In 1999 and 2000, I spent several weeks working with the staff of LOZA-TV, the first Christian video ministry in Russia. I proposed that their first video should be a critique of the many videos coming from the west into Russia. Hollywood: Tearing Down the Idols of the Entertainment Industry is an examination of the American entertainment industry, particularly the western films that are immensely popular in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
Few Americans realize the influence of our art, music and film on Russian culture. To many Russians, American freedom means nothing more than financial affluence coupled with sexual promiscuity, drug use, and criminal activity. This is exactly what they see portrayed on American television shows such as Beverly Hills 90120, Santa Barbara, and Dynasty. This is what they see in music videos and a myriad of films. Many Russians believe that this is an accurate portrayal of the American lifestyle. Yet freedom comes self-control and a responsibility born from a strong faith in God.
Hollywood was produced in Vladimir, Russian in the summer of 2000, and later won the “Best Documentary” at the Christian Broadcasters Awards in Moscow. The pastor of Loza Church and Ministries, Victor Victorov, narrates a script that has been translated and adapted from Reel to Real’s Hollywood series written by Eric Holmberg. I’ve included the entire video here with the script that was translated from English into Russian. Video cover artwork is by Erik Hollander.
In this presentation we’re going to look more closely at the powerful relationship that exists between young people and the entertainment industry. We’ll explore the background and development of this relationship as well as its effects, particularly in regard to the issues about the power and philosophy of spiritual deception, rebellion, sexual immorality, and violent behavior.
The light to guide us on our journey will be provided always by the Word of God. Be forewarned, however, even with this light firmly in hand, the journey will at times be a dark and difficult one. Some scenes may be disturbing to young children and spiritually sensitive people. For this reason, parental discretion is advised.
What we’re about to consider is very serious business – families, lives, and souls are at stake – millions of them — we’re not going to use gentle words. Some hard things are going to be said about both the issues and the people involved. But please understand that “but for the grace of God there go I.’‘ In my lifetime, before I came to know Jesus Christ, I even stood for some of the very things we’re about to expose. We recognize that all people are sinners and we desperately need God’s love and forgiveness. Know that we sincerely love and care about these artists and pray for their repentance and salvation.
[SCRIPTURE ON SCREEN]
I pray that: “…they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:26
[This will be a montage of scenes from the video. At the end of the opening, there will be the clip of a robot destroying a TV set.]
PART 1 — POWER AND PHILOSOPHY
It would be great if it were that easy, but shouting, “STOP!”, killing your TV, or moving to a house in some wilderness isn’t going to stop the action. Whether we like it or not, technology has placed the modern media industry in a position of unprecedented power and influence. It has become “the most powerful force in the world today.”
We have been transformed into a nation where there are more televisions than bathrooms. Where the average citizen spends many hours a day living in a world of electronic images and sounds. In the words of one noted media expert: “The fact is incontrovertible: People today live ‘by the media’ whereas once they lived ‘by the book.’”
Perhaps most disturbing of all, the situation scarcely improves among those who should know better — people whose religion challenges them time and again to not focus on the shifting shadows of a world at war with God. Only God knows how many more hours are filled with our pursuit of amusement rather than with prayer, worship, Bible study, and Christian service. It is also true that the average Christian spends more money on entertainment than on all forms of Christian offerings combined.
The purpose of this video presentation is to hold the mirror of God’s Word up before the face of Western culture — particularly the films and media entertainment of the West. And then, once having seen what we’ve become, our prayer is that we will repent —turn from our sins and allow the Heavenly Father to change us into the likeness of His dear Son – Jesus Christ.
Let’s continue by looking more closely at the power of the media – as well as the spiritual power and the philosophy that more and more seems to guide Hollywood.
Visual imagery can be brilliantly effective in reinforcing established ideas or in shaping opinions. Viewers simply cannot help but be affected by the emotional, heart-felt influence of huge moving color images backed by stereo sound. It is an obvious fact that what we see in television and films can and does affect our behavior and philosophy of life. While the modern media industry typically attempts to deny any connection between what they produce and how its consumers behave, occasionally an honest voice is heard above the denials.
Producer/director George Lucas, who worked on four of the ten top-grossing films in motion picture history, had this to say in an address he gave to film students at U.S.C.: “Film and visual entertainment are a pervasively important part of our culture, an extremely significant influence on the way our society operates. People in the film industry don’t want to accept the responsibility that they had a hand in the way the world is loused up. But, for better or worse, the influence of the church, which used to be all-powerful, has been usurped by film. Film and television tells us the way we conduct our lives, what is right and wrong.”
David Puttnam, producer of the award-winning Chariots of Fire and The Mission, observed: “Movies are powerful. Good or bad, they tinker around inside your brain. They steal up on you in the darkness of the cinema to form or conform social attitudes…. In short, cinema is propaganda.”
There are many ways to control or manipulate a society — laws, taxes, wars, and interest rates have all been used quite effectively to this end. But at its very a “culture” is more about values and beliefs than issues of political, military, or economic power. And that is why any struggle for the control of a culture must appeal to the mind and heart by addressing both the ideas that power the intellect and the images that fuel the imagination. Put simply, the usurper needs to rely heavily on propaganda.
The most successful propaganda uses the arts. While political or economic theory may persuade the intellectual elite, it is art’s ability to subtly appeal to the heart and mind that makes it such a powerful force for cultural change. For this reason, successful revolutionaries have always paid particular attention to the music, literature, and films of their time, censoring art they viewed as ideologically impure as well as commissioning works that were consistent with their revolutionary philosophy.
Hitler, for example, relied heavily on Leni Riefenstahl who produced Olympia and Triumph of the Will — two movies that served as compelling advertisements for the Third Reich. These beautiful and ultimately frightening films — along with Nazi-sponsored music, literature and architecture — became a powerful force in seducing an entire culture into accepting the ideas of a madman.
Likewise, Vladimir Lenin established a state school for cinematography just two years after the communist takeover of Russia. Always the visionary, he saw film’s potential influence in helping sell Marxist ideology , describing the motion picture as “the most powerful tool for shaping men’s minds ever invented.” Skilled in the art of persuasion and propaganda, Lenin understood what an expert in communication would articulate a generation later: “If you can write a nation’s stories, you needn’t worry about who makes its laws.”
This same expert went on to say: “Today, television tells most of the stories to most of the people most of the time … it’s the most persuasive medium we have.”
This persuasive power is widely recognized by other members of the media elite, at least when you get them behind closed doors. Researchers from George Washington University, for example, discovered that Hollywood’s writers, directors, and producers view themselves as:
[QUOTES ON SCREEN]
… crusaders for social reform … They see it as their duty to restructure our culture into their image.” These researchers discovered that two out of three media personalities interviewed believed that television and movie entertainment: “… should be a major force for social reform.”
These experts are only stating what is obvious. Proof that the modern media industry has this type of persuasive power is literally all around us.
