• Is it OK for Seventh-day Adventists To Go to the Theater?

    photo credit: erin m via photopin cc
    Should Seventh-day Adventists, or Christians for that matter, attend a movie theater? Growing up in a conservative Hispanic Adventist church the answer was an emphatic "NO!" You could even be placed on church discipline if it was revealed that you had indeed attended this most vile and ghastly of entertainment centers. Young people, rebellious and inquisitive as they are, began to ask the inevitable "why" question. Here are some of the answers we received (and some I have heard recently):
    "The theater is an evil place and your guardian angel wont go in there with you."
    "If you die while you are at a theater you will lose your salvation."
    "Ellen White said we should not attend movie theaters because the environment is evil."
    "It is a waste of money."
    As you can imagine, many of us were disappointed with these answers and those of us who were not (myself included) did not give them enough thought to realize how silly they were. For example, what is it that made the movie theater evil? Why would going to the movies to watch Pocahontas place my salvation in jeopardy? Why would the angels watch a movie with me at home and yet refuse to go into a theater with a similar movie? How is renting a movie for 3 dollars, or buying one for 20 dollars not a waste of money but going to the 1 dollar theater is? As you can imagine, the mental motors of logic where burning the oil of rationality faster than an old run down Buick. The youth were stumped.

    So what is the answer? Allow me to share two reasons why I have struggled with this whole "no theater" concept. First of all, the standard cannot be found in scripture. Are there principles there that assist us in proper movie selection? Yes. But there is no principle for avoiding the building itself.

    Second of all, theaters in Ellen Whites day were immoral places where drinking, smoking, and prostitution were allowed. Today theaters are family friendly and it is very common to see parents with their children there. Smoking, drinking, and prostitution are definitely not allowed. So while the environment was evil in Ellen Whites day it is certainly not evil today.

    But those are not the reasons why I dislike this standard. The main reason why I don't like it is because the standard is too weak. Notice, I didn't say it is too strong, legalistic, or rigid. I said it is too weak. The weakness lies in the fact that when you tell someone "don't go to the theater" you automatically make the building an evil place, not the content. Theaters today are not evil places. However, they are certainly filled with their share of evil movies. But when you tell a young person that the theater is evil and that he should just rent a movie the young person goes to Red Box and picks up a copy of the latest Zombie movie replete with mindless killing and filth. This is exactly what happened to us growing up. Stay away from the theater! We were told. And the same people who told us this would let us come over to enjoy all of the carnal garbage that Holy-Wood had to offer. We got in trouble for going to the theater to watch The Passion of the Christ, but it was OK to go to the elders house to take in the disturbing scenes in SAW and Resident Evil.

    The problem will soon become worse if Netflix gets its wish. A recent article in the Huffinton Post reported Netflix's intent "to replace the movie theater."[1] If Netflix gets its way we will soon be able to stream brand new movies right away instead of having to go to a theater. Give it a few years and theaters will become a thing of the past much like the drive in theaters so popular in the 50's. A new generation of Adventists will grow up with no regard to the content they are seeing because, after all, theaters no longer exist.

    So is it OK for a Christian to go to the movie theater? I believe so. But it is not OK for a Christian to watch movies that are contrary to Biblical principles. That holds true whether you are at home, at a theater, or anywhere else. If we as adults would, instead of telling our young people that theaters are bad, teach them how to select good, uplifting, and positive movies then they would be able to make those choices no matter where they go or where the movie is shown.
    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. - Philippians 4:8

    _____
    [1] Kelinman, Alexis. The Huffington Post, "Netflix Wants To Replace The Movie Theater" Web: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/28/netflix-movies_n_4169752.html
  • 12 comments:

    1. I agree with your thoughts on the standard being weak. But I think a more important question is, Is there anything out of Hollywood that is even okay (not good) just okay to watch? You mention Pocohontus, which is ironic because I resaw it as an adult a couple months ago and was shocked that it was chalk full of spiritualism (gloryifiying it) and was anti-christian at a very minimum (all the Christian characters talked nothing ot their beliefs, but sang about God and country and finding Gold only).

      Meanwhile 'Grandmother Willow' is given center stage throughout the movie, and its common things are listening to wind, and following your heart (feelings). Is this really something that Christians can approve of? I know I can't, I don't want to introduce my children or the churches to seductive songs teaching them the exact opposite of what the Bible says. This is why we lose our youth.

      Not to mention the real Pocohontus actually converted to Christianity, but you won't find that anywhere in the Disney narrative. Anyway, I actually found this because I am beginning to think that Angels really (literally) don't go into clubs, bars, theaters or anywhere else were we are willingly going against God's will.

      Heres a good link on media on the brain. http://youtu.be/XQRFkn0Ly3A

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      1. Hey Robert, I agree with you entirely. The objective is to learn and teach one another to live for Gods glory. If Pocahontas, or anything else, goes contrary to that then we need to cut the cord so to speak. Your comment actually supports the thesis of my article, that it is content, not location, that determines whether something is appropriate for Christians. I know a guy who absolutely hates the theater and raves about how evil it is, and yet when a movie he wants to see comes out, rather than go to the theater (because it so evil) he buys the bootleg version (which let me remind you, is against the law and considered theft). So he would rather break the commandment that says "Thou shalt not steal" then break the non-existent commandment "thou shalt not go to the theater." In addition, his home is full of movies that glorify adultery, the occult, violence, and horror. But of course, he doesn't go to the theater so its OK!

        Living by the principle of Phillipians 4:8, which stresses content and not location, has not actually made me go to the theater more. In fact, in the last 5 years I think I have gone once on a date with my wife to watch a pixar movie, lol. And when I rent movies to watch (which I do more often) I am super careful with what I select. In fact, I hardly even watch television. Some people think by telling the youth the theater is OK because its content, not location that matters, will make them go to the theater more. But the opposite is true. Holywood seldom has anything worth giving 5 seconds to, so the result is the opposite. But the point is, at least we are giving them a valid reason for the standard that makes sense.

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    2. Hello,
      I totally agree with what you say. But growing up i was taught that going to the theaters was wrong because the environment not only shows dirty movies but there is alot of spiritual activity. Which im referring to demons. My parents told me that you can mix hot and cold together and that you cannot be lukewarm. And by going to the movie theaters and if god were to come back that day you went that god would leave you behind. But, aren't we surrounded by demons? What if your neighbors were to watch a dirty movie right next door to you, but of course your not aware of it. Wouldnt it be the the same thing if you were to go to the movies? It has been a struggling topic among us christians because when you try to share to a non-believer or a believer to not go to the movies but yet they tell you " Well this christian friend i know goes to the movies." How do you try to stand your ground when other followers are doing the complete opposite then you. I dont understand anymore, I wish god would've put all of this we were to come across in the bible. He put tattoos, but less about alcohol, how can you try to help a drunk if they read in the bible that they drank wine. Its really difficult, there are times which I can't deal with it and rather lock myself away from the world because i feel thats the better. We are surrounded by so much evil that how can you say a place is a bad place if we are already surrounded by evil. I wish god would talk to us all and tell us or place in the bible miraculously. How are we christians suppose to stand our ground when we dont have enough proof that will show others we are not crazy, but yet people still do. I don't anymore, life is stressful. I rather god take me now then me being here having to deal with all of this. I don't see the joy of life no matter how hard i try. Maybe im not doing much i dont know. I still fell lost....

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      1. Thanks for your comment Kristy! I think you raise some really good questions here that are both relevant and profound. Rather than attempt to answer your question all at once allow me to throw some concepts out for you to interact with step by step. First of all, I think its important to understand that the Bible is not a book of rules (do this, dont do that). While God certainly issues commands, that is not the point of the Bible. The Bible is a narrative. Within this grand narrative we discover the creator God who wants to connect with us. And everything else hinges on his desire to be in an intimate relationship with us. So how do we approach issues like the theater, alcohol, etc. that the Bible says little about? We have to understand them within the narrative of scripture. If the Bible is calling me to an intimate relationship with God then everything in my life should be redefined to make that connection supreme. From your comment I get the distinct impression (and I could be way off here so forgive me) that you dont approach the Bible this way. Instead, it seems as though you approach the Bible from a different angle that seems to be over-complicating things a bit. Perhaps, like I once did, you approach the Bible as a book that tells you what to do as opposed to a story of what God does in and for you to draw you to himself. If that is the way you approach the Bible it can create an exhausting religious experience. But remember, Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly". So if your walk with God is not providing you with a more abundant life, is it possible something is off? Again, I could be way off here but certainly worth considering. let me know what you think :D

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    3. Can you please help me with A question? I am wondering if Adventists are allowed to watch TV (not violent etc.) but nice educational programs> Thank you

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      1. Hello Anonymous! Thanks for your question. However, I must admit I am very confused by it. What do you mean by "allowed"? Did someone tell you that Adventists are not allowed to watch TV? If they did, where did they get this from? I am asking these questions because the answer to your questions is a simple yes, but I am suprised that you find the need to ask it since nowhere does the SDA church even attempt to make a statement on this. Of course, as Christ followers we encourage one another to focus on wholesome and holy things but outside of that the church does not control or even attempt to control whether someone can or cannot watch TV. Thats your choice dude!

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    4. Wait! Where did you get the info about prostitution, alcohol consumption and smoking in theaters back in the day? Highly interested thank you! :)

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      1. Hey anonymous! I wrote this article a while back and can't recall all the research that went into it. I do believe there are books and articles you could find which trace the historical development of the theater in the US and beyond which should be of help. Here is one: http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/content/bpl_images/content_store/sample_chapter/9780631219590/001.pdf Go to page 12 of the article and read the first paragraph under "Children, Movies, and Reformers". There is alot more where that came from as well.

        Hope that helps!

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    5. Interesting discussion everyone. Just did this discussion with my AYS of which my 14 year old is a member. The discussion now extends its reaches into AY being spectators at a cricket match, or a baseball match where smoking, alcohol sale and consumption are allowed and legal, exposure to indecency etc. My son asked that question and NO ELDER present gave him a response I found Biblical and logical. My further question for discussion is "Is entertainment an option for AY during their social time?"

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      1. Hey anonymous! Do u mind elaborating on the question a bit more?

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    6. I suggest that you listen to your parents. The movies today are trash, in my opinion. I boycott Hollywood.

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      1. Hacksaw Ridge, Risen and Silence are just 3 contemporary films I can think of that don't classify as "trash". While its true that the vast majority of films are trash, in my opinion there are also some exceptional ones. Rare yes, but they are there. We need to teach balanced thought to our youth as opposed to reactionary black and white paradigms for viewing the world.

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    Please feel free to share your thoughts! Just remember to keep your comments friendly and relevant. Comments that are not risk being incinerated in cyber space. Happy typing! :D

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