Movies: Where Do We Stand?

After reading “The Reformed Family: Teachers,” (Standard Bearer, 9/15/96) and the subsequent letters, I would like to make a few comments.

My concern is centered primarily in the paragraph that relates Miss Reitsma showing her history class a secular movie with bedroom scenes supposedly involving a husband and wife.

Allow me to quote Herman Hoeksema as related by Gertrude Hoeksema in her biography of him, Therefore Have I Spoken, pages 183-185. Mrs. Hoeksema takes this – quote of Herman Hoeksema from the Standard Bearer, vol. III, pages 318-320. The article is entitled, “A Compromise on Movies.” Although written 70 years ago, this article stands unquestionably relevant for us today.

Mrs. Hoeksema first tells of her father-in-law’s deep concern with the impact of the amusement craze on the lives of the church of tomorrow. (I hardly need to emphasize that his concern was for us today.)

Secondly, she states that the article was written in April, 1927, just before the Christian Reformed Synod’s “Thou Shalt Not’s” of 1928, occasioned by the pleas of various Classes to Synod for a definite stand on amusements. The article follows, in part:

One cannot, forsooth, help to be’ sarcastic when he beholds the church who sits still and raises no cry of indignation, when in her schools (emphasis mine—HDB), that bear the name Christian, the youth of the church are taught that a good movie and a good theater are not bad; who lets her young men and young women in her own college be instructed to appreciate the beautiful things that are played in the theater; who banishes her faithful servants that desire to teach and to maintain the true .line of doctrine in life with regard to these things of the world; and who, thereupon, sits serious in synodical dignity to “solve the problem” of worldly amusements.

Rev. Hoeksema continues:

Dr. C. Bowman, professor in ‘Ethics in the Theological School of the same churches, prepared a lecture on “Movies” and with it he appears occasionally in public to enlighten the Church with regard to this “serious problem.” 

The principle of the movie is accepted by him. A movie is not necessarily bad. But ‘not all movies are good even as not all movies are bad. God’s people, therefore, must distinguish. They must decide for themselves what is good and what is bad and take the former…. 

We differ emphatically from the professor of Ethics. 

We claim he does not understand the matter; that his advice is positively dangerous; that he caters to the spirit of worldlimindedness in that lecture…. 

But the movie and the theater are to be condemned principally. There is no good movie. A Christian theater and a Christian movie are a contradiction in terms. 

And the reason is, that you cannot play with life and be acceptable in the sight of the Lord.

Certainly, it must be evident, that no child of God is able to appear on the stage or on the screen, playing the part of an ungodly man. To be an ungodly man and to live an ungodly life in reality is admittedly an abomination in the eyes of Jehovah. But to play such a part is no less abhorred by him.

And he continues a little further down:

And to the Most High; who desires truth in the inward parts, and in whose eyes all hypocrisy (emphasis mine – HDB) is an abomination, these things were of darkness and of the evil one….

The ethics of the professor with regard to movies are-not those of the word of God. 

We advise him to burn his lecture.

Strong language indeed, and this 70 years ago!

To whom, may I ask, did Rev. Hoeksema refer when he said “We differ emphatically…”? Was Hoeksema’s concern for the “church of tomorrow,” for us, perhaps somehow misguided? I believe even he would be shocked today at the inroads that drama and movies have made into our homes and, yes, even into our schools under the disguise of educational. I wonder, “Where do we stand?” Does anyone know? Does anyone dare anymore to answer this question for the “Church of tomorrow?” Perhaps we too have some burning to do in order to lay full claim to the title, “The Children of the Reformation! of 1924.”

H. Boonstra, Jr.

Lynden, WA