There was a day when Christian Reformed folks would not have gone to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
People from my generation remember the days when our church banned the big three “worldly amusements”: card playing, dancing, and watching movies. We respected as law any recommendation from synod, the annual meeting of church leaders. The culture was a field of landmines, and we counted on the church to guide us through them.
So I was flabbergasted by my dad’s audacious suggestion.
In 1964—the year the Beatles invaded America—our family had moved from Chicagoland, where Dad was a grocer, to the tiny town of De Motte, Indiana. There we started an egg farm from scratch. I was 12 when we moved there, and life on the farm was a bit of a stretch for us city slickers. But we loved it.
Early one morning—age 16 by then—I was in chicken building #3, about to fire up the Briggs and Stratton engine on the feed cart, when dad showed up unexpectedly for a chat.
“Son,” he announced, “It’s time for you to go see a movie. Why don’t you give that Mary Post girl a call and take her out for a bite to eat and a show?”
That floored me. Even the chickens perked up. A movie? Really? We were dumbfounded. Especially coming from my dad: Mister Conservative. On Father’s Day 2014, he went to heaven, ready to die but hanging on for dear life to the ideas of a young earth, a worldwide flood, and strict male headship.
Sending me to the movies seemed out of character. It certainly rocked my world. But I didn’t argue with him.
I dialed Mary—my future wife, as it turned out—for a date, and the next Friday night we went to see the musical Oliver.
I remember feeling nervous as we entered and took our seats, because our minister had frequently warned us that the last place you would want to be caught when Jesus suddenly returns is in a theater.
It was a good show, nonetheless.
The next day, as I was getting ready for the morning feed in building #1, in walked my dad.
“So,” he inquired. “How was the movie?”
“It was enjoyable,” I assured him.
“I’m glad,” he said. “Because I think Christians should know how to pick good movies rather than avoid all of them.”
Then, after a pause, Dad posed the strangest question: “Now, tell me, son—no punishment for the truth—had you ever been to a movie before last night?”
I was stunned he would ask. Of course I had never been to a show!
“No, Dad. That was my first movie.”
“Really? Hard to believe,” he mused. “When I was your age, I used to sneak off to one every now and then.”
Somehow my ultra-conservative high-school educated father understood that Christians need to critically engage the culture, not hide from it.
Synod eventually relaxed its grip, but my father bequeathed to me a gem that would enrich my worldview for life. And let me take my grandkids to see Star Wars.