KEYWORDS: maria, children, things, movies, violence, kids

Movies for Children

David Berg

—By Father DavidMadrid, SpainDFO113724/10/77(FOR ADULTS ONLY!)

—What Should We Let Them See?

1. (MARIA: THIS IS FROM MOTHER'S LETTER TO US AFTER TAKING HO'S FOUR LITTLE BOYS, NEHEMIAH‚ HOBO, JOSHUA & CALEB TO SEE THE MOVIE "BEN HUR". She said, "The crucifixion of Jesus was very real on the screen & the children kept asking, is it real or is this just a skit? Stephen said, 'Of course it was real, it actually happened to Jesus.' Stephen said the children need to feel these things & we should not tell them that it isn't real!")

2. WELL, A HAPPY MEDIUM WOULD BE TO SAY‚ WELL, THEY ARE ACTORS ACTING IT OUT BUT IT REALLY HAPPENED THAT WAY. That's a way it could really help them. Just like that. (Maria: You have to tell them that the actors aren't actually being killed but the actual historical event did happen. Because in a year or so they're going to find that out anyway.

3. DON'T EVER LIE AND DECEIVE CHILDREN. I'll tell you, other kids will very quickly disillusion them & debunk it all when they come in all thrilled & excited & rave to them, "I saw Jesus being nailed on the cross‚" & some of the older kids say, "Ah, that wasn't true‚ it was just an actor, he was just playing it!"—And then they'll say, "But no‚ grandmother said it was real"—& that's going to embarrass the little kid to be caught between the two & made a fool of.

4. I'D BE INTERESTED TO KNOW HOW IT IMPRESSED THEM, IF THEY WEPT. (Maria: She said with the children "we all shed real tears." But the child, if he has a traumatic experience or if it really really impresses him, I think it would be easier for him later to cope with it if he can remember that his mother said, "Well, this man wasn't actually being killed in this instance." I think it would be easier for a little child to take, because something like that would really effect Davidito a lot.

5. (I DON'T THINK I'D TAKE DAVIDITO TO SEE ANYTHING LIKE THAT.) No, there are some horrible things in that scene where guys are fighting & slicing each other up & all kinds of horrible things where the chariots run over the men cutting with blades—I wouldn't call that a children's movie at all! (Maria: Well see, that's why I read you this.

6. (SHE SAYS, "SO A FILM SUCH AS BEN HUR IS A REAL EMOTIONAL STRAIN & even a traumatic experience for the children, but we must not spare them this opportunity to suffer with Jesus & to see & feel what He actually went through."—That sounds like a holiness doctrine again! Poor Davidito, can you imagine if he saw something like that? It sounded pretty good at first, but of course I never saw "Ben Hur". Then when I started thinking about taking Davidito to something like that I thought, oh no, I don't think I ever would!)

7. IT WAS REALLY ROUGH, THEY'VE GOT SCENES OF TORTURE & SCENES OF GUYS FIGHTING, slicing each other up, & whippings & all kinds of horrible things, it is full of horrors, I really think it would be too much for small children. (Maria: Maybe children as old as Nehemiah, if he was so well-rounded in the Word & in the Letters & everything‚ but still, I don't know. It's a real vivid experience even for older people, you know?)

8. I SAW THE SILENT VERSION WHEN I WAS ABOUT THAT AGE‚ I MIGHT HAVE BEEN A LITTLE OLDER. (Maria: The silent version? So how did that affect you? Do you remember?) I'm just trying to think...I remember the race, that was very exciting, of course, & I remember him being a galley slave. These are the scenes that I can recall to this day. (Maria: But you saw it again after that though, didn't you?) Yes, the other one. I'm just telling you what I remember from the original—the things that I remembered all those years that impressed me, until I saw many many years later this new sound version with Charleton Heston.

9. I REMEMBER HIM BEING A GALLEY SALVE—to me that was one of the most horrible parts of the whole thing. They were rowing & the guy was cracking the whip & it was horrible. I thought, what a horrible life! It's funny, I was wondering how they got to go to the toilet. It came to my head, do you suppose they ever let them be unchained from the oar if they had to go to the toilet? Funny things go through little kids heads. I remember him being a slave in the salt mines too, that was really horrible! And the races.

10. IT'S STRANGE THAT RIGHT NOW THE CRUCIFIXION PART WAS NOT AS IMPRESSIVE TO ME AS THOSE OTHER PARTS because I was quite familiar with the crucifixion & I had seen it in other movies. It was familiar & I was accustomed to it, as people are. (Maria: And you knew also beforehand that Jesus rose from the dead & that He was alive, so because you knew the outcome you weren't as worried about it, I'm sure.

11. I'VE FORGOTTEN WHETHER THEY HAD THAT EARTHQUAKE IN "BEN HUR". I know they had it in "King of Kings" at the crucifixion where the Earth opened up & swallowed up the Scribes & the Pharisees. Very dramatic! The scribes & the Pharisees toppled into the chasm & the chasm closed on top of them.

12. BUT I REMEMBER ONE OF THE MOST IMPRESSIVE SCENES OF ALL‚ & I just almost couldn't understand how anybody could have that much love, is when he went in the end to the leper camp to find his mother & sister who had become lepers in the years he was gone. And then of course there was the miraculous healing, which is very dramatic, when he prayed for them & they both became clean. (Maria: I think if you have something good to balance the bad‚ if you have a good result or a good outcome, that makes a lot of difference.

13. IT HAD A VERY HAPPY ENDING! He rescues his mother & sister from the leper camp & prays to God & they're healed & he takes them home with him. That leper camp I think was one of the most scary things in the whole thing. They had those lepers looking awful! They were horrible monsters almost, all disfigured & horrible, they really made it realistic.—Big sores & one eye & nose gone & stuff like that, whew!

14. I THINK THAT WAS PROBABLY THE MOST HORRIFYING PART OF THE WHOLE PICTURE FOR A LITTLE CHILD. I think I almost got sick! I never could stand to view any kind of real pain & agony or open wounds. (Maria: If it had that much of an effect on you in spite of your being exceptionally strong in the Lord & the Word from the time you were born, think of most other children, even in the Family & what it must do to them.)

15. SEEING SUFFERING USED TO ALMOST ALWAYS TURN ME SICK! You know how I seldom ever get nauseated or sick to my stomach? That's about the only thing that ever does it. I'll ever forget right at a main crossing, it was Highland Avenue & Santa Monica Boulevard, this guy was speeding to make the light & this woman was hurrying to get across the street, didn't see him coming & I saw her hit. He was going so fast he couldn't even stop his car for a half-a–block till he got to the other side of the intersection.

16. I WAS THIS SIDE‚ SO I STOPPED IMMEDIATELY & I WAS THE FIRST TO REACH HER. (Maria: How old were you?) About 19. I was the first to reach her & she was lying there & sort of jerking & this one leg up in the air with her foot broken completely off right here so it was dangling down like this, ugh! I put my arms around her & prayed for her & then of course the police & the medics & all that came & they shooed everybody away.

17. I DON'T KNOW IF SHE EVER REALLY HEARD ME. I was just praying that she would. The Lord mercifully gives people unconsciousness at times like that. I remember when I left the scene I was so sick, it just makes me sick to think about it now. I was a good 19 then, but to put small children through things like that is really rough!—Like the "Ben Hur" movie.—And in that modern version it's got a lot of gruesome gory torture & fighting & killing & everything.

18. I JUST DON'T BELIEVE IN TAKING KIDS TO SEE ANYTHING IF THERE'S A LOT OF VIOLENCE. I don't believe in it! And there's a lot of violence & death & cruelty in that picture—I think it's even hard on adults. I know it was hard on me that last time I saw it. I can't take that kind of stuff. (Maria: There's enough that they have to go through in the World that is hard for them, not to help implant fears in them with stuff like that!)

19. I THINK IT WOULD BE BETTER TO TAKE THEM TO SEE A FUN FILM than some of those things with all that horrible violence & cruelty & torture & killing—they make it so realistic now! I mean, it is made so realistic! (Maria: Don't you think in the Family if we wanted to take our children to movies that generally it would be the best idea for an adult to go the movie first?) Yes. For younger children‚ somebody be sure & see it first to make sure it's all right.

20. I THINK WHEN A CHILD GETS TO BE MAYBE 10 OR 12 YEARS OF AGE MAYBE HE CAN TAKE IT‚ he's nearly an adult. (Maria: Take what?) One of those serious movies like "Ben Hur", "King of Kings" or even "Ten Commandments". (Maria: When he's 10 or 12—especially if he's been with us since birth, well taught for several years & he's really grounded in the Lord & really has faith.) He's getting pretty strong & pretty firm by that time & it's not going to really shock him too much.

