Coming home from work today, I found the latest issue of NEWSWEEK waiting for me [April 3, 2006]. A story in the magazine discusses the new style of horror movies that are all the rage at the box office, and most often among the under 25 set. They are incredibly and sadistically gory and gruesome, described by one New York Times critic as “torture porn.” One young man is quoted as complaining after viewing one of them that it was not bloody enough for him. The article reminded me, in a striking way, of Tertullian’s writing De Spectaculis, “On the Spectacles” — a work in which this Early Church Father wrote against Christians viewing the spectacles of the gladiatorial sports that were so common-place in his days, and the theater of his time that featured absolute filth and raunch, live on the stage. Consider how he answers a protest he commonly heard to the concerns expressed about Christians filling their eyes with the “torture porn” of their days:
“Everyone is quick to argue that since all things were created by God and given to man to use, they must be good, since they are all from a good source. We see many good things in the public shows: the horse, the lion, bodily strength, and musical voice. So, since these things all exist by God’s creative will, they can’t be foreign or hostile to Him. And if they are not opposed to Him, they can’t be considered harmful to those who worship Him, since these things are not foreign to them.” [Tertullian, De Spectaculis, Ch. 2]
Some things never change, do they?
Tertullian concludes his magnificent work on this issue, one we do well to ponder today, by offering an alternative to the public shows and spectacles:
“What are the things which eye has not
seen, ear has not heard, and which have not so much as dimly dawned
upon the human heart? Whatever they are, they are nobler, I believe,
than circus, and both theatres, and every race-course.”
Much to think about, don’t you think?