Whatever Is Pure: Cedarville Requires Professors to Apply Philippians 4:8

Of note...

....is that it's not just movies falling under the axe, but also literature.  Since a great portion of the classics--Lysistrata, Oedipus Rex, etc.,--are fairly earthy, this more or less puts serious shackles on the classics there.  Not to mention, say, frank discussion of the 22nd book of the Old Testament, or for that matter any number of other earthy passages from the Prophets and elsewhere where Israel's infidelity to God is compared to adultery and fornication.  

I understand the urge to "bowdlerize" to avoid needless offense, and I'm no defender of gratuitous violence and sexuality, but I would hope that Cedarville will come to a position where their policies are more sophisticated than just using movie ratings, and that they would realize that when we are talking about being "pure", that would correspond to the Bible's definition, not our culture's. 

Put a different way, if an institution cannot differentiate between the violence and nudity in "Schindler's List" and "Halloween", I've got to question whether a literature/English/etc., degree from that institution would be worth having.  Never mind the question of how a strict "purity"/bowdleresque standard might impact seminary education.

Heh

All morning, I thought this was a Babylon Bee article!

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Strange that a Christian

Strange that a Christian college is trying to apply a well-known Biblical text to the confusing mix we call "culture" and all it gets from other Christians is criticism. Perhaps people should understand the policy thoroughly before criticizing.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Wally

I thought it was satire because, honestly, isn't this a policy a Christian university should already be implementing, in some form?

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Wally

First, what Tyler says--though to be fair, the headline probably belongs to the writer more than it does to Cedarville.  

Regarding my criticism, all I'm getting at is that the policy would seem to prevent not only the teaching of a lot of great literature and film, but if strictly applied would also prevent the teaching of the Song of Solomon and various passages which speak of body parts in no uncertain terms. 

Or, again, put another way, I'm all for thinking on that which is pure, but we've got to do so in a Biblical way, not just one that derives from our culture.  Trying to be "Holier than the Pope" usually backfires.

Purity Policy

Being a "classic" doesn't mean it's good (or profitable) literature to read. There are many "classic" (i.e. Greek and Roman literature) works that aren't worth reading. That being said, there are reasons we should study the "classics." Being exposed to their sexual proclivities shouldn't be one of them. Of all the classic literature available, why would a Christian literature prof purposely assign lude or sexually explicit works?

Shirley Jackson's The Lottery

 

In my high school's (Fourth Baptist Christian School in Minnesota, as some on SI know) American Literature class, one of our assigned readings was Shirley Jackson's famous short story, The Lottery.  This story, seemingly bucolic throughout its majority, abruptly ends with a sinister, chilling twist.  The annual lottery in question is a precursor to a ritual killing: https://sites.middlebury.edu/individualandthesociety/files/2010/09/jackson_lottery.pdf

I recall that it generated some fervent discussion in the classroom.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it generated some fervent discussions (albeit of a different nature) outside of the classroom as well.  Some parents, and some others within the church, were appalled that the school would assign this story to its students (regardless of the fact that said students were 17 or 18 years of age at the time).  Our BJU-graduate teacher found herself needing to explain & defend the story's educational value within a Christian school context.

How much of the culture we

How much of the culture we expose ourselves to has always been a difficult area. We have had to deal with this ever since Genesis 3. And since Christ said that He wasn't taking us out of this world but was leaving us here to be the "salt and light", every generation of Christians has to figure out how to live in the world but not be part of the world. Many years ago, BJU put in print its philosophy about this (see Andy's post above), an excellent statement. The CT article was basically a hit piece, biased against conservative Christianity (not surprising considering the magazine). Kudos to Cedarville for putting in print its policy. At least it is attempting to confront a difficult issue. Always easier to criticize than create.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Bert Perry wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Put a different way, if an institution cannot differentiate between the violence and nudity in "Schindler's List" and "Halloween", I've got to question whether a literature/English/etc., degree from that institution would be worth having.  Never mind the question of how a strict "purity"/bowdleresque standard might impact seminary education.

I think most godly Christians through the ages would regard watching people stripped naked and engaging in simulated sexual intercourse as violating the "pure" standard of Philippians 4:8, regardless of context.  Remember, the holocaust was used in the sixties to shatter all cinematic codes of moral decency in the movies. Once barriers are down for "art" they are gone forever. 

Say what?

Wayne Wilson wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

Put a different way, if an institution cannot differentiate between the violence and nudity in "Schindler's List" and "Halloween", I've got to question whether a literature/English/etc., degree from that institution would be worth having.  Never mind the question of how a strict "purity"/bowdleresque standard might impact seminary education.

 

I think most godly Christians through the ages would regard watching people stripped naked and engaging in simulated sexual intercourse as violating the "pure" standard of Philippians 4:8, regardless of context.  Remember, the holocaust was used in the sixties to shatter all cinematic codes of moral decency in the movies. Once barriers are down for "art" they are gone forever. 

First of all, if we say "I think most godly Christians....would regard", what we've done is first of all set ourselves up as the standard, not Scripture, and we've also committed the basic logical fallacy of appeal to popularity--bandwagon effect.  To draw a picture, it is also simultaneously true that most "godly" Christians (and Jews) through the ages have decided that the Song of Solomon could not possibly be what its words portray it as.  Does that mean we ought to have a policy of "two Bibles" (to borrow a concept from Teachout and Brumbelow) where things that "we" consider "objectionable" are spiritualized, but other things are not?  

Before you do, remember that this will not be the only place where this kind of hermeneutic will be applied--it is a fast ride away from the first fundamental and Sola Scriptura, to put it very mildly.