Companies, for example, spend billions of dollars a year in television advertising in order to influence the viewer in regard to their product. Would they do this year after year if it didn’t work?
At least one Hollywood company exists for no other reason than to analyze scripts scene-by-scene in order to determine where and how companies can best plug their products into a feature film. Millions of dollars are spent for the privilege; millions more are shelled out in order to tie a company in with a particular film promotion. Why? Because it works. People are persuaded.
Consider this: When Risky Business came out in 1983, sales of the Ray-Ban sunglasses worn by Tom Cruise went up 1,400 percent.
The year before the Walt Disney movie Bambi came out, deer hunting was a $9.5 million dollar a year industry. Then came the touching scene of a yearling deer being orphaned by a hunter’s bullet. Deer hunters subsequently spent only $4.1 million dollars, a drop of over 50%!
If movies can sell a style of dress or a career choice, aren’t we being naive to think that they can’t affect our beliefs concerning deeper issues like sexuality, violence, rebellion or religion? And let’s remember, these moral issues are typically much more than mere props or plot devices — they often provide the very stage upon which the action unfolds.
Tom Cruise, for example, may have made Wayfarer sunglasses look cool in Risky Business. But the movie spent a lot more time and effort glamorizing pre-marital sex and teen rebellion. Are we honestly to believe that this message had no effect on its audience while at the same time the sales of sunglasses were going through the roof? What’s makes all this even scarier is that studies now show that there’s really no defense against this propagandizing influence other than simply turning it off.
Dr. Mark Miller of Johns Hopkins University made this sobering observation: “The frightening thing is that it has become clear now that simply recognizing the artificiality of something does not ensure immunity to that thing. Simply knowing that you’re an object of propaganda is not enough in itself to armor one against the appeals of propaganda.”
Popular actor Tom Hanks echoed this observation when he acknowledged: “… the film industry can capture an idea and make it glamorous and gorgeous so that the audience isn’t even aware that they’re embracing something they never would have embraced before.”
Consider Das Boot, a tense thriller about heroism aboard a German U-boat that actually had foreign audiences rooting for the Germans.
And then there’s the Academy award winning Silence of the Lambs, a movie that incredibly was able to make a hero out of Dr. Hannibal Lechter, an impossibly cruel murderer with a taste for human flesh. Anothony Hopkins, the Oscar winning actor who portrayed Lechter, noted repeatedly how surprised he was with the positive response he got from fans concerning the character, particularly from women who viewed the clever cannibal as both intriguing and sexy.
Of course, there is another argument that supports this idea that we are profoundly influenced by what we listen to and watch. And for the Christian, this argument should be the most compelling of all.
Throughout the Bible God tells to be careful what we set before our eyes and ears. From His opening account of man’s creation and fall, we’re warned that Satan’s primary tactic is to take an aspect of God’s creation and then dangle it seductively before our eyes, subtly perverting its character or use, singing out a song of deception, waiting patiently for the trap to be sprung and sin’s wages to exact their terrible price.
Having fallen, man then becomes the object of God’s redemptive love. Through His Word and finally His Son, He progressively revealed Truth and now encourages us to embrace that Truth rather than the deceptions that come from our fallen nature and the spiritual darkness that rules over it.
[SCRIPTURES ON SCREEN]
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly…but His delight is in the law of the Lord,… Psalm 1:1a,2a
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2a
Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, noble, just, and pure; whatever things are lovely and of good report; if there is any virtue and anything worthy of praise — let your mind dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;… My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land,… Psalm 101:3a, 6a
… set your heart on what pertains to higher realms; where Christ is seated at God’s right hand Fix your mind on things above, not on the things of this earth. Colossians 3:1b, 2
There are hundreds of verses throughout the Bible that say the same thing — that point out the deceitful nature of our hearts, that expose our vulnerability to spiritual seduction, that warn us of our enemy’s guile, that exhort us to embrace Heaven’s truth, and that plead with us to serve God with all our hearts and have nothing to do with the beguiling works of darkness.
Little do many of us realize — that in a very real sense — we’re spending hours a day sitting before an idol – a false god — listening to his deceptions, traveling a road of celluloid and sound waves that only too often leads into the very belly of the beast. We will see that overtly occult and satanic influences are very real influences in Hollywood. However, the primary force behind all this visual and aural wickedness is nothing more sinister than the love of money.
PART 1 (continued) — POWER AND PHILOSOPHY
One of the most influential men in Hollywood is Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Before he became an international sensation, he described his willingness as a young college student … “to do anything to get to make more films, and the best opportunity was in the field of the exploitation film — by which I mean nudie, science fiction, and horror films.”
Coppola went on to describe his first job in Hollywood — a remake of the Russian science fiction film Nebo Zoyet. In one of the saddest commentaries on the tastes of the film-going public as well as on the integrity of those who make films, he remembered:
“I knew that the Russians made very warm, brotherly-love science fiction films and that no one in this country would ever want to see a science fiction picture that didn’t have a lot of sex and violence in it. In one scene, for example, a Russian astronaut sees the figure of a Golden Astronaut — a symbol of Hope — standing on a crag. It was really lovely. The director said, “We’ve got to put two monsters on that crag.” He wanted one monster to be a male sexual symbol and the other to be female. Obviously, one had to devour the other. We said to Roger, “This is just too much; you can’t just…” But we could and we did — matting in sex and violence where the Russians had the Golden Astronaut of Hope.”
The real power behind Hollywood isn’t some secret conspiracy of communists, Satanists, witches or some other crazy group. In large part, the media industry is simply giving us what we pay for. The simplest way to ensure that a film will make money is to include frequent scenes of gratuitous sex and violence which have nothing to do with the plot — graphic scenes that could easily be edited without altering the meaning of the story. And from this, we can learn two very valuable lessons:
One, that the Bible is right where it says: “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”(1 Timothy 6:10).
Two, the problem isn’t ultimately with Hollywood, it’s with us. And that is where the solution is going to have to begin.
Let us now us to briefly examine the dominant philosophy of art that floats around the periphery of the industry. Because while money motivates most producers, there are still those who cling to their idea of “TRUTH” They believe that music and film – as art forms — should “mean” something. And for these artists, there’s another purpose for their craft besides simply filling movie theaters.
[Interviews: “WHAT IS TRUTH?”]
Without question, this existential philosophy, that TRUTH is whatever you make it, pervades Hollywood. In one form or another, a counterfeit idea of Truth provides the very foundation for the brave new world being fashioned by the media elite. This philosophy is perhaps best described as the CATHARTIC view of art, the idea that the best and the bravest way to come to terms with the dark passions of the human heart is to simply embrace them — to give them detailed expression through the medium of film or music. For these “High Priests of Hollywood”, the writer, the director, and the musician are there to lead us to the “TRUTH” that — presumably — lies waiting beyond the gates of hell.
