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Marriage, Sexuality

A careful look at the issue of birth control

Children: a calling and a blessing

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God calls the Reformed husband and wife to bear children. Just as marriage is a creation ordinance, so God’s calling to bear children is a creation ordinance. Strikingly, the first thing God says after He creates the woman for the man is that together in their marriage they must bear children: “Be fruitful, and multiply”(Gen 1:28). This command necessitates a link between marital intimacy and the begetting of children (if God in His Providence grants that possibility).[1] For the Reformed couple, this calling intensifies as they see from Scripture that God is pleased to carry on His covenant of structured fellowship also with the children of believers (Gen 7:7, Acts 2:39). Due to this promise, the Scriptures lay further weight upon God’s people to bear children (see Malachi 2:15 “And did not he make one?...And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed” and also 1 Timothy 5:14). Not only is bearing children a calling, but the Reformed couple also gleans from Scripture that children (many!) are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3-5; Psalm 128:3-4). When the Lord grants little ones to His Church, their presence stands as a reminder of His love and favor and covenant promises. This does not mean the bearing of children is easy. God’s curse for sin affects all things, and this aspect of life in particular (Gen 3:16-19). While God has not made bearing and raising children itself a curse, His curse affects the bearing and raising of children. God has, due to sin, greatly increased a woman’s sorrow in bearing children, and at the same time increased her ability to bear them. The curse has also affected the husband’s calling to support those children. The creation from which he must derive their support works against him instead of with him. REGARDING THE USE OF BIRTH CONTROL GENERALLY The first two truths (that bearing children is both a calling and a blessing) almost put the issue of birth control to rest for God’s people. Indeed, some couples will conclude it is best to never prevent or plan the conception of children. If these couples faithfully raise all the children they bear unto the Lord, then the whole Church is thankful for their godly example and prays for more of their kind. However, as much as we want to caution against its use, we would argue that the reality of the curse of God for sin may allow for the careful use of (some forms of) birth control in some cases.[2] But because selfishness can quickly exploit even that statement, we begin discussing this matter by addressing the heart. Why would we prevent the birth of children? Birth control broadly defined is anything that can prevent the birth of children.[3] There are ethically legitimate and ethically illegitimate methods of birth control. However, even if one allows for the use of ethically legitimate methods of birth control in some cases, he must recognize they can be and often are used wickedly. The issue begins in the motives of the heart. The great question everyone has to ask (including newly married couples who are expected by so many to wait at least a year or two to have children) is: “Why? Why would I prevent the birth of children into my covenant home?” And the Reformed couple must answer this question honestly, for we easily deceive ourselves (Jer. 17:9). As the Reformed couple engages in this heart-probing, consider that the very origin of chemical birth control was the constant push for sex without responsibility in society. It’s not just necessity, but the desire for pleasure, that is the mother of invention. Google a chart of birth rates in United States history, and you will see that the line plummets after 1960 when chemical birth control went on the market, and that the line continues to steadily drop until it arrives at its lowest point in 2016.[4] The ever-increasing desire for pleasure combined with the ever-decreasing desire for responsibility in the world can affect us as Reformed Christians too. So as you answer “why would we prevent the birth of children?” consider the following kinds of questions: Do we seek a standard of living that far exceeds even that of our parents and grandparents in their child-bearing years (not to mention that of the vast majority of the rest of the world)? Have materialism, worldly comforts, and extravagant vacations clouded our thinking? God doesn’t desire that His children be at ease, but that they joyfully and self-sacrificially serve Him by raising children, all the while detaching from the things of this world. Are we selfishly guarding a worldly notion of