Others have asked what could possibly be the reason for featuring literature like "Schindler's List" or many of the ancient Greeks, and there are two answers to that.  First of all, if it's not far worse than what we see in Scripture--that would include the rape of Tamar, the wedding songs of Song of Solomon, and graphic descriptions of the genitalia of the pagans--I don't know that we can consider it out of bounds on that alone.  Second, the reason to suffer through some of the perversity of the ancient Greeks is because western European culture since Roman days has been based on these writings--if you don't understand them to some degree, you don't understand your own culture.

One final note; if anyone seriously thinks that the Holocaust was the occasion that allowed nudity and sexuality into movies, even respectable ones, that would, again, be why they need to read some of the ancient Greeks.  The occasion for nudity in theater, besides opportunity and sin, really started the same place that nudity in art in western Europe began--with the Greeks, especially with renditions of Aphrodite/Venus and the consorts of Zeus, along with the cult of the eromenos among men.

 

"Once barriers are down for "art" they are gone forever."

Wayne Wilson wrote:

Once barriers are down for "art" they are gone forever. 

Exactly what I was thinking on my visit to the BJU Museum & Gallery, with the (arguably indecent) artwork I saw on display.

(Larry dives for cover...........)

Bert Perry wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

 

Wayne Wilson wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

Put a different way, if an institution cannot differentiate between the violence and nudity in "Schindler's List" and "Halloween", I've got to question whether a literature/English/etc., degree from that institution would be worth having.  Never mind the question of how a strict "purity"/bowdleresque standard might impact seminary education.

 

I think most godly Christians through the ages would regard watching people stripped naked and engaging in simulated sexual intercourse as violating the "pure" standard of Philippians 4:8, regardless of context.  Remember, the holocaust was used in the sixties to shatter all cinematic codes of moral decency in the movies. Once barriers are down for "art" they are gone forever. 

 

 

First of all, if we say "I think most godly Christians....would regard", what we've done is first of all set ourselves up as the standard, not Scripture, and we've also committed the basic logical fallacy of appeal to popularity--bandwagon effect.  To draw a picture, it is also simultaneously true that most "godly" Christians (and Jews) through the ages have decided that the Song of Solomon could not possibly be what its words portray it as.  Does that mean we ought to have a policy of "two Bibles" (to borrow a concept from Teachout and Brumbelow) where things that "we" consider "objectionable" are spiritualized, but other things are not?  

Before you do, remember that this will not be the only place where this kind of hermeneutic will be applied--it is a fast ride away from the first fundamental and Sola Scriptura, to put it very mildly.

Others have asked what could possibly be the reason for featuring literature like "Schindler's List" or many of the ancient Greeks, and there are two answers to that.  First of all, if it's not far worse than what we see in Scripture--that would include the rape of Tamar, the wedding songs of Song of Solomon, and graphic descriptions of the genitalia of the pagans--I don't know that we can consider it out of bounds on that alone.  Second, the reason to suffer through some of the perversity of the ancient Greeks is because western European culture since Roman days has been based on these writings--if you don't understand them to some degree, you don't understand your own culture.

One final note; if anyone seriously thinks that the Holocaust was the occasion that allowed nudity and sexuality into movies, even respectable ones, that would, again, be why they need to read some of the ancient Greeks.  The occasion for nudity in theater, besides opportunity and sin, really started the same place that nudity in art in western Europe began--with the Greeks, especially with renditions of Aphrodite/Venus and the consorts of Zeus, along with the cult of the eromenos among men.

So let's see, if we want to learn why nudity was allowed in the 1960s into movies, when it had been banned for decades, and banned for centuries in western theater, we need to read the ancient Greeks. It's probably more enlightening to read a history of film.  They have nothing to do with each other, except sex sells then and now. Here's a question Bert: If your wife or daughter or sister were an actress and required for art's sake be stripped nude and made to ride a naked man for the world to see... would you approve? Why or why not? It's a serious question.

And the universal testimony of the church regarding indecent theater, based upon many Scriptures, naturally (lust and shame, you can look them up), is to be discarded because that's an appeal to popularity?  So away with all moral consensus and all creeds. Mere popularity.  Every man should do what he wants with his own eyes. 

One more thought, most people realize there is a vast difference between reading that Tamar got raped, and hiring some starlet to act it out for our entertainment and enlightenment.  What effect do you think that has on the person?  Oh, yes, movies are made with persons!

Good

This is a wise and sensible policy. It seems more like a framework within which the university can make appropriate curriculum decisions. I'm surprised it hadn't been implemented before. I have no problems with this new policy.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Yes, it's a fallacy, Wayne

Wayne, yes, I'll come out and say it; "universal testimony" of the church means nothing if it is contradicted by Scripture.  Ironically, Protestants universally used to believe that.  :^)  It's a logical fallacy and it contradicts the first Fundamental and Sola Scriptura, and it's worth noting that the church "universally" used to hold to works salvation, veneration of the saints, and a host of other doctrines we now abhor.  Thank God for Sola Scriptura!

So once again, if we are going to place restrictions on secular literature that we wouldn't, or at least shouldn't, place on the reading of Scripture, we are in clear sin.   

Not that we need to look at every mosaic from Pompeii to figure things out, or read every pornographic writing of the Greeks, but inasmuch as their culture defines ours, it's good to know about some of it.  And if we can tolerate the Prophets, certainly this will not irrevocably harm us.

Regarding the question of how actors are treated, absolutely, and it really all depends on the context of what people are trying to do.  If one tells me "I'm casting for a slasher movie and I need some eye candy", well, that's the "sex sells" thing.  On the flip side, let's imagine someone is casting for a movie that will remind another generation--a generation rapidly forgetting Shoah--that the Holocaust was real.  

