Book Title: The Real Home
Worldly Amusements
Chapter 18
by: Mrs. Vesta J. Farnsworth

A man who wished to be a6 Christian was saddened by the thought that he must deprive himself of many pleasures he had before enjoyed.

“I shall have to give up so much!” he said. “There are many things I can do now that I can’t do then.”

“But,” said one who heard his lament, “there are many things you cannot do now. You can’t eat mud, nor drink it.”

“No,” was the reply; “but I don’t want to do anything like that.”

“Surely not,” came the answer; “and when you become a real Christian, everything you loved before that is sinful will be distasteful to you. You will not wish to indulge in anything that would grieve your best Friend. He asks you to give up nothing except that which would hinder your being brought into personal relationship with Him. You do not surrender your liberty, but your slavery to that which is harmful and wrong. As Christians, we do as we please, because we please to do that which God approves.”

There has been much discussion, and much has been written, on the topic of pleasures in which many commonly indulge, and which they believe to be not only pleasant but harmless. Whether attendance at theaters, card parties, picture shows, dances, and other popular sports and games is wrong is questioned. It is urged that many Christian people patronize them, that ministers and other good men declare they are educational; and why is it wrong for a person to add to his enjoyment by attending any place of amusement he chooses?

It will not be questioned that the love of pleasure has greatly increased. The Bible declares that in the last days, men will be “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Church pews are empty, while seats in the playhouses are filled. People go in crowds to races, ball games, and other “sports.” They go because they love the entertainment they find there.

The war-tax receipts show that America’s expenditure on amusements is about four hundred million dollars each month. The love of pleasure is so intense that the heavens are aglow with the light that streams from places of amusement in our cities.

In an address before the National Educational Association, Dr. Henry Van Dyke gave attention to the nudity and vulgarity that are so persistently flaunted before the world on the stage and elsewhere. He said,

 “We must exclude deadly art as we would deadly weapons. But do not rely on law to make people virtuous. This must be a matter of spirit. What we need is more moral sense, not subject to sleeping sickness, and not more statutes.”

Sisley Huddleson states the facts more fully in “The Menace of the World,” in the Atlantic Monthly for May, 1920:

 “There is, first, this crazy seeking after artificial amusements, generally of an unpleasant kind; there is a love of display that runs to the utmost eccentricity; there is a wave of criminality; there is unscrupulous profiteering, a cynical disregard of suffering; a mad desire to get rich quickly, no matter by what means; and there is reluctance to do any genuine work. …Men’s mental outlook has changed. Those who were sober, industrious citizens, content to rear their families and to walk usefully and humbly in the world, are now stricken by the wild notion of having a ‘good time,’ – a good time that means the easy earning of questionable money, its prodigal dispersal, forgetfulness of the family, …and a lowering of moral values, a debasing of intellect.”

Bishop Thomas Nickolson made an appeal to the Methodist Episcopal ministry, in which he made the following statement:

 “People have more leisure than every before. Men who care no more about religion and morals than a dog are making themselves multimillionaires out of the recreations of the people. Is it any wonder the divorce courts are overcrowded?”

It is said that in far-away China, the name of a noted motion-picture performer is known in every family. He commands a salary of more than a million dollars a year for making the world laugh.

One who makes cartoons for the daily newspapers receives a salary of two hundred fifty thousands dollars yearly for drawing one cartoon a day. The reason these men command such salaries is because the people generally demand this kind of entertainment.


There are two hundred seventy so-called first-class theaters in New York City, not counting those exclusively devoted to movies, according to figures given in the Saturday Evening Post of February 28, 1920. These theaters have an audience of eight million people each week during the season. The Post says that “the theatrical business is an industry with a total money turnover greater than that of any other business on earth. There are eighteen thousand motion-picture theaters in the United States, with an aggregate daily attendance of more than twenty millions of people.”

Yet it was not till the world’s fair in Chicago in 1893, that the first moving-picture machine was exhibited. This shows how amazingly this business has grown, until it now ranks as fourth among industries in this country.

And what do the theaters give back for the millions of dollars given them by the people? – Lowered ideas of morality, lost time spent in contemplating the evil passions of men, bad associations, an excitement that is called pleasure. “Wherefore this waste?”

“But there are good, high-class plays,” objects the theatergoer.

Read the testimony of actors themselves with reference to the character of the theater. These testimonials, quoted by A.C. Dixon in the Western Recorder, come from those most familiar with its workings.

 “None of my children,” said Macready, the actor, “shall ever with my consent or on any pretense enter a theater or have any visiting connections with actors or actresses.”

