Pious Talk Covers Worldly Living

Now that social dancing has been introduced at Calvin College, with all kinds of plausible and non-plausible argumentation, it is well that we just go back a few years and have another look at what we did in 1966 in adopting the updated report on the Film Arts, and the practical consequences of it.

You see, that report itself is quite good, and I can quite readily find myself in its basic thrust. It delineates quite well what ought to be our Christian attitude toward, and responsibility overagainst, the film arts.

However, as everybody knows, but very few like to admit, we aren‘t doing much at all with those nice-sounding principles and high ideals found in the report. For example, synod said with respect to the “familiar trio,” theater-attendance, dancing and card-playing, that “it greatly deplores the increasing prevalence among us of these forms of amusement and urgently warns our members against them.” Synod exhorted “all our leaders to warn unceasingly against the prevailing spirit and forms of worldliness,” and to deal “firmly with all cases of misdemeanor and offensive conduct in the matter of amusements.” Synod furthermore said that “the Christian should reject and condemn the message of those film arts products which sanction sin and subvert the Christian interpretation of life” (cf. Spaan, Christian Reformed Church Government, pp. 147ff for this).

Good admonitions, no doubt. But have we been putting them into practice? Synod deplored the increasing prevalence of theater-attendance and dancing. Has there been a decrease in these practices since that time? Everyone knows there has not been; instead, now we are saying: Let’s implement dancing among ourselves (“Christian” dancing, of course). Another capitulation to the prevailing spirit of our age? I’m afraid so.

The reason I think so is the way we approach these matters. We approach them from the standpoint of expediency rather than principle. Oh yes, we then discover and propound all kinds of nice principles to back up our expediency, but expediency it remains all the same.

For what is the case? The case is that before 1966 it was discovered by way of a survey that two-thirds of our young people were attending the theater on a regular basis. So in order to deal with that bad situation, we neatly skirted the real issue and produced a report which made room for a qualified theater-attendance. Fine, except. 0 f course, that neither before nor after were the young people doing this on a qualified basis. They were attending indiscriminately, and have, by and large. been doing so ever since.

So what was the net result of the 1966 Report? A free ticket to attend the theater, as the Rev. J. B. Hulst once said soon after the adoption of the report. He was right. We simply legalized the status quo. We simply gave our (qualified, to be sure) approval to what was already happening.

The problem remained. And it remains today. We produced a new report, but not a new situation. We should have issued a strong plea for repentance from gross worldliness. but we issued a nicely-worded but impotent report instead.

Now we‘re doing the very same thing with the dance. We begin with the expediency angle again: The students at Calvin are dancing, so now we may as well find a way to condone it, and, hopefully, improve it. So along comes another nicely-worded, principal-sounding report from the Board of Trustees. But everyone knows we lost the battle before we ever began. However, no one is going to say that. We keep putting our heads in the sand. hoping the problem will somehow go away. But it won‘t, and there’s no use pretending it will. I admire the integrity and “guts” of the student who had the honesty to write:

They justify dancing at Calvin by saying that it will be creative, educational and to the glory of God. This is a real joke for many of us who know that dancing is done for enjoyment, for entertainment, and not for its creative or educational values. No matter how many good intentions the Board of Trustees has, dancing will always be just that, at Calvin, or anywhere else.

That student hit the nail on the head. We all know he’s right, but of course, were not going to admit it. We’re going to stick to our “principles” instead.

So what do our young people see on the screen? Well, here is a sample of what they’re seeing, taken at random from a local newspaper:

MATURE: Some simulated sex and brutality.

MATURE: Some swearing and coarse language.

RESTRICTED: Drugs and very coarse language. Contains a very crude song.

MATURE: Frequent violence.

MATURE: Some violence.

RESTRICTED: Warning: Brutal rape and violence.

RESTRICTED: Brutal violence and coarse language.

RESTRICTED: Violent scenes.

MATURE: Sex comedy.

RESTRICTED: Several violent and brutal scenes.

RESTRICTED: Some nudity and swearing.

RESTRICTED: Brutality and rape.

Well, what happens to our nice “principles” in the light of this? They disappear into thin air. Because we have to deal with the nitty-gritty of real, practical life. And we see what’s going all among our young people. And then all those fine theories and dandy principles dont amount to a hill of beans. There’s only one clear, biblical thing to tell our young people in the light of this: You have no business as a Christian to attend these shows at all. And if you do attend “on a regular basis,” we sincerely question your commitment to the Lord and will have to take disciplinary measures: There’s no other avenue open to those who are sincere in their Christian commitment and want to avoid every form of evil and to do all, whether in word or deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Is it going to be different with dancing? I have my doubts. Knowing human nature, and knowing that Christian liberty “can be fully exercised only by those who are mature,” I doubt whether the social dance at Calvin or anywhere else is going to enhance our spiritual life or be done to the glory of God. If I’m wrong, I’d like someone to show me how and where.

Rev. J. Tuininga is pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.