(Editor’s Note. The following editorial from Volume IV of the Standard Bearer is dated, as will be evident from some of its references. But in its main thrust it is very much up-to-date, both for the young and the not-so-young. Why do I place it? I have in mind not only the amusement-craze in general, whose inroads have been all too large among us—if we will only examine ourselves. But I have in mind specifically the basketball-game craze which has swept our constituency; and more specifically still, the craze which even the secular press has dubbed the “March madness,”—tournament time. I would consider myself derelict in my duty if I did not raise my voice in unqualified protest against this saddening phenomenon. The following reprint is one contribution of protest. The “H.H. “who signed this editorial was, of course, the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema.)
It is amazing how quickly one becomes accustomed to insane ideas.
What is essentially foolish and, at first, appears absurd, is repeatedly brought before our attention as really good and expedient and practical and indispensable and necessary and very desirable; gradually it turns our head, changes our judgment, our valuation of things and soon has captivated us entirely.
Let a new fad only be adopted by a few, let these few advertise it, persistently bring it before the attention of the public. It will certainly be victorious. The masses will follow. The fad will win.
Thus it is in the business-world. If you want people to discard an old article and adopt a new product, no matter how much better the old may be than the new, all that is necessary is that you put your new article in the limelight, paste pictures of it on billboards, extol its virtues in full-page advertisements, if possible throw samples of it in every home, and you will win.
No different it is in society-life. If you want to change old and age-worn customs, that have stood the test of centuries, and introduce new habits, all you need is publicity. Long hair is certainly more beautiful than the bob. And every young lady knows it. But if there are too many barbers in Paris to live on the man-trade, and if you are a genius to invent new modes, and if you conceive of the ingenious idea of luring all the ladies of the land into the barber’s chair, all you need do is to send a few bobbed Paris-specimens into every town and village of the world, let them parade the streets, appear in every conspicuous place of public life, and though they must often part in tears with their God-given beauty, you may depend on it, that before long the majority of the female world will go bobbed.
Thus it is with many notions, absurd if you will think again.
One of these insane ideas, that have gradually but quickly and surely turned our minds is that our covenant-young-people need amusement.
Think seriously, think again, and you will agree that it is only a crazy notion.
Only refuse to believe all that is presented to you and to be dragged along with every new movement under the sun, only maintain that you have the unction of the Holy One and that you have no need that any teach you, and then judge of the statement: young people must amuse themselves, and you will agree in the light of Scripture, that the notion cannot have its origin in The Church of Christ, but must have originated in the world, that its source is not to be traced to Jerusalem but to Babylon.
Surely, in the world, where God’s covenant is unknown, one expects such a view of life. Life is brief! One lives only once! And youth is the springtime of life. In his youthful days one cannot be expected to look serious all the time. It is the time of joy and pleasure and hilarity! The time of fun and amusement! Soon enough comes the more serious time of life. Let the youth folk, therefore, eat and drink and be merry. And especially the youth of today, in the modern world, needs enjoyment and amusement.
One is not surprised at such language from those that seek the things that are below.
But in the Church?
Among the people of God?
How come that similar language is heard among them today and that the problem of the amusements of the young folk has become a very serious one, that even appears and looms large in Synodical Agenda?
Well, you see, it has been constantly preached.
Social reformers, pedagogues, wise men and learned, and even divines look very serious and profound, learnedly speak of the special characteristics and needs of modern youth, of the Problem of the Age of Adolescence, etc.
People begin to listen. Who is bold enough to reveal his ignorance by gainsaying men of learning with D.D.’s, Ph.D.’s and other mysterious tokens of wisdom and learning behind their names?
Solutions of the serious problem are offered.
Seeing that young people are naturally full of life and surely will have fun; seeing further that the world beckons them on every side and provides all sorts of much wanted enjoyment for them; seeing finally, that they will surely be led into the world if we do not introduce something into the life of the Church that will counterbalance the tempting power of the world, we must provide for them amusements ourselves.
Thus, gradually, the Church begins to practice the precepts of the wisdom of the world.
First, instead of edifying and instructive programs, silly socials and hilarious banquets are introduced, where one fairly bursts with laughter, opened with prayer and closed in the same manner, to ask the Lord for the forgiveness of premeditated sins, for which the participants prepared themselves weeks in advance!
