Moral Compass Points

A Seattle family was struggling to make sense out of tragic accident that had left their son in a coma. They happened to rent the film Awakenings, based on the true account of a doctor's efforts to awaken catatonic patients. Inspired by what they saw in the film, the family redoubled their efforts to bring their son back to consciousness. To their joy, a few weeks later the boy recovered. Good films, like any other form of great art, can bring meaning out of the darker moments of our lives and should be an important part of a Christian's life. But how do we locate the good films out of the barrage of junk entertainment Hollywood puts out?


To meet that need, William Kilpatrick and Gregory and Suzanne Wolfe have just published The Family New Media Guide. It's designed to help Christian families identify good-quality entertainment: films, audiotapes, online services, and computer games. Even computer games, you ask? Yes. Consider the CD-ROM game Myst, which was designed by two brothers who are committed Christians. Kilpatrick and the Wolfes write: "We know of children who have become entranced by the hauntingly beautiful world of Myst, in much the same way that they become absorbed in J. R. R. Tolkien's stories of Middle Earth." Myst depicts a world "that has been shattered by violence but which can still be healed through determination and courage." The authors say they wrote their new book in part because, like the inhabitants of Myst, "we live in a time of confusion." In our case, that confusion comes through the disappearance of moral reference points. Films and computer games can be a form of moral education. One of the chief means of moral education has always been story-telling. "Stories work where abstract principles do not because stories take advantage of our natural need to make a narrative of our own lives," Kilpatrick and the Wolfes write. "It's one of the ways we have of making sense of sacrifices we make and suffering we endure." While written stories give us a word picture, filmed stories and CD-ROMS give us moving visual pictures. "We shouldn't underestimate how important these pictures are to our moral lives," the authors say. "When a moral proposition impels us to action, it is often because it is backed up by a picture or image." Of course, parents are rightly cautious about the many violent films like The Terminator and CD-ROM games like the graphic and gory Killer Instinct. But the good titles are out there too—non-violent computer programs like Myst and morally redeeming videos like the Prisoner of Zenda. If you call BreakPoint, we'll tell you how to order a copy of The Family New Media Guide. It's a guide to videotapes, CD-ROMS, and on-line services that will help you teach your kids how to navigate their way through the morass of moral confusion… and bring meaning out of moments of darkness.


Chuck Colson


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