Recently, while I was looking over my list of especially ridiculous items culled from the CAP Alert site, I noticed an interesting trend. Namely, many elements of movies which the CAP reviewer condemns can also be found in the Bible. Consider the following examples:
The 13th Warrior: “‘Your fate is fixed'”
Romans 9:21: “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (In the middle of a long argument for predestination.)
Elektra: “‘You did what you had to do’ to excuse lying”
Rahab the harlot is rewarded for lying in Joshua 2:4 to protect the Israelite messengers.
King Arthur: “order to kill every man, woman, child in path”
Deuteronomy 7:2: “And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them.”
Pearl Harbor: “life-death decision-making”
Many examples throughout the Bible, most notably Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Saved!: “belittlement of the Jewish people”
Titus 1:10-11: “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.”
Shakespeare in Love: “talk of selling daughter for sex”
Exodus 21:7-8: “And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed.”
Shakespeare in Love: “sadness due to death of an associate”
According to the Bible, Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35).
War of the Worlds: “blaming disaster on God”
A frequent theme in the Book of Job.
X2: “sacrificial suicide to save others”
John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Also, I noted another example in my first post on CAP, where he slammed a movie for teaching the ethic “An eye for an eye” – which comes from the Book of Exodus.
I confess, I have no idea what the CAP reviewer was thinking with these comments. Granted, in some cases (like The Matrix: “prophesying”, “resurrection from the dead”), it’s because he believes that God has a monopoly on those particular sorts of magic and no one else is allowed to do them. Yet it’s undeniable that many of the movies he’s criticized simply present behaviors which can also be found in the Bible, often in rules presented as direct from the hand of God, or in the lives of people who are praised as being just and righteous. Why does he condemn these biblical principles when they appear in popular culture? Is it possible that so fervent a Christian is ignorant of the content of the Bible, so that he doesn’t see the parallels?
Evidently, this criticism comes up a lot, since the CAP site has a page devoted to it: Why Don’t You CAP the Bible? His main argument is that the Bible does not graphically depict or encourage these acts the way that popular culture does:
What about descriptions of sinful behaviors in any sort of graphic detail? The Bible speaks in understatement, e.g., “He took her” or “sliced off his ear.” Quite a bit of difference in perspective indeed.
…As another example for comparison regarding the degree of influence of subject matter in the Bible versus in movies, reading “was killed by” is a l-o-t different than watching and hearing someone thrust a 14″ knife into a man’s body, repeatedly, slowly at first, seeing the steel of the blade disappear, appearing more stained with each withdrawal as blood spews, splatters and pools, the body twitching with each new thrust until it twitches no more then pumping eight rounds of .45 bullets into the body with steely coldness to make viciously and brutally certain the victim is dead.
This is a clever argument, but unfortunately for CAP, it’s flat-out wrong. Reading about violent acts in scripture, even when described in the terse quality of the Bible, does make people more aggressive in exactly the way he fears that movies and media do.
This was demonstrated earlier this year by a study on religious violence by Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan. After reading a violent passage from the Old Testament, study participants were given the chance to blast other students with loud noise. Both religious and secular students (although the religious more so) were more aggressive in this game after exposure to the violent scripture.
This is a clear example of the priming effect in action, and shows that the Bible has no magical exemption from this basic principle of psychology. It seems, then, that if the CAP reviewer really wants to shelter children from exposure to violence and hate, he should begin not at the movies, but with the bloody, divisive scriptures that are, with the best of intentions, so often inculcated in the young.
Other posts in this series: