The Good-Cop Heroes of Babylon
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 6 September 2003
Those of you of my generation and since were raised to a very large extent by television. Though TV was around when I was a boy I consider myself to have been blessed not to have had one available for viewing until I was a teen. Shortly before we left Malaysia we did own a TV but since it was nearly all in Malay there wasn't very much to keep my interest.
What I want to do today is to take a well-known TV action series called the 'A-Team' which was popular about 20-30 years ago. Compared to modern action series and films it was extremely tame indeed. And within series like these were the seeds of everything that constitutes the highly violent and perverse entertainment that floods our screens today. I also choose this series because I personally know it well and enjoyed it when I was a teen.
For those of you not familiar with the series, the 'A-Team' travels the globe using military weapons and sophisticated machines to combat evil and ensure justice. The plots are simple and predictable. Unlike other types of entertainment which use dialogue to create user excitement over their unfolding plots, action shows like the 'A-Team' care very little about what the characters say. With a series of visually-stimulating scenes - car-crashes, chases, shoot-outs - they offer the viewers the simplicity of a fairy tale and the visual appeal of an adventure. The appeal of the 'A-Team' - at least for me - was its fairy-tale like quality of ensuring that justice prevailed. There is very little of that today. You only have to look at films like 'The Matrix' to know that the alternatives are just two evil fantasies.
The 'A-Team' belongs to the 1980's. It lacks the harsh violence and psychological conflict of most cop shows, and so it appeals to both young and old alike. Loveable stocky, mowhawk-headed Mr. T and the rest of the quartet smash up vehicles, blow up buildings, and fire rounds of ammunition at the villains, and yet rarely is anyone ever injured, and certainly not permanently. Children enjoy the action, and adults chuckle at the ridiculousness of it all.
Whatever the decade - whether the 1980's or the early 21st century - we all know, of course, that the reason series like the 'A-Team' and films like 'The Matrix' exist is not primarily us even though our tastes - good and evil - are of course catered for in order to drive the main engine of the industry - is money. And the drive to make money is for many power. So whatever you are looking at, remember the underlying driving force: our are interests are not at the top of the list of priorities.
Action shows like the 'Jurassic Park' trilogy are some of the most thoroughly commercialised fare on TV. Their nature and content change over time as the public lusts for more daring, more shocking, more bloody, and more sexually explicit things. And it's a well-known fact that Satanists and others run the porn industry. Indeed, many of the 'stars' are unpaid and performing against their will as sex-slaves. But the more extreme kinds of movie aside, even that which is considered 'normal' family entertainment - like 'Pearl Harbour', for instance, with its brilliant effects - is acted out by people who are breaking the commandments in what they are portraying as acceptable as well as committing acts of fornication and adultery on scene withg each other. Nudity has become so common now that people never think twice about it. Indeed, it's portrayed as 'natural'. Yet the actors and actresses involved in sex scenes are rarely married in real life - what they are doing is committing fornication and adultery before millions of eyes. And without perhaps knowing it, we becomes viewers of pornography in 'family entertainment' movies.
In that respect, series like the 'A-Team' are comparatively clean. Yet action series - even if they do avoid sexually explicit material (which is very rare these days) sell heroes, rôle models, and values by merchandising show-rated products. Children in the 1980's used to play 'A-Team' games, imitating the antics of program heroes on kitchen floors with their model cars. They used to re-enact the crime-stopping tactics of the 'A-Team' in their backyards, using 'official' plastic weapons emblazoned with Mar. stickers. This merchandising extends the life of the TV characters into the personal lives of the program viewers.
Twenty years ago action shows used to portray a simple world of easily recognisable good and evil. In all action films a simple struggle is created between opposing moral forces, and the plots are directed towards the elimination of evil. In the early days young viewers had a sense of who the good and bad guys were, and everyone knew that good had to triumph. Not so today. A new type of movie is appearing in which two evils - the one lesser and the one greater - are pitted one against the other. Western culture thereby creates a ritualistic drama of moral conflict which is actually very satanically religious in context. When two sets of values are presented to an audience which watches passively and attentively, they are at once rôle-playing. In a series like the 'A-Team' you at once start gravitating towards certain characters and 'identifying' with them. We are given four characters whom we not only collectively identify with as a 'team' but we may be endeared to one more than the other. Interestingly, most boys gravitated towards Mr T. who became the imitatable hero of a whole generation who participated vicariously. Not only did those boys learn what was 'right' and 'wrong' but they also identified with the 'right' characters and causes through these films. Each time the 'A-Team' thwarted the efforts of a villain, the young viewer would celebrate the victory. I know, I used to do it. And so such films became for us potent sources of rôle models and moral reasoning, and this was especially so for children whose parents spent little time with them.
When parents are unavailable as rôle models, children turn to others who may not share the family's own morals, for good or evil. The weakening of the American and European family - and now the whole world - was accelerated in large measure by TV.