Now I think the directors did those scenes wrongly--real residents of KZs and ghettoes would have been far leaner--but if I were, say, a cancer patient who actually looked the part, I might be willing to sign up for it.   The world seeing my tuckus vs. a greater possibility of a repeat of the Holocaust?   After all, David danced before the Lord, and Isaiah showed himself when God was displeased, no?

Same basic thing for the violence in Glory or Saving Private Ryan.  OK, at least as long they were only using dummy bullets and such!  Which really illustrates the problems with any mechanistic rule going by motion picture ratings, IMO.  

Bert Perry wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

Regarding the question of how actors are treated, absolutely, and it really all depends on the context of what people are trying to do.  If one tells me "I'm casting for a slasher movie and I need some eye candy", well, that's the "sex sells" thing.  On the flip side, let's imagine someone is casting for a movie that will remind another generation--a generation rapidly forgetting Shoah--that the Holocaust was real.  

Now I think the directors did those scenes wrongly--real residents of KZs and ghettoes would have been far leaner--but if I were, say, a cancer patient who actually looked the part, I might be willing to sign up for it.   The world seeing my tuckus vs. a greater possibility of a repeat of the Holocaust?   After all, David danced before the Lord, and Isaiah showed himself when God was displeased, no?

Same basic thing for the violence in Glory or Saving Private Ryan.  OK, at least as long they were only using dummy bullets and such!  Which really illustrates the problems with any mechanistic rule going by motion picture ratings, IMO.  

I didn't think you would answer my question. How could you and hold your position?  Now I don't even think you saw the movie.

Regarding Scripture, nudity after the fall is always, always a shameful condition in Scripture, except in the confines of marriage. No, David did not dance naked in public, nor is it at all clear Isaiah walked around stark naked. Even if you want to say Isaiah is disputable, can you think of a woman in Scripture that was honored for public nudity?

 

Harvey - the play I would like to see performed

The play I would like to see performed by a Christian drama group (HS or college): The famous Harvey: Harvey is a 1944 play by the American playwright Mary Chase. Chase received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work in 1945. It has been adapted for film and television several times, most notably in a 1950 film starring James Stewart.

My part = Harvey

Jim

It would take a truly great actor to play Harvey the Rabbit. Are you sure you're equal to the task?

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

OK...

Wayne, OK, I'll defer to your superior knowledge of Schindler's List, though I'm not quite sure how you're going to justify that knowledge, given your position.  My take is still that anyone who found the nudity in that movie "sexy" has problems entirely unrelated to seeing the movie, but that the producers missed the point of the showers by casting actresses who were a bit too well fed for the story.  

That said, the clear implication of 2 Samuel 6:20 and Isaiah 20:1-3 is that Michal and Isaiah both viewed whatever degree of nakedness David and Isaiah underwent as a shame, but it was from God.  It was, like that of the movies today, unacceptable degree of nudity for the culture at that time.  Same thing with Christ on the Cross.  Some of these things depend on the goal to be achieved, and the plausibility of achieving these goals, versus the individual harm suffered.

 

Complete agreement

I am in complete agreement with Wally, Wayne, Tyler, and T Howard. Also I read The Lottery in public school and still don't understand the "educational value".  And to Jim, I liked Harvey too and vote for you to play the lead role. 

Richard E Brunt

Bert Perry wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

Wayne, OK, I'll defer to your superior knowledge of Schindler's List, though I'm not quite sure how you're going to justify that knowledge, given your position.  My take is still that anyone who found the nudity in that movie "sexy" has problems entirely unrelated to seeing the movie, but that the producers missed the point of the showers by casting actresses who were a bit too well fed for the story.  

That said, the clear implication of 2 Samuel 6:20 and Isaiah 20:1-3 is that Michal and Isaiah both viewed whatever degree of nakedness David and Isaiah underwent as a shame, but it was from God.  It was, like that of the movies today, unacceptable degree of nudity for the culture at that time.  Same thing with Christ on the Cross.  Some of these things depend on the goal to be achieved, and the plausibility of achieving these goals, versus the individual harm suffered.

Again you missed the point, and avoided the question I asked. And the last question I asked.  I'll let that fact stand on its own.  

And yes, I saw Schindler's List when writing a book on Christian entertainment choices because, as with you, it is the default movie everyone who sees your basic Hollywood faire uses to justify explicit sexuality, abundant nudity in the name of art, or history, or humor, or whatever emotion they desire to experience. "How can you condemn it if you haven't seen it?"  I heard that over and over again, always about Schindler's List and occasionally about Braveheart.  So i saw it, so I could respond with exact knowledge for people, like you, Bert, who pretend it only has nudity related to the shame of the holocaust. David Gushee gave a lecture I attended to Christians in Hollywood where he said Schindler's List simply had to be acceptable, because, well, it made his students cry.  This was some years before he started teaching homosexuality was acceptable for believers. Phil 4:8 still applies. When applied to art, it has something to do with good taste, which many holocaust movies have managed to achieve (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Hiding PlaceJudgment at Nuremberg, e.g.) 

As I said,  Holocaust movies opened the door. Now anything goes, creating a moral holocaust all its own, if we regard souls as important as lives. 

 

Schindler's List

This movie has a fairly explicit sex scene between Schindler and his mistress, apart from nudity in the camp scenes. There are ways to educate without involving immorality. There was no reason to show Schindler engaging in sexual acts with his mistress, or to display that mistresses . . . assets. Irrelevant to the picture. Likewise, the camp scenes didn't have to show complete nudity, but I can at least appreciate the argument for that inclusion, even while I completely disagree.

There was a time when difficult topics were put on film without nudity, immorality or profanity. Think Twelve O'Clock High. Think Anatomy of a Murder. Think Saving Private Ryan (which could have been better without the profanity). My son could have read To Kill a Mockingbird for literature this coming year, but my wife and I decided to choose something else. Yes, there is a tale to be told through this bit of literature. But, there is also some inappropriate stuff we don't want our 13-yr old to read. We may watch the movie, instead.

The real discussion, it seems to me, is the larger one of whether Christian college students should be treated like the adults they actually are, and simply be warned in advance, "Hey, this course has literature with this stuff in it." I've always struggled with this tension. I was running my own shift in a military police detachment when I was 19. But, at this Christian college, 18-22 yr-olds are being sheltered from film and literature when, honestly, many of them are streaming far worse on Netflix. People can and will grow up if they're treated like adults - I've seen it in the military. Of course, some don't ever grow up, either . . . Smile

I understand this policy and support it. I just struggle to understand how far a university should go in protecting it's students. They are adults, after all.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Jim

I know.

I vote for Neil Gorsch to play Jimmy Stewart's character. I read a news story where a frustrated Democrat explained that Gorsch would be almost impossible to defeat in confirmation hearings, because "he has the mind and ideology of Scalia, but the personality of Jimmy Stewart." After watching some clips from the hearings, I agree!

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

I played the part in recent Broadway revival

TylerR wrote:

I know.

I vote for Neil Gorsch to play Jimmy Stewart's character. I read a news story where a frustrated Democrat explained that Gorsch would be almost impossible to defeat in confirmation hearings, because "he has the mind and ideology of Scalia, but the personality of Jimmy Stewart." After watching some clips from the hearings, I agree!

That was me. Received little recognition 

 

OK....

For reference,  Saving Private Ryan and The Pianist are also rated R and would therefore be banned by the new policy, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is borderline at PG-13.  So the movies Tyler and Wayne commend here are pretty much gone from Cedarville's theater department.  Moreover, The Pianist was directed by convicted child rapist Roman Polanski.  (I can at least give Wayne props for avoiding guilt by association, but the guy does get royalties, folks!)

It is also worth noting that these movies got their rating by extreme violence.  Is that OK, but nudity is not?  As I recall, both adultery and murder are mentioned in the Decalogue, no?  Someone I knew joked, after The Passion of the Christ came out, that he wondered "does a movie contain enough graphic violence for discerning Christian viewers?"

Really, it's telling that the outrage on some peoples' part regarding Schindler's List is not people getting their brains blown out and standing in the shower terrified of the Zyklon B they knew could come out of those shower heads, but rather that some of them were naked.  Seriously?   Sometimes the fundamental preoccupation with immodesty and nudity makes me wonder how we ever go shopping.  

That said, again, the subject matter that is permissible is determined by Scripture, not us.  So while I appreciate it when violence and sexuality is veiled, our decision there is made not primarily by the reality of either, but by whether it has, as the Supreme Court noted, "redeeming social value."  I think reminding people of the sacrifices of Omaha Beach and William Wallace qualify, and so does the Holocaust.  The question is whether it's representative and whether it's effective.

And as I've noted before, I'd say the violence in Schindler's List makes a point, and so does some of the nudity.  

My take on Schindler's List, Titanic, & Saving Private Ryan

My take on  Schindler's List, Titanic, & Saving Private Ryan: Best not viewed in Christian College setting

However I consider all worthwhile viewing for the overall message:

  • Schindler's List: We viewed as a family when it was broadcast. An important anti-Nazi, holocaust (the reality of) film
  • Titanic: I took my family to the theater. Important message about the brevity of life & mans' hubris w regard to technology. I personally found the nudity (albeit brief) unnecessary / gratuitous
  • Saving Private Ryan: I took my boys. So many positive messages about sacrifice & patriotism. One of my 2 boys later served 6 years in the USMC (Iraq war) and now is in the MN National Guard (Lieutenant) and is an Afghanistan vet. 

TylerR wrote:

TylerR wrote:

. My son could have read To Kill a Mockingbird for literature this coming year, but my wife and I decided to choose something else. Yes, there is a tale to be told through this bit of literature. But, there is also some inappropriate stuff we don't want our 13-yr old to read. We may watch the movie, instead.

I read To Kill a Mockingbird either in 9th or 10th grade as did my oldest two kids.  But I think I'd have a problem with my 13 year old reading it.   

Oh, Bert!

It is also worth noting that these movies got their rating by extreme violence.  Is that OK, but nudity is not? 

Bert, I know you don't answer questions, but I'll ask one for the sake of other readers. It's something I simply want an opinion on.  In casting notices for actors and actresses, there is always a notation "nudity required" as a heads up for what they are going to be reading (or stripping) for.  These notices never say, "Getting shot required." Or "Blown up required". Why do you think they have the notices on nudity but not violence?  What does the experience of the industry itself tell you?

Sometimes the fundamental preoccupation with immodesty and nudity makes me wonder how we ever go shopping.  

We go shopping to purchase things. We do not, I assume, pay money for people to dress immodestly for us or show their flesh while we are out doing it. We don't film it, carefully edit it, add lush or hot music to it, and stick it in front of our children's faces. if we do, we are in sin.  We live in a fallen, sinful world. There is a difference between enduring it, as righteous Lot's soul was tormented, and delighting in it, and financially supporting it.

So while I appreciate it when violence and sexuality is veiled, our decision there is made not primarily by the reality of either, but by whether it has, as the Supreme Court noted, "redeeming social value." 

This statement just knocked me down. Earlier in this thread, you said that appealing to the universal testimony of godly men in all ages regarding entertainment standards is committing "the basic logical fallacy of appeal to popularity--bandwagon effect."  In short, it should have no bearing on our thinking.  Fine, if you believe you are wiser than they were. But then you replace the witness of the saints by the standard of the Supreme Court of the United States, that something must have "redeeming social value"? That's where you get your standards?  

That was the decision that essentially legalized pornography in communities all over America!  The pornographers simply added stories or a brief lecture about marital bliss to their porn. That is the oldest trick in the Hollywood playbook as well --- salacious material woven into Bible stories (DeMille before the production code) or throwing in the "moral lesson" after a sea of sleaze.   That is a pathetic and horrific standard.  You are literally giving Hollywood permission to tease, corrupt and exploit anyone and everyone if they have something redeeming tossed in.  They know that game very well indeed, and the thank you for your support. 

This is how Hollywood still operates. As Natalie Portman said about her Academy Award winning film Black Swan,  "Everyone was so worried about who was going to want to see this movie. I remember them being like, ‘How do you get guys to a ballet movie? How do you get girls to a thriller? The answer is a lesbian scene. Everyone wants to see that."  You say it's art when that's done. They know better.

I look to these words spoken by Someone, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!"

 

 

 

 

Jim:

Jim wrote:

The play I would like to see performed by a Christian drama group (HS or college): The famous Harvey: Harvey is a 1944 play by the American playwright Mary Chase. Chase received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work in 1945. It has been adapted for film and television several times, most notably in a 1950 film starring James Stewart.

My part = Harvey

Fourth Baptist Christian School did Harvey  in the late '70's---I couldn't give the exact year without looking through yearbooks.  The school also did Arsenic and Old Lace  around that same time.

Jim wrote:

Jim wrote:

My take on  Schindler's List, Titanic, & Saving Private Ryan: Best not viewed in Christian College setting

However I consider all worthwhile viewing for the overall message:

  • Schindler's List: We viewed as a family when it was broadcast. An important anti-Nazi, holocaust (the reality of) film
  • Titanic: I took my family to the theater. Important message about the brevity of life & mans' hubris w regard to technology. I personally found the nudity (albeit brief) unnecessary / gratuitous
  • Saving Private Ryan: I took my boys. So many positive messages about sacrifice & patriotism. One of my 2 boys later served 6 years in the USMC (Iraq war) and now is in the MN National Guard (Lieutenant) and is an Afghanistan vet. 

Jim,

In your opinion, was the enormous global popularity of Titanic because of a message about "the brevity of life", or the glorious immoral sexual relationship?  

Sigh

Wayne, you know about nudity clauses because they make the papers and it's a touch point for you. Reality is that this is a model document from the Screen Actors Guild.  Yes, you'll notice various things appropriate to on screen violence, accomodations, food, and more are covered, and agents and PR representatives work hard on these things to craft the image they want for their client.  The more draw a person is at the box office, the more stringent the requirements, right down to what color of M&Ms are in the jar in their Airstream on set.

Now let's get back to brass tacks; the new Cedarville policy prohibits the use of some of the movies you recommended, and I note that those movies feature huge amounts of violence.  OK, let's ask a question for you; why is it totally wrong to see nudity (whether or not adultery exists or is even implied), but representations of brutal murders are A-OK?  Did God take something out of the Decalogue when I wasn't looking?  Is immodesty a bigger deal now than murder for your movie-going pleasure?

Or, as we would infer from the subject matter of the Bible (which features plenty of descriptions of nudity, sex, and violence), does the appropriateness of subject matter in a work of literature or film depend on what is to be achieved with it?  Does the nudity and violence in Schindler's LIst differ materially from that in Halloween?  Whether you like the Supreme Court's "redeeming social value" construct or not, it is a reasonable explanation of why the sexual situations in Scripture differ quite a bit from those in romance novels.

And really, given the miserable record of most "Christian" movies of the past 30 years or so, I would argue that Christians who want to do film can ill afford to ignore films that won multiple Oscars, and if we act as if the objectionable elements in them are the same as those in, say, a slasher film or a romantic comedy, we almost guarantee the filming of God's Not Dead 3.

Nice

This bit of pushback from Cederville's administration is hilarious:

“Faculty have the sense that policies should be originated by them or driven by them. That’s very much a part of academia—no question about it,” he said. “But Christian schools are distinct. In our handbook, these sorts of policies are driven by the board of trustees.”

“The [Cedarville] administration is not serving the students as much as the parents who are sending the students and the trustees and donors,” another student said.

I appreciate this firm stand. The article continued:

Cedarville president Thomas White launched a campaign last year to bring greater “biblical wisdom and intentionality” to the roughly 1,000 days that undergrads spend at the university.

“God’s Word commands us to be in the world but not of the world,” he wrote, mentioning Philippians 4:8 as a guiding principle. “We must learn about sin, but we should not experience all forms of it. We must teach other worldviews, but in such a way to commend the truth and rightness of the biblical worldview.

“I suspect we are all in agreement on these things, but I commend them to you for your thinking as we move into more hostile waters culturally.”

An English professor from another Christian institution illustrated the other side of this issue quite well:

I've also seen verses like this, [if] unevenly applied, have two results: keeping young people from being able to discern the difference between depicting and glorifying sin, and keeping young people from being able to discern between excellence and safety,” she said. “So I'd love to see Christian colleges not focus only on all of Philippians 4:8, but also other passages—such as Acts 17:16-32 [Paul at the Areopagus in Athens]—when they think about their standards.”

Another professor, Karen Prior, remarked:

“It’s important when teaching in an evangelical Christian university to know your audience,” she said. “Contemporary evangelical Christian students do not have a robust theological understanding of art and literature. So I recognize that most students—and some administrators and parents—need to learn how the study of secular literature is not only compatible with a biblical worldview, but demonstrated by a biblical worldview.” 

CT did a good job with this article.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Straw Men abound

Bert, the straw man arguments are getting wearisome. Is that really the choice? Schindler's List or God is Not Dead?  Have you never seen A Man for All Seasons, or To Kill a Mockingbird (as mentioned above), Mrs. Miniver or How Green was My Valley?.  Good taste and incredible art have never been at odds. In fact, great directors under the Production code said the limits on what they could show made them work harder and be more creative. It was after the code was in place Hollywood started making really great films, and it only took a few years. 

If someone wants to learn about the Titanic, and doesn't like books, why not see A Night to Remember, a superior and far more historically accurate film than James Cameron's bloated melodrama? 

Film can effectively address sin and the human condition while not assaulting the audience or wrecking the souls of performers. We just saw Water, a powerful condemnation of pagan beliefs behind child marriages and child prostitution in India. Could it have included nudity and sex? Yes, sex was the primary subject of the film. Did they do that? No. 

On violence, yes, sex and violence are different in their nature and in the experience of the viewer and the performer. Can film glorify violence? Absolutely, and should be rejected as well. Anything designed to glorify sin should be rejected. Christians should not amuse themselves with Pulp Fiction.  But not all violence is evil, as in heroic action to stop evil by law enforcement or on the battlefield. (Glory is a good example) You may want to read the book Ultra-Violent Movies for some insight on extreme violence in film. Directors thought over-the-top violence would have a cathartic effect, but they were very wrong. On the other hand sexuality and nudity are inherently shameful, and violate the performer.  Peeking through the keyhole or getting video of someone showering is not the same as a police officer fighting a criminal. Can you see that? You are violating the performer when you patronize their shame. The effect on performers is well documented. Just recently, A-list actress Jennifer Lawrence said this in a recent interview about her PG-13 sex scenes:

Jennifer Lawrence mentioned she did her “first real sex scene a couple weeks ago” for a film called Passengers. She was visibly shaken up talking about it, calling it “a bizarre experience.” How did she get through it? “You drink. You get really, really drunk; but that led to more anxiety,” she said. “He was married...I knew it was my job but I couldn’t tell my stomach.”

As Lawrence noted about her scene, “you don’t know what’s too much; you want it to be real, but...” But not too real

My question is, how is a godly man's stomach not turned at this being required of her? Simulating sex with another woman's husband?  Yes, Alfred Hitchcock believed actors were cattle, but should a follower of Jesus Christ?

Do you have any limits, Bert on sexuality if the story has a redeeming message? Would you watch a woman's breasts be fondled? Her legs open and a naked man lying between them? Bending over and being pounded?  That's how Hallie Berry won her Oscar in the "redemptive" Monster's Ball. Do you have any limits at all?  have you ever wondered why your heart is not grieved for such things?  Have you seen so many nude actresses it just has no effect anymore? 

A couple last points: Scripture is not a movie. Ever hear the expression "the medium is the message"?  It is meaningless to say something is recorded in scripture so it should be depicted in explicit detail on film without blinking.

Finally, I recommend reading Amos Vogel's Film as a Subversive Art. He is not a believer, and thinks film should be subversive. But he explains well how nudity and extreme violence in film overthrow religion and societal norms. Seeing what is taboo destroys the idea that there are norms. It was written years ago, and what he spoke of then is now the norm. Think about it. 

 

Neither

Wayne Wilson wrote:
Jim, In your opinion, was the enormous global popularity of Titanic because of a message about "the brevity of life", or the glorious immoral sexual relationship?  

Neither

TylerR wrote:

TylerR wrote:

I appreciate this firm stand. The article continued:

Cedarville president Thomas White

Your mentioning Thomas White reminded me that he wrote a chapter in a book I recently reviewed. The book, First Freedom, is on religious liberty, It is a dry book to read, took me forever, it seemed. But some of the chapters are very good, including White's on religious freedom and the university campus. He demonstrates a really thoughtful approach.

I think that you are seeing the same as this issue is coming out. It's impressive.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Let's flip the question around, Wayne

Do you have any limits, Bert on sexuality if the story has a redeeming message? Would you watch a woman's breasts be fondled? Her legs open and a naked man lying between them? Bending over and being pounded?  That's how Hallie Berry won her Oscar in the "redemptive" Monster's Ball. Do you have any limits at all?  have you ever wondered why your heart is not grieved for such things?  Have you seen so many nude actresses it just has no effect anymore? 

To be honest, I was wondering where your fixation on nudity and sexuality in the movies is coming from, Wayne.  For my part, I've not seen any nudity in film since I saw Schindler's List in the theater.  Overall, I can count the movies I've seen featuring nudity on my fingers, most of them prior to coming to Christ.  Do the math.  

(thanks for the unfounded accusations....maybe consider repenting of that?)

And you are just not getting it with the limits.  It's really simple; is there a redeeming point to the overall theme, and do the components contribute to, or distract from, that theme?  IMDB tells me that Monster's Ball is about the ambiguities of race and capital punishment, among other things.  As the brother-in-law of a former prison guard who became bipolar, I'd guess due to the stress, suffice it to say that you're going to have some difficulty making that point without some violence, intoxicants, sensuality, and cursing.  Killing people leaves a mark, and that mark shows up in suicide, alcoholism, and sexual looseness quite often.  

