What’s more violent – a zombie apocalypse or a faith-based film produced by a Southern Baptist church?
The zombies don’t even come close to being as scary as the Baptists if you believe the Motion Picture Association of America.
The MPAA slapped an R rating on “My Son,” a small-budget film made by the congregation of Retta Baptist Church in Burleson, Tex.
“They told us it was because of violence and drug use portrayed in the film,” Pastor Chuck Kitchens told Fox News. “I was very shocked. It makes me sick at my stomach.”
The pastor said the church’s film does not include foul language, sex scenes or nudity. He did confirm there was violence surrounding a hostage standoff in the church as well as some drug usage.
But Kitchens said the violence was neither gory nor gratuitous. By comparison he pointed out the MPAA gave “World War Z” and “BULLY” PG-13 ratings. And “Jobs,” which included scenes featuring LSD and marijuana usage got a PG-13 rating.
“When you look at the facts and see there are other movies that have been rated PG-13 that have more violence and more drug scenes, you have to say there’s inconsistency there,” he said.
Kitchens told Fox News he believes the R-rating has more to do with the movie’s faith-based message than the violence.
“A group of people out there don’t necessarily like strong evangelical Christianity,” he said. “People don’t like to hear that it’s this one way (to heaven) and nothing else. But if you are a Christian, that’s the message. That’s what Jesus said. That’s what you have to proclaim. People call us bigoted and then they go on the attack.”
An MPAA spokesperson told Fox News that typically they don’t comment on why a film received a specific rating. The MPAA said the same rules apply to all films.
“The rating board is comprised of parents who work to give films the rating they believe a majority of American parents would give,” spokesperson Kate Bedingfield told Fox News in a written statement. “Each rating is accompanied by a descriptor that offers parents more detail about why a film received a rating – in the case of “My Son,” the R rating is for some violence and drug use. The rating is simply intended to inform parents of a film’s content so that they can make their own viewing decisions on behalf of their kids; it is never an indication of the quality of a film.”
Kitchens said the R-rating is a huge problem because many of his fellow pastors won’t encourage their church members to see an R-rated film.
“We were relying on pastors to advertise to their congregations and sell tickets,” he said. “That’s our marketing strategy. We don’t have Hollywood bucks for commercials.”
Kitchens said they’ve tried reaching out to the MPAA to find out what exactly needed to be removed from the film to achieve a PG-13 rating. But so far, they haven’t gotten any concrete answers.
“We want a level playing field,” he said. “You’ve got other religious groups and other belief systems that are being portrayed in films all the time without the same kind of criticism and scrutiny.”
Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council, told Fox News he’s not surprised the church has had trouble getting specific answers from the MPAA.
“This is the type of situation that evolves when you have a completely un-open, non-transparent rating system,” he said. “The issue with media ratings generally, is that nobody really knows what these ratings mean. At what point does content move from one rating to another?”
The $25,000 film debuts at a Burleson movie theatre on Sept. 20th and the pastor said they still plan to move ahead in spite of the rating.