Hard times for Hollywood (and other news worth knowing)

This January, The Lutheran Witness magazine launched a new monthly column from Gene Edward Veith called “World Views,” in which he highlights and comments on major national and international news stories from a Lutheran perspective. Enjoy Veith’s column for February below — and if you like what you see (and want more), subscribe today!

Original social media developers are repenting

Several of the early developers of Facebook are now criticizing their creation. Sean Parker, the first president of the company, said that Facebook is built upon a “vulnerability in human psychology” and was designed to answer the question, “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?”

Roger McNamee, an early investor, said that the company threatens “public health and democracy” by using “persuasive techniques developed by propagandists and the gambling industry,” including fear and anger. And Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook vice president, said that his involvement with the company has left him feeling “tremendous guilt.”

While these technological pioneers make some good points about social media, their antipathy for their creation seems too extreme. But this is what can happen when talented and accomplished individuals work without a sense of vocation. And when they feel “tremendous guilt” without knowing where to go for absolution.

Sowing the Word of God through technology

People who pull out their cell phones during sermons and Bible studies are not necessarily checking their texts. They are very likely reading the Scriptures by means of their Bible apps.

The most popular is YouVersion, a free download that was one of the original staples of the first app store. Today YouVersion is on some 300 million phones in every nation in the world. It now offers the Word of God in 1,169 languages. Even people in countries where the Bible is hard to come by or outlawed are downloading the Scriptures in their own languages. Last year alone, YouVersion downloads shot up 255 percent in Iraq, 228 percent in India, and 243 percent in Mozambique.

Today people in developing countries may live in poverty and primitive-seeming conditions, and yet they often have a smart phone. Christians used to plot how to smuggle Bibles into closed countries. But today God is using information technology to sow the Word of God, just as the printing press did in Luther’s time.

YouVersion was originally a project started by a congregation in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Bigger families, sort of

A study has found that many American families are growing — not from having more children but from divorce and remarriage.

As many as one-third of the families in the U.S. are “blended.” One or both of the spouses have been married before and have children from the previous marriage. Children, in effect, have two different sets of parents. Parents have children who are “his,” “hers” and “ours.” Such families, on the average, are 66 percent bigger than traditional families.

“Blending” extends the family in complex ways, especially when you factor in multiple sets of grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins and step-siblings.

This is nothing new. When women commonly died in childbirth and both men and women frequently died of untreatable illness, widows and widowers would often remarry, blending their families. But blended families from remarriage in either circumstance — death or divorce — bring unique challenges, tensions and complications for those involved.

Does moving the U.S. embassy fulfill Bible prophecy?

President Trump ordered that the U.S. embassy in Israel be moved to the capital city of Jerusalem. Ever since the Six Day War in 1967, when Israel occupied the city and moved its capital there, most nations have kept their embassies in the old capital of Tel Aviv out of concern for Arab sensitivities. The American action, designed to show support for Israel, has sparked criticism from U.S. allies and violent protests from Muslims worldwide.

But some groups have applauded the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for religious reasons. Christians who see the Bible as a code for predicting the End Times, as well as some radical Jews, believe that the re-establishment of Jerusalem will be followed by the rebuilding of the Temple, the resumption of sacrifices, and a new imposition of Mosaic law. After that, Christ will return (or, for Jews, the Messiah will appear for the first time).

Lutherans, in contrast, believe that the Bible is for our salvation, bringing us to Christ through Law and Gospel, rather than being a cryptogram for current events.

A bad year for Hollywood

The movie world had a bad year in 2017. Not only were a raft of filmmakers and entertainers brought down by revelations of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, but ticket sales were also at their lowest level in 25 years.

The moral malaise — which is reportedly causing nervousness, heightened awareness and a clampdown on the Hollywood party scene — seems accompanied by a creative malaise. Studios keep churning out remakes, sequels and prequels, as if no one can think of a new idea. Filmmakers mine the comic books of their childhood looking for characters they cannot create on their own. Instead of devising interesting plots, they string together special effects.

To be sure, there are exceptions, and good films are still being made. But the public, which is increasingly turning to Netflix as an alternative to both movie theaters and network TV, is buying fewer tickets to see them.