21. BUT I THINK IT WOULD ALMOST BE BETTER TO TAKE SMALL YOUNG KIDS THAT AGE TO SEE SOMETHING LIKE WALT DISNEY rather than something with so much horror & blood & guts & gore & violence & cruelty & torture & killing like that horrible film "Ben Hur", it's even hard on adults! (Maria: And they should probably be briefed beforehand. Mother talks about praying with them afterwards that they'll get the real significance, but some serious thing like this that's going to really affect them so much, if you're going to take them to it you really should prepare them beforehand about it.)

22. EVEN IN "KING OF KINGS", which is the life of Christ by Cecil B. DeMille, most of it was very beautiful about His ministry, His experiences & healings & casting the seven demons out of Mary Magdalene. I think that's one of the things that impressed me almost the most in the whole picture when I saw those gruesome demons coming out of Mary Magdalene. They did it very cleverly, like ghosts coming out of her and each was labeled with a name: Greed, Jealousy etc. It was very effective for little kids who could understand it quite easily.

23. BUT THERE WAS NO REAL GRUESOME VIOLENCE, even the crucifixion was not all that gruesome & violent. I think the worst violence in the film was when they were whipping Jesus & that really made you cringe. For a little kid like that he would see it was bad, but a mere whipping is one thing, whereas they've got in "Ben Hur" people being gored & pulled apart & all kinds of horrible things!—A lot of it‚ in "Ben Hur".

24. ABOUT THE MOST VIOLENT THING IN ALL OF "KING OF KINGS" WAS THE WHIPPING SCENE & then of course when they laid Him on the cross you saw the soldier put his hand out on the bar like that & you saw the soldier take the spike & rest it on the palm of his hand & lift the mallet, but then the camera went up with the mallet so that the nail was out of sight & you saw the mallet come down like that but you didn't actually see the nail pierce the hand.

25. I CAN REMEMBER AS A KID IT REALLY MADE YOU FEEL IT‚ like you knew what was happening even though they didn't show it. I think that would be far better in most of these films. They try to be too realistic & show too much of the gruesome side, the actual violence, the ripping, shooting & puncturing, blood gushing & all this stuff. I think it is horrible for kids, horrible to see that kind of stuff! I mean, they will never forget it!

26. I CAN'T EVER FORGET THAT SCENE WHERE HE RAISED THE HAMMER READY TO HIT THE NAIL even though I never saw it hit! (Maria: And how old were you?) 5 or 6 probably‚ when DeMille first put out the "King of Kings". (Maria: Well, did it give you nightmares afterwards?) No, no, no, no. I was just sort of awed by it all.

27. CHRISTIANS HAVE BECOME SO FAMILIAR with the scene of Jesus hanging on the cross‚ it doesn't even hurt, sad to say, they don't even feel it. They almost get a nice peaceful feeling, the crucifixion is so common, sort of like He's relaxed & peaceful & He's dead. I don't think you really really get that feeling of pain when you're accustomed to looking at that same scene all the time.

28. AND THEN ONE OF THE MOST SHOCKING SCENES WAS WHEN YOU SAW THE EARTHQUAKE & THE EARTH OPENED UP & swallowed the Scribes & Pharisees & then closed up on them! Of course you really enjoyed that! DeMille is a master artist at doing some of those real big shock effect type scenes. How he did it I don't know, but it was realistic. (Maria: Well, did any of those things affect you adversely afterwards?) Not in "King of Kings".

29. THEN THERE WERE BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL SCENES AFTERWARDS WHEN HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD & met Mary in the garden. Oh, it was gorgeous! Then He met the disciples in the Upper Room, & Thomas came & put his hands in His wounds & then they walked up to the top of the Mt. of Olives & He bade them goodbye & ascended into the sky. It was beautiful, really beautiful! (Maria: But what we're trying to decide is if that kind of thing would affect children adversely, like "Ben Hur".)

30. I THINK IT WOULD HAVE AFFECTED ME ADVERSELY IF THEY WOULD HAVE TAKEN ME TO A FILM LIKE "BEN HUR" at the age of those kids. I think kids should not be exposed to that much raw blood & guts & violence, I just don't think they should! Whatsoever things are good, the Bible says, of good report, pure & so on, think on these things. (Phil. 4:8.)

