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Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Menace of the Religious Movie Part 2: The religious movies embodies the mischievous notion that religion is, or can be made, a form of entertainment.

This notion has come upon us lately like a tidal wave and is either openly taught or tacitly assumed by increasing numbers of people.  Since it is inextricably bound up with the subject under discussion, I had better say more about it.
The idea that religion should be entertaining has made some radical changes in the evangelical picture within this generation.  It has given is 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 nature's 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, but it is, in fact, not too far short of being plain dishonest.  The hope that they can convert a man while he is occupied with the doings of some imaginary hero reminds one of the story of Catholic missionary who used to sneak up on sick people and children and splash little holy water on them to guarantee their passage to the city of gold.

I believe that most responsible religious teachers will agree that any effort to teach spiritual truth through entertainment IA at best futile and at worst positively injurious to the soul.  But entertainment pays off. And the economic consideration is always a powerful one in deciding what shall not be offered to the public -- even in the churches.

Deep spiritual experiences come only from much study, earnest prayer and long meditation.  It is true that men by thinking cannot find God; it is also true that men cannot know God very well without a lot of reverent thinking.  Religious movies, by appealing directly to the shallowest stratum of our minds, cannot but create bad mental habits which unfit the soul for the reception of genuine spiritual impressions. 

Religious movies are mistakenly thought by some people to be blessed of the Lord because many come away from them with moist eyes.  If this is a proof of God's blessing, then we might as well go the whole way and assert that every show that brings tears is of God.  Those who attend the theater know how often the audiences are moved to tears by the joys and sorrows of the highly paid entertainers who kiss and emote and murder and die for the purpose of exciting the spectators to a high pitch of emotional excitement.  Men and women who are dedicated to sin and appointed to death may nevertheless weep in sympathy for the painted actors and be not one bit the better for it.  The emotions have had a beautiful time, but the will is left untouched.  The religious movie is sure to draw together a goodly number of persons who cannot distinguish the twinges of various sympathy from the true operations of the Holy Ghost.

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