Let me express my appreciation for your efforts as editor-in-chief of the Beacon Lights magazine. I am used to seeing fine Christian reading and scholarship within its pages. However, I am somewhat dismayed with the editorial you printed in the August/September 1993 issue (White Men Can’t Jump). I am convinced that it was out of place in this magazine. And, of course, I would like to show you why.
First, I found it very difficult to tell whether or not the author was really sorry for seeing the movies and TV shows that he lists. He seemed to glory somewhat in what he had seen: “It was hilarious.” “one of my favorites -saw it three times,” “I thrilled at the sight of a beautiful woman’s half-naked body. …” I was reminded of a Pentecostal man giving his testimony of what great evils he had fallen into before he truly accepted Christ. As he recalled his tremendous sins, it seemed as if he was ready to sigh and say, “I had so much fun back then.” Now, perhaps this is a misunderstanding, but the author should have been more clear and consistent in his approach.
Second, the article gave the tone of so much ranting and raving. Perhaps recalling to mind late night arguments with parents over some issue or other. There was no logical, clear approach to this issue of movies. There was no development or direction. Instead it seemed to be a shouting match between the spiritual side of the author and his carnal side, a match which is well-nigh impossible to communicate, although Augustine was highly successful in his Confessions.
Third, there was a glaring contradiction whose thread was woven throughout the entire article. The author urges us to “throw it out on the street for the garbage man to pick up,” while “I still have a TV in the house.” All this turning made me a little dizzy, to say the least.
Fourth, I believe the author missed the root of the issue. It is not so much a matter of watching movies or television, the act as such. It is more a matter of what motivates the activity. Those who truly believe the antithesis between good and evil exists will walk according to that antithesis. They should be able to see clearly that the material portrayed through this media today belongs on the other side. And, having seen clearly, they should act accordingly. This is why I see such harping on movie attendance, etc. is not attacking the root of the issue. It would be better to ask why we do not see the truth and then put it into practice. I’m afraid, however, that we have come to expect this sort of behavior from teens (and adults not a few) and hope that “it’s just a phase.”
In conclusion, let me reassure you that the reason this article stands out so clearly as being out of place is that it is among so many other magnificent articles. Keep up the fine work!
Martin L. VanderWal
I would like to thank you for your response. Replies to printed articles are not frequent, and the Beacon Lights certainly would like to see more responses come in. This particular letter gives me the opportunity to clarify my opinions and bring out the focus of the article in question.
In case you are wondering how I could write things like that, let’s review what was in the August/September 1993 Beacon Lights article. In it, I began by stating that it had been well over a year since I had seen a movie. In that time, I gained strong feelings concerning the evils present in television, movies, and the like. I even listed some of the horrendous things I had witnessed. Then, to leave no doubt in the reader’s mind, I wrote, “These easy-to-get-to movies and programs are horribly wrong in their anti-Christian nature.”
But, watching over us in His fatherly care, the Lord gives us instructions to live by. We, young people especially, sometimes tend to go against this instruction and end up consumed with the lusts of the flesh. Then, after finding fault with nearly everything found on the screen, I pointed out, “Movie attendance makes a sinful, harmonious link between the two tables (of the law). We covet these movies and TV’s (10th commandment violation) and pledge our time and money to these for our enjoyment (1st) instead of ‘Seek ye first. . . .’ “ So, “if they hinder you from the work of God’s kingdom you are denying Christ, not yourself and your earthly pleasures.”
The four points listed in your letter above indicate that you feel such article has no place in the Beacon Lights. That is the question I will be dealing with here: “Does the article belong?”
Your first idea deals with sorrow for these sins. Throughout the piece, I was careful to use the past tense for every mention of my ungodly behavior. This indicates that it was in the past, and although the scar remains, I do not care to be associated with such anymore. It is a shame that the sarcasm was lost (‘one of my favorites’, etc.). I do apologize for being a bit unclear in that respect. Yet, you see, the reality shines through: I am NOT glorying in those sins, but rather, humbled to cry before God in publican-like form, ‘O God, be merciful to me! Look what I have done; look what I have loved!’
The second line of thought addresses the “tone of so much ranting and raving” within the text. The article in a nutshell is this:
1) These are the evils in movies, on television.
2) There is no denying it, I was there and I’m now sorry for it.
3) Scripture, as our only rule for faith and life, has valuable instruction for us.
4) But if we ignore the instruction and are hindered from a holy walk, it is a denial of Christ.
This approach might have slipped a little in its interchangeable use of words for movies and television. To me, these are one and the same.
Also mentioned was a “shouting match”. The harsh words and severe tone were not out of place. Movies and television cause severe problems, and the young people readership must realize this by means of Scripture. It is urgent! After all, “it does indeed make a difference where a man finds his joy” (Augustine, Confessions).
Third question: Contradiction. So you found it! It is true that I still have a TV in the house. When I am married, D.V., I will not have one in my house. But for now, I live at home where it is my father’s decision to own one.
Fourthly: As you correctly point out, the root of the issue is the antithesis. Since it is clear that the material shown along these media are of the baser sort, loving them is ‘of the world’. By God-ordained antithesis, His people are in the world, but not of the world (see Christ’s prayer for His own in John 17). In life’s walk, by grace and strength, His pilgrims and strangers can attain the proper motivation to avoid the temptations before them. Movie/TV attendance, or rather, giving oneself over to the lusts of the flesh, is not properly motivated and must be attacked as an antithetically worldly activity.
Finally, you touch on coming to expect this behavior “from teens (and adults not a few).” The article, “White Men Can’t Jump”, was on more of a personal level. Although I implied it, I never cited a big problem among the young people. Without accusing our young people, the tone was meant to make each one in the intended audience of young people/young adults do the rest of the thinking for themselves.
I wish I could spare you from hearing this, but most of our young people attend or rent movies, turn on the television with friends or parents as perfectly fine activity, and it worries me sick to see such a prevailing work of the devil within the church. That is why the article was so strong, so eye-catching, so graphically portrayed, and so upsetting. The young readers of the Beacon Lights need to hear again and again that movies and television alike are ungodly entertainment, moreover, the “house of the wicked.” For that matter, I do think that the article had a valid place among other Beacon Lights material.
I hope I have satisfied the question to some extent. Thank you again for the reply. As I said before, response was limited, and the Beacon Lights is hoping to hear still more about this.