Dr. Gene Edward Veith is the author of over 20 books on different facets of Christianity and culture including, most recently, Authentic Christianity (CPH), with A. Trevor Sutton. A retired English professor and college administrator, he also directs the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary and blogs regularly for Patheos.com.

The Lutheran Witness — Providing Missouri Synod laypeople with stories and information that
complement congregational life, foster personal growth in faith, and help interpret the
contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.

4 Responses to Hard times for Hollywood (and other news worth knowing)

  1. Mike Cannatelli February 16, 2018 at 7:40 pm #

    The local movie cinemaplex has 17 tiny theatres that hold maybe 50 people. There was only one movie, out of the 17 choices,The Post, that I found interesting enough to want to buy two $10. matinee tickets for my wife and I to see. Most movies today have little plot, not much in the way of dialog, with way too many computer generated scenes where things blow up. There usually are plenty of sexual scenes and or some nudity, with plenty of vulgar language that includes using the Lord ‘s name in vain. Also many of today’s movies feature at least one LGBT character as Hollywood has their agenda to push.

    The Post was well done with the one exception that they did a number of times ask God to Damn something. Other than that, it was a good movie, and probably why it wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award.

    It is a paradox. Just as with TV and yes Radio, they’re all aiming for the younger audience. The older audience are the folks who grew up listening to the Radio, watching their favorite shows on TV and going to the movies. They aren’t making entertainment on any of those venues for us anymore, so we stay home and watch Netflix. The kids aren’t into the radio, TV, or apparently even the movies, so those venues are hurting. The sad part is they’re doing it to themselves. There are plenty of Babyboomers who’d gladly listen to the Radio, watch TV, and go to the movies, but you’ve got to air stuff we’re interested in.

  2. Lawrence Manross February 25, 2018 at 10:20 pm #

    Haven’t been to a movie in a couple of years. And that was a re-release of an oldie.

  3. Melissa Hoyle February 27, 2018 at 7:01 pm #

    For the most part, I enjoyed these stories, and agreed with the author on nearly every point. I was raised in a VERY conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, so the foundation of my belief system was laid there. But, as I have aged I have grown a bit more humble about the judgement of others.

    I believe it is presumptuous to believe that these men, involved in the creation of Facebook and now having reservations about the way the finished product works today, are all clueless about where to go for absolution. It’s as if the author is suggesting that all of these men must be nonbelievers if they participated in the creation, or growing success of Facebook. If that is the suggestion, I believe that’s just not true.

    Also, I am one of those people applauding the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, not for the reasons stated because I also believe the Bible is not a code or predictor of the “end times”. Instead I applaud our president’s courage in carrying out a promise we rightfully made to Israel several administrations ago.

  4. Marie March 5, 2018 at 10:21 am #

    I too grew up being confirmed in the Lutheran church. And I enjoy going to the Big screen movies. But, the last few decades, our family has been seeking out Christian faith type movies. But, they are hard to find. So, supporting Christian authors who’s fiction books became movies, was also a possibilty.


    We as human beings seek a hero. We desire for good to win over evil. And we sympathize with the underdog, the humble, lost and wounded who don’t give up.

    We see those characters struggling in life, and feel their pain when other characters come along and kick them when they are at a low place in life, and are continually abused: verbally, physically and spirituality.

    This is also real life. And how is the Church reaching out to this broken world? Are we throwing the first stone? Are we demanding they live a better more moral life before they are welcomed into the church, or are we freely, offering God’s healing gifts of grace?

    Are we introducing them to the only hero/Savior they will ever need, and feeding them with the Living Word/Son/Spirit?

    Or is the church putting “stumbling blocks” in their way, and introducing doctrine, that they do not understand or can even find in Scripture, but instead are being lead outside of Scripture for man’s opinions?

    This confuses the Truth, that we find in God’s Word alone.

    And the church is losing it’s calling: To Preach The Word! Teaching the Truth in love with genteelness and patience.

    But, Christ’s Voice/His Word will go out into the world and the hearts of His people through His promised Holy Spirit, who leads us back to Scripture Alone.

    And faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ, and His Redeeming Grace. It is finished!

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