The Puritans and the Theater


I recently read a fascinating book on the decline of western civilization entitled Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West by Kevin Swanson. In discussing William Shakespeare's contribution to the decline of Christianity in the west the author mentions the Puritan's opposition to the work of the Globe Theater, under Shakespeare's watch, in the early 1600s in England.

I quote from page 204 of Apostate, stating the Puritan's objections to the theater,

For at least sixty years, the Puritans opposed the work of the Globe Theater until it was demolished in 1644. In an article entitled "Puritan Hostility to the Theatre," eminent historian Edmund Morgan summarized the Puritan concerns with the theater.

  1. It provided a poor form of recreation (it was exhausting, dissipating, and rendered the spectators 'effete and effeminate'). ("dissipating" carries with it the idea of squandering, frittering away, wasting; "effete" means weak and enfeebled—AJC)
  2. It was foreign and degenerate.
  3. It was a non-productive form of labor especially for the actors.
  4. It attracted homosexuals and prostitutes.
  5. Its subject matter often addressed adultery and fornication that inspired imitation.
  6. It promoted hypocrisy and deceit.
  7. It competed with the true church.
  8. It brought the saved into the company of the damned.
  9. It would stir up the emotions and cloud the reason.

This was the judgment of the Puritans on theatrical productions four hundred years ago, in England. Four hundred years ago, one had to go to the theater to see live performances. Today, we live in a world awash with the drama of the film and television industries and today’s Hollywood productions are accessible to us and our children in our homes by means of a variety of devices—televisions, computers, tablets, and smartphones to name a few.

The Puritans took a hostile stance in opposition to the productions of the Globe Theater. This stance ought to pale in comparison to our condemnation of Hollywood’s productions. Hollywood is a powerful enemy of the Christian faith. Her productions, in the spirit of Antichrist, promote blasphemy, lawlessness, violence, disobedience, covetousness, murder, theft, fornication, adultery, sodomy, lying, deceit, and every other sin that is contrary to a godly walk. It is no coincidence that, during the last election cycle in the United States and marches after the election, lawless Hollywood actors and actresses were among the most outspoken supporters of the candidates who advocated for “women’s rights” (a euphemism for the murder of unborn babies) and “LGBTQ rights” (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning their sexual identity). Hollywood is a mighty engine of propaganda for these sins and perversions as her productions prove.

Hollywood productions (in movie theaters, television, and online) have no place in the life of the child of God and the Christian home. Participation in her dramas, by watching them, is to join the spirit that will bring about the Antichrist, the spirit “that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). By watching the smut of Hollywood, one dulls himself to the antithesis that God has established between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. One becomes numb to the horrors and consequences of sin. Not harmless entertainment, the viewer begins to take on the thinking, speech and behavior of the performers he sees on the screen. If one is not already living in the sins portrayed, the power to resist these sins becomes progressively weaker.

Putting Hollywood dramas out of our homes and lives is the only solution. Compromise is unacceptable. We read in Ephesians 5:3-7, 11-12:

  1. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
  2. Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
  3. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
  4. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
  5. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
  6. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
  7. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

Click to listen to an audio clip from Prof. Hanko entitled: The Threat of Worldly Entertainment to Building a Home.

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This post was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.

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