RENEWING THE BATTLE (2)
Drama, Television, and Movies
Prof. Barry Gritters
Prof. Barry. Gritters is professor in the Protestant Reformed Seminary, Grandville, Michigan
"I will set no evil thing before mine
eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me."
"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Ephesians 5:11
Dateline: Central Command, Hell,
In the reddish glow of the command center, surrounded by his dark angels, Satan turns over in his mind his hatred for the Woman and Her Seed. Premeditating his destruction of the Seed, he asks his minions during their council of war: "What more effective weapon to be used against the remnant of Her Seed? What to swallow them up like nothing before, who keep the commandments of God? What, to convince the majority of the Lamb's followers to speak of as "not wrong in itself" and therefore to have, and then abuse? What more powerful and alluring than ever employed before?"
"Who will show me what poison can be administered in relative secrecy? A clandestine effort, this one, slowly to numb their senses, poison their minds, dull their Christian, achh!, nerves. Who will show me this? To him will I give up to the half of my kingdom."
And of all the vile but brilliant concepts brought forth in answer to the appeal of the Master Deceiver, none is accepted with more enthusiasm, none received with more shouts of triumphant joy than the suggestion: "Television, movies, drama, in each home."
I am convinced that at the judgment day, we will find out that there was such a council of war. I am convinced too that we will find that there was never a tool wielded by the devil with such destructive force in the church as the television and video.
There is evidence the devil's plan has succeeded. In my hearing recently, someone lamented, "There are two battles I think we are losing: mothers working, and movies." I had no opportunity at the moment to encourage him not to lose hope and give up the battle. But I can imagine why he feels so. Some parents let their children rent movies for a Friday evening with their friends the same movies that were shown at the movie theater, months before. Others let their children watch the television, unsupervised. Freely, children speak of the latest episode of "Married, With Children." And some naively think it has to do with family values. Alas, if only they knew.
Has the devil succeeded in your home? Will he?
IT'S THE CONTENT. More than ever before, our objection to television, movies, and videos, is their content. More than ever before, the content of television is poisonous. Al though a major objection we will lodge against television is against drama itself as an art-form, we begin by showing the corruption of it, as well as the objections to it regarding its spiritual killing influences. And what powerful influence it has.
At a broadcasters' convention recently, Ted Turner, television mogul, reportedly told his audience, "Your delegates at the United Nations are not as important as the people in this room (meaning the assembled broad casters).... We are the ones that determine what the people's attitudes are. It's in our hands." No greater influence has been wielded upon the billions of the world by so few people than the influence wielded by the television and movie industry.
What is that influence?
In the great majority of videos, as well as television's movies, comedies, soap operas, or other series, God's commandments are thrown down and openly mocked. And no wonder. Much of the television industry believes as the television mogul said, "Christianity is a religion for losers. I don't want anybody dying for me." Let's consider the content of movies for a few minutes to make this plain.
The first table of the law is broken when God's name is blasphemed with regularity. I may not reference this here. His worship is mocked, as are His people. One movie, "Alien 3," portrayed a penal colony in space, peopled by drooling, vicious rapists and murderers who say, "We're all Christians." Idolatry of the basest form is flagrant. Actor Shirley Mac Claine is not alone when she screams, "I am God." God's people may not entertain themselves with this.
The second table is more plainly violated, proving the hatred of God in the hearts of the producers.
Murders are handed to us on silver platters for our entertainment. Gross, graphic, violent murders are part of many movies. The Christian critics are quick to expose this. But what doesn't get the sting of their criticism are the other forms of murder: dishonor and hatred of the neighbor, desire for revenge, envy, and anger. (The young people have memorized this from Lord's Day 40 in their Heidelberg Catechism classes.)
In a book whose title doesn't indicate very well its worth, Phil Phillips documents well the murderous rampage on which television has gone in the past decades, especially in the cartoons. 
Another item not often mentioned by fundamentalist Christians is the plain violation of the fifth commandment dishonor of authority. Almost all the situation comedies have the children and adults showing no real "honor, love and fidelity to father and mother and all in authority...." In a recent TV Guide that we purchased for this research, one reviewer made this plain when he said about the Simpsons, "Even though you have to tell your kids you'd kill them if they said those things, there's still real love portrayed." But he's wrong. Love is shown by honor. God's people do not want to be entertained by this. Poisoned.
Because the fifth commandment is the basis for home and family life, the Christian home and family are also squarely under attackin every way.
If violence and rebellion are major ingredients in the devil's mixture, sex is the major ingredient he adds to the poison. Time and space fail me to give examples of this, not only of the gross sins that we "detest with all our hearts," but also the activities and words that "can entice men thereto," which we also detest (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 41).
