SPEAKING OUT offers responsible Christians a forum. It does not necessarily reflect the views of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

Not long ago, several readers protested the reviewing of popular movies in a magazine for Christian parents and educators. Less than 30 years ago their denomination had taken a stand against the evils of worldly amusements—movie going, card playing, and dancing—and these readers now gagged to see how the magazine had fallen. The editor defended his practice. “See you at the movies,” he concluded with a smirk.

The editor’s self-assurance hints at a general change in the Christian community’s response to movies—easier access, more casual use, and less critical attitudes. The causes of change include the development of new technologies—videodiscs, videocassettes, mostly movies cable television networks, large-screen TVs, and satellite dishes for private use.

Producers and marketers typically aim mass movies, especially in summer, at passive consumers who seek escapist pleasure without consequence. Their name is legion. Now increasingly throughout the nation, the escapist mentality loves to nurse on its new hi-tech pacifier. Thus movies are moving: from the public theater to the living room, bedroom, or den.

The privatization of viewing has serious implications. First, the symbolism of viewing is changing. Protestant evangelicals used to regard the movie theater as a den of worldliness where the sanctified would not set foot. Theater attendance, a public act, was a kind of reverse profession of faith. A trace of that old stigma remains. But modern man tends to see the home as a safe haven, protected from view and, to an extent, from public canons of morality.

As the means of transmission shift to accommodate and stimulate ...

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