marriage? Are we stingy with respect to our time? Children require a tremendous sacrifice of time and energy – often around the clock. This sacrifice means less time fishing, hanging out with the guys, or sitting in front of the television or computer. Wives, is your view of physical beauty defined by the world? For a woman having children involves a sacrifice not only of her time and personal desires, but also her very body. After several children, she may look in the mirror and feel embarrassed about the dramatic changes she sees. Husbands, do you assure your wife that she has not been “ruined” as the world would say, but that she is beautiful with a beauty that the world cannot see? We can’t say for another couple That said, there is no biblical rule as to when each couple’s quiver is full, and due to the reality of the curse upon life in this world, there are factors that a couple may legitimately consider in thinking about family planning. A mother may face health issues, even ones that can endanger her life and lives of future children (just a few examples include multiple c-sections, extreme diabetes, and cancer). The mental and emotional health of especially the mother may have to be considered (taking care not to cover up selfishness). Postpartum depression is a real issue. In addition, some women are simply physically and emotionally frailer than others. Maybe there is a child (or children) with special needs requiring a great deal of time and energy. Maybe the house is full and teetering on the edge of Mom and Dad’s ability to faithfully rear the children. In these cases (and perhaps others), we believe God’s people have to make judgments with much prayer and soul-searching. This matter is intensely difficult, especially because the old man inside us can be so deceptive. Even sincere Reformed believers may disagree. We must all use sanctified wisdom and live coram Deo (before the face of God). The rule we believe is biblical is that we ought to have as many children as we are able to have, understanding “able” to mean not merely as many as we can have without cramping our lifestyle, nor meaning necessarily as many as we are able to physically produce. Rather, “able” means, able to faithfully raise in the fear of the Lord.[5] Each couple must stand before God. If a couple’s honest answer to that is three, so be it. If it is fifteen, or as many as we are physically able to bear, so be it. The key principle is that we are honest with ourselves before God and are vigilantly on the lookout for selfish motives hiding under the pretense of spiritual ones. And we ought to pray that the preaching ever warns us of that possibility. WHAT BIRTH CONTROL IS ETHICALLY PERMISSIBLE? If a couple before the face of God honestly believes they ought to use birth control at a certain time in their life, what forms are ethically acceptable? All Reformed couples ought to personally research the matter in order to make God-honoring decisions. Here is what we have discovered in our own research.[6] “Emergency contraception” First of all, we must begin with the conviction that life begins at conception.[7] So many doctors (some Christian ones too), speak of life beginning at various other points in the growth process of the fertilized egg. What one says about when life begins will determine what one says about what forms of birth control are ethically permissible.[8] All forms of chemical birth control that are taken after intercourse, such as the “morning-after pill,” RU-486, “emergency contraception,” etc., are abortifacients (drugs which induce abortion). Using these drugs after intercourse, and if you have conceived (which one does not know) it is no different from going into an abortion clinic to kill your child a few months later. It is murder. Other forms of chemical birth control Regarding chemical birth control one takes regularly, such as the birth control pill (whether combined or progestin only), shots, and IUDS, the Reformed couple must be aware of the facts. According to the recently published God, Marriage, and Family[9] these common forms of chemical birth control work to prevent the birth of a child three ways: The first is by preventing an egg from being released. The second is by thickening the cervical mucus so that the sperm cannot reach the egg if an egg is released anyway (which some experts estimate happens as often as 50 percent of the time). The third is by making the lining of the uterus incapable of supporting the life of a newly conceived child given the first two methods fail. There is no ethical issue in itself with the first two actions of the pill. But the third causes an abortion. So the question becomes, do the first two methods of the pill ever fail? We quote from the book mentioned above:

