Playing Hardball with Sin

  It's not often that film graphically illustrates the utter impossibility and bankruptcy of a secular, self-centered worldview. It may not be what the makers of the new film HARDBALL intended, but that's what they've achieved. HARDBALL is about a compulsive Chicago gambler named Conor O'Neill, played by Keanu Reeves. O'Neill has placed one too many bets he can't pay, and the local bookies are after him with baseball bats. O'Neill turns to a childhood friend -- now an investment banker -- and begs him to bail him out. Instead, his friend offers him a deal: If O'Neill will coach an inner-city baseball team, he'll pay him $500 a week. O'Neill reluctantly agrees. He begins coaching a half-dozen kids who live in the infamous Cabrini- Green housing project. At first, O'Neill spends most of his time breaking up fights and trying to keep enough kids on the team to prevent them from being expelled from the league. But slowly, his efforts pay off -- and the team begins winning games. Sadly, what could be an inspiring film ends up with tragedy; neither the coach nor the kids can overcome the consequences of bad decisions made many years in the past -- but this is what gives Christians a window for worldview witnessing. In all too many movies, you see, the filmmaker subtly promotes a worldview contrary to Christianity -- not only promotes it, but portrays it as workable. For instance, fornication is often depicted as a normal part of life. But how often does the filmmaker show the long-term cost of violating God's command to save sex for marriage? Hardly ever. Celluloid characters routinely violate God's laws with impunity -- giving the impression that moviegoers can do the same. But not in HARDBALL. In this film, the consequences of sin form a backdrop to every scene. We see what happens when people feed dangerous desires like gambling: These desires become compulsions that rule their lives. We see what happens when couples engage in sex outside of marriage: Their children live in poverty, danger, and despair. We see what happens when too many kids grow up without fathers: They form gangs that prey on the innocent. Christians often view popular culture as the enemy -- and with good reason: Much of it promotes and celebrates a licentious lifestyle. But the answer is not to hide films and music from our kids. Instead, we need to use them to help our kids think critically about the world. Parents can use films like HARDBALL, if you choose to see it, as teaching aids to the truth -- to remind our kids that God's commands are for our good, and that the costs of violating them are both real and ugly. HARDBALL is rated PG-13 for a good deal of foul language and some violence. I don't recommend it. But if your teens or their friends -- or your neighbors -- decide to view HARDBALL, use it as a chance to teach some worldview lessons. Once your kids understand that someone's worldview makes its way into every film, they'll learn to look for it themselves. For better or for worse, movies are part of our culture. But if we have the proper tools, we can use them to be discerning to see the truth of a biblical worldview when it's portrayed, rarely though that is, and the false ideas generally promoted in secular culture.


Chuck Colson


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