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The age-old question: why some sins and not others?

Andy Rau

Why do some sins get more attention than others? Why do Christians spend a lot of time and energy talking about certain sins, while letting other sins go relatively un-discussed?

It's a question that we've discussed more than once here at ThinkChristian, yet a good answer to the issue continues to elude me. The question has popped up again, this time in Christian blog discussions about two "sinful" films: the homosexuality-themed Brokeback Mountain and the horrifically violent Hostel. GetReligion sparked the discussion with a post about differing Christian responses to the two movies:

I just find it surprising that more religious groups haven’t protested [Hostel] which will be seen, by my rough mathematical calculations, by about a gazillion more people than will see Brokeback Mountain.

Of course, maybe the larger story is that reporters don’t think to ask religious groups what their feelings are about the movie. Perhaps they don’t even realize there might be a story there because they don’t realize how broadly religious morality extends.

Amy Welborn takes the theme and runs with it, and offers another possible answer for the divergent Christian reactions to the two films:

The argument has been made that Brokeback Mountain has been objected to because it's a grenade in the culture wars (which is, according to some who have seen it, including Victor Morton and Rod Dreher, a questionable assertion, however). And films like Hostel are not? There's nothing new in gruesomeness - this is a trend that's been growing over the past 25 years or so, not only in film, but in gaming as well. Not a problem? I wonder.

Welborn goes on to suggest that the social impact and viewership of a grisly horror film like Hostel is potentially much greater than that of the relatively highbrow Brokeback Mountain. In the quote cited above, she wonders if the lack of Christian criticism of Hostel stems from the fact that it just isn't a "grenade in the culture wars," unlike Ang Lee's film.

This question--why do Christians protest some "sinful things" but not others?--is often used to suggest that Christians are being hypocritical, that they're being unfairly selective in the sins they condemn. That's a charge worth considering, but I think that simple hypocrisy isn't the answer to this one. I'm pretty sure that Christian movie critics who hated Brokeback for moral reasons probably also hated Hostel.

So why is Brokeback the center of a culture war debate, when we can all probably agree that Hostel is equally if not more morally objectionable?

Is it, as the GetReligion post suggests, that the media simply isn't bothering to ask what Christians think of Hostel, because movie violence is old news?

Is it that conservative Christians have already lost the "war" to stop movie violence, but still see some hope of victory in the "culture wars" over sexuality, and so focus their attention on the latter issue?

Is it that evangelicals are less alarmed by violent sin than by sexual sin? If so, why, and is that a problem?

Or am I overlooking a more obvious explanation?

Topics: Movies, Culture At Large, News & Politics, Social Trends