Maybe they were right.
My home church preached the Bible without apology. On occasion my home church preached a little more than the Bible. The result was my mom and my sister, my girlfriend and her sister, my friends’ sisters and mothers didn’t wear pants. We guys had tapered haircuts that prompted a state trooper (who wanted to talk to me one night on the shoulder of an interstate highway) to ask me if I was in the military. We didn’t dance, and card playing was out though Uno and Rook were in.
And we didn’t go to “Hollywood movies.”
In the 1970s and 80s the pastors at my home church and the traveling evangelists who visited us for a week of revival meetings and the preachers at the summer camps I attended railed against going to the theatre to watch any and all of the recent releases. The last movie my mom and dad took me to see was the Walt Disney film Escape to Witch Mountain, a G-rated flick about two kids with special powers. I was ten-years-old. My parents never took me back and restricted me from going ever again.
I missed the release of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi. I did not see Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the big screen. Raiders of the Lost Ark looked really cool, but I’d have to wait for its VHS release. I wouldn’t be calling Ghostbusters to rid my creepy dungeon basement of things that go bump in the night, and Marty McFly would have to go Back to the Future without me. And while my mom made me an E.T. costume for a party, I had no frame of reference for Elliott’s alien friend because I never saw the movie.
Hollywood movies were off-limits to my family and most of my friends because my pastors preached against it and the rules at my Christian school forbad students from attending. I never took a girl on a date to a movie, never spent a Saturday morning at a matinee, and have no frame of reference for a double feature. One of my buddies did sneak out and see Star Wars with some friends. He was suspended for two weeks from my Christian high school.
The nearly universal response from my friends to preaching against the evils of the theatre and Hollywood movies was mocking and debate. We demanded they justify to us the difference between watching a movie in a theatre and watching it at home later on a video tape or cable movie channel. Frankly, they had trouble answering some of our attacks, but they stuck to their guns. They told us Hollywood was a cesspool. They told us we might find good, even wholesome, entertainment every now and then, but the collection of filth far outweighed the singular examples we might offer. They told us the money we spent on “good” movies only supported the making of “bad” movies. We scoffed at their exaggerated and hysterical explanations of the Hollywood lifestyle. Most flatly rejected their warnings.
Fast forward to 2017. The #MeToo movement is naming names, and some of the biggest names in Hollywood find themselves in the crosshairs of angry victims. Megastars are telling stories of what they had to do to get a job on the screen or what was done to them. People you’ve never heard of are coming out against Hollywood kingpins, and the kingpins aren’t denying the charges. The wannabe stars could have said no but at the risk of forfeiting their careers.
Who is surprised by this…Bueller? Bueller?
The six main characters on the sitcom Friends had a total of 85 sexual partners over 236 episodes. Followers of Grey’s Anatomy offer a “sex chart” to keep track of who is hooking up with whom. A Seinfeldepisode shows Jerry and George, two characters in their 30s, discussing and rubbernecking at the cleavage of a 15-year-old. Sexual violence is an expected feature on Game of Thrones. The Lifetime Movie Network is in love with the “babysitter becomes the married man’s obsession” theme or the “high school hunk becomes the play toy of the frustrated housewife.”
Can we agree, Hollywood is a swamp?
To quote Darrell Harrison, “So, um, lemme get this straight. Hollywood generates billions of dollars in revenue, from films and other media, that glorify and promote sexual deviancy, yet is collectively horrified to learn of the real-life sexual deviancy of the individuals who produce such media?”
I am not advocating we kick any kids out of their Christian schools if they go see The Last Jedi over Christmas break. Further, I won’t judge you if plan to see Justice League or if you got your latest Marvel Comics rush over Thor: Ragnarok. I think this falls under your Christian liberty. I will say this to you – the people who made these films do not share the values of our Savior. Intentionally or not, their Christless, humanistic, shifting morals message comes through loud and clear. You will be impacted. The only question is to what extent and in what way. You can’t sit through thirty minutes of The Big Bang Theory or two hours of Wonder Woman and not have the muck from the swamp left on you. It is naïve to think otherwise. You will need to exercise the full range of your Christian discernment every time you walk into a theatre or every time you plop on the couch for the next episode of your favorite series. To do anything less puts your conscience and your holiness at risk.
My Christian friends, remember the instruction of the apostle, Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse (Philippians 4:8 MSG).
As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.