This scene was shot for Apocalypse Now, Francis Coppola’s epic film. For Coppola, this journey into hell became a metaphor for, not only America’s struggle in Vietnam, but the journey of both artist and audience into the dark light of being.
Director Martin Scorcese acknowledges that his films are cathartic therapy for his personal: “…anger and rage and craziness.”
And Adrian Lyne, director of Fatal Attraction and 91/2 Weeks, deliberately explores the dark corners of the human psyche as a way of speaking: “…to something lurking somewhere inside all of us.”
This fatal attraction to darkness and the existential idea that man may create his own truth and morality is a conscious and deliberate philosophy of many Hollywood directors and producers.
As the antithesis to Fyodor Dosteyevsky’s famous quote from The Brothers Karamazov: “If there is no God, then everything is permissible,” acclaimed director David Kronenberg begins Naked Lunch, his hallucinatory exploration of art and existentialist reality, with the quote: “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Kronenberg discussed the themes that “Naked Lunch” sought to explore: “Nothing is true. (Morality) is not absolute. It’s only a human construct, very definitely able to change and susceptible to change and rethinking. And you can then be free. Free to be unethical, immoral … Ultimately, if you are an existentialist and you don’t believe in God and the judgment after death, then you can do anything you want: You can kill, you can do whatever society considers the most taboo thing.”
In the same interview, Kronenberg was even more overt about his priestly ambitions when he stated: “Yes, I’m putting art in opposition to religion — or as a replacement for religion.”
(VICTOR) These are among the more notable and influential artists who point to catharsis as a rationale for their shameless excursions into what was once forbidden territory. Many other artists, including musicians and writers, throw out variations of the same theme. Whether they use it as just a good-sounding excuse or embrace it with all t ardor and messianic zeal of a David Kronenberg, the bottom line is still the same: black is still black and God still calls it sin.
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness. Isaiah 5:20
The Bible is quite clear as to the root of man’s moral confusion.
The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord judges the heart. Proverbs 21:2
In other words, as human beings we have an uncanny ability to justify the sins that our fallen nature drives us to embrace. Apart from the truth and grace of God, we are left in darkness — damned because of our unrepentent rebellion and unable to sincerely come to God for forgiveness because we see nothing really wrong with our actions. We are left utterly helpless —dependent upon a God who has chosen to reveal his truth and grace through the Bible and through the Messiah — the Lord Jesus Christ.
This Messiah taught us instead to pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
Where the prevailing philosophy of art recoils at the very mention of sin or moral absolutes, clinging passionately instead to the idea that all our desires are natural and good and that the only real evil is to attempt to deny or suppress them — the Holy Scriptures tell us in a thousand places and in as many ways:
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” Galatians 5:17
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh… For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Romans 8:5,6
In the realm of movies, drama, comedy, music, and art it means creating, enjoying, and commending good art as a reflection of God’s beauty, as a glimpse into His mysteries, as an incarnation of His thoughts. But at the same time we understand that we live in a fallen world – enemy occupied territory, where we are waging a war of against the “prince of the air.”
For this reason, to be spiritually minded is to recognize, reject, and then expose bad art as Satan’s twisted propaganda. We are called to persuade those lost in its deception so that they may come, perhaps, to their senses and escape from the dungeon of his lies. This is all part of the Great Commission, our marching orders from the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He’s given us the necessary authority, but we’ll never be able to do it if we keep listening to the lies from Hell.
PART 2 — BLASPHEMY
(Fade up to movie — thunder and lightning crucifixion scene from Ben Hur)
In 1959, MGM studios released a film that was to become one of the most loved and honored movies of all time. The story of a young man’ epic journey from nobility to slavery and back again, Ben Hur won 11 Academy Awards; a record that will probably never be surpassed.
The movie provided an awesome glimpse of the Truth that had so transformed his life: amid the epic scope and dramatic action of this lavish spectacle, one simple message stood out — the transforming power of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Decades later, hearts still swell and tears flow at the depiction of the terrible beauty of Calvary. We watch as Jesus’ blood mingles with the rain — and then flows out to the world; cleansing the leprosy that plagued Judah Ben Hur’s mother and sister — and finally even washing away the hatred that had bound his own heart. A more powerful and faithful cinematic expression of the doctrine of redemption can scarcely be imagined. Hollywood depicted the figure of Christ on the cross with such reverence, that the director refused even to show the face of Christ, perhaps fearing that a common face of an actor could not represent the majesty of the King of kings. Hollywood, with all its glitter and carnality, had truly created something that was, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “Noble, lovely and true.”
This shining moment was short-lived, however. Within a few years Hollywood’s depiction of the Christian faith went in a completely different direction. After briefly examining that direction — and where we have arrived a generation later – we’ll explore three aspects of the modern entertainment industry’s view of Christianity.
We hope you’ll remember the lesson learned by Judah Ben Hur — there is salvation in the blood of Christ. The same cross that silenced the blasphemies of pagan Rome can once again work a miracle in a culture gone mad. Today, some forty years later, television shows and movies attempt to twist the truth as they often mock Jesus Christ, the Christian faith, and Christian believers. The question then becomes, “How did we get to this place?”
In the years after Ben Hur was released, the USA and many nations in the West were undergoing profound social and moral changes. For many in Hollywood, the change could not occur fast enough. Around the same time, the two Christian film offices that had been active in providing moral guidelines for the entertainment industry for over thirty years were closed. New ideas — and a new breed of people — began to take their place in Hollywood. By the year 1966, we began to see in films such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, a Jesus who is fallible, no different from any other man.
(Bring up Jesus Christ Superstar)
Lost is the mystery of the incarnate God — the divine nature of Jesus so powerfully suggested in Ben Hur. Instead we’re given the “hippy Christ” — a savior so drained of deity that one is left with the same impression expressed by Mary Magdalene in the song: “He’s just a man.”
Co-writer Timothy Rice removed any doubt about the play’s intentions when he told Time Magazine: “It happens that we don’t see Christ as God, but simply the right man at the right time.”— Time, Nov. 9, 1970
The idea that Jesus was “just a man” and not also fully divine is called “Arianism” — one of the oldest and most damnable heresies of the Christian era.
(Fade to Bible; Open to 1 John and then bring up scripture, VICTOR reads)
Almost two thousand years ago the Apostle John warned the Church to be on guard against its persistent influence: “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?”
And by that he doesn’t mean just-any-old Christ, but the one prophesied by the Old Testament — the One who was repeatedly called Jehovah, Adonai, Elohiym, and other names for God.
(Soft cut back to Bible; bring up verse, VICTOR reads)
Continuing with the verse: “He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).
(Fade to Jesus art)
Again, implying all that the Old Testament — and Jesus Himself – said about the Son: that He was one with the Father, co-equal, and eternally pre-existent, perfectly holy; in a word —God. This is the essence, the life-blood of the Christian faith — that God the Son came to earth as a man in order to redeem man. If Jesus was not God, then there is no redemption. And this awesome truth, more than any other, hell seeks to deny.
And there’s another important dynamic going on here as well. The essence of Satanism, is simply being your own god; believing and doing whatever you want. It’s a religion, in other words, with many, many followers. And tied in with this “being your own god” idea is the notion of “becoming like God” — the original sin of man. And what inevitably happens here is this: because we are far too fallen to become like Him, well we try to make Him more like us. And so we create an idol, a false image of God that better fits into our personal agenda. And so, if Jesus was just a man, well there’s really no need to fear and obey Him, is there?
(Fade to reprise; J.C. Superstar)
Having cracked open the door of Arianism, it was left to Martin Scorcese, the most acclaimed director of our time, to slam it open.
(Show scene from The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus confesses his many sins — says that Satan dwells in him.)
The Jesus portrayed in The Last Temptation of Christ was not only “just a man” but a confused, weak, and sinful one at that. The film opens with him assisting the Romans with a crucifixion – and before the first reel is over we’ve seen him behave like a madman – suggest that God’s love is the cause of his madness – watch a prostitute have sex – confess his sin- and in general act like a man who desperately needs a savior – rather than being one.
(Fade to open Bible)
This Jesus was completely unrecognizable from the Christ of scripture: the One who clearly knew who He was by the age of twelve …
[bring up Luke 2:49 or Gustav Dore art]
… who confronted intense physical, emotional and spiritual trials with a serenity and boldness that amazed even his enemies and who became the perfect sacrifice, the spotless Lamb of God, because He was entirely without sin.
[bring up: “He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15]
The release of The Last Temptation of Christ exposed Hollywood’s capacity to view outright heresy and describe it as “one of the most deeply religious films ever made” all point to a strong spiritual delusion, a type of moral insanity, that has settled over much of our culture like a blanket. We have humanized God and deified man to the extent that we thinking nothing of judging, even mocking the Almighty. We flippantly take His name in vain, we manufacture false images at assembly line rates. We place so many gods before Him. We dare to ridicule the One who deigned to leave eternity, clothe Himself in human flesh, and go to a cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins. Take a look around:
[EXAMPLES OF BLASPHEMY OF CHRIST IN FILMS}
[Gustav Dore etching – bring up commandment]
The third of the Ten Commandments given to us by God warns that we should treat even the mention of His Name with great awe and respect, never using it in a casual or disrespectful way. The Old Testament saints took this command very seriously, insisting eventually that scribes wash their hands and use a new pen when even writing the name of God. Many of the Jews were even afraid to say it out loud, in any circumstance; choosing instead to refer to it indirectly as “The Name.”
This reverence so clearly seen in the depiction of Christ in Ben Hur and other Bible films of the past, is contrasted with our day. God’s Name is degraded, blasphemed and reduced to a cheap curse by so many in today’s entertainment industry. Evidence of a “Satanic Age of Hollywood” is virtually all around us. In fact, here in the world of rock and roll, blaphemy’s steady drip becomes a river of curses and dark sayings against the name of God.
[EXAMPLES of BLASPHEMY AND CURSES in MUSIC VIDEOS. Fade songs down and run in background]
Surveying the world of modern entertainment, it almost seems as if the words of Matthew’s gospel have come to life in a new and disturbing way.
Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments…
And they put up over His head the accusations made against Him…
And those who passed by blasphemed against Him, wagging their heads…
Matthew 27:35; 37; 39
[Stacatto lots of quick cuts with scripture verses]
Amid cries of “We have no king but ourselves” Christ’s holy garments are again being dragged through the mire of man’s rebellion. Heads wagging — drunk with the wine of spiritual fornication — a great chorus again opens its mouth to utter blasphemies against God. May He have mercy on us.
Having reduced God to a plot device, it would naturally follow that the system of faith and practice He has granted humanity should become an object of ridicule as well. Add to this the attitudes toward Christianity of so many in the entertainment industry, and you have a recipe for spiritual anarchy.
Let’s then remember the countless men and women who’ve given their lives to take the good news of Jesus Christ into foreign lands …who have provided hope and direction for those in prison — and who have faithfully served their churches — ministering the very words of eternal life. Far from being isolated instances, this type of mockery and sacrilege has, incredibly, become standard fare in today’s entertainment industry.
The most common — and subtle — method of attack is to introduce some element of Christianity as a minor sub-plot — and then play it for cheap laughs. Some would argue that examples like these simply point to an insensitivity born of the industry’s over-all ignorance of organized religion. That this ignorance exists is undeniable; one respected producer, for example, noted:“I gave up going to church at 17. I don’t know anyone who goes to church.” Lee Rich, quoted in The View From Sunset Boulevard, Ben Stein (New York: Doubleday, 1980) p.102
This ignorance is ironic, when we consider the huge success of Bible programs, though they are seldom produced. For example popular, cartoon versions of the Bible such as Superbook have become one of the most popular forms of family entertainment seen by millions worldwide.
Yet strangely, Joseph Barbera, a well-known American cartoonist described his 17 year struggle to produce a cartoon Bible series for television called: The Greatest Adventure. “I just couldn’t get it off the ground with [the TV networks]. The word “Bible” scares everybody, for some reason.” — The Washington Times, Article by David Mills
The popular film, Steel Magnolias, also seemed to go out of its way to avoid portraying traditional Christian beliefs. The true story of a courageous woman with diabetes who risked death in order to have a child, the movie made virtually no reference to the faith that governed her life.
Dr. Pat Robinson, her real-life husband, described a woman the audience never saw. “She was a Christian. She witnessed to people. She was a real servant. We prayed and had devotions — every night. Without God, Susan would have never been able to get through it all.” Quoted by Paul Prather, Lexington Herald Leader, Dec. 1, 1990
[SCENE FROM STEEL MAGNOLIAS]
Significantly, when Christian faith did make an appearance in the film — well, we’re back to the standard Hollywood stereotype. Apparently, Christianity is fine for the requisite fool, but doesn’t fit into the Hollywood version of a hero. The producer of another rewritten version of a hero’s life – was taken right from the pages of the Bible. The movie chose to portray the end of King David’s life — as an embittered man who destroys the model of the temple in a fit of rage against God. This scene appears nowhere in the Bible and nowhere does scripture suggest David’s enmity with God. Again we must ask the obvious question, “Why?”
Finally, and of course closely related to blasphemy against God and against His kingdom — is the entertainment industry’s general view of the citizens of that kingdom. And here again, as in the days of Caesar Nero, Christians are being thrown to the lions.
When M.A.S.H. opened in theaters many years ago, it created quite a stir. Director Robert Altman’s innovative style — his use of over-lapping dialogue, for example — garnered the film a number of Oscar nominations. Few critics seemed to note, however, the film’s fresh approach to character development — specifically, the way it portrayed Christians. Robert Duvall played the army doctor Frank Burns, a figure of anti-establishment mockery throughout the film.
