Can a Christian Actor Participate in a Nude Love Scene?

Alan Ritchson

Could a committed Christian be a porn star? The answer is obviously not. The Word of God is entirely clear on this, as Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:1–3; many other verses could be cited).

It is forbidden for believers to engage in sexual acts outside of marriage (even if you’re “acting”) or for believers to intentionally make themselves objects of lustful desire (which is the very essence of porn). As Jesus, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7)

But what about something less extreme than porn? What about an actor participating in a love scene with partial nudity?

This is not just an abstract question. Instead, it was triggered by a video by actor Alan Ritchson, the hulking strong man who plays Jack Reacher in a new online TV series. (It’s the kind of “get the bad guy” series I could enjoy watching but only with a filter that blocked out all the profanity along with scenes featuring nudity or sex.)

Ritchson is known as an unashamed Christian, because of which he has received flak for playing Reacher, a character who can be morally ambiguous.

In response, Ritchson said, “I love playing Reacher. I love telling this story. I love playing a character who creates a kind of moral ambiguity that we should struggle against as we consider whether or not what he’s doing is good all the time or morally right. I think that kind of thing is fun and fascinating, and I think escaping to that world as an audience, hopefully it’s as enjoyable for you as it is for me to help bring it to life.”

He added, “But it’s funny to me how a lot of people criticize me, supposed Christians especially criticize me for playing Reacher, as if the only TV that should exist is seeing people silently folding their hands in the pew of a church. I mean, what kind of stories are we supposed to tell?”

I actually agree with him here. Christians should not be limited to acting in Christian roles alone. Obviously.

The real question to ask is more basic: Are there any clear lines that a Christian actor should not cross? (I won’t interact here with Ritchson’s scriptural argument, citing Genesis 1:1-2, but kudos to him for quoting a Hebrew phrase correctly!)

To be clear, I am not here to be Ritchson’s judge or jury. Not for a second. He gives account to his Lord, not to me. Plus, I’m not his pastor.

Instead, I want to ask some questions for our own reflection. What if this was you or me? Or what if this was your spouse? How would you feel before God? Would portraying the lead role in the Reacher series cause you as a Christian to compromise?

Ritchson’s passionate and articulate video garnered more than 300,000 views in just four days, and scanning some of the comments, plenty of Christians were cheering him on. They loved what he was doing and commended him for his open Christian faith.

Others were not so sure, asking him he could justify doing a love scene in the shower with a topless woman, himself topless as well.

I understand that actors act. But as one commenter on my X account noted, “I believe it was John Piper who helped with this by saying when a man in a film is shot by a gun, the director yells cut and the ‘dead’ man gets up having played the charade of being shot. When a person shows their nude body in a film, that is not a charade, but the real thing.”

So, even though the couple is acting, there are the physical images that everyone sees – which are real, not pretend – and there is physical contact of an intimate nature between people who are not married. (If they were married, should this be put on display for the world to see?)

Husbands, how would you feel if your wife was the actress in the scene? If she were the one topless, hugging and kissing another man for millions to see? (Or even for no one to see.)

Wives, how would you feel if your husband was the one hugging and kissing the topless woman?

Even if there was zero passion involved. Even if the presence of cameras and lights made the whole scene feel quite sterile in real life. The fact is that people are watching the scene – that’s why it was filmed. And without a doubt, it would be sexually provocative to many watching it – and quite intentionally at that.

On the other hand, if partial nudity is OK, why not complete nudity? And rather than simulated sex, why not real sex?

Again, I’m not here to judge Alan Ritchson. And I’m not here to judge those who have struggled with porn or to condemn those who are involved with porn. Many of them are enslaved as well. And all of us, outside of God’s grace and the blood of Jesus, are worthy of damnation. Even on our best days, we still fall short.

At the same time, God calls us to holiness and purity – not out of legalism or rule-keeping but out of love and because we belong to Him.

That’s why many other Christian actors have refused to do sex scenes or nude scenes. For them, it meant a compromise of their faith.

That’s why it was reported in 2019 that, “Actor Neal McDonough says he was blacklisted in Hollywood for several years because he refused to perform sex scenes.”

That’s how he ended up getting cast as a villain. He could play those roles as an actor. The other roles required something inappropriate for him. And McDonough is just one of many.

Again, this is not to lift McDonough up or put Ritchson down. And to say it once more, I am not Ritchson’s judge. (Alan, if you happen to see this, join me on my radio show where we can have a friendly discussion!)

But in light of the controversy that is swirling around the subject today because of Ritchson’s passionate defense, it is good and healthy to ask these questions.

I leave you with Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’

“Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’ And, ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’

“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 6:16–7:1)

Dr. Michael Brown

Photo: Los Angeles Times

To read more articles by Dr. Michael Brown click here.

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Dr. Michael Brown
Dr. Michael Brown ( is the host of the nationally syndicated The Line of Fire  radio show. He is the author of over 40 books, including Can You be Gay and Christian; Our Hands are Stained with Blood; and Seizing the Moment: How to Fuel the Fires of Revival. Dr. Brown is dedicated to equipping you with hope, engaging your faith, and empowering you to become a voice for Moral Sanity and Spiritual Clarity. You can connect with him on FacebookX, or YouTube.