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MOVIES: Profanity, violence in the movies

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) — You don’t hear many complaints about the excesses of Hollywood anymore.

Yes, I get cranky about profanity in pictures, but who else is talking about the misuse of God’s name by the film industry? And when’s the last time a critic wrote an exposé about violence in movies?

Nearly 30 years ago I wrote a guide called “The Movie Reporter”; its sole purpose was to provide the synopsis and content (the reasons for the rating) of new theatrical releases. I didn’t even offer an opinion at that time. The guide was meant merely as a tool to aid parents and concerned moviegoers.

Times, however, have changed, and despite the efforts of Christian film reviewers who were as concerned about film content as myself, could it be that the battle for restraint in cinema has been lost?

Now I suspect that many readers of this column see very few of Hollywood’s products, preferring the occasional faith-based release. And there’s the TCM network (Turner Classic Movies). It’s not that you necessarily want to watch old movies, just ones that won’t offend your religious beliefs. Right?

So you avoid going to the movies. Good for you. But aren’t you concerned nevertheless with the direction the media is leading the rest of this generation? Are you giving up the battle?

Let’s be honest, we’re way beyond the question, “Do the media affect our lives?” Many films stimulate our more carnal desires, whereas the Bible steadfastly maintains it is the spirit that needs to be satisfied. Today’s motion pictures — with a few exceptions, such as the new release “Woodlawn” and, a few weeks earlier, “War Room” — just aren’t about nurturing the spirit.

“The Devil at 4 O’clock,” made in 1961, was an adventure/drama concerning a priest played by Spencer Tracy who had lost his faith. He went through the motions but had become a man living by the laws of his religion, not a walk with Christ. Suddenly, in the midst of his despair, the island that is his mission field is threatened by a volcanic eruption. A ship is evacuating the population, but a few of his parishioners are still trapped further up the mountain. Aided by three convicts who have nothing to lose, the priest goes against all odds to save his people. It’s an allegory about finding redemption and salvation.

One of the most striking things about that film is that it probably wouldn’t be made today. Rarely do we see films that even suggest the existence of God. Somewhere along the way moviemakers, in general, quit incorporating biblical ideals that nourish the soul.

Those ideals need to be re-found by this generation. We need an infusion of Hollywood productions that portray the kind of religious values found in “Stars in My Crown,” “Inn of the Sixth Happiness” and “A Man Called Peter.”

Today’s parents are supportive of their kids’ sports activities (even if practice takes place on Sunday morning, a one-time no-no in America), and they’re concerned about what’s being served in the school cafeteria, but they are giving their children’s minds over to the likes of Seth Rogen and Miley Cyrus (two examples of today’s culture; he’s often crude and she’s always vulgar.)

Far too many adults have given up the battle for their kids’ spiritual development. Why aren’t we talking about this epidemic?

To fend off the Hollywood’s hypnotic tugs, parents and children alike need to know God’s guidelines and why He gave them to us. Church fellowship and family Bible study are still the best ways to reach our nation’s youth. And parents need to lead by example, living out biblical principles and, yes, saying no to most movies.

Who, in addition to our families, is the big loser in this culture war? Society. God has been dismissed from school, vetoed from government and canceled from the entertainment venues. Look around. How’s that working out for our country and our kids?

We are instructed in God’s Word to be a light unto the world. We won’t be until we desire to rise above the culture’s standard and embrace God’s. “Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him,” the psalmist wrote. “With them alone he shares the secrets of his promises” (Psalm 25:14, Living Bible).

In a secular forum my assertions would be met with eye-rolling, and some religious reviewers also eye-roll when I complain of these matters. Many of my colleagues in criticism, in order to relate to today’s moviegoing demographic, are remaining mum about the margin of abuse in movies and how the content of films affects our culture, then our society.

I love the promise of movies, as they are modern man’s medium for relating parables to the masses. But just as they can uplift man, they can also mislead him. And in this age of excess, movies are the nails in the culture’s coffin.

Ministers, writers, parents — speak up!

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright