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Can Hollywood and Holiness Co-Exist?

 CAN HOLLYWOOD AND HOLINESS CO-EXIST?

 Chris Anderson

I like movies. I like plays. And I like television. I admit this, not because it is a virtue, but because it is a fact. I appreciate a heroic war story. I like a good laugh. I enjoy following the clues with a detective as he tries to solve a tough case. I can even tolerate getting teary-eyed over a Jane Austen or Hallmark “chick flick.” Frankly, I enjoy escaping from reality for an hour or two.

The problem is this: I love the Lord. And at times my enjoyment of movies and television programs directly conflicts with my enjoyment of and obedience to God. All too often, Hollywood and holiness are mutually exclusive. All too often, my identity as a believer and my role as an audience are impossible to reconcile. Thus, I need to re-evaluate the content and importance of entertainment in my life. I need to raise the bar concerning what constitutes acceptable entertainment for me and my family; and, I suspect that the same is true throughout professing Christianity, for both evangelicals and fundamentalists. In his book, Set Apart, R. Kent Hughes laments that “the statistics reveal that the viewing habits of Christians are generally the same as the rest of culture” (55, emphasis his). Something is amiss, and the problem lies more in the hearts of Christians than in the hearts of entertainers. Spurgeon made the following statement in his day: “I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church” (The Soul Winner, 261-262). Spurgeon’s words apply to us today as well. We are worldly, and our entertainment choices prove it. “We,” as in “we fundamentalists,” are worldly.

Now, my personal position regarding the theater puts me in the minority among fundamentalist brethren. Although I do not frequent the theater, I am concerned with what we watch, not so much with where we watch it. When I heard of a professing Christian who enjoyed the blasphemous movie Bruce Almighty, my question was “Why?” not “Where?” Fundamentalism has always erected a large “No Trespassing” sign at the theater door. Evangelicalism, on the other hand, removed the sign in the name of “Christian liberty,” but it did so without providing any teaching regarding Christian discernment and biblical standards. The results have been tragic, as evidenced by an increasingly worldly church. The portions of evangelicalism which once lacked the will to discern right from wrong now seem to lack the ability to do so.

Checking for Beams

Yet, we fundamentalists need to check our own eyes for beams even as we justly criticize evangelicals. The problem for fundamentalists is that, while we have largely stayed out of theaters, movies have refused to stay in them. Televisions, VCRs, and DVD players are now more common in homes than refrigerators. Hollywood entertainment has never been more accessible, and many see that as a blessing. Now, those of us who would never darken the door of a theater, even to see The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, are able to enjoy the latest box office hits in the comfort of our own living rooms—in surround-sound, no less! Though fundamentalists have generally eschewed the theater, most have had no qualms about the video store, or WalMart, or the library, or the mailbox, or airplanes. Many fundamentalists are watching the same things as their unsaved neighbors, albeit a few months later (which must count for something!). I have to wonder, “is that success?” Is it new movies that are worldly? Is it the sticky theater floor? Are movies somehow sanctified by being in a home where Joshua 24:15 graces the walls rather than movie posters? I suggest that the battle is no longer a matter of location, but of content.

I fear that we have failed in much the same way as the evangelicals. We have failed to teach our people how to discern what is biblically acceptable and what is not. I am not urging fundamentalists to begin frequenting theaters, nor am I suggesting that our entertainment standards be lowered. Quite the contrary, I believe that our standards of entertainment must be significantly raised and taught to our people with an open Bible. I suggest that we replace (or at least supplement) our singing of “Oh be careful little feet where you go,” with “Oh be careful little eyes, what you see…and ears, what you hear…and mind, what you think…and heart, what you love.”

Although you won’t find the words “Hollywood” or “DVD” in your concordance, Scripture says much about these matters. It says more than most of us think. There is no shortage of passages that address the Christian’s behavior and thinking. Though many texts might be cited here, I am going to focus on Ephesians 5:1-12, and I encourage you to meditate on this passage in private.

What We SEE

Ephesians 5:3 says that a life that is “becoming” or appropriate for saints must be devoid of fornication and all sorts of impurity. What we watch is not specifically mentioned, but it does not need to be. Scripture says that sensual things are not even to be named among God’s people. They should not be part of our reputation or conversation; they certainly should not be part of our recreational viewing! Verse 12 makes the same point: it is shameful even to speak of such things. In this area, as in others, God desires our absolute purity and holiness. The passages which address what we see and think are generally well known (e.g. Job 31:1, Proverbs 6:25, Matthew 5:28). For the sake of space, I will not spend time exegeting them. However, I do believe that such passages are known better than they are obeyed, and I will address that issue briefly.

Few Bible-believers would argue that nudity is acceptable. Scripture is exceedingly clear on this point. Thus, much of Hollywood’s entertainment is obviously off limits for the believer. Yet, even Christians who oppose blatant nudity somehow excuse partial nudity, immodesty, and fornication (whether shown or implied) when they are being entertained. Both on the big screen and the small, programs commonly contain so-called “tasteful nudity” and carefully planned immodesty, which is sometimes even more provocative. Which is more harmful: an R-rated movie like Striptease, or a PG-13, Academy Award winning movie like Titanic, which contains both nudity and fornication? Even families who reject partial nudity regularly view bedroom scenes or actresses in lingerie, low-cut blouses, wet and clingy outfits, or strategically placed bed-sheets. They rationalize that it is harmless. After all, “it didn’t show anything.” Thus, their consciences are salved, even as their characters are sullied. Tragically, once such perverse images enter the mind, they are there to stay. Such things have no places in our lives. It is time to raise the bar.

What We HEAR

Verse 4 of Ephesians 5 continues to list practices which have no place in the believer’s life. Whereas verse 3 focuses on immorality and greed, verse 4 lists sins of the tongue. These sins abound in typical Hollywood fare—filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting. Does Hollywood contain filthy, obscene language? It specializes in it. Yet, Christians routinely endure the basest of language and the blaspheming of God’s name in order to take in a good story. Does Hollywood contain foolish talking and perverse joking? You would be hard pressed to find a recent comedy that didn’t get cheap laughs from perverse jokes and double entendre. Sexual innuendoes are “must see TV.” Crass humor is commonplace. The problem this poses for Christians is that such programs are often genuinely funny. Notice, however, what Ephesians 5 says about such humor. It is inappropriate for the Christian (v. 4). It is irreconcilable with worship (v. 4). It is typical of those who are lost and outside of the kingdom of God (v. 5). It is one of the reasons why the wrath of God is coming on the unsaved (v. 6)! In other words, God is not laughing, nor should we be. It is time to raise the bar.

What We THINK

Movies have the power to change the way we think. That profound message was recently delivered to a vast audience. The speaker was not a fundamental preacher. Rather, he was a Hollywood director, and he was televised as he addressed a room filled with the rich and famous from the movie and television industries. The occasion was the 2006 Golden Globe Awards. The Golden Globes, given annually by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are esteemed and coveted awards that are intended “to recognize outstanding achievements by conferring annual Awards of Merit…and to focus wide public attention upon the best in motion pictures and television” (www.hfpa.org).

So what were “the best in motion pictures” for 2005? Foxnews.com offers the following synopsis:

As expected, it was a triumphant night for films dealing with homosexuality and transsexuality. Along with the victories for Brokeback Mountain [which the article previously referred to as the “gay cowboy movie” and which won four awards, including Best Picture], acting honors went to Felicity Huffman in a gender-bending role as a man preparing for sex-change surgery in Transamerica and Philip Seymour Hoffman as gay author Truman Capote in Capote.

So what was “the best in television” for 2005? Predictably, the award-winners in the television genre were no more family-friendly. Desperate Housewives, a program even more perverse than its title suggests, was awarded top comedy for the 2nd consecutive year. A newcomer won the award for the best actress in a comedy. Mary-Louise Parker was recognized for her role as a marijuana-selling mother in Weeds. Thankfully, the HFPA has yet to create a “Best Raunchy Reality Show” category. Stay tuned. Or, better yet, don’t.

Tragically, we are no longer shocked by movies and programs which celebrate perversity. However, the fact that these shows are no longer on the bottom shelf of the industry, but are instead the very programs which are lauded as “the best in motion pictures and television” says much about the entertainment industry—and much about the society which both feeds it and feeds on it. Perhaps the most telling comment of the evening was the one made by Ang Lee in his acceptance speech for the Best Director award for Brokeback Mountain: “I want to give my first thanks to my fellow filmmakers for strengthening my faith in movies—and the power of movies to change the way we’re thinking.” Although I would disagree with everything which Mr. Lee stands for, I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment of his industry’s influence. It has “the power…to change the way we’re thinking.” It exercises that power with great skill and success.

Hollywood is about more than entertainment. It is about indoctrination and adaptation. Hollywood is a master of calling evil good and good evil. It makes homosexuality fun (a la Will and Grace). It makes immorality hip (a la Friends). It makes teen virginity an embarrassment (a la That 70’s Show). It makes adultery adventurous (a la Desperate Housewives). It makes tolerance the highest virtue and Christian conviction the lowest vice (a la ER). It makes witchcraft cute (a la Sabrina, the Teenage Witch). It makes death a door to a godless paradise (a la Titanic). It makes deception and revenge satisfying (a la every soap opera ever made). Hollywood is more than a seductress or blasphemer: it is a false teacher. And, as Wayne Wilson explains, audiences are “in no mood for critical analysis,” and thus, “are ripe for propagandizing” (Worldly Amusements, 76).

Hollywood Sells the World

I fear that this is the biggest blind spot for the average Christian. If we judge a film or program at all, we do so only on the basis of content: how much skin and profanity does it have? And even if we reject films with blatant homosexual or anti-God agendas, we are amazingly naive regarding the messages being taught by even so-called family movies and programs. As Hughes writes, “Perhaps the most subtle of television’s evils is the promotion of worldviews that are sub-Christian and spiritually destructive” (Set Apart, 55). Hollywood children (and mermaids) teach our children that parents and teachers are unreasonable and out-of-touch and that rebellion is justified. There is usually a tear-jerking conclusion in which the unreasonable father comes to his senses and apologizes. Hollywood heroes (from Superman, to Batman, to James Bond) teach us that the ability to seduce a stranger is heroic and noble. Hollywood heroines teach ladies a view of love that is sentimental at best, and more often is downright sensual. The message is clear that love does whatever it takes to get one’s man, that there is power in sexuality, and that lust is irresistible. And we worry about the effects of sensual entertainment on young men!

Ephesians 5:6 warns us not to be deceived by vain words. Perhaps this is the most dangerous aspect of Hollywood’s product. It deceives. Whether Christian consumers are cognizant of it or not, what we watch alters our beliefs and shapes our consciences and sympathies. When looking for a biblical injunction against the vast majority of such entertainments, one need only consider the warnings against false teachers that pepper the New Testament. As Paul tells Timothy in I Timothy 4:7, godliness cannot co-exist with worldly and worthless fables. Reject them! Our text is equally clear. Rather than partaking with the darkened world, we must walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:7-8). Rather than participating in their evil deeds, we must reprove them (Ephesians 5:11).

Am I calling for total abstinence from the film and television genres? Not necessarily, though for some it may be prudent. I have no argument with those who simply abstain from the theater, but I am arguing that such abstinence does not completely settle the problem in 2006. I am calling for biblical discernment and obedience. I am calling for a conscientious re-examination of what we put before ourselves and our children for amusement, along with a re-examination of how prominent a place even legitimate recreational viewing should have in our lives. Such a study would be greatly aided by Wayne A. Wilson’s book, Worldly Amusements. I commend it to you. Above all, I am calling for our viewing habits to be brought under the lordship of Christ. It is time to raise the bar.

What We LOVE

I conclude with this life-changing truth. Our obedience or disobedience in this crucial matter is more than a test of our wills. It is a test of our love. William Wilberforce, commenting on Christians partaking of the theater of his day, states this point forcefully: “Let it be sufficient to remark, that the controversy would be short indeed, if the question were to be tried by this criterion of love to the Supreme Being” (quoted in Wilson, 38). For many, the refusal to put off worldly entertainment arises from the fact that we love the world itself. We love that which God hates. Thus, many pastors are oddly silent on the issue, because they are as engaged in worldly entertainment as their flocks. As Ephesians 5:11 teaches, they can give no reproof of corruption because they are actively participating in it themselves. Similarly, many fathers say nothing of their teenager’s foul viewing lest they should have to change their own. The point is this: Our problem is not just our eyes. It is our hearts! Our hatred of evil is lacking because our love of the Lord is lacking (Palm 97:10). We struggle to obey Christ because He is rivaled in our affections (John 14:15). We genuinely believe that there is more satisfaction in a 17-inch box than in the God who created and redeemed us!

