Pure Flix: Not the Christian Safe Space You Think It Is
With over one million Facebook followers, Pure Flix is quickly becoming the entertainment option of choice for many Christians. Advertised as the number one producer of Christian movies, Pure Flix produces, distributes, and promotes movies that are purported to contain "positive Christ-centered messages." Sadly, many of those who have availed themselves of Pure Flix's entertainment "safe space" have jumped out of the fire and into the frying pan.
The impulse to shield yourself and your family from the often contra-biblical worldview of Hollywood is commendable. Unfortunately, many Christians engage movies and TV with a laissez-faire attitude that betrays a spirit far removed from the admonition found in James 1:27 that "religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
In our society that worships social justice, many loudly approve of the part of James 1:27 that talks about visiting orphans and widows. Many of those same people are strangely silent about the rest of the verse, though — you know, the "unstained from the world" part. But whether some Christians like it or not, keeping "oneself unstained from the world" is also a requirement for religion that qualifies as "pure and undefiled before God."
Recognizing the possibility that movies and TV shows can alter the longings of your heart is a good step in keeping the world from leaving its imprint on you.
That's why I applaud those who pro-actively seek to guard their hearts and minds from being subtly polluted by the insidious worldview attacks that are woven throughout most of Hollywood's output. In fact, I wish that more of my brothers and sisters in Christ would be honest about the worldview damage being done within their families by entertainment options that they conveniently tag as unassailable under "Christian liberty." But convincing those brothers and sisters is a different article; my current concern is those who are trading their discernment in one area for a blind spot in reference to aberrant theologies in supposed Christian movies.
Many of those brothers and sisters are so eager for entertainment options that they can engage in with a clear conscience before God that they allow their discernment to drop at the mention of "family friendly." If a movie has no swearing, no sex (no nudity, of course), and a minimal amount of troubling thematic elements, they will pop some popcorn and snuggle in with their family to watch the latest family-friendly Christian movie. And they do so with very little thought as to whether or not the theology being promoted comports with the Bible.
Pure Flix first appeared on my radar after a friend recommended that I watch What If... starring Kevin Sorbo. While not previously aware of Pure Flix, I was familiar with their work. (God's Not Dead, God's Not Dead 2, and Woodlawn all have Pure Flix listed in their credits.) Disturbed by the theology of What If..., I spent some time on Pure Flix's Netflix-styled website, and left saddened by the deceit being sold under the guise of family-friendly, Christian movies.
For example, one of the main themes of What If... is that God is in a cosmic game of tug-of-war. He has a plan that will result in great fulfillment and happiness if followed—but only if He wins the game. For the filmmakers, the problem is that humans tug the opposite direction and have the ability to thwart God's sovereign will. Thankfully, according to the movie, God has a bag of tricks available to help Him win. And in the movie, God deploys those tricks on an unsuspecting Kevin Sorbo. The arm-twisting and overwhelming gamesmanship of God works, and Kevin Sorbo comes around in the end.
As I watched What If..., my mind kept being drawn to Genesis 50:20 when Joseph tells his trembling brothers that "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good."
God is always in control, and there are no "what if's." To even imply otherwise is an attack on the sovereign throne of God. To make a movie that explicitly states that God lives in a handwringing universe of "what if's" is to make a movie with a message that I do not want my children to watch. I want them to know that God's will cannot be thwarted and that their response to Him should be submission.
The theological errors of What If... caused me to wonder what other errors are sewn throughout the movies on Pure Flix's streaming service. Unfortunately, I didn't have to wade through many artistically underwhelming movies before finding some pretty serious theological miscues.
One of the common themes found in many of the movies I watched is the error often called legalism. As one of the website's featured movies, Milltown Pride offers a prime illustration.
The movie's protagonist is the star player on a baseball team. Besides his skills on the diamond, Will Wright is also an alcoholic. Throughout the baseball season, Will battles his demons but suffers a relapse. At one point in the movie, Will's love interest, Ginnie, finds out that he's been drinking. She confronts him by scolding, "I thought you were a Christian!"
In plain view throughout Milltown Pride, that sentiment removes a person's standing before God from solely being found in Jesus and places it, at least in part, in a person's performance. Regardless of their personal standards in reference to alcohol, Christians recognize that drinking alcohol doesn't make someone an unbeliever anymore than abstaining makes someone a Christian. To believe otherwise is legalism and makes man's salvation dependent on man.
For the sake of space, those are only two examples out of many. Peppered throughout Pure Flix are movies promoting a man-centered view of the Bible, soteriological errors, and the Prosperity Gospel. And I haven't even touched on the misrepresentation of God through poor aesthetics.
To be clear, my goal isn't to get people to cancel their Pure Flix accounts. My goal is to encourage fellow believers to engage "Christian" movies as critically as they do (or at least should) secular movies. In fact, maybe even more so. Allowing theological errors and even heresy unwittingly into your home via a supposed Christian safe space may be more dangerous than watching Hollywood produced movies.