Sunday, September 9, 2018

Why I Don’t Go to Many Movies

A recent poll in my hometown newspaper determined 58% of their readers “almost never” go to the movies. One woman wrote a letter exhorting us to go to more of them. She recommended seeing one in particular called “Eighth Grade.” I wrote a letter in response pointing out that movie is rated R due to its sexual themes and use of four-letter words. Ironically, that prevents actual eighth graders from seeing it unless an adult accompanies them.

I was saddened to learn “Eighth Grade” was released internationally by Walt Disney Studios. Disney used to be synonymous with family-friendly entertainment. While I was growing up, Mom and Dad took my sister and me to many Disney movies. 

I also remember wanting to see “Saturday Night Fever” as an eighth grader in 1978. My parents wouldn’t take me after seeing it for themselves and heard lots of foul language (we later watched an edited version on TV). Now as a God-fearing adult, I refuse to spend my money on movies filled with swear words and condoning immorality. 

One exception happened on a Monday night in January 1998. I felt led to skip an evangelism outing and went for a drive around the Twin Cities area. Suddenly, I kept having thoughts of seeing “Titanic.” At first, I questioned this being direction from God knowing there would be inappropriate scenes in the film. Eventually, I drove to a movie theater. When “Titanic” was over, I walked out to my car and had one of my hardest cries ever! I believe God used the movie to help me release suppressed emotions. Friends of mine who saw it told me they wept because of the many unsaved people that died in the tragedy. My tears were triggered more by the love story in the film. I desired a romantic relationship like the one portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (except I would wait on making love until our wedding night). 

In recent years, I’ve probably gone to an average of two or three movies per year. As a former employee of Billy Graham’s film ministry World Wide Pictures, I can appreciate good filmmaking. Some of WWP’s releases could’ve been of higher quality (one coworker compared them to the “ABC Afterschool Special”). Other productions were worthy of theater showings. One of the latter is “The Hiding Place” about Corrie Ten Boom’s imprisonment at a Nazi concentration camp. My personal favorite is “The Ride” starring Michael Biehn and Brock Pierce. These films powerfully demonstrate God’s love and the gospel. When I called pastors to find out what happened during film showings at their churches, I often heard praise reports of people getting saved or recommitting their lives to the Lord.

It’s almost laughable how generations ago some ministers preached against movies even through they were much cleaner compared to what’s playing in theaters today. Prior to 1968, Hollywood had higher moral standards due to what was known as the Hays Code. You didn’t see the violence, profanity, and nudity that later became prevalent in many motion pictures. There was even a time when Hollywood avoided “ridicule of the clergy.”

Nowadays, I shun rated R flicks. The last one I watched in a theater was “The Passion of the Christ”, which received its R rating because of the excessive blood shown during the Lord’s beating and crucifixion. Even some PG-13 movies need to be scrutinized. Until a few years ago, movies with that rating were allowed only one F-bomb. Then the Motion Picture Association of America relaxed its ratings code to allow more usage of that offensive word.

The success of faith-based films like “War Room” and “I Can Only Imagine” indicate there’s still an audience for productions extolling Judeo-Christian values this nation was founded upon. Perhaps more Americans would flock to the theaters if Hollywood cleaned up their product. 

There are other reasons why I don’t go to many movies. In my opinion, tickets have become too expensive (not to mention the inflated prices theaters charge for food and drinks). I almost always go to matinee showings or wait and rent the DVD. Another thing that’s turned off many moviegoers is the Academy Awards becoming a platform for bashing the president and promoting ungodly political views. The last ceremony in March was the least-watched show in the Academy’s history.

Oscars are frequently given to motion pictures I consider trash (reminds me of the like-named Grouch on Sesame Street). Those golden trophies don’t mean a thing from an eternal perspective. Everyone should be more concerned with heavenly rewards.

“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” - 1 Corinthians 9:25

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