I make no pretense of being blameless in this area. Unfortunately, I have seen much that I regret. I have sometimes made watching even decent movies a too common form of recreation, thus wasting time which should have been redeemed (Ephesians 5:16). Yet, I desire sanctification here as elsewhere. My standards must be raised. My beliefs must be applied to my habits. My affection for Christ must outweigh my enjoyment of ease. My entertainment choices must be submitted to the lordship of my Savior.

As I mentioned in the introduction, I enjoy movies, plays, and television programs. Some of them are fine. But, I love the Lord. Thus, my relationship with Him must take precedence and dominion over my viewing. It is as simple as that. But it is no sacrifice, for what I am losing is nothing compared to what I am gaining. In the words of Ephesians, I am privileged to walk worthy of my high calling (4:1). I am privileged to be an imitator of my holy Father (5:1). I am privileged to walk in love, following the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ, who gave all for me. I am privileged to do so as a sweet-smelling offering to God (5:2). I am privileged to exemplify the fruit of the Spirit (5:9). I am privileged to discern and do what is acceptable to the Lord (5:10). So raising my viewing standards is not a matter of legalism or joyless asceticism. It is a matter of love and loyalty to the Triune God.

_____________________

Chris Anderson is a member of the Ohio Bible Fellowship and is Pastor of Tri-County Bible Church, Madison, Ohio. He is a graduate of Bob Jones University, with both bachelors and masters degrees. He and his wife, Lori, are parents of four daughters.

The preceding article was originally published in The Ohio Bible Fellowship Visitor (January 2006). Information regarding the Visitor is available at http://www.obf.net/~visitor.

We encourage you to reproduce this article provided that you do so in its entirety and without alteration.

Source: http://www.gracegems.org/27/hollywood.htm

A Reformed Perspective On Disney’s Beauty And The Beast

Gospel Teacher/Jack Klumpenhower:

“Talking about Jesus, Beauty, and the Beast

After we watch Beauty and the Beast, how might we talk to our kids about Jesus? And what should we do about that “gay moment” in the movie?”…

Read more: http://jackklumpenhower.com/talking-Jesus-beauty-beast/

Piously Abandoning the Culture to Hell

Jim Mogel:

Water going down a drainThe same people who champion “just preach the Gospel” (by which they mean exclusively the gospel of personal salvation…), and lament that evangelistic efforts fall on deaf ears, are often those who discourage efforts to apply God’s Word to the culture at large…They cannot see that a century of abandonment of cultural institutions by their unbiblical “just preach the gospel” philosophy has left God’s enemies in charge of education, the news and entertainment media, etc.  As a result several entire generations have grown up with very little sin-consciousness.  How do they expect to take the gospel to a society that they have abandoned through the effect of their pietistic worldview, and have people to respond to concepts that are entirely foreign to them?

Read more: http://www.thinkandreform.org/journal/2014/8/29/pietism-and-the-downfall-of-modern-christianity.html

Photo Credit: Photography by User: MrX

Around the Web, November 2014

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Here are some headlines that caught my eye this past month:

Religion

Christian booted from National Cathedral speaks out

Duggars targeted by pro-gay petition

Koran should be read at Prince Charles’ coronation says top bishop: Critics attack proposal and accuse Church of England of ‘losing confidence’ in its own traditions 

Mainstream Islam – What Normal Muslims Think

More than half of British people believe religion does more harm than good, survey finds

Mormon church finally admits founder had 40 wives – as young as 14 – some of whom were already married to his friends

Muslims Chant to Remove Jesus at Washington’s National Cathedral

Pakistani Christians Burned Alive Were Attacked by 1,200 People: Kin

Women officially allowed to become bishops for first time after historic Church of England vote

Social, Economic, Political

Are stay-at-home mothers being forced back to work? 3,500 women start jobs every week… but many are menial or part-time