(Play) — Not content to just openly mock his faith — a practice that, incredibly, seemed to spread throughout the entire camp,
(Play) — the movie took every opportunity to portray him as a consumate hypocrite.
(Play) — The character’s final exit in a straight jacket signaled the beginning of a new era in Hollywood —
Of course, the charge can be made, and frequently has, that Christians have left themselves open to this ridicule because of the behavior of the occasional, and sometimes well-publicized, hypocrite. What this charge ignores, however, is first that this hypocrisy doesn’t represent the standards of Christianity; in fact Jesus reserved His most scathing criticism for religious people who engaged in this type of behavior.
And second, and most important, the charge ignores the good that has been done by Christians — a good that far, far out- weighs the bad. Whether your talking about civil liberty, free enterprise, art, science, the existence of hospitals, care for the poor, on and on, the world would be a far less inviting place were in not for the influence of Christianity. And Hollywood, by opting to romanticize pagans while making fun of or demonizing Christians, is, ironically, attacking the foundation of the very culture upon which it was built.
(play) Whether it’ a Scripture-spewing madman — obsessed with some perverted view of biblical justice…
(play) …a hymn-singing preacher on a mission from hell.
(Children of the Corn) …an apocalyptic gang of religion-obsessed teens who practice everything from patricide — to human sacrifice.
(play) … an insane preacher
There’s a truth the entertainment industry — and its audience — desperately needs to keep in mind. The trump of judgment for each of us is just a heartbeat away — and truly only the faithful will inherit the kingdom. For those who dare to speak against God, to blaspheme His name, His temple, and His children (bring up and through Rev. 13:6) Hell will be a very hot place indeed.
In the fourth Psalm, King David asked a question that needs to be answered today:
(VOICE, bring up scripture) …How long shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? — Psalm 4:2
We serve an awesome God — One who for some inexplicable reason loves us enough to have sent His Son to die for our sins. How long will we allow His honor to suffer shame?
PART 3 — REBELLION
Proverbs tells us that the glory of a young person is their strength. This vitality — this willingness to take on the world — to challenge the status quo — to take risks — is among the most valuable and glorious characteristics of youth.
God loves it and loves to make use of it; Jesus’ disciples were young, and it was a teenage David that God sent to confront Goliath. But this strength is only one part of the overall picture.
The proverb goes on to say that the splendor of an old man is his gray head; a metaphor for wisdom. Few things in life are more effective in gaining wisdom than fearing God and then simply living — bearing up under the trials of life. So while it may have been a young David that God used to slay Goliath, it was an older and wiser David that God sent to command the armies of Israel. And herein lies the balance and the wisdom of God — the strength of youth married to the wisdom of age!
And this is why the family is the most basic unit of the Kingdom of God, why the first eight chapters of Proverbs are filled with fervent pleas to learn wisdom from our parents, and why God wrote by His own hand the first commandment that deals with interpersonal relationships:
“HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.” Exodus 20:12
God knew that young people are more susceptible to the influences of the world. The commandment to honor our parents is designed to keep young people safe. In our examination of entertainment, we should note that studies also show that young people are much more susceptible to the appeals of advertising. As a result, a TV show such as Beverly Hills 90210, a thirty second advertisement was worth more than shows with larger audiences simply because it could deliver a more vulnerable younger audience.
As ABC research expert Alan Wurtzel told the magazine TV Guide in 1992: “We’re going for the young market for the same reason people rob banks: that’s where the money is.” (TV Guide, July 11-17, 1992, p.12)
The powerful symbiotic relationship that exists between youth culture and the entertainment industry shows no sign of abating. So it is no wonder that Satan chooses to work through television and its advertising to encourage youth to rebel. Rebellion is a particularly useful sin because once you can get a person to reject authority, other sins become that much easier to push. That’s why God views rebellion as the moral equivalent of witchcraft.
Bob Pittman, one of the creators of MTV the cable channel that has practically become synonymous with youth culture has said: “Our core audience is the television babies who grew up on TV and rock and roll…the strongest appeal you can make is emotionally. If you can get their emotions going, make them forget their logic, you’ve got ‘em.”
“At MTV, we don’t shoot for the 14 year olds, we own them.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 3 Nov. 1982, pp. D-1, D-2)
From programming to commercials, lyrics to video imagery, it’s evident that MTV and other forms of youth-oriented entertainment don’t see parents sharing much in the lives of their children. Adults are rarely seen, and when they do show up, they’re typically portrayed as idiots, or uncool, or harsh and judgmental or all the above. Is it any wonder that in such a rebellious era, almost anything can happen and has.
[EXAMPLES OF REBELLION FROM VIDEOS]
But let’s conclude by briefly examining a classic of the teen movie genre — the 1983 blockbuster Risky Business. The film opens with a dream sequence that nicely encapsulates the movie’s plot and message as a teenage Tom Cruise walks past an open Bible and into a steam shrouded bathroom where a mysterious naked woman stands just out of reach. And so begins the central character’s journey from what is seen as the old, tired world of convention and morality into the exciting, new world of sin and “risky business.”
With his parents out of town, Cruise begins to push the limits. He gets drunk. Tears around town in his father’s Porsche. Hires a prostitute. Does drugs. And finally becomes a pimp, turning his parent’s home into a house of prostitution and his teenage friends into paying customers.
If all this wasn’t bad enough, the movie concludes on the note that sin and rebellion pay. His parents never catch on and his sexual exploits end up getting him into a college that had originally turned him down. And most incredible of all, the film blatantly mocks the young people who play by the rules by cynically contrasting their meager profits against the thousands made by Cruise as he left biblical morality behind.
In the last book of the Bible, Jesus tells a group of people to “remember from where you have fallen.” We need to remember. We need to remember the moral standard of youth and the heights from which that morality has fallen in just a few years. By comparison, today’s young people watch hours of television and music and are far more likely to be familiar with Freddie Krueger than Jesus Christ; Madonna more than the Mother of Jesus.
We need to remember when families feared God when they lived, ate, fought, and died together. We need to remember when our culture had a conscience and a sense of shame. We need to remember and then do the next thing Jesus said. We need to repent.
Today our nation and our youth are being taken captive into an electronic Babylon. And as long as we remain obsessed with entertainment as long as we continue to lift up our hearts to idols of blasphemy, lust, pride, violence, and vanity that captivity will only become worse. It is time to wake-up.
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Ephesians 5:14
PART 4 — SEX
Every time you turn on your TV today, you are bombarded with sensual and sexual images. We don’t have to look far to find them, nor do we need to provide explicit examples here to prove that they exist. But we should note that these are there for a reason. Television producers and advertisers know that it’s an easy way to grab the viewers attention. It is vital to advertisers to have an audience.