Now I am not a person who is against fairy tales because they address the issues of life. They teach us the difficulties that are an intrinsic part of human life and reaffirm to children that difficulties can be overcome by steadfast effort even in the midst of unjust hardships. 'Little Red Riding Hood' warns children of the dangers that can be lurking everywhere - even at grandma's house. In 'Three Little Pigs' we learn that diligence and hard work can mean the difference between like and death.
The problem with action films - and that includes the 'A-Team' - is that they make light hearted fun out of death, ageing, and human insecurities. They do not explore either the limits of human existence or the wish for eternal life, except in the portrayal of immoral heroes. Visual depictions of helicopter races and squealing tyres do little to stimulate the human imagination. Action programs are prettified and simplified fairy tales that subdue their messages and rob them of most deeper meaning.
Moreover, TV's version of the fairy tale contains none of the fine language and poetic imagery found in traditional fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Spoken tales and rhymes sensitise young children to the sounds and rhythms of language. Preliterate children may learn to appreciate language and may gain an early interest in reading as a vehicle for entering the enchanting world of words. Comforted by a parent's voice and relaxed by the warmth of a parent's nearness, children who are read to experience language as love, not simply utility. They will, as a result, be more inclined to make reading and literature part of their lives. Instead, children reared on TV, computers and other visual media grow up hating reading. They won't read Bibles and certainly not a tract that is more than a couple of paragraphs long. In desperation, Christians like Jack Chick are trying to reach them through comics.
As Christians we should want out children to develop artistic sensibilities at an early age. Language is a gift of Yahweh and we expect our homes to be places where it is used carefully and joyfully. Yet as Christians we see that even the most artistically pleasing tale or rhyme tells only part of the story. Our moral universe is predicated on the existence of a loving, faithful Heavenly Father, who redeems and sanctifies His people. Yahweh is the source of all good, and sin springs from man's sinful arrogance in the actions of Adam and Eve. TV heroes, however, are far too godlike for our faith: action shows oversimplify the moral troubles of our age. Evil is within us, not merely within the bad guys. So we raise our children on the stories of the Bible, where the ultimate reference points of good and evil are Yahweh and Satan and where human heroes are also godly servants.
In the past, parents found it easier to determine if the violence on particular programs was objectionable. Hard-boiled detective shows were off limits to many children - their cold-blooded murders and graphic violence was off limits to many Christian youngsters. Family Westerns such as 'Bonanza' were often acceptable because of their restraint in depicting violence. Then by the 80's parents began to be confused by action shows. Though they were like fairy tales, they made light-hearted fun of violence. We reasoned that nobody took the antics of Mr.T. seriously. Twenty years on many of us realised that we were wrong. Today violence and sex is gratuitous - which the previous generations were so careful to control. It is now unrestrained.
In the beginning, violence was used as an attention-getting device. It was not meant to be taken too seriously - after all, we all knew that the good guys would triumph in the end. But today violence is to be enjoyed for its own sake - for its visual interest and appreciated for its entertainment value. So we laugh when a truck explodes, when a van bounces off a tree and plunges over the edge of a cliff, and when an aircraft is vaporised. We laughed because in the film no one ever got hurt seriously. Bullets, bombs and bazookas destroyed the countryside, but our heroes walked away without a scratch.
Violence has, over the decades, become more and more trivialised. We may remind our children that these films are only 'make-believe' but this trivialising of violence is not easily understood by young children. Children don't watch TV to learn a message, even a message about violence. They're looking for visual stimulation. And that's the trap. Once a program meets their requirements of high visual activity, young children are the most undiscriminating viewers. Children under the age of 8 are especially unable to make sense out of a story's plot and to understand its theme. They perceive events on the screen but typically don't understand how the events relate to one another, what motivates particular characters, and why specific events are necessary for the development and resolution of conflict.
Young children's ability to understand the message and implications behind action programs suggests that parents bear a responsibility to watch and discuss such shows with their children, assuming they even allow them to watch them. The actions of Mr.T and the other heroes will begin to make sense to young children only as the parents patiently take the time to explain them. Violence is not self-explanatory - not even trivialised violence. My own view is that there is little value in most of these programs - even the 'milder' versions of the 80s like the 'A-Team' - and that watching them is poor time stewardship. And violence and sex are not the only issues - what bothers me equally badly is the personalities of the heroes and the religious content which is nearly all occultic these days.
I repeat, the 'A-Team' is tame compared with much that is around today. I admit, I used to enjoy them for a while, but after I became a Christian I became aware of just how dysfunctional the 'heroes' even of this series were. These are not remotely normal, balanced people. In classical stories like A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, people with character defects go through long and heroic battles to overcome their problems. The only problem Mr.T seems to have is a fear of flying. Action show heroes and villains offer none of the rich characterisations and mature conflicts of some of the earlier TV westerns and police shows. Today's adult heroes are emotional and spiritual adolescents who are not permitted to grow up. The 'A-Team' heroes include a womaniser, a lunatic, a rebel, and gunslinger.