Next come very imperfect imitations of the theatre, pageants, dramas, moving pictures and the like, carefully introduced by some specimens that present a religious appearance, not to give the more serious-minded in the Church too sudden a shock.
Soon it is argued that the body of our young people must have careful attention and athletics, ball-games, swimming-pools, bowling alleys and pool-tables are introduced, all for the development and enjoyment of the covenant-youth.
And presently you will find that people have accustomed themselves so thoroughly to the notion that young people must amuse themselves and fun of some sort must be provided for them, that the Church in its largest gathering, the Synod, sits wise and discusses the very serious problem: how can we provide wholesome amusement for the young folks?!
And it is, by then, forgotten that the whole idea is insane, never originated in the Church of Jesus Christ, finds no item of support in the Word of God, but was originated by the powers of darkness to lead the youth of the covenant straightway into the world and to hell!
I would appeal to our young folks not to listen to this false philosophy.
If you will think again, you will deem it an insult to your Christian young manhood and womanhood, that the Church actually considers your chief ambition to follow after vain amusements.
Do not misunderstand me.
I do not mean, that you must pass through the world with heads bowed low, eyes closed and faces so long “that you could eat oatmeal out of the end of a gas pipe,” as Billy Sunday has it.
There is undoubtedly a place in our life for means of relaxation, for real enjoyment.
But I mean in the first place, that it is surely contrary to the Word of God to present matters as if amusement and fun were the chief thing in your young lives, so that it becomes a serious problem how to satisfy the craving for entertainment. That is not true. It is certainly contrary to Scripture, contrary to your calling as covenant-children of Jehovah, contrary to your relation to Him and to the world in which you have been placed to be children of light.
And I mean in the second place, that our joy must be Christian, that even in moments of entertainment and relaxation our calling remains to be children of light. Our pleasures must be able to stand the unchangeable test, of the Word of God.
Young men! thus Scripture says, you are strong! You have overcome the evil one!
That means, that the world is no theatre and no playground, but a battlefield, and that we have our fight not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the spiritual wickedness in high places. That means, not that you are strong in body and have a well-developed muscle. That is very good, I like to see a young man that is also in the physical sense of the word strong. But it is not the main thing. Physical exercise is for that reason worth but little. It can have but a small place in our lives. It does not prepare you for the main battle. You cannot fight the devil with your powerful fist. But it means that you are strong in spirit. It signifies that the fear of God is in your hearts, that the love of God is poured forth in your souls, that your minds are enlightened by the grace of God, that you are well founded in the truth, in the principles of the Word of God, that you understand the world in which you live and are well able to discern between the powers of darkness and light in Christ, that you have put on the whole armor of God and are able to stand in the evil day.
Young women, you must adorn the truth! It is your calling, in the light of the Word of God, not to follow after the vain fashions of the world, to become transformed according to the manifestations and form of this world, but to be an example of true Christian modesty and beauty and virtue!
What you need?
Not chiefly amusements, but edification. Instruction in the Word of God. Being well-founded in truth, you will be able to fight the good fight unto the end that no one take your, crown.
You need the Word of God.
By giving heed to your way according to that Word you will cleanse your way.
The times in which we live are serious, in many respects more serious than any former age. The world develops in its own direction. It opposes the light not with open persecution, with sword and fire, but it introduces itself to you in many of its forms as Christian. We have Christian plays and Christian movies, Christian ball-teams and Christian athletics. There is a good deal of Christian deviltry in our day which is deceiving.
All the more reason, why you must be strong.
Youth is above all the time for preparation. The thing you must prepare yourselves for is not to be able to win in a game, but to have the spiritual victory in the battle of faith.
Hence, instead of giving your chief attention to amusements and fun, I pray you search the Scriptures!
Development in truth of the Word of God must be the chief aim of your societies.
Study the Word!
Study it for Catechism. Study it in your societies. Study it at home. You need it more than ever.
And free yourselves from that insane amusement-notion that is in the air and keeps thousands under its spell.
Then, by the grace of God, you will be able to stand.
And gain the victory.