Christian and the Theater
Published by the American Tract Society
in the 1820s
Theatrical exhibitions, then, may be shown to be sinful, and productive of much
evil, in a great variety of respects. Bear with a sincere friend to your
temporal and eternal happiness, while he endeavors, with all plainness and
fidelity, to state them....
I. To attend the theater
is a sinful waste of TIME.
You will not dare to deny,
that every moment of your time is given you by the great Author of life; and
that you must render an account to Him for the manner in which you spend it.
Neither will you deny that
life is short; that there is much important work to be done; and that no one can
be sure that he has another day or hour to live. ...we know not but there may be
suspended upon it the destiny of our immortal souls, and all the never-dying
interests of eternity.
Placed in circumstances so
solemn as these, can any rational, conscientious man consent to sit for a number
of hours in a playhouse, attending to amusements which, to say the least of
them, are as perfectly vain and frivolous as they can be? ...
Either men are not
accountable for the manner in which they spend their time, and are not bound to
devote it to the glory of God and the promotion of their own moral and spiritual
benefit, or it is a grievous sin to squander precious hours...
entertainments are not merely unprofitable—not merely a sinful waste of time—but they also
directly tend to ... destroy all taste for serious and spiritual employments.
Let me appeal to the experience of those who have been in the habit of attending
the theater.... When you return from the playhouse, after witnessing the most
decent play which was ever exhibited—have you any taste for prayer, for reading
the Scriptures, or holding communion with God in any sacred exercise? Is there
not something in the sentiments uttered in the theater, in the scenery
displayed, in the dress, attitudes, and deportment of the performers, and in the
licentious appearance and libertine conduct of many of the spectators, which is
calculated, to say the least, to expel all seriousness from the mind; to drive
away all thoughts of God, of eternity, and of a judgment to come; and to
extinguish all taste for spiritual employments?
...few things have a more
direct tendency to give the mind a vain and frivolous cast; to make it familiar
with licentious images and objects; to destroy a taste for devotion; and to
banish that spirituality which is at once the duty and happiness of the
And will any man, who means to stand on Christian ground, venture to deny that
whatever has this tendency must be sinful? That whatever draws off the heart
from that which is sober, useful, and pious—and inspires it with a prevailing
taste for the vain, the romantic, the extravagant, the sensual, and the
impure—cannot but be deeply pernicious?
...its direct and only
tendency is, to make men forget their duty and their real happiness, and
altogether to beguile the feelings proper for one who has no continuing city
here, but who ought to be continually seeking one to come, whose builder and
maker is God....
III. The theater is now, and
ever has been—a school of vice and profligacy.
By far the greater part of the most popular plays, though they may, and,
doubtless, often do contain many good sentiments, yet also contain much that is
profane, obscene, and calculated to pollute the imagination, to inflame the
passions, and instill the most corrupt principles, and the most pernicious
practices. How common is it to find in the language of the theater the most
unqualified profaneness, and even blasphemy! How often are mock-prayers and irreverent appeals to the Majesty of heaven, exhibited on the most
trivial occasions! How often is the dialogue interspersed with such unchaste
expressions or allusions as cannot but grievously pain the ear of modesty...
Piety and virtue are made to appear contemptible; and
vice, in the
person of some favorite hero, is exhibited as attractive, honorable, and
triumphant. Folly and sin have commendatory names bestowed upon them; and the
extravagance of sinful passion is represented as amiable sensibility. Pride,
revenge, false honor, violence, the indulgence of unhallowed love, marital
infidelity, and making the applause of men the governing rule of life—if not
openly commended, are yet so depicted as to make them appear objects of envy
rather than of abhorrence. ...
Now, can any man of decent character—above all, can any man who professes to be
a disciple of Jesus Christ, go to a place, or encourage representations, in
which sentiments such as these are almost continually brought into view, and
often under the most alluring aspect? Is this a school to which we ought to be
willing to introduce our sons and our daughters, even if we had no higher aim
than to prepare them for virtuous, dignified, and useful activity in the present
If this representation be
just; if attending on the theater is a sinful waste of time; if it tends to
dissipate the mind, and to render it indisposed for all sober, useful, or
spiritual employments; if hardly any man living would DARE to retire, and, upon
his knees, ask the blessing of God upon it before he went, or implore the
sanctified use of it after he returned; if theatrical exhibitions are often—very
often—indecent and profane... can a disciple of Jesus Christ, who professes to
be governed by the Spirit, and to imitate the example of his Divine Master; who
is commanded to "live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil
world;" who is warned to have "no fellowship with the unfruitful works of
darkness, but rather to reprove them;" who is required to "crucify the flesh,
with the affections and lusts;" and "whether he eats or drinks, or whatever he
does, to do all to the glory of God... can HE be found in such a place without
sin; without polluting his conscience, tarnishing his profession, and offending
Perhaps some will consider this as taking an unnecessarily strict, and even
puritanical view of the theater, as an amusement. This is so far from being the
case, that the sentiments which have been expressed, are those in which the wise
and the virtuous, in all ages, have been entirely unanimous....
philosophers like Plato could see that] "plays raise the passions, and pervert
the use of them; and, of consequence, are dangerous to morality." Aristotle lays
it down as rule, "that the seeing of comedies ought to be forbidden to young
people; such indulgences not being safe, until the age and discipline have
confirmed them in sobriety, fortified their virtue, and made them proof against
debauchery." And even Ovid, in his most licentious poems, speaks of the theater
as conducing to dissoluteness of principle and manners. ...
Even the infidel philosopher, Rousseau, declared himself to be of the opinion
that the theater is, in all cases, a school of vice. Though he had himself
written for the stage, yet, when it was proposed to establish a theater in the
city of Geneva, he wrote against the project with zeal and great force, and
expressed the opinion, that every friend of pure morals ought to oppose it.
The question is plain,
"Will you obey God, or man? Will you timidly or basely give way, to that which
you must acknowledge to be wicked? or will you dare to do what is right, though
all the world were against you? Will you take the Scriptures—or the maxims of a
corrupt world—for your guide?" The question is left with your conscience in the
sight of God.
Read the whole message here:
This isn't about legalistic
boundaries that undermine freedom. Each day we can choose whether we want to
please God or ourselves. We can follow our wonderful
Shepherd or drift with today's
increasingly corrupt culture. If we choose the latter (the easier pathway), we quickly dull our
conscience. We become accustomed to darkness
and despise God's light that brings conviction and could lead us back to our Lord.
is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone
practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his
deeds should be exposed." John 3:19-20
I choose my
Shepherd and His wonderful light! Yet, I am sad to say that I often follow my
own whims and wants (for only by His grace can I actually do what I long to do).
Then, often in the midst of the distractions, He speaks to my heart and reminds
me to come back to Himself -- back to the place of
fellowship with Him where I long to
be each moment.
Jesus said: "I am
the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but
have the light of life.” John 8:12
"If we say that
we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not
practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we
fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses
us from all sin." 1 John 1:5-7
“A little while
longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness
overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.
While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of
light.” John 12:35-36
"Do not love the world or the things in the
world. If anyone loves the world, the love of
the Father is not in him. For all that is in
the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the
eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father
but is of the world. And the world is
passing away, and the lust of it; but he who
does the will of God abides forever." 1 John
Toying with Death and
The Power of Suggestion
The original message
is here: www.gracegems.org/ATS/theater.htm