Not a fan of Thornton's tuckus or Berry's decollete, and it's definitely arguable that you don't have to show everything, but you've got to have some hints of what they're about to do.  And that's why I'm not in favor of simply looking for "objectionable thematic elements" or simply at the MPAA ratings; it really does not tell you what is redeeming or not about a film or book.  

There are some times when you cannot (true story) simply say "we cannot read that book because it features a witch" and the like.  The book in question was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.   I still cringe when I remember that.

No good reason

Personally, I can't think of any good reason for including nudity or actual swear words in a film.  I think any amount is gratuitous and unnecessary. Same with art (for nudity) or books (for swear words).  A director, artist, or author should be able to communicate effectively without resorting to such bawdiness.

Larry Nelson wrote:

Larry Nelson wrote:

Fourth Baptist Christian School did Harvey  in the late '70's---I couldn't give the exact year without looking through yearbooks.  The school also did Arsenic and Old Lace  around that same time.

I was in the production of Arsenic and Old Lace at Fourth. We did edit the play before we presented it. For example, we couldn't have the little old ladies serving wine in a Christian school production, so we changed it to poisoned tea. (I guess it was okay for them to kill people, just as long as they didn't do it with wine.)

The production of Harvey took place a year or two after I graduated in 1980.

Bert Perry wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

Do you have any limits, Bert on sexuality if the story has a redeeming message? Would you watch a woman's breasts be fondled? Her legs open and a naked man lying between them? Bending over and being pounded?  That's how Hallie Berry won her Oscar in the "redemptive" Monster's Ball. Do you have any limits at all?  have you ever wondered why your heart is not grieved for such things?  Have you seen so many nude actresses it just has no effect anymore? 

To be honest, I was wondering where your fixation on nudity and sexuality in the movies is coming from, Wayne.  For my part, I've not seen any nudity in film since I saw Schindler's List in the theater.  Overall, I can count the movies I've seen featuring nudity on my fingers, most of them prior to coming to Christ.  Do the math.  

(thanks for the unfounded accusations....maybe consider repenting of that?)

And you are just not getting it with the limits.  It's really simple; is there a redeeming point to the overall theme, and do the components contribute to, or distract from, that theme?  IMDB tells me that Monster's Ball is about the ambiguities of race and capital punishment, among other things.  As the brother-in-law of a former prison guard who became bipolar, I'd guess due to the stress, suffice it to say that you're going to have some difficulty making that point without some violence, intoxicants, sensuality, and cursing.  Killing people leaves a mark, and that mark shows up in suicide, alcoholism, and sexual looseness quite often.  

Not a fan of Thornton's tuckus or Berry's decollete, and it's definitely arguable that you don't have to show everything, but you've got to have some hints of what they're about to do.  And that's why I'm not in favor of simply looking for "objectionable thematic elements" or simply at the MPAA ratings; it really does not tell you what is redeeming or not about a film or book.  

There are some times when you cannot (true story) simply say "we cannot read that book because it features a witch" and the like.  The book in question was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.   I still cringe when I remember that.

 

Bert, you are a master of evasion. 

But why?

The article says there was no particular incident that sparked this change, so I'm assuming this isn't a response to a professor using a text or book that contained "passages that are clearly pornographic, erotic, obscene, or graphic." And quite frankly, what is and isn't "pornographic, erotic, obscene, or graphic" is subjective. 

But seriously, are we talking skipping over Chaucer, Homer, Dante, Virgil, and even Shakespeare? Just how obscene is too obscene?

Literature and film studies are about more than entertainment. Literature, and now tv and movies, impact culture significantly. Writing and producing shows and movies is a craft, and I can't imagine studying these subjects without delving in to some books, movies, and television that would not meet the Phil. 4 criteria.

I guess I understand not allowing obscenities/profanities in plays put on by students, if for no other reason than to prevent parent-induced migraines. . . but overall, this feel like an unnecessary edict. Sort of like including a clause in your church covenant that the congregation is not allowed to rob banks. Who's planning to go there?

IMO it sounds silly to say "No professors were planning to assign erotica, but now we have a rule that they can't." Okey-dokey.

Maybe they are trying to put up a fence to keep out the "academic Left", but I don't think it's a Lefty move to read Ovid, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy, or Toni Morrison for that matter.

I feel like we are missing a big piece of a puzzle.

Writing and producing shows

Writing and producing shows and movies is a craft, and I can't imagine studying these subjects without delving in to some books, movies, and television that would not meet the Phil. 4 criteria.

So we are free to disregard Phil 4 for educational purposes of teaching a craft? Which other of our Lord's commands take a back seat to education? And how do we decide that?

Define Phil. 4

Thanks for excising that one part of my post and not taking it in context.

So--exactly how do we decide what is and isn't "pure" or "lovely"?

Does it mean we can't write or read any story that depicts sinful acts?

What about non-fiction? Is it wrong to study crime, mental illness, popular culture, or the lives of people who committed evil acts, or history's atrocities?

Perhaps what we should be looking at is how sinful acts are depicted and the messages being conveyed by the story/author. And what a coinky-dinky. That's what lit class is for.

By the way

I think Disney's The Little Mermaid is just about the most horrid story EVER. When most people think about harmful or objectionable ideas, they think in terms of the obvious--obscene language, crude humor, explicit or perverse sexual situations, excessive gore. These things are obvious and usually unnecessary to conveying character and plot. I'm not defending the study of literature or movies that are obviously immoral in their themes or content. And it seems like this wasn't a problem at Cedarville. So why make a rule for a problem you don't have?

In addition, the absence of these obviously objectionable elements doesn't mean a story doesn't contain problematic themes. So how do we learn or teach without reading, watching, and discussing?