There is nothing innately wrong or sinful about the desire to view beauty or even the form of another human being. However, the Bible clearly teaches that sex was created for the covenant of marriage. While sex is a beautiful God-ordained action, God also warns against lust that can lead to sexual immorality and destroy the institution of marriage.
Love and sex are central to our humanity. But there is, unfortunately, no question that biblically we have taken our liberty and turned it into a cloak with which to cover our vice and perversion. Popular culture has now all but obliterated man’s distinction as something noble — as an image-bearer of God. Film, television, and music have effectively reduced him to a hairless ape living in an amoral universe where desire rules and where any barriers to its fulfillment are to be torn down and destroyed.
[INTERVIEWS: When was the last time you saw a movie or TV show that encouraged you to become more sexually pure?]
The question again is: How did it all come about? During what is commonly called the Golden Age of Movies, a 40 year period that began with silent films in the 1920s, there was a strong moral consensus among many film makers — a consensus based primarily upon the teachings of Scripture. Out of these beliefs came a conviction that the film industry should use its new-found influence over a movie-hungry public to teach positive moral values.
We already spoke of the code of morality enforced by two Christian film offices in Hollywood. But when these offices closed in the 1960s, many professing Christians had little zeal for either the Lord or the real needs of the culture around them. They became spiritually lazy, failing to hold up the standard of God’s Word, and here is where the majority fell into anti-Christian apostacy — throwing off God’s commandments all together and embracing the licentious and rebellious spirit. As a result, the Christian film offices were closed, the code was abandoned, and a new era began. And what an era it has become!
When the Christian Code of ethics for films was finally abolished in 1966, the timing couldn’t have been better. The radical youth movement with its emphasis on “free love” was at its peak. Naturally, Hollywood studios were eager to capitalize on these hot sexual trends… The effect on the American public was intoxicating and the long box-office lines around the country encouraged Hollywood to keep going further until every taboo was shattered in the name of commerce. Well, shatter taboos they did. One by one, Hollywood broke and then tried to erase every word the Lord has ever spoken on the subject of sex.
[EXAMPLES OF IMMORAL SEX WITH SCRIPTURES — Ephesians 5:5, Revelation 21:27, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Acts 15:29, Colossians 3:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Corinthians 10:8]
Where God expressly forbids sex before marriage; likening it to idolatry and stating in the strongest language possible that: “no fornicator has any inheritance in the kingdom of God” — 1 Corinthians 6:9&10 — the edited version in Hollywood reads: “Thou shalt lose thy virginity at the earliest opportunity — preferably on prime-time.”
Apparently, some stern decree has gone out from the upper reaches of the Hollywood establishment that love between married people must never be portrayed on the screen. Adultery is to be extolled far above love and sex between legally married couples.
The box-office smash Thelma and Louise practically shouted its feminist creed that men are bums and fulfillment for a woman can only be found after she’s left her husband. In one particularly telling scene Brad Pitt removes Geena Davis’s wedding ring as if it was a ball and chain ad then proceeds to show both her and the audience how wonderful adultery can be.
[Laughs at lunch table about how good it was.]
Partners change so often on the afternoon and prime-time soaps that magazines and newspapers do a brisk business just keeping score.
[Santa Barbara, Beverly Hills 90102, Melrose Place]
Given the fact that so many in the entertainment industry view sex as a great tool to make money, it’s no wonder that prostitution is another taboo the industry has shattered with a vengeance.
Warner Brothers obeyed this commandment of Hollywood with Risky Business. While the studio cleaned up at the box office, Tom Cruise and Rebecca DeMornay gave the world a pathetic object lesson on how harlotry can supposedly help a boy grow up, become cool, get rich, and gain entrance to the college of his choice.
[EXAMPLES OF OTHER FILMS PORTRAYING PROSTITUTION]
As morally bankrupt as some of these films these films are, however, they run a distant second to Touchstone Picture’s 1990 blockbuster Pretty Woman. This film, which has grossed nearly a quarter of a billion dollars, is a masterpiece of seduction. An extremely well crafted movie, with attractive and talented actors, Pretty Woman puts a new spin on an old story-line — one that transcends both time and culture.
The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God has set eternity in all of our hearts — that there’s an echo of an infinite world and a divine relationship from which we, in our sinfulness, have fallen. It’s from this “God-shaped vacuum”, as the philosopher Pascal called it, that our urge for transcendence, our need for religious meaning arises. And it’s also from here that we respond to certain symbols or allegorical truths that lie behind the surface of any great story. One of the most powerful of these is the tale of a woman who is delivered from some severe difficulty by a gallant redeemer who then marries her. This is the story of Ruth and Boaz in the Bible and, of course, Cinderella in the world of fantasy. Ultimately, all these point to the story of God coming to earth and dying as a man in order to redeem for Himself a people who are to become His Bride.
Pretty Woman takes this wonderful story and, as Julia’s best friend says one prostitute to another. Among the many lies this glittering abomination foists upon its audience are:
1. Being a whore can be glamorous.
2. You can be sexually active and still hold something back for that special someone.
If girls in particular were to stop believing this deception, the instances of illicit sex in this culture would be cut in half overnight.
3. Fornication can lead to true love and a story-book marriage.
The original screenplay tried to maintain a small degree of integrity by ending the movie on an honest note he left and she went back to the streets. But integrity matters little when there’s a quarter of a billion dollars to be made.
The good news of the gospel is that sex isn’t dirty — its sacred. And that’s why people who love God hate to see it dragged through the mud and stripped of its beauty and mystery. And a glorious mystery it is. Listen — the Bible tells us we were created in God’s likeness — male and female He made us together in His image. In other words, its only as a man is joined intimately with a woman, so intimately in fact that they become ONE, that most of us can attain some degree of wholeness as image bearers of God.
Then mankind fell from grace. As a result of our sin we’ve lost everything but a dim vestige — the faint ash of the holy fire that is the image and character of our heavenly Father. But through the mystery of marriage , since Christ has atoned for our sins and made a way for us to return to paradise, a man and a woman can, to a small degree, come together and return to this original, Edenic state.
God sanctified by the covenant of marriage. A man and a woman can be unashamed about sex. They can give and receive great pleasure. They can be used of God to give birth to another human being, another image bearer of Almighty God through their love for each other. This is the truth that Satan seeks to destroy. This is the beauty that so many in Hollywood want to efface. And this is the mystery that Christians must strive to reveal.
The Bible tells us that as Christians, as the Body of Christ, the Church, we are “the pillar and the foundation of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15) in a world bound by sin. Jesus calls us “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) granting us the awesome privilege and responsibility of shining His truth in a dark world and ministering the Gospel to a world in sin.
The early Church took these words very seriously resisting sin in their generation to a degree that often cost them their very lives. Can’t we at least turn off our televisions?
