The Intersection of Faith and Film: Classroom, Living Room, Sanctuary

Speaker: Categories: Jan 09, 2010


[1hr, 8min, 8sec / 36min, 1sec]


"Motion Pictures"-- When reading or hearing these two words together, what is your reaction? Is your reaction different now than it might have been a couple decades ago? How about during your years as a student in an SDA academy or college? If a film were publicized as the entertainment for Saturday night, was your response positive, maybe even excited?

Did you have any notable reaction the first time you saw a film with sound and motion shown in an SDA sanctuary -- even if the content of that film featured work in a mission field or a church benevolent endeavor?

Hve you sensed that SDAs, living in different locales, tend to have varying responses or reactions? If so, why? Are not SDA values and perspectives to be rather commonly held? Should the denomination have a widely publicized statement about the topic - available to all SDAs everywhere?

Dr. Howe notes:"Perhaps due to the emotional hold that the medium of film can exert upon the viewer or to the content that often stands at loggerheads to Adventist beliefs and attitudes, throughout much of the twentieth century film was largely proscribed in Adventist circles. Today, we live in a time when the medium is more closely embraced by church members and institutions. However, the taint of previous regimes is still present, and certain questions have never really gone away. The appropriateness of film used educationally at certain levels, and with specific contents, is still at issue, and the extent to which film can be incorporated into worship continues to be a subject of contention."

"On the surface,"he continues,"the medium has been accepted within Adventism, but cracks are still visible, leading to questions that must be addressed in some fashion. Many of these questions are practical, such as those involving programming films into curriculum at our various schools and churches, specifically the need to match the maturity of the content with the responsibility of the viewer. Some questions, however, are more philosophical in nature, and regard the manner in which the medium intersects with issues of faith: faith in institutions to best serve our needs; faith in the power of education to produce responsible thinkers and doers; faith in the creative nature of the human spirit, and the ability to portray reality through art; and finally faith in God, and in the dual gifts of truth and knowledge that have been given to us."

"Due to the medium's mass appeal among the youth and the passivity it inspires in its viewers, I believe,"states Andrew Howe,"the church should become actively involved, not in terms of censoring or limiting or proscribing, but in helping to negotiate the difficult isssues that often arise, to discern between adult-themed content that is merely for entertainment purposes, and adult-themed content that engages with real-world problems that deserve to be addressed . The medium of film is so popular that Adventist clergy and lay educators have a responsibility to give our youth the tools they need to relate to film responsibly, consistently, and ethically. It is important to not only interrogate meaning, but also to develop mechanisms that, instead of censoring or demonizing, allow for constructive conversations, even though these discussions may be somewhat uncomfortable."

Having read the above, do you feel a sense of agreement with what this new voice to SDAF will be sharing on January 9? Do you have any concern about the prospects of Adventism becoming more accepting of what may be produced in Hollywood? Or, do you find yourself wondering why it has taken the denomination so long to address the topic of motion pictures openly and objectively - without a pre-stated bias? Do you feel some apprehension when you see SDA organizations producing such? What if they made films for entertainment, too?


La Sierra University and Adventist education have played a large role in Andrew Howe's life. His first connection to the campus came during the mid-1970s, when his father accepted a position in the Department of Mathematics and Computing. Later, his mother joined the Department of English and Communication. After earning his BA and MA degrees from La Sierra, Andrew enrolled in a doctoral English program at the University of California, Riverside. In 2005, after completing his dissertation on Avant-Garde poetry and film, Andrew returned to his alma mater, where he continues to serve as an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Politics, and Society. He has very much enjoyed this new chapter in his life, particularly in counting his parents among his colleagues.

Dr. Howe is new voice at SDAF, a voice reflecting a more youthful perspective on numerous issues.

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