@ Kevin Miller:

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

Fourth Baptist Christian School did Harvey  in the late '70's---I couldn't give the exact year without looking through yearbooks.  The school also did Arsenic and Old Lace  around that same time.

 

I was in the production of Arsenic and Old Lace at Fourth. We did edit the play before we presented it. For example, we couldn't have the little old ladies serving wine in a Christian school production, so we changed it to poisoned tea. (I guess it was okay for them to kill people, just as long as they didn't do it with wine.)

 

The production of Harvey took place a year or two after I graduated in 1980.

I pulled out the yearbooks from 1974 - 1979 & 1981 yesterday afternoon.  (My sister in Illinois has my 1980 yearbook at the moment.)

Here are the plays Fourth produced during those years:

1973-1974: Tom Sawyer

1974-1975: Peter Pan

1975-1976: The Man Without A Country

1976-1977: Cheaper By The Dozen

1977-1978: The Miracle Worker

1978-1979: Arsenic And Old Lace (A couple of photos of you in character, by the way.)

1979-1980: (unknown)

1980-1981: Harvey

Bert Perry wrote:...It is

Bert Perry wrote:
...It is also worth noting that these movies got their rating by extreme violence.  Is that OK, but nudity is not?  As I recall, both adultery and murder are mentioned in the Decalogue, no?  Someone I knew joked, after The Passion of the Christ came out, that he wondered "does a movie contain enough graphic violence for discerning Christian viewers?"

Really, it's telling that the outrage on some peoples' part regarding Schindler's List is not people getting their brains blown out and standing in the shower terrified of the Zyklon B they knew could come out of those shower heads, but rather that some of them were naked.  Seriously?   Sometimes the fundamental preoccupation with immodesty and nudity makes me wonder how we ever go shopping...

Bert, there is a difference between violence and nudity--the violence is fake, the nudity is not (that's not to condone all violence in movies, as you noted much of it is gratuitous and harmful to the soul). John Piper addresses this very question in the following article, which I highly recommend:

12 Questions to Ask Before You Watch Game of Thrones

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Granted,

The nudity is real, and the violence does not actually physically injure or kill the participants.  Usually.   That noted, a quick Google search will reveal that yes, indeed, there are certain guidelines for portraying acts of violence to minimize the emotional damage done to the actors and actresses, too.  Let's be blunt here; if we acknowledge that violence damages our soldiers when they fight, we must also admit that simulated violence can also be damaging.  The actors are, after all, trying to persuade the audience that someone is really being killed.  

Moreover, no less than Army "Killologist" Dan Grossman has noted the role of popular media in conditioning people to kill.  If we don't think violence in movies harms the viewers, we are kidding ourselves (violence bothers me far more, personally), and that ought to "jar" us out of the position that we ought to consider Exodus 20:14 exponentially more important than Exodus 20:13 for determining Philippians 4:8's definition of "pure".

Really, sometimes it seems that we're elevating 1 Timothy 2:9 above Exodus 20:13.  Um....really?  Exposing the image of God is worse than destroying it?  I can't go there, even conceding that immodesty/nudity is real in a way that the violence is not.  

(and one thing Cedarville gets right is to put them in the same bin....gratuitously imitating murder is every bit as bad on screen as gratuitously imitating sex, and the MPAA code also rightly puts obscenity/Exodus 20:7 up there....though not verses 4-6 so much, of course)

And again, it matters what the context is.   The nudity of Schindler's List illustrates the barbarity of the KZ--with the showers, and even the mistress scenes show a man--a psychopath really--whose drive to murder is so strong, his idea of "afterglow" is to shoot some innocent people.  National Socialism gave carte blanche to promote psychopaths to positions of responsibility--approve or disapprove of the scenes, they have everything to do with the plot and central message.

(when you're shocked by the violence as well as by the nudity, you are likely to get that point)

 Now, those of you who have seen a Friday the 13th or Halloween movie; can you say the same about the use of nudity, sexuality, and violence there?   Shouldn't a university policy deal with these differences?

Bert, you'll find no argument

Bert, you'll find no argument from me that gratuitous violence can be mentally and spiritually damaging. But I agree wholeheartedly with John Piper's article.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Notice what he does, Greg

As far as I can tell, Piper simply assumes that a certain level of "uncoverage" is impure--he makes no attempt to derive that from Scripture.  That's simply a tautology.   For that matter, too much of the debate here is basically Scripture-free--we simply quote Philippians 4:8 and assume we know what "pure" means in light of Scripture.  And then, unmoored from the piers of Scripture and logic, we wonder why we get a lot of personal attacks.  Well, duh.

(to be fair, Wayne does hint at the general shamefulness from the OT, but that's about it here....this should trouble us)

So while I tend to live about the way Piper says in that article--never watched GOT, etc..--I cannot get, Scripturally, to the point of arguing that nudity in the arts, to include movies, is always wrong.  99% of the time?  Absolutely--as I've noted above, it's the cult of Aphrodite then and now, with hints of the brilliant Hebrew word picture in Leviticus 18.  Clear violation of Matthew 5:27 and the like--just an incitement to lust.  I personally wonder how many of the models for nude art over the ages (male and female) were the lovers of the artists or their patrons.   

But 1%, or perhaps just 0.01% of the time, there's something that actually says something.  And for things like Schindler's List , I plead; don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Doesn't mean we go full out for whatever else is out there; it simply means that if clear incitement to fornication/lust is not there, it may in some cases be permissible.

Cost

 I personally wonder how many of the models for nude art over the ages (male and female) were the lovers of the artists or their patrons.   

But 1%, or perhaps just 0.01% of the time, there's something that actually says something.  

Wow. That is most certainly not worth the price.  

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