Dumas, the playwright, wrote to a friend:

 “You do not take your daughter to see my play? You are right. Let me say once for all, you must not take your daughter to the theater. It is not mainly the work that is immoral; it is the place.” …

One of America’s most noted writers, speakers, and diplomatists, Dr. Henry Van Dyke, of Princeton, New Jersey, in an address given before the National Educational Association, said:

 From some plays one sees each season in New York, one might infer that there was only one commandment, the seventh, and mankind knew but one pleasure, breaking it.”

The stage is an index of the morals of the times. Some apologize for its indecencies, saying that if we were right ourselves, we should get good at the theater instead of evil. It would be nearer the truth to say that if we were right, the stage would so disgust us that we would have nothing to do with it.

By beholding, we “are changed into the same image.” If we love to look upon sin, we soon love the sin itself. It may be gilded and charming to the senses, but the poisonous fangs of the serpent are there. …


Henry W. Stough charges the theater with breaking down the moral barriers of the audience:

 “How can a young man and a young woman who have come together to enjoy the play, and have looked upon and have listened to such things, fail to be contaminated? When they go home, they naturally are impelled to discuss what they have seen and heard. As one scene after another of the various acts is reviewed, and the oaths, curses, innuendoes, compromising positions, false morals, and vile costuming are discussed, they are bound to break down the barriers of modesty and reserve between them. Such conversation courts familiarity about topics that young people should never discuss together. The result is that each loses a certain respect for the other, making it more easy for them to talk about such things on other occasions, and at least tempting them to do the same things, especially when the theater’s false morals are also adopted. If the theater be a means of culture and education, and yet such things as are seen there cannot be even safely discussed by young people, let alone practiced, then where is the moral value of the theater?”

With such an array of facts before us, can we conclude that the theater provides safe environment and entertainment for those who would be pure in character?

The following question and answer appeared in the Christian Endeavor World. The answer is given by Mrs. G. R. Alden, popularly know as “Pansy.”

 “‘Will you give several reasons why a Christian should not attend the theater?’
 “In compliance with this request, let me quote a few sentences from several authors:
 “‘Whatever may have been the character of actors and actresses when they went on the stage, it is undeniable that in multitudes of cases the stage has worked its degeneration. …Henry Irving committed at least fifteen thousand murders on the stage. Miss Ada Cavandish was betrayed, deserted, or abducted fifty-six hundred times. And true acting consists in entering into the spirit of the murderer, the betrayer, etc.’
 “‘What cannot be done without a tendency to moral harm cannot be seen without a tendency to moral harm.’” …


“The moving-picture show is doing more to ruin the youth of to-day than the liquor traffic ever thought of doing,” states Judge Phillips, of the Juvenile Court of Denver, Colorado.

The Outlook for October 28, 1914, contains a paragraph worth quoting:

 “At this moment, so far as children can be vulgarized through the eye, American children are in the process of vulgarization. In too many moving-picture theaters, many of the scenes which they are invited to look at rob life of its dignity, refinement, and sentiment. The love-making which is seen on a thousand stages is not actually indecent, but it is grossly vulgar; and no boy can look at these pictures without thinking more cheaply of women. It is perhaps not too much to say that most of the moving pictures representing love scenes turn love into broad and cheap farce. Many of these pictures, moreover, are highly offensive because they familiarize children with scenes of cruelty.”

Teachers complain that children do not develop mentally as they should. They have come to the conclusion that thousands of them spend their time at the moving-picture shows instead of studying their lessons.

It is enlightening to note what officers of the law say with reference to the influence popular motion pictures have upon the morals of children who attend them:

  • The most insidious suggestion of evil in the land to-day. – A. Pinkerton detective.
  • In every performance some ignoble suggestion. – Dr. Winfield Hall, a leading authority on social ethics.
  • The worst said has not been strong enough. – Judge Landis, of the United Sates District Court….
  • The Christian Herald says, “Crime is increasing two and one half times faster among children than among adults, and the juvenile court judges of this country agree that the crime-creative film is largely responsible for this condition. …This country and every other country invaded by the motion-picture show, faces one of the gravest problems that has ever been dealt with by any nation.”

“Since moving pictures were introduced, juvenile delinquency has increased to an alarming extent,” is the testimony of Mrs. Ellen A. O’Grady, fifth deputy police commissioner of New York City, in an address delivered in New York. Commissioner O’Grady continued:

 “Seventeen years ago, when I first came into this work, it was the exceptional thing to see a little girl, say from twelve to sixteen years old, ruined. Now it is the rule.

 “Do you want to know the reason? – It is the moving picture. Children are thinking lust all the time, and they get it from the pictures. If you do not believe me, listen to this list of pictures which are being shown in the theaters of the city to-night and which children are attending and absorbing.”

She then read off a list of plays. …

Miss Kate Davis, founder and president of the National Legal Regulation League, gives an excerpt, in the Mother’s Magazine, from an address delivered by “one of the best-known men in the moving-picture business,” to a Parent-Teacher Association in one of our most progressive cities. The speaker said:
 “You mothers are responsible for what your children do and see. It is your business to know where your children are and to take care of them. You cannot expect the moving-picture men to take care of your children.”