The heroes of the adult generation today were the Hulk, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, the A-Team, and others. They all possessed super powers. They were all godlike. They were all presented as saviours. The Hulk became a hero because of his effectiveness in dominating other evil characters and confirmed the myth that good will be victorious by human effort alone. All of these films depict the struggle for good in terms - not of institutions or organisations - but as individuals. And they encouraged everyone to think that they were their own god. There was no commitment by these individuals to a particular code or ethic but to something that is always undefined - they are committed not to a Christian vision but act simply because 'it must be done' or because they chance upon a situation that needs correcting. So the specific wrong they hope to right is almost never tied to any broader frame of reference, moral vision, or overtly religious faith.
We saw through the 60s and onwards when TV began to first make its mark a shift towards humanism. Superman, Batman, the A-Team and all the other heroes were humanists. All these characters, and others like them, drummed into the minds of those of us who used to watch them that individual human effort will greatly improve the human condition. And it was a lie. 20-30 years on the human condition is far, far worse. And yet what is the message that is portrayed in the action movies of today? Exactly the same, except the heroes are more callous, less feeling, more violent, more promiscuous, and they don't make the end happy. We have been conditioned to accept that the rottenness in society is here to stay and that the best that we can hope for is the occasional tough who destroys the real bad guys as violently as they try to destroy him.
Our generation was subtly conditioned to be fascinated by our own power and ability. We were led to believe we could be more than we really were. But evil will not be eliminated by human effort. Our efforts have been a dismal failure and the world is getting more and more evil. We were conditioned to swallow a humanistic, atheistic lie. That same lie has now been mutated into occultism. It started with 'Star Wars', which I also enjoyed, with the first of the main 'good cop - bad cop' motifs. The bad guys are Daarth Vader who use the dark side of the 'force' as a black witch or warlock - and the good guys are Luke Skywalker whose uses white magic to defeat evil. This film was the first major propaganda film for occultism that popularised the apostate West's fascination with the New Age religions and Wicca. It portrayed - once again - human power as the means to defeat evil - not of an individual like Batman or Superman - but of a hero tapping into the psychic power or 'force' of all human beings, dead and alive. It popularised pantheism and spiritualism, making contacting the dead seem natural. But worse, it glorified violence in a new way, making it acceptable from a spiritual angle.
The materialism and sensuality of the heroes of the 80's and before have now given way to a range of different myths and heroes. Occultic films are on the rise. Suddenly, everyone is 'spiritual' and the 'unseen' is not so politically incorrect as it was before. We have been slowly anaesthetised into accepting demons as natural, benevolent forces, even in our the cartoon movies for the children. Pocahontas is an example where the 'spirits of nature' are seen as benevolent and helpful. And the Harry Potter films are the latest attempt to initiate the public into raw Satanism without them really knowing what is going on.
Our children need images of growth and development from the right sources. We have reached the point now where to watch TV Christian parents must mind their children in front of the screen full-time. The rôle-model computer games aren't much better, the object often being to kill as many people as you can without batting an eyelid. The objective overrides all morals and ethics because these are preset by the program. These games are just ways of channelling us down forbidden spiritual avenues. They detach people from each other. Children are not interacting as they used to - they are not being their real selves but are rôle playing what they have seen and heard on TV and their PCs. They have allowed themselves to become puppets on a string.
The Christian life offers its own heroes, not the simpleton Mr.T or the white witch Luke Skywalker or the narcissistic, self-admiring, violent, demonised and sexually perverse film 'heroes' of today. Our heroes should be the faithful God-fearing keepers of Yahweh's covenant promises, not the urban gunslingers. Our heroes should be the lovers of Yahweh and of His Messiah, and our Hero of heroes should be Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself who yielded Himself in death for us that we might be transformed ... not by our own efforts, which is the ultimate futility ... but His.
We are called not to just raise children but to raise them in Christ. We are to raise them knowing Him personally and victoriously in our lives. The Messianic Community (Church) and the Family are the two partners in this sacred task of raising up witnesses for Yah'shua (Jesus) and workers in His Kingdom. If TV and other media stand in the way of this task - as they unquestionably do - then they must be replaced by more wholesome things which bring spiritual rewards instead of a constant uphill struggle to counteract the destructive spiritual influences of Babylon which has a door into our very homes. 20 years ago we might have been able to control it better. But times have changed and wickedness has increased. We live in the age when demons are being directly channelled through TV, radio, PC games, music, and other media right into the very heart of Zion. It is time to completely root them out.
This page was created on 5 September 2003
Last updated on 5 September 2003
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