Considering the Hays Code because Hollywood Won’t

I know that there is a fine line between censorship and oversight.  Believe me when I say that every day finds me grateful that I do not live in North Korea.  I love the freedom I am allowed to experience on a daily basis as a citizen of the United States.  Yet I do not find myself opposed to oversight, particularly self-imposed oversight such as the 1930 guidelines published by the motion picture industry (The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 [Hays Code]).*

Consider these words taken from that document:

“If motion pictures present stories that will affect lives for the better, they can become the most powerful force for the improvement of mankind…Hence the MORAL IMPORTANCE of entertainment is something which has been universally recognized. It enters intimately into the lives of men and women and affects them closely; it occupies their minds and affections during leisure hours; and ultimately touches the soul of the whole of their lives.”

Don’t you appreciate the understanding behind that admission?!  Entertainment intimately enters into our lives.  Without a doubt, it occupies our minds and affections.  That which we see and hear does indeed touch the whole of our lives.  This is why we must be very careful in our choices.  We will be changed.  There is no question.

Meditate upon some of the self-imposed guidelines from the Hays Code:

“No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.”

“The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld.”

“In general passion should so be treated that these scenes do not stimulate the lower and baser element.”

“Pointed profanity [a list of words was included]…is forbidden.”

Do I wish modern movies followed this code today?  Yes, most of it.  I very much would like for those within the entertainment industry to live and work coram Deo (before the face of God).  It would change our world if actors, actresses, directors, singers and writers consciously sought to glorify God and benefit society.  But that is not happening, at least not very much.  Consequently, I have to put into place my own self-imposed guidelines.

Is that legalism?  No. It is wisdom.  Legalism is when I inform you that my guidelines need to become your guidelines. That I will not do. What I will do, however, is continue to carefully select how I utilize my discretionary hours each week.  If I do not renew my mind (Romans 12:2), my mind will return to fleshly, sinful thoughts and thought patterns.  If I do not put genuine effort into setting my mind on things above (Col. 3:1,2), I will find myself stuck in the quicksand of things here below.  The end result will be that I will love creation more than Christ.  I will look more like the world and less like the Savior. I will find myself preferring evil over good.

The Hays Code reminded those in the industry that the sympathy of the audience is thrown to the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin “when sin is made to appear attractive, and good is made to appear unattractive.”  I think you will agree with me that now eighty-four years removed from this document, many movies do indeed present sin as attractive and that which is good to be unattractive.  And if we are not guarding our hearts (Prov. 4:23), we can easily find ourselves to confusing these as well.

May today find all of God’s people (me included!) striving to live out the admonition of 1 Corinthians 10:31:

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do (click a mouse, choose a DVD at Redbox, pick up a remote, stream a show on Netflix), do all to the glory of God.”

And–deep down–all of God’s people want to do no less!




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