The Ancient Faith
TELEVISION, MOVIES AND VIDEOS
Jesus demands many things of those who follow him. One demand that is often repeated in the New Testament is that of purity. It is impossible to be acceptable, faithful soldiers of Christ unless we make sure that our lives are free from the defilement and contamination of sin. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Mt. 5:8). Paul wanted Timothy to set a good example “in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tun. 4:12). This requirement applies to everything we say and do; it even applies to what we think! ‘Whatsoever things are pure … think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). John tells us “every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 Jn. 3:3).
The requirement for purity is not lessened, altered or abrogated by any particular situation or environment. We are to be pure when it is relatively easy (as when in the company of fellow Christians); but we must also remain pure when our surroundings or companions make it very difficult. Paul stressed the need to be “blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation . . . ” (Phil. 2:12).
One need not be brilliant to realize that it is much easier to conform to the trends and pressures of society than it is to resist them. We live in precisely the same kind of society that Paul described as crooked and perverse. This makes it all the more difficult to five up to the standard of purity that our Lord demands, because our generation views nakedness, adultery, fornication, homosexuality and lust as not only acceptable, but even normal. Remember though, Paul said we must be pure even if corruption, immorality and ungodliness is the rule in our society rather than the exception. Being pure requires no little effort. All things must be examined if we are going to be successful in abstaining from “every form of evil” 0 Thess. 5:21-22).
Surely, the time has come for us to take a long hard look at the most common and most popular form of recreation in America, and that is television viewing. Television is a medium that becomes bolder every year in reflecting the ungodly trends of our society.
The tremendous influence of a single scene in a motion picture is a fact that is too well known and too well documented to be disputed. For example, when Clark Gable took off his shirt in a picture called “It Happened One Night” back in the ’30s and revealed that he wore no undershirt, it is said that the sales of men’s undershirts immediately dropped.
In the 1990 “Preachers’ Study” conducted at N.W. 21 st Street Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, Dr. James D. Orten delivered a sermon on “The Effect of Television on Children.” In his introduction he said:
Consider this scenario. In the 1950’s when television first hit the scene in medium-sized and small cities, most of our preachers opposed it. We would not have sets in our homes and we regularly spoke out against it. But what was the TV that we fought in those days really like? No nudity, no vulgarity – in fact, the word “pregnant” could not be used on public airways. There was no overt sexuality – even fervent kisses were not allowed. All children were respectful of their parents and the good guys always won. Discussions of perversities on the air were not even entertained as possibilities.
Now there are very few preachers without sets in their homes (I know of only two) and rather little is said about it. It is fair to say that as a group we have accepted TV. What is this medium that we have accepted? Every type of cursing is allowed, nudity is commonplace, explicit sex is frequent and 89% of the suggestive situations shown are between unmarried couples. Some of the nation’s favorite programs show children defying their parents. Violence has proceeded to gruesome levels, and perversities are regularly presented in favorable lights. What can we make of the fact that we opposed TV when it was mild and accepted it when it became putrid? 1
In 1978, Johnny Elmore was assigned this topic in the “Preachers’ Study” and he said:
Thirty or forty years ago opposition to the movies was almost universal by pious Christians, and by concerned preachers. And I ask the question, have the movies improved? Have the actors begun to live better lives? Does attending the movies influence people for good? Have the movies become “more spiritual?” And I answer that with a answer everyone knows in his heart tonight, No!
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:13 that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.” Movies and television have gotten worse!
Brother Orten said, The introduction comes early-the average six-month old infant spends 1.5 hours daily in front of a TV set in the arms of its caretakers. It is not surprising that by age three, American children have become purposeful TV consumers with their own favorite shows—an average of 2 hours daily. Consumption grows to about age 12 and peaks at an average of 4 hours daily.
Dr. Orten is a Clinical Psychologist and documents much of his material from that viewpoint. He spoke of the “Effect on the Family Unit.” He said:
“A. There is not much talk about it, but it may be the most serious effect of all. Sixty percent of families acknowledge they changed their sleeping patterns after the introduction of TV.
- Fifty-five percent say they altered the way meals are served.
- Seventy-eight percent of families acknowledge using TV as an electronic babysitter.
