THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–The Motion Picture Code was established in the 1930s by the Legion of Decency, a group consisting of, among others, church leaders. Not only was the amount of sexuality regulated, but profane and obscene language was forbidden in films. A respect had to be shown for any religious faith, and ministers could never be ridiculed.
In the mid-’60s, the code was done away with and replaced by the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system.
Since that time many moviemakers have used the freedoms allotted by the MPAA not to improve artistic standards, but to bombard society with desensitizing violence, exploitive sex, ever-present profanity and a complete disregard for Christian/Judeo principles.
Although Hollywood has never been an exalter of biblical principles, it would appear that in the last 25 years the film industry as a whole has been determined to belittle, put down, ridicule and negate the teachings of the Bible. This generation is being bombarded by a new morality — spearheaded by the media.
In this milieu, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
— Can you see through the propaganda of the media?
— Do you believe the Bible to truly be the Word of God?
— Do you study his Word? (Have you asked God to reveal himself through its chapters and verses?)
— Are you armed with the armor of God? (If not, you can’t effectively witness or maintain a peace in your soul.)
Ecclesiastes 3 states that there is a time to laugh and a time to dance. I take that to mean it’s okay to be entertained. Films can teach, entertain and uplift the spirit. Indeed, they are modern-day parables. As to why we need codes, however, the Bible is clear about what we should put in our minds (Philippians 4:8). God’s Word doesn’t apply to just parts of our lives, but to the sum total — including how we entertain ourselves. If we govern what we support at the box office, it is honoring to God, nurturing to loved ones and a guidepost to those who scrutinize our walk.
Some key Scriptures:
“I will set before my eyes no vile thing,” Psalm 101:3.
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them,” Ephesians 5:11.
“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil,” 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22.
The best codes, of course, are those set by parents.
“Train a child in the way he should go,” Proverbs 22:6 states, “and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
There can be nothing more difficult than raising a child to believe in spiritual things while living in a community that denies spiritual importance. But the task is not impossible.
Be aware. Set guidelines, and base those principles on your understanding of God’s teaching. Setting the criteria when children are very young — and then living the example — gives them much better odds of resisting the media’s doctrine. If your children understand biblical teachings, they will be able to cope with the contradictory messages and images of lust, greed, selfishness and violence that television and movie theaters bombard them with.
We also can take steps to counter Hollywood’s disregard for codes, including:
1) Show what you stand for, be careful what you support. There’s no magic elixir. It takes responsibility and commitment.
2) Make your voice known. Might I suggest that when corresponding with members of the motion picture and television industries, you keep your letters precise, to the point and, most of all, short. Often in our frustration we react with anger and wordiness. Very seldom does this tactic present us in the best light. Simply let them know what you like, what you don’t and why. Keep it to a couple of paragraphs.
3) Know the Word — if God’s Word is in your heart and mind, you’ll be able to intelligently debate Hollywood’s perceptions.
4) Be informed. Subscribe to a film review guide that’s written from a Christian perspective. You will save a lot of money by making this small investment. Given the synopsis and content, you can decide if the new releases are suitable for your family’s viewing.
Boatwright, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., is a Baptist layman, a veteran film reviewer and editor of The Movie Reporter film guide, including its www.moviereporter.com website.