Brianna, age 5. Favorite film: Barbie Swan Lake.
Brianna, age 10: Favorite film: Harry Potter
Brianna, age 15: Favorite film: Paranormal Activity
Sound like a stretch? Do you know what the No. 1 film at the box office was last weekend, opening at $54 million, leaving all other films in its wake? It was Paranormal Activity 3, the story of two young girls who befriend an invisible entity living in their house.
Why is it that young people are fascinated with these types of films?
Scary stories have always intrigued people. When I was a kid, going camping with my family, my dad would tell these frightening stories around the campfire about a man with a hook or a creature that made sounds like “thump” and “slush.” My brother and I loved these stories and would always yell, “Another! Another! Tell another!”
My own daughter Alyssa loves scary movies. I’m a big movie fan, so I’ve introduced her to classic Alfred Hitchcock movies like The Birds and Psycho. One of our favorite films to date is M. Night Shyamalan’s incredibly frightening Signs.
But while I’m watching tame films like this, kids across the country are renting films like the brutally violent Saw movies or simply watching the sexually explicit True Blood on HBO week after week. Shows like the latter two I just named have cashed in by showing gratuitous violence, sex and nudity. Those elements have always been big sellers.
So what is the draw of the Paranormal Activity films?
People love to be frightened, and what is more frightening than Satan and his demons? I don’t mean to sound like the church lady, but let’s be honest. Nothing is more real and horrifying.
So what should parents say when their kids ask if they can see Paranormal Activity 3?
I know about 90 percent of parents at my church would say, “No.” (I would, too.)
I just want to challenge you to think about “Why?” (After all, you might get asked that very question.) What reason would you give?
“It has Satan . . . or demons in it!”
Yeah . . .but Passion of the Christ had Satan in it.
“I don’t want you watching any films about ghosts or witchcraft!”
What about Harry Potter? What about Lord of the Rings? Do you let your kids watch those?
I’ll be the first to argue the miles of difference between Lord of the Rings and Paranormal Activity 3 . . . but are you ready for that conversation with your kids?
When I’ve had similar conversations with my kids, we looked at what the Bible as a whole had to say about witchcraft, divination and the devil himself. The Scriptures are pretty clear that we should steer clear of witchcraft and divination (Deuteuronomy 18:10, 2 Kings 9:22, 2 Chronicles 33:6, Micah 5:12, and Galatians 5:20), and the devil is obviously a roaring lion (I Peter 5:8) not to be messed with.
Jesus himself constantly healed the demon possessed, freeing people from this terrible oppression. So it’s clear that we shouldn’t take part in these kind of activities (witchcraft, etc.). Most our kids wouldn’t argue that. But does that mean that we shouldn’t even read stories about it? Watch movies about it? What about the Bible . . . it tells stories about the subject in great detail. But is that for entertainment or knowledge?
C.S. Lewis, in his classic book, The Screwtape Letters, writes the following about the devil and his demons:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe and feel an unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors in them and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
Lewis’ point is wise and discerning. As parents, let’s not ignore the subject. Conversations about the topic are necessary even. But at the same time . . . let’s not be overly intrigued with it. Satan loves either extreme.
What about you? Which extreme do you gravitate toward?