Caliphate In Europe: Sweden Cedes Control Of Muslim Areas

Europe is drifting and divided. This feels more like 1914 than 2014

Leaving Leftism

The Bible voted more valuable to humanity than Darwin’s Origin of Species in Folio Society poll

The Exit Sign

The teenage girl with a bi-gender boyfriend who decides every morning what sex he wants to be: 18-year-old says she loves whoever she wakes up with, whether it’s Ryan or Ria

Was this luxury block of flats the scene of sordid child sex parties? Dolphin Square home to 70 MPs is mansion at heart of police probe 

Winnie the Pooh is banned from being playground logo after councillors declare him a ‘hermaphrodite’ of ‘dubious sexuality’ in Poland

Legal

Appeals court: States can define marriage as 1 man, 1 woman

Couple fined for refusing to host same-sex wedding on their farm

Former Scotland Yard detectives say young boys were murdered by Westminster paedophile ring

Family

‘Being a mother is my career’: Woman with 34 CHILDREN reveals she wants to keep expanding her family

Girls want to graduate in marriage: Majority want to wed and start a family within ten years of leaving university

Teenagers can’t help being unreasonable! Emotional areas of a young person’s brain ‘shut down’ when they are criticised

The Coming Demographic Winter

Two single mums (one pregnant), their children – and not a dad in sight. Birmingham’s £100k vision of the modern British family!

Health

13 Reasons To Stop Drinking Soda

70 percent of Americans with HIV don’t have virus under control

Gardasil Changed Our Definition of Normal

Kenyan Doctors Find Anti-Fertility Agent in UN Tetanus Vaccine

Medical Journal Designates Fluoride as Neurotoxin

‘Perfectly healthy’ Florida girl, 10, is paralyzed with rare brain infection and can no longer speak – four days after receiving flu shot

Should midwives opposed to abortion have the right to refuse any involvement in cases? Landmark decision ‘could have severe impact on women’s care’, experts warn

Study: Hepatitis B Vaccination in France Sparked Wave of MS

This new technology may put an end to drilling at the dentist’s office

Trouble In Transtopia: Murmurs Of Sex Change Regret

Why a Physics Revolution Might Be on Its Way

Science

Are Earth’s tectonic plates BENDY? Scientists say they’re more flexible than first thought – and this could explain why some earthquakes occur

The Entire Premise Of ‘Jurassic Park’ Is Wrong

History

Berlin was a liberal hotbed of homosexuality and a mecca for cross dressers and transsexuals where the first male-to-female surgery was performed – until the Nazis came to power, new book reveals

Media

20-Year CBS News Veteran Details Massive Censorship And Propaganda In Mainstream Media

I’m terrified of my new TV: Why I’m scared to turn this thing on — and you’d be, too

We Want Treasure, Not Legal Tender

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From an African woman’s Open Letter to Melinda Gates:

“There is a combination of reasons why the African women have a high birth rate, the first being a high desired fertility rate (i.e. how many babies a woman desires to have). This desire exists because the older women in our communities are revered, respected and even rated in accordance to how many adult children she has raised. So, my own mum who raised six adult children commands even more respect than her friends who have much more wealth than she does but fewer children. And one of her friends who has nine adult children is even more respected than my mum — even my mum reveres this lady for being able to raise nine children (one of whom is a dear friend of mine by the way). For Melinda Gates’ birth-reduction programme to take root in our society, she has to completely uproot this sort of value-system where wealth is never placed above children. Put differently, our system is such that our children are our treasure and dollars, euros, rands, and pounds are only our legal tender.”

Read more: http://www.cultureoflifeafrica.org/Articles_3.html#

Around the Web, September 2014

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Here are some headlines that caught my eye this past month:

Religion

A brief tribute to Ian Paisley

Ca. atheist: “I’m Sick and Tired of Christians…”

Dozens of Christians ‘including women and children’ are arrested in Saudi Arabia after tip-off to state’s Islamist police force

Face of a killer: Father who shot his seven-year-old daughter dead when her mother rejected Islam then killed himself is pictured for the first time

How To Shrink Your Church In One Easy Step

‘I have lost a friend’: Martin McGuinness pays tribute to former enemy Ian Paisley as Northern Ireland’s firebrand preacher-politician dies aged 88