31. BUT MOTHER EVE'S RELIGION WAS THE HOLINESS RELIGION—SUFFERING IS A VIRTUE‚ it's an asceticism. If you make yourself suffer then you're understanding the sufferings of Christ & it's good to feel suffering etc. She was like that from the first time I ever met her. I remember she said, "I've really suffered"—& she looked like it too! She always had this agonized expression on her face. Remember how she used to get that agonized expression? But that's her religion.

32. I DON'T THINK SMALL CHILDREN OUGHT TO BE TAKEN TO ANY KIND OF UNPLEASANT MOVIES. I think they can be introduced to those perhaps if necessary, especially if they're Bible stories, "King of Kings", "Ben Hur", when they're 10 or 12 or older children, when they're early teenagers, then they could take them. By that time they understand things better & they're a little tougher & more resilient & can take things better. By that time it might be good for them.

33. I DON'T THINK BLOOD & GUTS & VIOLENCE IN MOVIES IS EVEN GOOD FOR ADULTS, MUCH LESS FOR CHILDREN! (Maria: Yes, like what is the point of taking the child to a movie like that when you could give them the actual Bible story from the Bible or in a flannelgraph or some much more peaceful & beautiful form.) That's why when I saw some of those movies I used to say‚ why do people want to torture themselves like that?

34. WHY DO PEOPLE DELIBERATELY GO TO SUCH FILMS & WANT TO SUFFER & FEEL HORRIBLE & get up with a stomach-ache & nerves shattered & just revulsed with horror? You're not thinking on good things, it's horrible bad things! I think a comedy would probably do you more good or a simple little travelogue or "Alice in Wonderland" or something simple & light & amusing & funny or merely educational. (Maria: Because our children don't have to go to movies to get Bible stories. Maybe for the World, since the only Bible stories they may get are at the movies.)

35. I THINK THE SHOOT-EM-UP WESTERNS ARE BAD FOR KIDS, I think the shoot-em-up gangster films are bad for kids, I think the shoot-em-up war films are bad for kids, & I think the shoot–em-up spy stories are bad for kids. I think any kind of violence in movies or TV is very bad for children. It's hard on them, to say the least‚ even our own children who wouldn't think of doing those things & are absolutely horrified by them, but they're enough to almost give them nightmares! They are horrors, horrors!

36. SOME OF THESE HORROR MOVIES, monsters & stuff, are so ridiculous & ludicrous & impossible that they're laughable & they're not even as horrified by those because they're not realistic. But the more realistic the violence & the pain & death & blood & all that are, the more it's apt to affect them. I just don't believe in taking kids to see violent movies at all.

37. I'D RATHER THEY TAKE THEM TO SEE SOMETHING FUNNY OR AMUSING like "Fantasia" or "Alice in Wonderland" or "Wizard of Oz", anything even beautiful or funny or fantasy like "Sleeping Beauty" or something. It's better than all that horror & violence! And there are lots of beautiful little movies for children. I think Disney had the right idea.

38. MOST OF DISNEY'S MOVIES HAVE LITTLE OR NO VIOLENCE—at least it doesn't show it. They're thrilling, exciting, adventurous & they've got a lot of realism in them especially his animal movies & stuff like that. (Maria: I know, I used to just wait for Sunday to come so we could see the Walt Disney movie on TV. Beautiful!)

39. WALT DISNEY WAS A VERY WISE MAN VERY WISE. He had a little girl of his own & that's what really got him started trying to make movies that he thought were good for her. Even his "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and his "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and all those fantasies, Jules Verne, etc. Even the villains were likeable & understandable. (Maria: And good always triumphed, which is really important.) Oh yes! There was no real severe violence or anything like that, or if there had been you didn't see it happen.

40. (MARIA: MOTHER IS SAYING WE NEED TO PUT OUR CHILDREN THROUGH SUFFERING TO MAKE THEM MORE SPIRITUAL.) At that age, no. I do not agree. I think you ought to make things as easy on children as you can, they suffer enough as it is. (Maria: And even when they get old enough that you could take them to a movie like "Ben Hur"‚ a lot depends on & should be judged by how sensitive the child is. Some children can just take things & it will roll like water off a duck's back, but other children, like probably the way you were & Davidito is & a lot of our children are, they're really sensitive.) Amen.

41. I WOULDN'T LIKE DAVIDITO TO SEE A MOVIE LIKE THAT. I think it would be an absolute horror! (Maria: He was even affected in Portugal by seeing that little girl that had lost a limb. She was even a distance away but he just stood there & stood there & just stared at her, & afterwards mentioned her again that night. It really affected him!) GHU!