In Cleveland, Ohio, a committee of representative citizens made a study of the moving-picture shows of the city, and gave this report. We quote it from M. E. Kern, in the Youth’s Instructor:

 “They found that forty per cent of the two hundred and ninety films examined were unfit for children to see; fourteen per cent represented robbery; thirteen per cent murders; eight presented indecent suggestions; five portrayed domestic infidelity. Others represented loose ideas of marriage, kidnapping, and suicide. They also found that twenty-one per cent of the evening audiences were under eighteen years of age. A chief of police reports that many criminals who came under his charge confess that their fall came as a result of reading exciting tales of crime. This is unquestionably true. Others trace their fall to picture scenes of violence or to the theater.” …


How often this question is asked! Those who sincerely wish to know the right way are entitled to a fair answer. They must be given evidence based on experience. They should know the results of dancing, and why it is not best for those to dance who would lead pure, Christian lives.

Let us question the dance: Does it make men and women better morally and spiritually?

One writer has said, “The modern dance is sensuality set to music.”

We certainly have enough sensuality without cultivating it. Many Christian workers have been told, “If I must quit dancing, I will not become a Christian.” Others say, “If I become a Christian, I know I must give up dancing.” The dance does not increase spirituality and hatred for sin.

Does it add to modesty, purity, honor, and strength of character? …

District Attorney Zabel, of Milwaukee, according to the Lutheran, bears this positive testimony:

 “Ninety per cent of the cases of juvenile delinquency that come to the district attorney’s office start in the dance halls. The dance hall situation is even worse than it has been painted. The dance halls where liquor is not sold are ultimately the cause of more trouble than the others; because parents allow their children to go to them when they would not allow them to go to the halls where liquor is sold. Not that anything very bad happens in the dance hall. It is simply a convenient meeting place, where no introduction is required. From there the young girls are taken to other places. Young girls – good girls – go there night after night, but they do not remain good very long. They meet other girls, and unscrupulous men who do not hesitate to take advantage of them. The woman of the street and the young girl meet in the dance hall on an equal footing, and the young girl soon becomes a woman of the street. I could name one dance hall that is responsible for the ruin of one young girl every day in the year – yes, and even more.”

Dr. Charles A. Eaton, pastor of the Madison Avenue Baptist church of New York City, addressed himself to modern dances and present-day social conditions, in this significant language:

 “The new style of dance is a craze and a form of nervous degeneracy. It has been stimulated, first, by unwholesome social conditions, and, second, by commercialism. People of all walks of life seem to have abandoned their common sense, their sense of self-possession, and in many cases their morals. …
 “I don’t know what the parents of our country are thinking about. They throw their children to the crocodiles as the Indian mothers used to do, but the former without any religious motive. They are consumed by an itch for social advance, and they think the only way to get into society is to dance in. The present condition is a result of spiritual degeneracy. It is time for the church, the home, and the press to use every legitimate means against these degrading conditions.”


Observation and experience both teach that the late hours, night banquets, the improper dress and consequent exposure, the nervous exhaustion, are all stimulating but not strengthening. How unfitted one is for real work after such a night of dissipation! There is an excitement attended by corresponding reaction, which must be exceedingly harmful to health and vitality. Time, strength, money, health, are all wasted in dancing.

Christians take the life of Jesus as their example. They are to “walk even as He walked.” We find no scripture commanding us to dance even as He danced. We cannot conceive that the pure and sinless Christ would be found in a dance hall, dancing with the godless merrymakers there. He will not go with those who profess to follow Him, when they attend such places of amusement.

The General Association of the Congregational Church in the state of Ohio says that “the practice of dancing by members of our churches is inconsistent with the profession of religion, and ought to be made a subject of discipline.”…

No one claims that all who attend the dance are ruined thereby; but enough are ruined to blacklist forever the dance hall. But in spite of all warnings, like moths attracted by the flame, there are those who venture on forbidden ground.

“When I go to such places again,” said one young man, “I shall do other things I gave up when I became a Christian. The reason? – Because it is my experience that they kill spirituality.”

“Ivamae,” said a brother to his sister, “have you asked Ralph if he is a Christian?”

Ralph was the young man to whom Ivamae was engaged. She replied that she had not, but she would the next night, at a dance both expected to attend. Later the brother inquired if she had kept her promise.

“Yes, I did.”

“What did you say?”

“I asked him if he was a Christian.”

“What was his reply?”

“He said, ‘No; are you?’ I told him ‘Yes’; but he said, ‘Why, what are you doing here then?’”

At the entrance of every questionable place of pleasure, the question may well be asked, “What does thou here?”