Statistically speaking, when taken as directed, these various types of hormone-based birth control methods are effective (in their first two lines of defense—that is preventing conception CG) 99.5 percent of the time…. From this fact, one can know for certain that while “the pill” is effective in preventing ovulation and preventing fertilization, it does not prevent all fertilization. While there is no statistical data to indicate how many births are terminated by the third mechanism, one can be assured that it does occur.[10]

Though admittedly, the possibility of breaking the sixth commandment here is small, it is still a possibility, and therefore chemical birth control ought not be used by the child of God.[11] This leaves only three ethically legitimate methods: natural family planning, barrier methods, and surgical sterilization.[12]  CONCLUSION  As with every matter in the Christian life, obedience begins in the heart. A heart that responds to the gospel of redeeming grace is filled with gratitude. Gratitude needs a riverbed to flow into. That riverbed is the law of God. We hope we have given some help in determining what God’s law is and is not in these matters, and in setting forth the principles by which we may live in godliness. May God bless us as we live before His face as husband and wife, and as we bring up the godly seed He so graciously gives us. ENDNOTES This is not the only purpose of marital intimacy as the Roman Catholic Church wrongly teaches (among other passages see 1 Corinthians 7:5 and The Song of Solomon). Otherwise a couple who could not bear children would be required to abstain from marital intimacy. Neither does it imply that every act of marital intimacy must have the possibility of conception. However, it does mean a couple must seek to bear children in their marriage. The argument to the contrary from the case of Onan in Genesis 38 does not take into consideration the issues of levirate marriage involved in that passage. This includes everything that prevents conception, to the murder of children conceived but not yet born. 1.8 children per woman, and it’s only that high because of the Hispanic population. We understand even the question of what it means to faithfully raise children in the fear of the Lord will garner disagreement. This aspect too bears serious consideration and discussion as each couple stands before God. It would be worthwhile to read a portion of the book God Marriage and Family we refer to a few paragraphs later. Pages 123-129 are germane. Another worthwhile resource is the book, Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? by Randy Alcorn. In addition to those sources, we have conferred with believing doctors we know personally. This is another article, but the main reason for this position is conclusive. At the moment of fertilization there is a complete genome (determining gender, eye color, height, body type, etc) in the new being. Therefore, the new being is another individual life separate from that of the father and mother. If an individual being with a complete genome, separate from the life of the mother and father is not a separate life, then what is it? If you ask a doctor (even some Christian ones) if a particular form of birth control causes an abortion he may say no, but that may be because he believes life does not begin at conception. He may also further confuse the issue by stating that this particular drug cannot terminate a pregnancy. This is because he may define pregnancy as beginning later than the moment of conception. The authors cite their credible medical sources. Kostenberger, Andreas J., and David W. Jones. God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. 2nd ed. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 337, footnote 29. Print. There are some Christian women who take birth control pills as medicine for other physical maladies. If that is you, then you ought to also use barrier methods of birth control to prevent the possibility of breaking the sixth commandment. We are not now saying anything about whether or not these should be used in any individual case, we are merely stating that these are the only ethical forms to use.

This article was originally published in the April 15, 2016 issue of The Standard Bearer and is reprinted here with permission. Rev. and Mrs. Griess live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

News

Trump speaks up for the unborn at the March for Life

On January 24, Donald Trump became the first US president to attend the March for Life in Washington, DC. As the New York Times noted:

No president has personally attended the march in its 47-year history. Past Republican presidents might have been inclined to attend, but either on the advice of staff or their own instincts saw it as a step too far…

Historically, no matter how many hundreds of thousands came, the March for Life was always ignored by the mainstream media. That changed when Trump, after taking office, decided his administration was going to take an active part in it. In 2017 Mike Pence became the first sitting vice-president to address the crowds. Then in 2018 and 2019, Donald Trump spoke to the marchers via live video from the White House. This year he came in person. His actions have forced the media to acknowledge this massive event. In this year's speech, the president made three main points. He highlighted his administration’s pro-life advances:

“During my first week in office, I [stopped funding for abortions overseas] and we issued a landmark pro-life rule to govern the use of Title X taxpayer funding. I notified Congress that I would veto any legislation that weakens pro-life policy or that encourages the destruction of human life. At the United Nations, I made clear that global bureaucrats have no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that protect innocent life. Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House…..We are preserving faith-based adoption and to uphold our founding documents, we have appointed 187 federal judges, who apply the Constitution as written, including two phenomenal supreme court justices – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.”

He also reminded listeners of what the Democrats want to do to the unborn:

“When it comes to abortion – and you know this, you’ve seen what’s happened – Democrats have embraced the most radical and extreme positions taken and seen in this country for years and decades, and you can even say, for centuries. Nearly every top Democrat in Congress now supports taxpayer-funded abortion all the way up until the moment of birth. Last year, lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb right up until delivery. Then, we had the case of the Democrat governor in the state of Virginia, the Commonwealth of Virginia. And we love the Commonwealth of Virginia, but what is going on in Virginia? What is going on? The governor stated that he would execute a baby after birth. You remember that. Senate Democrats even blocked legislation that would give medical care to babies who survive attempted abortions.”

