“. . .do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
Some time ago, the college where I taught celebrated its fiftieth birthday. I was up to my ears in the celebrations, traveled the length and breadth of this continent drumming up whatever enthusiasm I could. It was great fun, but I was glad when it was over.
There would be no college here if its first President had never taken a call to serve a church in this little town where the college sits. His name was Bernard J. Haan, and he was a shaker and mover. He made national news in the late 40s by keeping a movie house out of town. The church he attended made it very clear that movies—like cards and dancing and a few other things—were what people used to call “worldly,” as in, “of this world.”
Right here behind me, I have a picture of B. J. Haan standing in front of the church, holding forth, a young man, full of hellfire. That he loved the camera is clearly illustrated by the fact that he took up such a hellfire and brimstone pose for a Time magazine reporter.
I need to come clean about my heritage. There’s a mean streak in me about movies that likely harks back several generations to grandfather clergymen—two of them—who were convinced that Hollywood was Babylon. I came along years after their opinions lost currency. I’ve seen movies my whole life; for a time, my son pursued graduate studies in film. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a touch of my grandfathers’ DNA because sometimes I think the entire world would be better off if a bit of that California cahuna earthquake tumbles Hollywood somewhere deep in the Pacific. (Okay, that’s going a little far.)
A bunch of years ago, the summer’s box office biggie was a remake of an idiotic TV show from the 80s—the Dukes of Hazzard. It was stupid when it was on TV, but critics made its new version even more dopey—nothing but car chase silliness and thundering cleavage.
You guessed it. It made millions when it opened. The paper I read gave it ½ of a star, out of a possible five; but it also gave the flik most of a page to say all of that, and finally, as well all know, it’s ink that counts--the buzz. It’s no wonder Islamic extremists hate us.
Film is business, and we buy into it in spades. Every morning thousands of Hollywood honchos check their hearts, souls, and minds, somewhere off set before work. So I wonder if B. J. Haan was wrong about Hollywood—that’s what I’m saying. In American culture today, there aren’t many people more wicked than those who make trash.
There, I’ve vented.
This verse, however, isn’t about my righteousness or Hollywood’s corruption. The command is “do not fret,” so forgive my invective because I’m not listening closely. When the Dukes of Hazzard makes millions, I shouldn’t get in a huff—that’s what David is saying. When the wicked prosper, don’t scream or cry. Nothing but flashes and pans.
And there are great, great movies made all the time—so many I can’t list them. Tons.
Fifty years after B. J. Haan held forth, the theater in town has been operating for years, busy most of the time.
I’m not sure we’re better off, but I’ve been there myself and I don’t fret.