Posts tagged Standards
Is it OK for Seventh-day Adventists To Go to the Theater?
photo credit: erin m via photopin cc
Should Seventh-day Adventists, or Christians for that matter, attend a movie theater? Growing up in a conservative Hispanic Adventist church the answer was an emphatic "NO!" You could even be placed on church discipline if it was revealed that you had indeed attended this most vile and ghastly of entertainment centers. Young people, rebellious and inquisitive as they are, began to ask the inevitable "why" question. Here are some of the answers we received (and some I have heard recently):
"The theater is an evil place and your guardian angel wont go in there with you."
"If you die while you are at a theater you will lose your salvation."
"Ellen White said we should not attend movie theaters because the environment is evil."
"It is a waste of money."
As you can imagine, many of us were disappointed with these answers and those of us who were not (myself included) did not give them enough thought to realize how silly they were. For example, what is it that made the movie theater evil? Why would going to the movies to watch Pocahontas place my salvation in jeopardy? Why would the angels watch a movie with me at home and yet refuse to go into a theater with a similar movie? How is renting a movie for 3 dollars, or buying one for 20 dollars not a waste of money but going to the 1 dollar theater is? As you can imagine, the mental motors of logic where burning the oil of rationality faster than an old run down Buick. The youth were stumped.

So what is the answer? Allow me to share two reasons why I have struggled with this whole "no theater" concept. First of all, the standard cannot be found in scripture. Are there principles there that assist us in proper movie selection? Yes. But there is no principle for avoiding the building itself.

Second of all, theaters in Ellen Whites day were immoral places where drinking, smoking, and prostitution were allowed. Today theaters are family friendly and it is very common to see parents with their children there. Smoking, drinking, and prostitution are definitely not allowed. So while the environment was evil in Ellen Whites day it is certainly not evil today.

But those are not the reasons why I dislike this standard. The main reason why I don't like it is because the standard is too weak. Notice, I didn't say it is too strong, legalistic, or rigid. I said it is too weak. The weakness lies in the fact that when you tell someone "don't go to the theater" you automatically make the building an evil place, not the content. Theaters today are not evil places. However, they are certainly filled with their share of evil movies. But when you tell a young person that the theater is evil and that he should just rent a movie the young person goes to Red Box and picks up a copy of the latest Zombie movie replete with mindless killing and filth. This is exactly what happened to us growing up. Stay away from the theater! We were told. And the same people who told us this would let us come over to enjoy all of the carnal garbage that Holy-Wood had to offer. We got in trouble for going to the theater to watch The Passion of the Christ, but it was OK to go to the elders house to take in the disturbing scenes in SAW and Resident Evil.

The problem will soon become worse if Netflix gets its wish. A recent article in the Huffinton Post reported Netflix's intent "to replace the movie theater."[1] If Netflix gets its way we will soon be able to stream brand new movies right away instead of having to go to a theater. Give it a few years and theaters will become a thing of the past much like the drive in theaters so popular in the 50's. A new generation of Adventists will grow up with no regard to the content they are seeing because, after all, theaters no longer exist.

So is it OK for a Christian to go to the movie theater? I believe so. But it is not OK for a Christian to watch movies that are contrary to Biblical principles. That holds true whether you are at home, at a theater, or anywhere else. If we as adults would, instead of telling our young people that theaters are bad, teach them how to select good, uplifting, and positive movies then they would be able to make those choices no matter where they go or where the movie is shown.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. - Philippians 4:8

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[1] Kelinman, Alexis. The Huffington Post, "Netflix Wants To Replace The Movie Theater" Web: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/28/netflix-movies_n_4169752.html