Boundaries – When Lines Become Walls (part 2)

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Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. James 4:17

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:8

In Part 1, I talked about boundaries as simply existing. You have yours, I have mine. This time I would like to dive into some murky water: proscriptions.

Def. Proscription – a decree that prohibits something

Is it possible that things we enjoy are prohibited? Well, yes. If a person enjoys playing naughty games with children (an oft-used topic in horror), that enjoyment is prohibited in all 50 states, and most countries in the world. If a person enjoys watching pornography, that enjoyment is prohibited in most social situations (I have a story about a creepy guy in a cafe, which I won’t be sharing). And if that person is a woman who likes to send email forwards with long personality questions…it ought to be prohibited. 😉

The Apostle Paul (the guy I quoted above) said that if a person did not do the good they ought to have done, that person has sinned. Does this apply to entertainment? If I knew there was something I ought not to have seen, has my enjoyment of it caused me to sin? I believe so. What about books? If a grandmother-type reads an adult novel (I say grandmother-type only because I don’t know any other type who reads them), one that she hides beneath her rocker, has she sinned by reading it? If she hid it for fear of discovery, I think so.

Actually, I think this is a good test. Let’s say I am watching a horror movie and my mother walks into the room. If I am embarrassed by her presence (hastily turning it off), it is a clue I am not “doing the good I ought.”

But there is a possible extreme. At least, I will name it an extreme. Others will quote the Apostle Paul and say that we must only think about good things. Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, etc. Does this discount horror? To some, it does.

Obviously, this is not my opinion, and I shall explain why.

Today is Good Friday. It marks the occasion of an innocent man brutally beaten, and then crucified. The results of this event are good (Easter Resurrection), but not the act itself, and I would argue that there are proper times to think of the act itself.

Another example.

I am working on a fantasy book about child soldiers. Part of my research involves reading accounts of children brutally murdering, raping, and torturing other children. Not good, but necessary for me to understand child soldiers.

I think the horror genre is about looking at what George MacDonald called man’s shadow side. It is the capacity all of us have for evil, and the reminder of our impending death.

Evil and death are the twin pillars of horror. If humanity was not evil, and if humanity did not die, there would be no fuel for horror. But humanity is evil, or capable of it, and humanity does die. Horror will always have fuel.

I watch (and read) horror because I recognize my shadow side. I recognize that evil exists in the world; I realize my mortality, and the fear this sometimes creates in me; and I realize that horror is one way of dealing with the presence of evil and the immanence of death.

But I still have boundaries. There are movies, books, and TV shows I won’t watch.

The trick is to let boundaries be lines and not walls. You have your lines; I have mine. We will both give an account of our lives before the Author of Life, and His proscriptions are weighty. But so is our conscience. If I listen to my heart, will I not be judged by my conscience? If I truly listen? Walls are when you tell me your boundaries, and I tell you mine, and because they are different, we separate; a wall of judgment stands between us.

Grace I ask of you, friends, to both live freely, and to be truly free, even as I seek these things myself.

The Horror Experiment is my continuous quest to grapple with shadows. But never in exchange for the light.

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