Is this the REAL Noah’s Ark? Scaled-down replica based on 4000-year-old Babylonian tablet’s instructions is rebuilt by hand

Islamic State spokesman: “Rely upon Allah, and kill” American, European, Australian, and Canadian non-Muslims

‘It’s a miracle calf and we pray for it to bring us luck’: Villagers worship a cow born with a THIRD EYE because they believe it is the incarnation of Hindu deity Shiva

‘Last Supper’ Papyrus May Be One of Oldest Christian Charms

No Jews: What schoolboys were told by security guard when trying to go into Sports Direct store in Hertfordshire

Revealed: Benefits mother-of-two from Kent once in all-girl rock band who is now jihadi in Syria – and wants to ‘behead Christians with a blunt knife’

Satanists Sell Out Controversial Oklahoma ‘Black Mass’ Event, Will Stage Exorcism Despite Christian Protests

The changing face of Britain: A child in Birmingham is now more likely to be a Muslim than Christian

Ultra-Orthodox Jews who moved from Canada to Guatemalan village to find ‘religious freedom’ are forced to leave because the locals don’t like them

‘We all know they will slit our throats for no reason’: Lebanon’s Christians rush to arm themselves amid fears of Isis crossing border from Syria to expand reign of terror

Western Islamic State recruits routinely rape hostages as young as NINE – and are put in suicide squads because they’re seen as ‘useless’ fighters, says whistleblower

Politics, Economics, Social

95% of BBC Viewers say Multiculturalism Doesn’t Work

EU to ban high-energy hair dryers, smartphones and kettles

Furious Obama Says Calls To Putin Going Straight To Voice Mail

German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government

N Ireland children sent to Australia were sexually abused, inquiry told

Saudi king warns West will be jihadists’ next target

Scottish Independence: 70,000 Nationalists Demand Referendum be Re-Held After Vote Rigging Claims

Vote rigging caught on camera in Scottish election

Family

Britain’s Gammy: Grandparents’ grief over Down’s syndrome twin who was given up for adoption – while her sister now attends top private school

Now it’s a girl baby after all, I’m going to quit smoking and drinking – and cancel tickets to live birth, says NHS boob job scrounger Josie Cunningham

The husband’s a real hound: Girl, 18, marries a stray dog as part of bizarre Indian tribal ritual designed to ward off evil spirit

‘Women are being lied to – you have a 10 per cent chance of conceiving a child over 40’: Kirstie Allsopp reignites the debate on whether we should wait to have babies

Health

Bullied teenager ‘nearly died after steel bar inserted to disguise his sunken chest came within 1cm of his heart’ 

CNN asks serial lying liar to comment on the CDC whistleblower scandal!

Ebola outbreak: Five co-authors of latest study killed by virus before their research was published

Human Fetal DNA Fragments In Vaccines Are A Possible Cause For Autism – According To This Stanford Scientist

Just HALF of women can locate the vagina on a diagram of the female reproductive system

Now we come to vaccines and depopulation experiments

“The greatest medical scandal of all time”

There are 2 other MMR vaccine whistleblowers

Where was Jenny?

Science and Weather

Black holes do NOT exist and the Big Bang Theory is wrong, claims scientist – and she has the maths to prove it

Dried-up dams, boats at bottom of reservoirs and rapidly shrinking lakes: Extraordinary images of the devastating drought in the West

Red Cross Distributing Bottled Water As Wells Run Dry In California

The myth of the melting ice

Crime

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Jack the Ripper unmasked: How amateur sleuth used DNA breakthrough to identify Britain’s most notorious criminal 126 years after string of terrible murders

Media

Discovery Is Becoming More And More Ridiculous With Its Fake Documentaries

More Christian Television Programming

967614_87624136I came across this article from a link on a website that was pushing the “Jews are evil and control the world” theme.  While I do not agree with that sentiment, I did find this quote from the article, written by a Jewish man, interesting:

As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood. Without us, you’d be flipping between “The 700 Club” and “Davey and Goliath” on TV all day.

Now, I would not be recommending the above-mentioned shows to anyone, but it sounds like this man is saying that without people like him, there would be more Christian programming on television.  And Hollywood doesn’t have an anti-Christian bias?  Hmmm…