God’s children in the midst of the world face many more temptations than those of yesteryear, and these temptations are becoming increasingly subtle and dangerous. As the world develops in every phase of its life and as all creation’s potentialities are discovered and developed and placed in the service of sin and corruption, the means wherewith to sin and the forms wherein sin manifests itself become more and more numerous and treacherous. For the child of God the world is making itself more difficult than ever before. In its own evil way it is striving diligently for perfection, and who would care to deny that it is making rapid progress? Would that the church of Jesus Christ were striving as zealously for perfection in that which is good as the evil world is laboring for the ultimate in that which is of sin. That does not mean that the natural man of yesteryear was spiritually and morally better than man is today. Then, too, man was conceived and born in sin, incapable of doing any good and prone to all evil, and whatever he did or did not do with the time and means at his disposal, God was not in all his thoughts. However, it does mean that there is development, growth in sin, commensurate to the development of life itself, and in the measure this is the case the position of the Christian in the world becomes ever more difficult.
An example of this is the movie theatre of the present day. What tremendous strides have been made in this field in a comparatively short time. Since the invention of the motion picture, a thing that is certainly wonderful in itself and that could be a mighty instrument for good and for the instruction of our children in that which is proper, the world has made the most – of its opportunities. Only a few decades ago there simply was no movie theatre for our people, especially our young people, to attend. Today there is no hamlet without one and the movie industry has grown to unbelievable proportions. Alongside the growth of this industry, this vicious instrument for the moral and spiritual corruption of our young people, there are other things that serve to make the temptation even greater than it already is. Only a few decades ago there were no cars. People were compelled to remain close to home and to live their lives and seek their amusement within a much smaller radius than is possible today. Now distance means nothing and there is no limit to where one can go and what one can do in a comparatively short time. In this world all things are made to serve one another.
A more recent development in this movie business advertises itself and is known among us as the DRIVE- IN THEATRE, a summarized version of the movie theatre as we have always known it. In an amazingly short time hundreds of them have sprung up like toadstools all over the country. Wherever you ride, here and in Canada as well, you see them. With them, as anyone will readily understand, the temptation has become greater than ever before. When I first saw a DRIVE-IN THEATRE (I remember it well,* it was on the road from Grand Haven to Muskegon) my heart sank. Somehow I sense that many more of our young people would succumb to this vicious temptation and that the movie evil was becoming more difficult to combat all the time.
Subsequent reports and experiences have proved that those fears were not ungrounded. The DRIVE-IN is doing a thriving business, also from those who bear the sign and seal of the covenant of God on their forehead. It is my firm and happy conviction that no group of young people in this country has a better record than ours as far as movie attendance is concerned. Nevertheless, our hands, too, are far from clean. There are too many, also in our own circles, who try to serve God and Mammon both. Shame on them! Would that they really knew what was for their own good and the welfare of the church of Jesus Christ!
Movie attendance in general is on the increase. The DRIVE-IN is doing its part to help this cause of the wicked world along. There was a time, only a generation ago, when those who sought their amusement in these places of the world were the exception in the church of Christ. That the movie theatre was not for the children of God’s covenant was accepted without question. Violators were regarded with distrust and disgust, even by their fellow young people. That is no longer the rule today. No longer are movies identified with the world, at least, not to the extent they once were. No longer do church and school warn against them as they once did. Young people are becoming more and more bold about frequenting them. Just how much the corrupt doctrine, of common grace, the teaching that God is gracious to the wicked world and that the latter can still do much that is pleasing in the sight of God, has to do with the steady growth of this evil, eternity will fully reveal. In deed even more than in word God’s church has forsaken the truth of the antithesis.
I appeal, therefore, to our young people to continue in the way of righteousness and to abstain, completely and from the heart, from this subtle evil. Watch and pray that ye fall not into temptation. Don’t place yourself on the side of the powers of darkness. Don’t identify yourself in any way with the forces that are working constantly for the deterioration and spiritual emasculation of the church of Jesus Christ. Don’t try to serve God and Mammon at the same time, for this is not possible. Don’t destroy yourself, morally and spiritually, by poisoning your minds with the smut and sensualism of this godless world. Seek your delight in the things that are good. Sing the songs and indulge in the sports that are wholesome. Above all, seek the things of the kingdom of God and work with and for them, your societies, your church, etc.
I appeal to our Christian parents to remember their calling and to give their children the loving but firm guidance they need. Don’t minimize the danger of this temptation and the greatness of this sin. Teach your children that the movie is strictly a thing of the world, the world at its worst. Know what your children are doing and where they go. Appreciate the greatness of the temptations that surround them. Don’t be too sure even of your own children. Don’t imagine that they are somehow immune to temptation. Such an attitude of smug complacency does no one good and may bear bitter fruits. The disappointments in life are so many that no parent in the home or consistory on family visitation can afford simply to assume that there is no ground for suspicion. Understand that your children, too, are conceived and born in sin; that they are “angels” no more than those of your fellow Christians; that they also have within them the natural urge to indulge in the pleasures of the world. Instruct them constantly in the way of the Lord. Be as concerned about their moral and spiritual welfare as you are about their bodies.
