As I mentioned in the previous entry, when I was growing up, Steve Austin was one of my heroes. Along with the characters from “Star Trek,” I remember roleplaying “The Six Million Dollar Man” on the playground with my friends. My parents had no problem with my love of characters on TV shows: in fact one of my precious childhood memories involves watching “Six Mil” with my father. But then a strange pattern started. I would see advertisements for movies, and ask my parents, “Can we see that?” and get a hedgy, noncommittal answer, if not just silence.
I don’t remember when I finally realized the reason behind their unease. At that time, good members of the Nazarene Church simply didn’t go to the cinema. One powerful memory—an image really, nothing more—is of seeing a movie advertised in which Lee Majors, the star of “Six Mil,” would play a lead character. I couldn’t understand my parents’ reticence to go see the movie. After all, we watched Lee Majors on TV. We enjoyed “Six Mil” together. Why couldn’t we go see this movie, and enjoy that experience as a family?
None of their answers satisfied me. Finally, my mother brought me before an old Sunday School teacher.
“Tell David why we don’t go to the cinema,” my mom requested. This lady turned her wizened expression upon me and said, “Because that’s where all the thieves and murders hide out.”
It’s fine to look back now and laugh at such an assertion, but in that era, her declaration would have raised few eyebrows in my denomination. Perhaps the majority of church members would have seconded her with a resounding “Amen!” But something in her answer struck me as wrong. While I couldn’t accept her pronouncement, I had no evidence with which to contradict her.
Well, eventually it came to pass that we moved to a new town, and my parents brought me back to my former neighborhood to spend a weekend with a friend. I was looking forward to an evening in his den, shooting pool and watching a “Charlie’s Angels” special on TV, when my friend asked me, “Do you want to go see ‘Star Wars?’” I’m not sure if I had heard of “Star Wars” or not, but from his description of the movie, I could detect no harm in seeing it. So I allowed myself to be talked into going.
The next hour or so proved extremely uncomfortable. We drove to the cinema, and stopped along the way at Baskin Robbins. Over ice cream and lighthearted conversation, my nerves grew progressively shakier until I admitted to my friend’s father that I’d never gone to a cinema before. He frowned. “Are you sure your parents wouldn’t object to your going, then?” he asked.
While it was not their practice, neither had my mother or father condemned the cinema, or declared that it would be wrong for me to go. Still, religion was strong in my family: our entire social life revolved around church. “Is there anything wrong with it?” I asked my friend's father.
“Of course not,” he replied. “It’s a PG movie. It’s made for kids.”
“Oh. Well, I’m sure it’s okay then.”
And so I smiled, and nodded, and acted as if nothing bothered me. He must have bought my act, because he didn’t bring up the topic again. Still, I was anything but at peace over my upcoming visit to the cinema.
This blog entry will conclude in The Power of “Star Wars:” Part 2.
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