- What activities do families say suffered most?
- Social activities away from home, i.e., church attendance, children’s school activities, etc..
- Sleep. Sleep deprivation is now considered a major health problem. ( e Harrison Daily Times, Jan. 1993 printed an article entitled “Adults Don’t Get Enough Sleep” and gave the reason as television-JCS).
- Conversation, as required to do the teaching of children, described in Deuteronomy 6:6.
- Reading. As in reading the Bible or anything else.
- No invention in modern times has altered the structure and function of the family in ways comparable to TV. , 2
Gene Shalit, NBC Movie Critic, stated on “Today,” (Nov. 18,1976), “You should guard very carefully what your children see on television movies after school. Some of the R movies are very rough for them.” He described some films as not fit for humans with “the IQ of a roach.”
From 1966 to 1973 film producers became more and more bold until total nudity, sexual filth and language of the gutter became prevalent. Italian director Michelangelo Tononi toppled the taboo of total nudity with the move “Blowup,” in 1966. It was followed in quick succession by the “Graduate,” “Ryan’s Daughter,” “Clockwork Orange,” “Last Tango in Paris” and worse and worse “R” and “X” rated films have increased, in number and in filth.
In 1968 the Motion Picture Association of America adopted the rating code that is now in effect to designate each movie’s suitability to children. All movies today are rated and categorized under one of the following classifications: Either G, PG, R or X. (Later a PG-13 category was added and NC-17 has replaced the X.)
(If you want to know what is allowed under each of these classifications, I hope you have better luck when you go to your local library to find out than I did. Because I went to my local regional library and to our local junior college library and with the help of the librarians was unable to find a definition on file, nor was one found through the computer link with the Little Rock libraries in August 1993. So I had to rely on the following definition offered by Johnny Elmore in the 1978 study.)
Now the movie rated with a G classification is suitable for a general audience, they say, including children of any age. These movies may show embracing or kissing, but no nudity or explicit sex appears in them at all. The designation PG is supposed to mean that all ages are admitted without restriction, but warns that parental guidance is advisable. Movies with a PG rating can deal with sexual themes fairly explicitly put perversion is prohibited. Cursing and some vulgarity of language is allowed, as is briefly implied or distant nudity. PG-13 means all ages are allowed, but parents are strongly cautioned to give special guidance for attendance by children under 13. Obviously it would be bolder than just a “PG” rating and may receive the added “13” because of the “violent” content. An “R” rating means that the movie is restricted to adults, but children under 17 may attend when they are accompanied by an adult. The classification allows the showing of lengthy scenes of total nudity from the back, frontal nudity from the waist up, and as Johnny said, “I’m just going to say this – brief shots of other nudity, because it becomes to vulgar to read, simulated sexual intercourse, lingual vulgarity, sexual perversion, explicit sexual dialogue.”
Under an “X” rating anything could be shown such as total frontal nudity and bestiality, which I suppose the NC-17 to mean also, because like the “X” of old, no one under 17 may be admitted.
I read where some 10 or 11 year olds attended a “blockbuster movie” during the summer of 1993 rated PG-13, who could not endure the excessive violence and went out into the foyer of the movie theater and stood sick at their stomachs or shook violently.
I’ve stayed in some homes across our brotherhood, and I always like to peruse their libraries. I’ve discovered that quite a few store their VCR tapes there, and those tapes displaying an “R” rating are about more than I can bear.
Like Will Rogers, all I know about the movies is what I read in Newspapers and Magazines or what little I’ve seen on televisions, because I’ve never been inside a cinema theater or a drive-in movie. And I’ve had brethren tell me, “Jimmie, I wish I could say that; I wish I could erase that from my past and my memory.”
- M. Williams, in his book See No Evil warns:
If you are allowing your children to attend movies with PG ratings without apprehension because you found nothing too offensive in the PG movie you saw a couple of years ago, you may be in for a surprise, they are not what they used to be. Consider for example the PG comedy ‘A Touch of Class’ starring two box office favorites, George Segal and Glenda Jackson. The theme of the movie was adultery. It drew its plot from the complexities of a married man’s rendezvous with a recent divorce. Scenes from the move included a vicious verbal battle running the gamut of four letter obscenities. Miss Jackson clad only in two brief pieces of see through lingerie; several scenes of the couple in bed . . . (and here Johnny Elmore drew the curtain on the description).
Williams said the problem of the rating classification standards is that they are slowly but constantly relaxing. He illustrated that by saying the motion picture “The Graduate” released in 1967 was given an “R” rating when the MPAA code was established in 1968. It was changed to a “PG” in 1972. “Midnight Cowboy” was moved from “X” to “R” upon its second release. More explicit movies have been moved into less restrictive categories.
The No-effect Theory
The “no-effect” theory is the only way Christians can defend watching such filth. One says, “I can take it or leave it, it has no effect on me.” All of the violence and nudity, the cursing and the sexual content and abuse, and the sinful conduct in movies have no effect on them. And they argue the old cliché that no good girl was ever seduced by a book or a movie. Well, that’s an old cliché, an old adage. But you know there’s another which says, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” so obviously both clichés cannot be true.
A librarian, Felix Coop said, “If one denies the power of the word to do evil, then one denies the power of the word to do good.” Don’t you see, the same person who says, ‘Well, I can sit through all of that, it doesn’t faze me,” would he admit that he could sit through the best sermon ever preached and it have absolutely no effect on him? In effect that is to argue that the word has no power at all. That I do not believe!
The ad men who prepare television commercials don’t believe it either. We may insist that those commercials have no effect on me, but the ad men know better.
Bro. Orten documented the effectiveness of advertisements on children. He said, “There is good evidence that the content of TV programs is not their only source of negative effects. The commercials themselves may be about as bad.”
- TV advertising to children is big business; children’s commercials are scientifically researched, attractively designed, musically scored and effective!
- Mattel toy company launched a campaign in 1955 that multiplied their sales 2400% almost overnight.
Whether commercials intend to do it or not, several studies have found that advertisements directed toward children promote negative attitudes toward parents and parent-child conflicts.” Bro. Orten said, “Other studies show that children say they would prefer to play with a “mean boy” with an advertised toy than a “nice boy” without it.” He said, “Young children are not able to evaluate the intent of television commercials. In their young, innocent minds they believe the commercial is telling them something for their benefit. Thus, when parents refuse to buy advertised products, children feel parents are depriving them of something good.3
Thus, when someone says, “Television and the movies do not have any effect on me!” I think they are lying or else mighty ignorant.
Listen to an “ex-critic speak” as quoted from the Nov. 1985 Reader’s Digest which was a condensed version of the original in the San Diego Magazine. ” . . . the more movies I saw, the more I changed. It took progressively longer to rid my mind of disturbing images, language and emotions. I was often depressed and reacted angrily to the slightest provocation from my wife and children. Finally, I had to quit … in the areas of language, violence and the graphic portrayal of sex (including homosexuality) on the screen, I believe there is worth in old fashioned values.”
No, those are not the ravings of a wild-eyed, fanatical, Bible thumping preacher. They are the words of John Culea whose movie reviews aired twice a week on the evening news of KFMB-TV in San Diego for 3 1/2 years. Film studios flew him across the country, first class, to interview movie stars and directors. He stayed in the finest hotels and got all the popcorn and other goodies we wanted, free.
Mr. Culea states that most of his readers “welcomed my honesty and criticism of the ever-present violence, sex and profanity on the screen. Occasionally, viewers objected, and I was pressured by some coworkers to tone down my comments. One viewer was upset with my objections to a scene implied in the movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” He reasoned that incest “happens all the time, and it isn’t that big a deal.”
“Still, I continued to speak my mind. I believed that I could be of service by not accepting the barrage of filth and junk from Hollywood. For a while, it worked. I was able to watch a movie, write my critique and seemingly wipe the memory from my mind. I believed I wasn’t affected by what I was watching.”
Mr. Culea learned that he could not feed on filth without becoming ill. So he decided to change his diet. He states: “My last appearance as a film critic was in August 1984. 1 have not been to a movie since.”
