Current issues tend to leave a bad taste in the mouth of the viewer, so evangelical filmmakers have elected to market them as the fillings in celluloid pastries. The recipe has been fairly simple: mix several universal types of persons together with a current, middle-class issue, simmer for 72 minutes over a low flame of emotional response, sprinkle with comic relief, coat with gospel presentation, and serve in a crowded sanctuary.

At best, the rationale for dealing with issues is the desire to win eternal souls to Christ; at worst, it is the desire to sell films. Films have seldom been created to address issues simply because Christians should be concerned with those issues. But although that day has not arrived, several recent releases may have moved a few steps in that direction.


Did the United States Supreme Court settle the abortion issue for all time (Rowe v. Wade, 1973) or open the door for the real thinking to begin?” So concludes the New Liberty Enterprises film, Assignment: Life ($84 rental; 1980).

The question sets the tone for this 50-minute film, which depicts a California-based journalist investigating the abortion issue. Though cloked in objectivity, the movie thoughtfully presents a volume of prolife data with a minimum of emotional overkill.

Such issues as a woman’s right to her own body, legality versus morality, the (fetal) age at which the product of conception becomes a person, and what constitutes the taking of life are discussed in a documentary format.

Diverse personalities, such as Edward Allred, a soft-spoken, professionalappearing medical doctor who owns and operates abortion clinics in California, and Dr. Bernard Nathanson, formerly operator of the world’s largest abortion clinic and author of the antiabortion book, Aborting America, are interviewed by the journalist. Also featured are Cardinal Timothy Morning of Los Angeles, evangelical author James Dobson, Congressmen William Dannemeyer (R-Calif.) and Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), and John Wilke, articulate author of Handbook on Abortion.

Assignment: Life is distinctly Main Street, U.S.A. Even minority representatives appear to have decidedly middle-class value systems. But related problems of the prolife position—such as overpopulation and starvation in a world of limited capacity to support an ever-expanding population—are never discussed.

While not exploitative, the film takes the viewer inside an operating room to view an abortion. The sequence is brief and tastefully presented as the reporter in the story forces herself (and the audience) to face the physical side of the issue. The suggestion at the beginning of the film that portions might be unsuitable for younger viewers might well be extended to include the suggestion that the film should be thoroughly discussed following its viewing.

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To whom would you attribute the following quote: “We are living in a day when wasting energy is as much an act of violence against the poor as refusing to feed the hungry”? Surprisingly enough, those are not the words of Ben Patterson or John Alexander or Stanley Mooneyham. They come from Moody Bible Institute president George Sweeting in the Moody Institute of Science film, Energy in a Twilight World (35 minutes; $39 rental), concluding an excellent and provocative documentary on energy in a world of dwindling resources. Though the most socially relevant film in the Sermons from Science series, Sweeting does not conclude it without offering the gospel and a Christian world view as part of the solution for spaceship Earth.

Energy is not overly dramatized or spiritualized. It is a well-written, vividly photographed, and crisply edited presentation of man’s journey in a spaceship with limited supplies. While the focus is on the 3½-million-square-mile compartment called the United States of America—which will use more electricity for air conditioning this summer than 800 million Chinese will use for everything all year—the film is not a guilt trip berating the American way of life. It is a straightforward presentation of facts. Sweeting’s solution is a call for conservation based upon concern for our fellow man and conversion in order to transform the inner man.


Hunger is the most severe and complicated problem our world faces,” suggests World Relief in a new series of six filmstrips, The World: A Global Community. That is what one would expect from the social concern branch of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Bring on the guilt feelings! Call for the ushers with oversized offering plates. Empty the refrigerator: listen for the semipious sounds of a growling evangelical stomach. But somehow, responses to feelings of guilt, appeals for finances, and calls for a simple lifestyle rarely materialize.

World presents a low-key, factual perspective on world hunger that could easily be used as the basis for discussion in a Sunday school class, youth retreat, study group, or even a public school classroom. The accompanying “Participant’s Guide” gives the discussion leader a variety of tools to use in clarifying the issues in viewers’ minds.

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The first four filmstrips address popular myths about world hunger, major causes of hunger, a blueprint for a well-fed world, and the role of the U.S. government. The fifth uses a fascinating simulation game to allow the viewer to feel the frustration of poverty, while the last filmstrip ties the series together with a suggested course of action.


Discipline in the classroom is one of the major problems faced by educators both inside and outside the church. “How do you take charge without being oppressive?” is the issue stated simply by James Dobson in his new 45-minute film, Discipline in the Christian Classroom (Word Films, $57 rental; 1980).

Actually, Discipline is two films in one. After a brief introduction, Dobson is interviewed by Dave Bell in a talk show format, focusing on classroom discipline problems illustrated in humorous vignettes by the “Not Ready for the Classroom Players.” This portion of the film, aimed at the professional teacher, contrasts the vacillating figure of “Miss Peace,” a teacher who needs to be liked by her class, and the controlled “Miss Justice,” who establishes mastery of her class on the first day of school. The dialogue concerns how a teacher can exert loving leadership but avoid strife.

The second film within Discipline deals with the Sunday school learning hour. “Actually,” states Dobson, “the Sunday school violates all the laws of learning,” After a brief and exaggerated explanation of the statement, Dobson, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, provides a number of helpful suggestions for the Sunday school teacher.

Like his Focus on the Family series, this film is carried along by Dobson’s wit and personality. While educators might wish Dobson had gone into greater depth in dealing with problems, the practitioner will walk away with a sense of insight and encouragement. A “Film Discussion Guide,” available from Word, may help individual viewers to increase their retention and integrate the thoughts into their classes. Discipline also will be an excellent tool for training new teachers and motivating continuing teachers anew.

MARK H. SENTER IIIMr. Senter is pastor of Christian education at Wheaton Bible Church, Wheaton, Illinois.

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