percent, according to the Christian Music Trade

Association and Nielsen Christian SoundScan.

“A consumer looks to

Christian retail to find family-friendly entertainment,” Riskey said. “The

ratings system helps identify for the Christian consumer the kinds of things

they can expect in a movie.”

To caution parents that some

Christian films can also contain un-Christian behavior or situations, the Dove

Foundation’s new “Faith-Based” seal will carry letters indicating the offending

content: “V” for violence, “D” for drugs and alcohol, “S” for sex, etc.

Many movies don’t make Dove’s

original “Family-Approved” cut at all. The group’s review of the recent comedy “MacGruber,”


“Unfortunately, despite some

good acting and fighting sequences, the violence level, not to mention the

strong language and sexual content, clearly prevents us from awarding this film

our Dove ‘Family-Approved’ Seal.”

“It’s the retailers that

really want there to be a rating system to help them serve their customers,”

said Bobby Downes, a Christian producer, whose latest movie, “Like Dandelion

Dust,” with Mira Sorvino, will be in theaters this fall.

“If a pastor walks into a

Christian bookstore and wants a movie he can show to his entire church, the

current rating system doesn’t help him make that determination.”

The Dove Foundation’s new

gold “Faith-Friendly” seal will alert consumers that a movie is not only

family-friendly, but that it contains a Christian message. DVDs of movies such

as “The Blind Side” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn

Treader” will receive the foundation’s gold seal on their packaging.

While the foundation’s

purple “Faith-Based” seal will register as a caution for parents, those in the

film industry say they’re not worried it will have a chilling effect on

Christian writers and directors concerned about DVD sales.

Dave Austin, vice president

of sales and marketing for the Bridgestone Group, which distributes Christian

films, said the “Faith-Based” seal is actually “a positive step for filmmakers.”

“As a distributor, if we

look at a film that’s not approved by Dove at all, we might ask for it to be

edited slightly to get that Dove approval,” he said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Townsend

writes for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in St. Louis, Mo.)