I know that the old “one good biscuit” argument is old and trite, but I don’t know that it has ever been met. It was an argument I heard my dad use many times. Many of you readers likely do not know how to appreciate an old “slop-bucket.” Webster defines “slop” as “spilled liquid; puddles of dirty liquid spilled on a clean
floor; wet swill, as, slop for pigs: slops, wet waste; mire; insipid food or drink; liquid refuse; wet mash residue left after distilling.”
It was a big old five gallon bucket that stank profusely. It caught the kitchen scraps (not just the table scraps); was filled about three fourths full of water; was never washed; was allowed to sour and almost ferment in the corner of a hot kitchen to be emptied once a day in the hog trough, then refilled with water to collect the next offering. The nearest thing resembling the odor for a “city-slicker” would be the rear compartment of your city garbage trucks.
The argument when compared to the movies would be, “Who would go to the bottom of the slop-bucket to get one good biscuit?”
Williams says, “Attitudes are changing, and not as slowly as we would like to think. The effect is mushrooming. Conditioning to sex is causing us to gradually accept more and more exposure. And the public’s tolerance level is steadily rising to where it will accept attitudes and activities that one time would have been rejected outright.” We are being affected, make no mistake about it. In fact twenty-five percent of all babies in America now are born out of wedlock.
Zig Zigler in his book I’ll See You At The Top (p. 85) said: “Psychologists say that three viewings of a ‘Deep Throat,’ ‘The Last Tango in Paris,’ ‘The Exorcist,’ or any of the ‘X-Rated’ films or TV programs have the same psychological, emotional, destructive impact in your mind as one physical experience. The people who have seen these shows are in agreement; they were sexually stimulated and viewed themselves with less respect. They view mankind at his worst. Advertisers bill them as ‘adult entertainment for mature audiences/ but psychologists agree they are juvenile entertainment for immature and insecure audiences.”
Bro. James Orten said the means through which television influences children is their “inability to distinguish fact from fantasy.” “Many adults dismiss the effects of TV as ‘just fantasy.’ It is true that adults can soften the impact of visual images by how they tell themselves to interpret them, i.e., through cognitive input. Although there is plenty of evidence that adults cannot do this with complete effectiveness. Witness the frightening effect of horror films. But children cannot distinguish fact from fantasy at all until about five years of age. Then, for another two or three years, i.e., until about age eight, their ability to do so is weak or incomplete. Thus, before age five, if children see it, it is real.
- Recall that children become purposeful TV watchers by age 3. Then you know that for two or three years, before they have the power to interpret them, they are exposed to fictional characters and events that they take as real.
- You can understand how children might be made to feel by these scenes. Recall the content of programs like Miami Vice and Hill Street Blues. How would you feel if every day when you went out to work you saw four or five people shot, you ad to dodge bullets, you witnessed people screaming with pain, et cetera.
- Before children start to school they are now exposed to many more fictional characters than real ones. And the quality of many of these fictional, but to them real, characters is the worst possible.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled; bad company corrupts good character’ (NIV).
- “We would not think of allowing our children to associate with these characters on the streets. Yet, 78% of Americans admit they invite them in to baby sit their children.”
- One interesting example of children’s inability to understand fantasy is their inability to understand flashbacks and remembering.” 4
Under the heading “The Effect of Television on the Conscience Building Process,” Bro. Orten concludes by saying:
What I believe is happening is that an early and intense exposure to violence and pornography via TV is hardening the nation’s children before their times. Consequently, a very large number will go through life without the inner restraint of a conscience, doing whatever they can get away with, whatever feels good to them.
The Joplin Globe carried “At Wit’s End” by Erma Bombeck, June 15,1971:
This is an open letter to everyone who has produced or defended violence on television. You don’t remember me, do you? I’m the viewer who used to sit in front of a TV set and when a gun was fired, I nearly jumped out of my chair. When I saw someone being beaten, instinctively I flinched and felt the pain, or when I saw blood, I turned my head away and my stomach felt funny. I know. I don’t seem like the same person you remembered. I’m not.
You have desensitized me. During a single evening, I once say 12 people shot to death, two people tortured (one a child), one dumped in a swimming pool, two cars explode with people in them, a rape, and a man who crawled three blocks with a knife in his stomach.
And you know something? I didn’t feel shock or horror. I didn’t feel excitement or repugnance. I didn’t feel pity or sadness. I didn’t even feel anger.
