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A word of introduction regarding the title of this article may not be out of place. The reader will notice that it is not entirely correct, and perhaps somewhat confusing, to speak of “The Evil of the Modern Movie.” The expression may leave the impression that not all movies, but merely the modern movies are evil, and as such to be avoided. In the first place, the movie itself is a comparatively modern invention and institution. And while we are perfectly aware of the fact that the movie-camera itself is not an evil thing, it is also very evident that the institution that has develop- from it is, and always has been, evil.

In the second place, permit me to state that I am not at all in agreement with the sentiments of the writer of an article which appeared recently in “The Standard Bearer.” I refer to the article under the caption “Is Christian Drama Possible.” And although it is not my intention to enter into a public debate with the author of that article, at least not in this present writing, I cannot refrain from expressing my dissatisfaction and disagreement with the arguments and the conclusions of that essay. We make these remarks only because we feel that the two subjects are very closely related. For if Christian drama is even remotely possible, then the movies need not necessarily be evil, and we should have to allow for the discernment between “good” and “evil” plays or movies advocated by various church leaders. Without entering into a detailed debate with the author of “Is Christian Drama Possible,” permit me to point out some of the inconsistencies found therein. After the author has weighed some of the objections to Christian drama and found them wanting, he states “I feel that in the face of these many arguments which oppose the two main objections against the drama, a blanket condemnation of the drama is hot valid.” Then, anticipating that some people, especially our youth, would say “Goody, now I can attend a drama occasionally!” he warns, “I am advocating the hard way! You had better reserve your elation, for you may never find a drama which you could or would attend.” We find this to be very inconsistent, for the simple reason that, if Christian drama is possible, then it should not be difficult to arrange for plays, dramas, or even movies which are fit for our young people. In fact, we are convinced that it would even be our calling to see to it that such opportunities for entertaining and instructing our youth are provided for. It would be a very effective means of combating the evil of the modern movie, and the also prevalent evil of drama and plays that are unfit for our covenant youth. It is therefore our conviction that the writer was not advocating the difficult way, but a very simple way out of the problem.

However, we are concerned in this essay with the movies. From what we have stated above, the reader may know that he is convinced that all drama, even so-called Christian drama, is wrong. It is for that reason also the conclusion of the writer of this article, that the movie as we know it in our day can never be anything else but evil, since the movies are photographic reproductions of the drama. But it is our intention in this article to point the reader to the sinful character of the movie-industry in our day. It is a well-known fact, that the actors and actresses who perform in them are godless men and women, who care nothing at all for the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. Not only do they “act” in the movies the life of the ungodly, but they themselves are such. They trample under foot all of the holy institutions of God, including that of matrimony. Divorce among these people is almost as popular as marriage itself. To have one’s fifth or sixth husband or wife is not at all unusual among them. They even openly boast of these things, which ought to be their shame. And, because of the almost fabulous sums of money they are paid for their roles on the screen, they are able to live lives of luxury and ease which are almost unbelievable. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die! is certainly their philosophy of life. There is no God, and if there is, what of it?

The plays which are dramatized upon the screen are of an equally sinful character. This we can know without attending the movie-theatre, simply from the advertisements and publicity given the movies over the radio and on the billboards, in newspapers and magazines galore. And what publicity! What pictures are posted to advertise these movies! Pictures that are suggestive of all that is sinful and corrupt in human nature. The very titles of many movies immediately strikes one’s attention. Such as “100 Men And A Girl,” “Our Wife,” “Bachelor Mother,” and many others too sickening to mention. The plays themselves present sin and corruption in all their horrible detail. Murder, robbery, divorce, godless comedy and passions are portrayed to entertain the countless millions of movie-goers. A play is accounted a big “hit” in proportion to the sin and iniquity which the so-called “stars” dramatize upon the screen. The most astounding sacrilege, the dragging of the most holy things into the mire of sinful passion is by no means uncommon. Nay, it is the rule, rather than the exception. In one word, we can sum up the entire movie as horrible ungodliness. Sin and vices are glorified, and men and women are deified.

What must be our attitude, then, over against this modern evil? Shall we recognize it as an evil, and then compromise with it? This seems to be the attitude prevalent in the Church today. As early as 1928 the Christian Reformed Churches adopted this attitude. Both in speeches and in practice the people of these Churches were told that movies are not necessarily bad. They were told to differentiate between good and bad movies. One such “good” movie was introduced among the young people in Chicago, Illinois. It was the moving picture “Dr. Martin Luther.” And not only was this picture shown, but leaders in the church congratulated the young people for their accomplishment. The natural outcome of such compromise will be that the church becomes more and more movie minded, of course. The youth of the church may then be warned against the “bad” movies, but, pray, how can they distinguish unless they first go to see various pictures. And we certainly must not advise the leaders of the church to visit these movie-theatres in order that they will be able to enlighten the people as to which plays are good or bad. How astoundingly ridiculous!

Shall we thus compromise?

No, a thousand times, NO!

But what, then, must be our attitude over against this terrible evil? Our answer is, and can only be, a “blanket of condemnation.” We must be in entire agreement with the sentiment of an article which appeared in our paper on April 15th 1927. In this article the author branded the movie as positively and principally wrong. And so it is. It is principally wrong, because the drama is also wrong. These two go hand in hand. There is no Christian theatre or movie possible, for the same reason that there is no concord or agreement possible between Christ and Belial. Light and darkness cannot walk together. And this is for us sufficient evidence that the movie-theatre may not be condoned by us. Mark well, we do not say that the movie camera is an evil thing. Many of our young people own and operate one of these cameras. They are no more evil than any other camera. These are all perfectly good gifts of God, But’ when sinful man gets hold of these good things, they are, of course, used in sinful ways and to sinful ends. Against this we must warn again and again. And we cannot do this by saying: The drama is alright, and some movies are good. We ought rather to say with the author of “A Compromise On Movies,” that there is no good movie. And the same author says, and I quote, “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 is admittedly an abomination in the eyes of Jehovah. But to play such a part is no less abhorred by Him.”

But it is equally sinful to dramatize things holy. Recently a picture was shown in this territory. This was one of those supposedly good movies. It was called “Golgotha,” and portrayed the sufferings of Christ upon the cross. This picture was heralded far and wide as “instructive and “uplifting.” It also was recommended by various church leaders. Think of it! A movie depicting the awful sufferings of Jesus our Lord. Who could ever act this role? Who knows the awful depths of the suffering Christ under the wrath of the living God? And then to have such pictures recommended by leaders of the church.

Finally, let us combat this evil of the movie with all our might and main. Let us instruct our youth to abhor it. Let us teach them really to prove what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.

Then, we will be advocating the right way.