By Ted Baehr with Tom Snyder
From the very beginning, our ministry of Movieguide®, dedicated to transforming the culture by redeeming the values of the mass media of entertaining according to biblical principles, has had a global impact.
For example, within five years of starting to publish and broadcast Movieguide® in Atlanta, our subscribers, supporters and friends came from as far away as the state of Tasmania, a small island off the coast of Australia.
As Don Stanley, who now lives in Israel, recalls when he was a senior executive with ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company):
“With three kids growing up as teenagers in the early nineties, a big issue in our house was engaging culture – especially in the areas of movies and music. We were and still are a Christian family strongly committed to the Lord, so approaching these issues needed a lot of thought and discipline.
“Somehow I heard about Movieguide®, so from about 1989 or 1990 until 1993 or 1994, we were subscribers (about 3-4 years in total). I remember it cost me about $120 US per year in those days, which wasn’t chickenfeed, but I felt. . . it was an important investment. And it was along with our friends, we enjoyed getting Movieguide from Atlanta in the mail every two weeks. That’s how I can so easily remember Dr. Ted Baehr.
“So Movieguide® became a really important tool in our family in terms of understanding what movies were like. As you know, the [movie] ratings are a guide but they don’t tell you everything and I enjoyed the two-stage way the people from Movieguide approached their assessments – the overall worth of the movie, plus the Christian worldview perspective.”
Of course, today, with help from the Internet, our international TV shows, and my many missionary trips abroad, we have subscribers, supporters and friends from all over the world, including China, Japan and Cambodia in the East to Ukraine, Germany, Poland, and England in Europe to Israel and India in the Middle East and Eurasia and to South Africa and Uganda in Africa.
There are more than two billion Christians in the world, but God has also placed in the heart of all cultures and all places a desire for fellowship with the Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord who delivers us from sin and evil, including our own. The mass media is a worldwide phenomenon that affects small children and teenagers in the inner city as well as families in the remotest regions of the world. In fact, we have reviewed films from some of those out-of-the-way regions, and I and my family have seen the media’s impact first-hand on some of the tiniest villages in the world.
Of course, countless scientific and psychological studies have proven empirically and logically, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the mass media has a tremendous influence on the hearts, minds and behaviors of people of all ages, but especially children and teenagers, who are the main demographic that the mass media moguls target.
The Good News, however, is that, since Movieguide® began publishing and broadcasting in 1985, the number of movies with both light and strong Christian content and family-friendly values has increased 1,000 percent.
There is much more hard work to be done, however. Despite 25 years of toiling in this crucial mission field, Movieguide® is still under-budgeted and under-staffed. For example, because of lack of funding, we have few reviews of all the Internet, television, video game, and musical programming that children and teenagers consume. Yet, many parents allow their children to consume tons of material in these cultural arenas, especially in the Internet, TV and video game industries.
Thus, to have the same impact in these areas as we have had in the movie industry would take at least another $45 to $60 million over the next 15 years.
That may seem like a lot of money, but when you consider that Hollywood currently spends over $100 million to make just one movie, we are talking peanuts. In fact, we are actually talking specks of peanuts.
Transforming our culture through the mass media seems like a daunting task, but it is not an impossible one. In fact, it has been done at least four times in the last 2000 years.
The first time, of course, was when Jesus Christ and His apostles turned the world upside down in the first 300 years of the Christian Church, when the Church was strongly unified. The second time was during the Protestant Reformation, when a small band of diligent men working in various locations around Europe brought Western Civilization a new spirit of Christian revival based on the Word of God (Sola Scriptura indeed!). The third time was when the Sons of Liberty during the American War for Independence turned the world upside down again by their pamphleteering and civic activities, to forge a new nation with liberty and justice for all. The fourth time was when William Wilberforce and his friends also used pamphleteering and civic action to end slavery in Great Britain and its remaining colonies, without firing a shot!
As Paul writes in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!”
With the help of God, Movieguide® and its friends have been doing just that, by redeeming the values of the mass media of entertainment with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in multiple ways reflecting a fully developed, Christocentric and God-centered biblical worldview.