PART 5 — VIOLENCE
Like sex, we do not have to go very far to prove that television and movies are over-saturated with acts of violence. How to accurately portray the depth of this sin without shocking and desensitizing you is a problem here. Most of the blood and gore that is so prevalent in today’s entertainment has been carefully edited out of this section. Of course, these films are really much worse than what you are about to see.
[SCRIPTURE ON BLACK SCREEN]
“But the one who loves violence, my soul hates.” — Psalm 11:5
[INTERVIEWS: What do you think about all the violence in most movies and television today? Has the violence that you’ve seen on television and films ever affected you in a negative way?]
It’s been said: There is no more violent place on earth than the Hollywood set. Not only has the death count become astronomical, but the victims just don’t die – they explode. Bodies contort in slow motion, blood spurts, and the instrumentality of death is shown in excruciating detail. To better understand our culture’s fascination with violence, it is worthwhile to consider another culture, one whose power and wealth also enabled it to pursue increasingly complex and grotesque forms of entertainment.
[SCENES OF GLADIATORS]
Some three hundred years before Christ, the emerging Roman Empire inaugurated a new form of entertainment. To commemorate a certain Roman nobleman’s death, six battle hardened warriors were led into the arena to fight. The Empire’s love affair with the gladiatorial games had begun. In the next 600 years of the Roman Empire, the games became more widespread and cruel. Condemned criminals were purchased from wealthy patrons. And were put to death for the crowds pleasure. The weapons and methods for putting people to death also became more diversified. The crowds became more callous calling for more cruel forms of entertainment.
And beginning with the Emperor Nero, a new group of people, followers of Jesus Christ, were also called into the arena. Christians were persecuted sporadically under ten cruel Roman Emperors. Over the first few centuries AD, thousands of Christians died in the arena.
[MONTAGE OF VIOLENT SCENES FROM MOVIES]
Today a modern form of the Roman gladiatorial games has hijacked the imagination of western culture. Through cinematic film, today’s audience is becoming increasingly callous and is shouting for more blood and more deaths. Acclaimed director, Martin Scorcese, noted this dark parallel: “Maybe we need the catharsis of bloodletting and decapitation like the ancient Romans needed it, as a ritual but not real like the Roman circus.”
Scorcese is only half right. Our obsession with bloodletting reflects the same calloused heart that affected the spectators of the Roman games. But to excuse our modern blood-lust because it is aroused only by cinematic fantasy, rather than by actual death, is to ignore the spiritual dimension of our humanity. We are profoundly affected by the things we allow into our hearts.
[SCRIPTURE VERSES OVER BIBLE]
Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 33:7; Romans 12:2; Galatians 6:7,8
What happens when we stop watching over our hearts? — What happens when we start sowing the seeds of gratuitous violence into the soil of our fertile imagination. God has already told us:
[SCENES OF VIOLENT CRIME FROM NEWS PROGRAMS IN RUSSIA]
Is it a coincidence that since 1990, violent crime in our nation has risen dramatically? And that in the last decade, violent films shown on television and through videos have also grown in number and frequency? Is he influence of Hollywood’s films somehow contributing to this rise in violent crime.
Well, these individual denials do not refute the overall affect of violent imagery on our society. Over 3000 independent studies now conclude that violent images play a major role in affecting our behavior. This effect is even more dramatic in young people who form their social behavior and moral values from what they see and hear. There can no longer be any doubt that heavy exposure to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behavior, crime, and violence in society.
[MORE SCENES OF VIOLENCE]
There is no way to precisely estimate the impact of this imagery, but we are left to wonder how much the rise of violent crime could have been erased if these images were never ingrained in our national consciousness in the first place.
Despite the numerous statistics that have been done on the effects of violence on viewers, television executives are often hesitant to admit their complicity in encouraging a culture of criminal violence. They often say that there is no conclusive evidence that televised imagery impacts real-world behavior in any way. But let’s be honest: if they really believed that television does not affect behavior – what are they doing selling commercial advertising.
[TELEVISION COMMERCIAL transition to SIDE BY SIDE IMAGE OF VIOLENT FILM]
What really is the difference between a 30 second commercial and a 2-hour feature film? Well, about two hours!
While there are many examples of make believe violence that have affected real life killers, we are not suggesting that violent music, movies or television is responsible for all or even most violent crime. – but they do play a major role.
Just as a poor diet will affect your health in some way without necessarily leading to your death, a steady diet of violent imagery will eventually affect your mind and soul. And if we are careful to take care of our finite bodies, how much more careful should we be to nourish our eternal souls?
[SCENES FROM DICK TRACY, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, MILLER’S CROSSING]
Evidence of the great hunger for more and more violence is as close as the nearest TV. The movie Dick Tracy, a film targeting children and young people featured this montage of over a dozen fatalities – many shown in graphic detail.
The award winning film, Silence of the Lambs, explored the psychology of two serial killers. It even managed to turn on into a hero of a kind. Even though Anthony Hopkins character, Hannibal Lecter, is shown eating human flesh, the film’s audience sympathized with him and even found itself to be rooting for his escape from prison.
Sharon Stone’s character, whose character in the film Basic Instinct, kills her lovers while in the very act of sex. In one interview, Stone said: “Murder is a very sexual thing.” Rolling Stone, May 14, 1992, p.46.
Surely the church can do something to address our culture’s love affair with death. This sin runs much deeper than the thrill of danger or death on the screen. The greater tragedy is the way in which violence strips away both the viewer’s and the victim’s sense of humanity. Both the image and the love of God is lost amidst the blood and gore. The most sublime story of the passage of a human soul through life is thrown away in favor of some cheap distraction portraying a gruesome death. In place of love and the Gospel of peace, we have clothed ourselves with pride and an apathetic attitude toward death.
[IMAGES OF VIOLENCE FROM THE BIBLE]
Of course, not all images of violence strip away the image of God and man from the character portrayed. Quite the contrary, the Bible is filled with images of violence and killing – sometimes even as a righteous act. The Bible also teaches us that suffering and pain are part of our journey through a sinful world. But violence in the Bible is never gratuitous. It teaches a moral lesson and does not deny the humanity of the person.
Gettysburg recounts the story of one of the bloodiest battles in American history. We feel the death of the heroes on both sides of the American Civil War. That is what moves us and draws us towards the character. The battle was filmed with great attention to history with accurate details, even showing the exact places of bullet wounds in those killed. Contrast this sensibility to the antithesis of an artistic experience portrayed in many of Hollywood’s films.
Jesus addressed his hearers in the Sermon on the Mount preaching that even our attitudes toward other people matter to God. For instance, Jesus taught that hate was just the same as murdering someone in our own hearts. This is the same attitude evoked by many modern images of violence on film.
How does God expect His people to deal with a national obsession with violence? How are we to fulfill our responsibility to be salt and light in the midst of a dark and decaying culture? Today our “Roman Empire” culture needs Christians who are so filled with light that they can confront and overcome the darkness.
