Please don’t judge me.
One of the rules at our school was that you weren’t allowed to have TV’s in your dorm room. This was primarily due to its’ distracting influence rather than its’ power to corrupt us. Nevertheless, it was a rule and if our floor monitor (junior Gestapo) heard canned laughter emanating from under the dorm room door, we’d get busted. Which, at Bible College, generally meant extra bathroom duties for a week or two.
One of our rituals at our school was Friday night movie night up in the Chapel building. The giant projection screen went up and the old school movie projector with the spools, the tickety-tickety sprockets and the lulling hum of the cooling fan lit up the darkened hall with seductive images. O.K., not so much seductive images, more like Disney images. Church-goers from all over town would turn up for the free movie and we’d generally enjoy things like the exciting adventures of the Apple Dumpling Gang or other Disney “family” movies.
My friend and roommate Tim had given the faculty member in charge of movie night a list of movies that would a little more interesting for us than The Apple Dumpling Gang or the following Friday’s feature, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. They weren’t officially Christian movies but they had themes and stories that would make us think, lead to discussion and sometimes be visual metaphors for the truths we were being taught. The list was filed away for future reference and like Indiana Jones’ crate of the Lost Ark, never to be seen again.
Tim was always coming up with something to mess with the establishment. Once, during our weekly floor devotions, he got both of us in trouble. Once a week all the guys on our floor would meet together one evening listen to someone practice a mini-sermon on us and then share prayer requests and take a minute to pray. Tim managed to move us into the ‘heretics’ zone by suggesting one night that we needed less information when we shared prayer requests and more time praying.
Typically a prayer request went something like this: “Could you all be praying for my friend up in Dennis (a girl’s dorm)? I can’t tell you her name but she’s been seeing a senior who is planning to work on the mission field and I’m afraid that she’s crossed some lines physically with him, like I think she has with all the guys she’s gone out with, and I’m just very concerned about her relationship with the Lord. I can’t tell you her name, but Jesus knows who she is and can see her in her corner room on the first floor of Dennis even now as we’re sharing together. I just want her to come to repentance, even while she’s sitting right next to me in Old Testament History class, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 11 a.m., not to my left but to my right.”
Tim said something like, “We don’t ask for prayer. We gossip.” He said stuff like that all the time that led to awkward moments of silence and then friendly invitations to go ahead and miss the next meeting or meetings or take the whole rest of the semester off from floor devotions if we wanted to.
I don’t want to say that Tim was directly responsible for the end of movie night on campus. I think the growing popularity of VCRs – remember those kids? – was what killed movie night. But one day, shortly before the end of movie night, Tim went in to see the faculty member who ran the night. I think he’d already given up on seeing a Kurosawa film ever get from his list to the Chapel screen. What took him there was the previous Friday night film. It was Disney but it was a film full of so many things that were antithetical to what following Jesus looked like (we’re not talking bumbling thieves who turn out to be good guys here) and it was such a painfully stupid film in every other way that Tim had to wonder why nothing from his list was ever seen but anything with “Disney” over the title made it onto the screen.
Next week we had one more movie night. After that the Chapel screen was forever dark.
The week after that, Tim rented a laser disc player (the future of home entertainment in the early ‘80s), bought a giant bag of popcorn and took over a TV at a local ministry’s office and ran his own movie night with me. I won’t tell you what we watched but I will tell you it was an independent film that Walt Disney would NOT have liked. I loved it.