Thirdly, the president spoke to the humanity of the unborn:

“All of us here understand an eternal truth: Every child is a precious and sacred gift from God. Together, we must protect, cherish, and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life. When we see the image of a baby in the womb, we glimpse the majesty of God's creation. When we hold a newborn in our arms, we know the endless love that each child brings to a family…. As the Bible tells us, each person is wonderfully made…. We cannot know what our citizens yet unborn will achieve, the dreams they will imagine, the masterpieces they will create, the discoveries they will make. But we know this: every life brings love into this world. Every child brings joy to a family. Every person is worth protecting. And above all, we know that every human soul is divine and every human life, born and unborn, is made in the holy image of Almighty God. Together, we will defend this truth all across our magnificent land.”

It was a rousing, encouraging presentation. It is also a speech that many will say was given for political reasons. This is, after all, a president under impeachment, currently being tried in the Senate, and already convicted in the press. So was his appearance at the March for Life simply a move to win back wavering evangelical supporters? Adam Ford doesn’t care one way or the other. In his January 24 newsletter he wrote: “So what? George W. Bush only didn’t go for political reasons. Is that any better?” While we don’t know what may or may not have been going on behind the scenes, what happened on that stage is something we can thank God for. Our Heavenly Father so steered things that one of the most powerful and famous people on the planet used his influence to speak up for the unborn. Amazing! You can watch the full 13-minute speech below.

Remembrance Day

War through the eyes of a child: Alice Kuik shares her memories of World War II

“The horror and sacrifices of those who endured a war must be recorded and remembered. If we fail to do so, we will soon take peace for granted and exaggerate small inconveniences.” –  Jan Hendrik Luiten

