Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tozer on Movies

I thought this might be a good time to bring up an article by one of my favorite Christian thinkers, A.W. Tozer. The Menace of the Religious Movie is his discourse on drama in Christendom.

This is--I'm sure I don't have to tell you--even more controversial today than when Tozer wrote it. I don't quote him here to declare my total opposition to the use of any kind of drama, but I do think his words are worth considering honestly, in light of the Word of God and not our own desires and preferences. After reading it, I understood my own discomfort with films like The Passion of the Christ much better. I quote Tozer below, but please, read the whole thing. It's not long and I can't do it justice by snipping. He writes,

The temptation to introduce "new" things into the work of God has always been too strong for some people to resist. The Church has suffered untold injury at the hands of well intentioned but misguided persons who have felt that they know more about running God's work than Christ and His apostles did. A solid train of box cars would not suffice to haul away the religious rubbish which has been brought into the service of the Church with the hope of improving on the original pattern. These things have been, one and all, positive hindrances to the progress of the Truth, and have so altered the divinely-planned structure that the apostles, were they to return to earth today, would scarcely recognize the misshapen thing which has resulted....

Within the last few years a new method has been invented for imparting spiritual knowledge; or, to be more accurate, it is not new at all, but is an adaptation of a gadget of some years standing, one which by its origin and background belongs not to the Church but to the world. Some within the fold of the Church have thrown their mantle over it, have "blessed it with a text" and are now trying to show that it is the very gift of God for our day. But, however eloquent the sales talk, it is an unauthorized addition nevertheless, and was never a part of the pattern shown us on the mount.

I refer, of course, to the religious movie.

For the motion picture as such I have no irrational allergy. It is a mechanical invention merely and is in its essence amoral; that is, it is neither good nor bad, but neutral. With any physical object or any creature lacking the power of choice it could not be otherwise. Whether such an object is useful or harmful depends altogether upon who uses it and what he uses it for. No moral quality attaches where there is no free choice. Sin and righteousness lie in the will. The motion picture is in the same class as the automobile, the typewriter, or the radio: a powerful instrument for good or evil, depending upon how it is applied....

The idea that religion should be entertaining has made some radical changes in the evangelical picture within this generation. It has given us not only the "gospel" movie but a new type of religious journalism as well. It has created a new kind of magazine for church people, which can be read from cover to cover without effort, without thought---and without profit. It has also brought a veritable flood of religious fiction with plastic heroines and bloodless heroes like no one who has ever lived upon this well known terrestrial ball.

That religion and amusement are forever opposed to each other by their very essential natures is apparently not known to this new school of religious entertainers. Their effort to slip up on the reader and administer a quick shot of saving truth while his mind is on something else is not only futile, it is, in fact, not too far short of being plain dishonest.

One thing about films I'm personally uncomfortable with is the insertion of images into my mind which I can never erase. Media is so powerful, we must be so careful--but we are bombarded with harmful images as never before in human history. Even items marketed to Christians can be full of evil--but even if it's not blatantly evil, is it serving God's purposes?

Did you know that the origin of the word 'hypocrite' is Greek?

1. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness.
2. An act or instance of such falseness.

[Middle English ipocrisie, from Old French, from Late Latin hypocrisis, play-acting, pretense, from Greek hupokrisis, from hupokrīnesthai, to play a part, pretend : hupo-, hypo- + krīnesthai, to explain, middle voice of krīnein, to decide, judge.]

Kinda interesting. Again, I'm not drawing conclusions--just putting out a viewpoint to consider.