A recent newspaper article was entitled, "Movies, TV, flood teens with sex," an apt metaphor, read in the light of Revelation 12:15. A letter from the American Family Association sent to me last week had such open references to the explicit sexual content of prime-time programs that I feared my children might see it. One popular prime-time program had two men and a woman discussing their joys in masturbation. Others have homosexual themes, or refer to sexual experimentation with animals on prime time. The soap-operas would be bankrupt if sex were cut out. The talk shows of morning and afternoons pump up their ratings regularly with sex. "Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats." And in America the body is for fornication. We are back in Corinth.
Dramatizing sex is not a 20th century innovation. "By the third century A.D., ... the Roman stage had become so thoroughly corrupt (sexual intercourse was a regular part of the program)...." Nor will it ever change, in spite of the vain hopes of those who would "redeem television." Already 40 years ago television was cause for great concern. In a pamphlet entitled, "The Movie," the Rev. Richard Veldman wrote, "What are the themes they portray? Horror, crime, sex, carnal love, sin of every kind! What meets the eye? Passionate embraces...."
"I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.
An entire article could be written about the violation of the ninth commandment. Deliberately is the lie told about what life is like. Purportedly the television programs and movies portray real life. Some even try to convey real events. But none succeeds in portraying life accurately, and most twist it beyond recognition. Even the world recognizes this, warning its own against the lies propagated in subtle ways. The glamour of war. The happiness of riches. The pleasure in gain. The normalcy of the "unnatural" homosexual relationship (see Romans 1:26,27). The goodness of fornication. The benefit of revolution. The humor of drunkenness. The goodness of hedonism. In the most subtle ways, the devil serves up the lie as the truth.
More difficult to detect in the toxin is the large dose of violation of the eighth commandment. I mean by this not that we are taught to steal in the gross, open sense (but is that missing?). I mean rather the more subtle sin of stealing, which the tenth commandment shows belongs to the eighth. It is that "kleptomania of the heart" that the Reformed creed describes as "all covetousness, all abuse and waste of his gifts," and the sin which the Scripture warns against in l Timothy 6, belonging to those who "will (to) be rich," "supposing that gain is godliness" (vv. 5,9).
In no place is this plainer than in the commercial breaks of almost all programming. Advertisements promote, indeed, live off, the violation of the eighth commandment.
ADVERTISEMENTS. Some would defend their regular use of the television by saying. "We watch only sports, game shows, innocent programs like the police and emergency dramatizations ...." Aside from the glorification of violence and danger on the police shows, as well as the materialism that lies behind the game shows, what of the advertisements sandwiched in between the programming?
Even Jane Pauley (of television fame and "Dateline" infamy) expresses horror that the most violent (like graphic murder scenes) and sexually explicit (like a vicious rape) clips of movies which will be shown later in the evening are shown in the ads between the early evening news and game shows. Deborah Norville says of her son, "I don't want him watching commercials."
But sex says it all. Nude bathers sell soap. Underwear clad men sell briefs. Bikini clad women sell vacations and beer. Sex will sell every thing from cars to cameras, toothpaste to tobacco. (And what irony: the government has determined tobacco to be too harmful to its citizens to allow promotion of it on television anymore.)
Every Christian who loves holiness ought to be horrified at what jumps out at him from the screen to sell every imaginable product. He will ask himself, "Before the face of God, may I entertain myself with these 'legitimate' programs and watch, at the same time, the materialism and sex in the breaks?"
We are sorely tempted to say, "If you are serious about a holy life, you will not own a television. If you love God, you will get rid of your set." Even though we will not say that because of its insufferable legalism, there is room in every Christian heart for that sympathy, because every Christian sees the corruption in almost every use of the medium. How difficult to find anything profitable. "Why look?" is the question many would ask. It's not unlike a father rooting about in a toxic waste dump to find food for his family, knowing that there is something good there, when his cupboards at home are full. Why?
Before God, how would you answer?
"Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
1 Quoted in "Television or Dominion/' printed sermon of Rev. Steven Schlissel, Still Waters Revival Books, no date.
2 Saturday Morning Mind Control (Oliver Nelson, 1991) is a book well worth reading, not merely for its expose of the anti-Christian content of Saturday morning television, but also for its analysis of the ruinous effects of most television, "Sesame Street" included, on the minds and souls of children. This I will deal with, in part, in the next article.
3 February 27-March 5, 1993, page 16.
4 Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained: A Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview, Eerdmans, 1985, page 94.
5 TV Guide, Feb 27-Mar 5, 1993, page 25.
May 1, 1993/Standard Bearer
Last modified: 28-apr-2004