The Apostle Paul wrote: “The night is almost gone and the day is at hand.” It is time for God’s people – and perhaps this means you – to put away the deeds and the images of darkness and put on the armor of light.
[SCRIPTURE ON BLACK SCREEN: Romans 13:11,12]
PART 6 — THE LAST CRUSADE
In this last section, we will examine what should be our response to our culture’s fascination with wickedness on film. Are we simply to “kill our television set” or quit watching movies all together? That may be the response of some people – but I want to present something else for you to consider – the problem goes much deeper than what is happening in Hollywood. The problem – I submit to you – is with in us.
Films, television, music, drama and, in fact, all art will express the very heart and soul of the culture that produces them. This is what God intended for art – to be used to express the personality of the artist and also to reflect the glory of God – the image of God born in the hearts of His people. But when a culture or a person rejects God – the art it produces will soon follow that way also. Our culture’s obsession with increasingly ungodly entertainment finds instructive parallels throughout the Bible.
[Proceed with Ezekiel 8 drama; man sitting in chair with cigar watching the television.]
While there were no televisions, movie theaters, or CD players in biblical times, as King Solomon wisely observed, there is truly nothing new under the sun.
For example, how different are we really from the contemporaries of Noah a culture whose obsession with wickedness was so complete that Gob was moved to wipe them off the face of the earth? It was said of them: “…that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)
Significantly, the Hebrew word used here for “imagination” points directly to the underlying presuppositions that frame human consciousness. And some of the most profound influences in this arena are the stories, songs, and other works of art that a culture develops and embraces.
(VOICE — a bust of Plato.)
This is why Plato could say with confidence that he didn’t care who wrote the laws of his nation just as long as he could write the songs.
(Dissolve to Dore etching or some other work of art)
Perhaps it is this same sentiment that is being suggested by sacred scripture when it mentions, almost in passing it seems, one man who ended up playing a major role in the development of the culture that was to become Noah’s condemned generation: “And Adah bore…Jubal. He was the father of those who play the harp and the flute.” (Genesis 4:21)
In a time when men began to build communities and cities, Jubal became the father of the arts. Mankind, for good or evil, now had a powerful new tool with which to express his deepest and most profound thoughts. And the testimony of Noah’s generation is that those thoughts, and no doubt the art that helped convey them, became corrupt. How different is that from our culture today?
How different are we from the Israelites who sang and danced around the golden god of Egypt? It was said that they, too, were a nation that “sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 32:6) — a people, in other words, who were obsessed with entertainment and satisfying their lust. They, like us, had the commandments of God; knowing from the very mouth of Jehovah what they should and should not do. And like us, forgetting their redeemer who had gone up to God with the promise to return, they embraced what was forbidden, turning back to the idols of this world and paying homage to them through their entertainment.
How different are we from the citizens of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom who were told: “…as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up;…” (Daniel 3:5)
(VOICE— go back to the opening scene with the guy in the chair)
And, finally, how different are we from Ezekiel’s time? Compromised, with little salt or light, the prophet found them in what we would now understand to be the temple of their hearts, yielding their imaginations to the god of this world rather than the God of heaven.
Dealing with the practical and external level of the problem first, there are many practical things that can be done to tame the tube; there is no set answer to what you should do. But you must find the combination that works best for you.
The simplest and in some ways the most elegant approach to the problem is found in the words of our Lord: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Matthew 5:31
Many people, possibly even a majority, are quite literally addicted to their television. When they walk into a room where a TV is present – and that may be in two, or more rooms in their home — they are drawn like a magnet to the box — to find out what is on. As a result, they seldom read or pray. Conversation wanes and family times are shot down with every click of the channel. Invariably, these types of people know more about the smoke and mirrors of this fallen world than the beauty and wisdom of eternity. For them — for you if you recognize yourself in this — the best solution may very well be to obey the words of Christ and. — “cut it off and cast it from you.” Matthew 5:31 — to get rid of television altogether.
Some people – even professing Christians — support immoral movies out of a spirit of compromise. They know there are things that are objectionable, but are willing to overlook them because of some positive element in the film. The viewers really do believe that the good outweighs the bad.
For example, the film, Ghost, had in the conclusion of the film the really bad guys going to hell when they died — thereby hinting at the reality of God’s judgment against sinners. The “bad parts” that some people are apparently willing to overlook, however, are the much more obvious messages: that channeling spirits is cool, extra-marital sex is fine, and that a fornicating, blaspheming pagan can go to heaven without true repentance. In the same way, many Christians liked the romantic love story in Pretty Woman, while passing over the not-so-subtle way it glamorized prostitution.
As already mentioned, the problem doesn’t really originate in Hollywood – the problem is within our own sinful hearts. The Bible teaches us that man is born a sinner. Man does not become a sinner by committing acts of sin – but he commits sin because he is born of a sinful Adamic nature. But the good news is that Christ has come to forgive us and change our hearts from a sinful nature into the nature of His obedient children. But let’s now close by looking again at the vision of Ezekiel.
(VOICE — visual — back to the guy in the chair)
After seeing the abominations being practiced by God’s people, Ezekiel then saw six men, presumably angels, come and stand before the Lord at the bronze altar of the temple — a symbol for judgment. Among them stood another with a writer’s ink-horn at his side. God told him to first go throughout His city, the Church, and mark the foreheads of those who were not committing these abominations; but who were instead weeping and praying over the sins of their culture.
Significantly, the mark used was the Hebrew letter “TAV” — which was represented in Christ’s time by a cross. Then the Lord turned to the six men, clothed in linen and with a deadly weapon at their side, and told them to go throughout the midst of His people, beginning at the sanctuary, and destroy those who did not have the mark.
The application to our culture and our time should be all too obvious. You don’t have to be a prophet to know that God’s judgment is being visited on our land. Economically, biologically, environmentally, politically, morally, and socially this nation is staggering like a drunken man in his own vomit — and we, most likely, haven’t seen anything yet. But in the midst of judgment, God always remembers mercy – particularly for those who have the cross on their foreheads, tears in their eyes, and fire in their hearts. God wants you to be one of those people.
It’s time to stop staring at the projected images of darkness and instead lift up our eyes, behold the true light and reflect it to a world lost in shadows.
If you have been moved by what you have seen in this presentation and you want to be sure that God has forgiven you of your sin – If you want to know that Christ has changed your heart and that you are one of His children pray with me right now.
[PRAY SINNER’S PRAYER – SHORT SPONTANEOUS PRAYER]
If you prayed that prayer and are sincere about beginning a new life with God, we want to help you to do that. We have more information about how you can get started serving God in this new life. You’ll see in a few seconds a phone number and address on screen at the end of the video. We want you to understand that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. God bless you!
(Bring up the last scripture on screen)
But you are God’s chosen generation,
His royal priesthood, His holy nation,
His own special people .
He has chosen you to declare the wonderful deeds of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
(1 Peter 2:9)