A CHILD OF WAR My birth must have been a moment of mixed emotions for my parents. To be sure, I have every reason to believe that they were delighted with the arrival of their first-born child. However, my birth took place just three months after the German army had invaded the Netherlands. I was not born in a country where we could speak freely or go outside without worry. No, I was born in a country that was tightly controlled by an enemy. Fears and secrets were a normal part of my life. I was born a child of war. Yet, the horror of war was not unbearable for me. I endured it with acceptance and resilience. This remarkable ability to take things in stride had two reasons. First of all, I did not know what it meant to live in peace. I was not able to compare my current situation to better days. War was all I knew. But the second reason was more significant. At all times I felt supported by people who cared for me. My mother absorbed my fears when she took me in her arms. The members of our extended family provided emotional support and practical help. And, last but not least, I was comforted by the prayers that were spoken at meals, at church, and at times of great concern about loved ones. It is to honour my parents and family members that I feel compelled to share my story. I understand now that their practical helpfulness and their natural loyalty were expressions of their love for God. By their actions they unwittingly taught me that the Lord can always be trusted, and that He always hears our prayers. Even when the enemy is constantly harassing us. THE WAR COMES HOME My memories of the war would not have been so vivid if my parents would not have provided a hiding place for a Jewish couple. But they did, and soon the Germans suspected it. Without delay they placed our house under surveillance. I was completely unaware of the hiding place. But the stress of being watched by the Germans without knowing the reason for their suspicion had a deep impact on me. Mind you, my parents did not seek the danger. Their defiance of the Germans happened as a natural outflow of their faith in the Lord and their love for the neighbour. Our family belonged to the Reformed church in Enschede. Their minister was a man whose faith showed itself in his works. He had taken it upon himself to obstruct the plan of the Nazis to eradicate the Jews. Not only did he preach this conviction from the pulpit, but he also practiced it. With relentless determination he collected the names of the Jews who were short-listed for transportation to the death-camps. He then carefully selected members in his congregation who would be suitable to hide these Jews. It is telling of my parents that they were among those whom he selected for this onerous task. Of course, I was too young to know what was going on. But even if I had been old enough, my parents would not have discussed this matter until I was asleep in my bed. I can imagine that my father was immediately convinced that this was a task that the Lord placed on his path. My mother probably thought so too, but my father’s conviction allowed her to voice the objections. Where do we hide them? We cannot risk putting Alice’s life in danger! And we have no idea how long this war will last! What if the Germans find out? Then we will all die! What if the Jews get sick? And how do we keep it a secret? But soon all the concerns faded to background. My parents were already making plans. A hiding place could be constructed upstairs. The cupboard in the spare bedroom could be enlarged toward the back. Soon the construction started, with the help of my father’s brothers. The back of the original cupboard was replaced with a door that could be locked from the side of the room under construction. Attention was paid to details. The newly created space was decorated with brown-yellow wallpaper. I remember that wallpaper distinctly because after the war my sister and I used to play with our dolls in that room. But of course I do not remember anything of the construction. Neither was I aware of the fact that my parents had opened their home to Alfred and Reina Hen, whom they soon affectionately referred to as “our Jews.” And so it happened that my parents, Jan Hendrik Luiten and Geertruida Klos, became personally involved in the Second World War. NOISES AND WHISPERS I have no early childhood memories of a carefree summer evening, or of a cheerful family gathering. No. My first memories consist of unpleasant noises. I could clearly hear them in my bedroom when my uncles and aunt visited my parents. It sounded as if they were all talking at the same time, at the top of their voices. Through the closed door of my room I could feel the tension. Something was wrong. My uncles were very agitated. They were discussing the war. They always talked about the war. I got the impression that the situation was getting worse. The voices of my aunts sounded very worried. Once in a while I could clearly hear them sigh. All the voices together sounded restless. It was oppressive. I wished my mother would come to my room. The daytime had bad noises too. There was one sound in particular that scared me. It was quite different from the secretive talking of my family. This sound came from outside. It started as a rhythmic rumble in the distance. As it came closer I could sense its vibration in the air. Then the group of marching German soldiers appeared in full view. Proudly they paraded through our street, loudly stamping their boots to the beat of a song. The sound of the song was aggressive. I vividly remember the words “Ach wehr fahren, ach wehr fahren gegenüber England,” “We will make war, for sure, we will make war with England.” It made me feel terrible. I felt the fear in my stomach. But the most alarming noise may well have been the roar of the fighter planes. I could already hear their faint drone when they were still far away. Slowly the faint drone turned into a deafening rumble, right above our heads. Then it faded away again, like a ripple. It left me wide awake and worried. At the time I did not even understand that these planes were bombers on their way to a target. To my surprise I noticed that the sound of the family gatherings at our house was changing. The uncles and aunts still visited us. We needed each other. But they started to whisper, afraid to be heard. To me their muffled voices were much more unsettling than their loud noises had been. It was clear that my family needed to be very cautious. They were on guard, constantly. No-one else was allowed to hear what they were talking about. Someone could be listening in! A German soldier, or a traitor. It was very unsettling. I