I have never been enthusiastic about film reviews as a regular feature in Touchstone. Assertions that they are necessary to engage the culture leave me cold. Reading pert and urbane reviews in culture-sensitive Christian magazines has very frequently left me with the lingering question if the reviewer, whether he found the movie good or bad by his customary criteria, ever felt—I have never seen it admitted—that he had been defiled by what he had seen, so that the confessional might be the next stop, and that there might be along with this the embryo of a resolution that one really should stop looking at these things.
I say this as a frequent viewer of films who is growing increasingly uneasy about the practice. The fulminations of the church fathers against the theatre and “spectacles,” and the difficulties the churches seem historically to have had with plays and players keep coming to mind. Troubling memories of my own exposure to the world of the theatre (of which television and the movies are an extension) as a pit musician haunt me a bit. There is something wrong with this world. It exists in a sex-charged, antinomian atmosphere, not good for marriages, not good for families, encouraging by its very nature narcissism and sexual infidelity with its endemic and unwholesome emphasis on stardom and romantic love. It is not innocent, and I wonder if it can be. I cannot forget the numerous performances of Camelot for which I have played. “I Loved You Once in Silence” and King Arthur’s sad epilog notwithstanding, the end of it all was still that it was in some way worth it. But it’s not.
There are good reasons to explore this wrongness in our pages before we confirm ourselves as a regular reviewer of films, plays, and the like. That there should be any such “establishment” in a Christian magazine is a serious question, eminently worthy of debate. Please don’t anyone say, as though one had no need to argue it, that it is our business to evaluate such things as a service to the church, and draw the analogy to reviews of books, with which we have no apparent problems. I will grant the analogy, and allow it to run out as far as it can, but think it is weak and beside the point I am making here.
For there is something extra involved in the world of
theatre and film, something that makes it a serious question as to whether
Christians should, as a rule, view or review the products of this part of the
art and entertainment world, which perhaps (and I say only perhaps)
needn’t be, but as a matter of fact are, historically inimical to the
faith. My instinct—an instinct difficult put into words, but still worth
the attempt—is that Christian dialogue with Athens, Paris, and Rome is one
thing, with Corinth, Pompeii, Hollywood, and Cannes, another.