I appeal to our churches through their consistories to remain adamant in their stand against this manifestation of the kingdom of darkness. Fight it in every possible way, through instruction and discipline. “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? of what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? …. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.”
That there is no real difference between the DRIVE-IN THEATRE and the regular movie house is obvious to all, of course. They offer the same corruption and have the same deadly effect. If it is sinful to frequent the one it is no less evil to attend the other. The same films are shown in both. The same themes are portrayed, horror, crime, sex, carnal love,—anything that appeals to the sensuality of man. The same life of the world is depicted; the same language of the world is spoken; the same philosophy of the world is instilled into the minds and hearts of the victims; the same aspirations and ideals are glorified and the same attitudes, toward God and His church, toward heaven and hell, toward marriage and divorce, toward idolatry and profanity, sabbath desecration and immorality, theft and murder, are revealed. In both, those who attend are instructed by an unspeakably ungodly Hollywood in all the ways of a wicked world. In both the plastic, impressionable mind of youth is molded by the world at its shrewdest,—and darkest. In both all that is sacred is ruthlessly sacrificed on the altar of sheer, carnal pleasure. In the DRIVE-IN as well as any other theatre amusement and instruction emanate from a source that is more decidedly antichristian than anything in all this evil world. The same purpose is served: mere wealth and cheap Hollywood fame; the same utter disregard for virtue and honor is revealed. For your money they will give you anything you desire,—and they do. The DRIVE-IN as well thrives on crime, murder, gangsterism, theft, deceit, lust, illicit love affairs, nudity and whatever is abominable in the sight of our God. It, too, brings to us a Hollywood of which Dan Gilbert, upon investigation of the entire motion picture industry, once said: “Hollywood is the nearest thing to ‘hell on earth’ which Satan has been able thus far to establish in this world. The Hollywood influence is making America over—according to the pattern of. . . . hell itself.” Hell Over Hollywood, page 14.
It is plain, therefore, that there is no essential difference between the DRIVE-IN and any other theatre.
Still, there is something about the former, it seems to me, that makes it even more subtle, more treacherous than the latter. It represents progress on the part of the world.
Somehow the DRIVE-IN leaves the impression of being just a little more innocent. This is sheer imagination, I know, but it might be apt to impress one as such. After all, you are in God’s great out-doors and you do remain in your own car.
Definitely, it is more convenient than attending a regular theatre. You simply drive in and remain in your own car. It makes no difference how you happen to be dressed. Whether you are attired in your Sunday best or whether you are returning from the beach in no more than a bathing suit; whether you look neat and clean or whether you look grimy and haggard from a day at the picnic,—you’re always dressed and ready for the DRIVE-IN. Then, too, how convenient it is to take one’s children, even babies. They are not a nuisance to anyone else. In fact, take a bottle of milk along with you when you go to the DRIVE-IN. Free bottle heating service is provided for them who need it, Then, if you are hungry or thirsty, all you have to do is order what you desire and refreshments are served to you in your car. Nor do you have a parking problem to solve. You simply remain in your own car. The devil certainly wants you to be comfortable.
Moreover, the DRIVE-IN certainly makes it easier for one who never went to “a show” to go for the first time. There is so little danger of being discovered. You cannot go to a neighborhood theatre or enter one of the brilliantly lighted downtown movie palaces without running great risk of being detected. However, the DRIVE-IN reduces this danger to a minimum. After all, it is evening when you go and you do remain in your own car. And so, another important obstacle has been taken away.
All these elements serve to sharpen the temptation.
Also, instead of being less dangerous than the regular theatre in town the DRIVE-IN, from certain points of view, is more so. I hate every theatre. All are dens of sin and instruments of destruction. I hate the DRIVE-IN most. When I think of young people, boys and girls, sitting in those cars, all by themselves, at night, looking at a movie produced by actors and actresses who care nothing about morality and sobriety and by directors and film companies whose sole motive is greed,—when I think of these boys and girls together looking at scenes of love, sex, violence, seduction, nudeness, murder, flirting, license, unbridled lust, lewdness, kisses, embraces, and what not,—when I consider that of all human instincts the sex instinct is the most powerful of all in its effect on conduct,—when I read the reports of prominent men who have made a thorough study of the movie situation and the frank confessions of delinquents who testify how the movie theatre helped them on the road of shame,—when I read this testimony of a fifteen-year-old girl, “When with the opposite sex I am rather quiet and allow them to Tell me what to do. When they go to make love, to kiss or hug, I put them off at first, but it always ends in them having their own way. I guess I imitated this from the movies because I see it in almost every show I go to”. . . .when I read a paragraph like this, “It is interesting that fifty percent of the high school students examined by Professor Blumer indicated that their idea about sexual love came from the movies”. . . . then, frankly, I shudder at what must go on in some of those cars. Considering that thirty million young people and children attend the movie every week only to soak in that kind of “stuff”, it is no wonder that women and girls go around as they often do and that the bathing beach has come to resemble a nudist colony more than anything else.
One could write no end on this subject, but our space is more than used up.
Let him who has sinned in this respect, do so no more.
Don’t sacrifice your spiritual health and the welfare of Zion on this altar of worldliness and passion.
“Be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.”