The truth is, I didn’t feel. And I hate you for it. Through repeated assault of one violent act after another, you have taken from me something which I valued … something that contributed to my compassion and caring … the instinct to feel.
You told me violence was necessary because it is “real.” Throwing up is “real,” but I don’t want to see it in color. You told me the six o’clock news was just as violent. But you forgot to mention the six o’clock news has conscience. Whenever violence is reported, it is declared wrong and shocking and carries a price tag.
Please know that I will survive the violence that emanates from the tube because I know what I have lost and somehow I will find my way back to what I know I should be and feel.
But reflect if you will on the children of our times … those infants with a 21-inch screen as a night-light, who could adjust an aerial at age 4, and who consider TV their baby-sitter, mother, father, first date, good friend, teacher and constant dinner companion.
They have never known shock. They have never felt pain for another human being. They have never cried for a victim. They have never felt anger for injustice. Do you dare take that away from them? 5
World Book Dictionary defines “video” as “adj. of our used in the transmission or reception of images in television; – n. television.” “Video Cassette” is defined as “a cartridge of film or videotape for use on a television set converted to show film or tape.”
There are many advantages to having a VCR player. There are educational, instructional and informative materials that contain a wealth of information on subjects from farming, machinery, animal husbandry, sewing, computers, et cetera. Many brethren have past “big meetings,” sermons and singing taped for enjoyment and historical purposes. Many use such in “home studies.”
But there are also disadvantages, and this is why I personally was very slow in acquiring one. (It was only after our local “lupus support group” gave me two tapes and insisted that I view them that I ever purchased one.) I didn’t want one because one can rent all sorts of smut for those things, and I have three boys and I know there is a natural curiosity about some of these things in which they could rent for a couple dollars per night and see some things I never want them to see.
There was a “Mr. Movie” rental business in Harrison, Arkansas that was raided by the local authorities for renting “X-Rated” movies. When the trial took place, the owners subpoenaed some of the local policemen and upstanding businessmen who were customers and had rented the material that they were arrested for having. One of those men was a graduate of Harding University and a very active member of one of the larger Churches of Christ in the area. When he was called to testify, he said that he had rented two of the pornographic films and he was sorry, he had made a mistake.
What would you do, dear reader, if the place where you rent your movies would call you into court and ask you to testify as a “Christian” concerning the movies you had rented, and then published a list of those movies? What if the movie you dropped in that drop box came up “missing” and you were sued for not returning it?
There are “un-rated” movies rented by unsuspecting people who know not the filth contained therein. It just means that they were never submitted to the rating code because of the raw material contained therein.
Consider the following:
Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright and I shall be innocent from the great transgression (Psa. 19:12-13).
Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance (Psa. 90:8).
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Eccl. 12:14).
Pornography is defined as: “a word from the Greek ‘porne,’ meaning – ‘prostitute’; and ‘graphy’ meaning – ‘writing’ or ‘pictures,’ thus, ‘descriptions of prostitution, hence writings or pictures intended to arouse sexual desires.’ ”
But I say unto you that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Mt. 5:28).
Bro. James Orten advised:
If you and your family have not developed a heavy dependence on TV, don’t! As parents, do not use TV to entertain children and don’t worry about moderate amounts of childhood boredom. Packaged entertainment stifles creativity; boredom helps children develop internal resources for learning and amusement.
Parents should deal first with their own TV habits. Those who do so serve as a role model for their children and make their requests more creditable.
As a minimum, get rid of multiple sets, i.e., individual sets in bedrooms. 6
Brethren, I personally am not willing to allow my Lord’s name used in vain in my living room! Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.” While the Psalmist had no reference to television, movies or videos, surely the principle is one we would do well to adapt today.
- Orten, Dr. James D., The Effect of Television on Children, 1990 Preachers’ Study Notes, Christian’s Expositor Pub. P.O. Box 7211 Columbia, MO 65205-7211. p. 83.
- Ibid. p. 84.
- Ibid. p. 90-91.
- Ibid. p. 91-92.
- Bombeck, Erma, “At Wit’s End,” Joplin Globe (June 15,1971).
- Orten, p. 94