tried to be brave. But it was not easy. [caption id="attachment_7419" align="alignright" width="229"] Alice's father, Jan Luiten[/caption] WITHOUT MY FATHER Little did I know that my family had good reasons to be on guard. Not only did we hide two Jews, but my father had made the decision to join the Resistance. Both were serious infractions of the German rule of law. Both were punishable by death. After my father joined the Resistance he did not come home anymore. Often we did not even know where he was. This was very difficult for us. We felt lost and lonely without him. Thankfully our extended family continued to look after us. My grandfather supplied us with bread from his bakery. Another relative, who owned a branch of the well-known grocery chain “Spar,” always made sure that we had a sufficient supply of groceries in the house. My mother’s younger brother and his wife, who were childless, visited us often. Together our relatives were a source of light in these dark days. Not surprisingly, the Germans noticed that my father stopped coming home. His absence seemed convincing proof to them that we were hiding Jews. As a result our family was placed on an even higher level of suspicion. At any time of the day a group of Germans would come to our house, banging on the door with great force and shouting, "Wo Sind die Juden?" "Where are the Jews?" But, however thoroughly they searched our house, they did not find Jews. In no uncertain terms they questioned my mother about my father. Boldly she would enter into an argument with them, explaining that they had no reason to be suspicious. With brave determination she dodged their questions about my father, calmly stating that she expected him home in the next day or so. My mother would always take extra time for bringing me to bed on days that the Germans had searched our house. "Where is Papa?," I would ask her. She could not say. But she prayed with me, and sang songs. Her soothing voice helped me to feel safe again. It was during these dark days that my sister Hinke was born. One morning it was not my mother who called me out of bed, but Tante Aaltje, my aunt. I was very surprised. I was even more surprised when I noticed that my mother did not come to the breakfast table. She was staying in bed. That was not like her at all. But, thankfully, Tante Aaltje took charge of the things my mom usually did. She was also the one who told me that I had received a sister. I did not know what to think. Where did the sister come from? Where would she sleep? Tante Aaltje suggested that I should see the baby. But I was not sure. Everything felt unreal and scary. Soon I realized that things had changed. My mom and I were not together anymore. We were joined by a little person who needed care around the clock. It was sad that we could not tell my father about our baby sister, because we did not know where he was. Would things ever become normal again? I kept asking about my father. And I always received the same answer. We did not know where he was, or when he would come back. We were not even sure if he was still alive. Over time this uncertainty became our new normal. We accepted the pain of not-knowing and forced ourselves to carry on. For my mother this new normal included looking after the Jews upstairs. Then we received the devastating news that my father had been caught by the Germans. He had been transported to a concentration camp in Germany. I did not fully know what that meant. But I did understand that his situation had become dreadful. And that he might die. I felt lost. I wanted to cry. Everybody seemed numb. The silence did not feel right. But at that moment there were no words. Only sighs. And silent prayers. THE WORST OF TIMES The news that my father had been caught changed the way I looked at things. I gave up hoping that he might come home soon. I started to imagine how we would live without him. I was sure that my mom would manage well. The evidence was clear. She kept looking after her regular commitments. She took care of my sister. She kept our house tidy and clean. And she prepared the meals with the groceries that our family provided. At the time I did not understand how lonely she must have been. One day I noticed that my mother took a tray with food upstairs. I was confused. Maybe she brought it to her bedroom for a late-night snack. But I could not figure out exactly where she took it.  I sensed that it was not any of my business to ask about it. But boldly I asked her anyway. “Mom, where are you going with the food?” Without blinking an eye my Mom answered, “I am looking after a sick dog.” That was exciting! It had never occurred to me that the secret would be a surprise for me! My imagination soared. Soon my mom would take a healthy dog downstairs, and I would have a playmate. I would take the dog for walks. I could look after feeding him. And maybe he could sleep in bed with me. At the first opportunity I shared the exciting news with my friend next door. The friend hastened to tell her mother. At that point the situation took an unexpected turn. My friend’s mother rushed over to our house. She talked to my mom in a hushed, but agitated voice. Only after the war I was told what transpired in the conversation. The neighbour lady explained to my mom that soon the whole neighbourhood would know that she was bringing food upstairs for a sick dog. But they would very likely understand that we did not have a sick dog upstairs. And not all the neighbours could be trusted. My mother should be careful not to draw any attention to our house. We were already under suspicion! But I think that the Germans had made up their mind already at that point. Their suspicion that there were Jews in our house was all but proven. They were dead-set on finding them. One day we heard the loud singing and stamping of marching soldiers in our street. It stopped at our house. We were holding our breath. But soon all doubt was removed. After a loud knock a large number of German soldiers barged inside. Suddenly the house was filled with dark-grey uniforms and Wehrmacht army caps. My mother placed her arms securely around me. The soldiers searched for a long time, especially upstairs. But again, their search was unsuccessful. Venting their anger they grabbed my mom by the throat and kicked her into the hallway closet. Then a soldier looked at me, picked me up and threw me into the cupboard too. Another soldier started to kick me viciously. I felt the blows of his heavy boots on the lower part of my back. It was hurting badly. Their kicks damaged my spine. For life. The incident in the closet changed me. It destroyed my hope that things would get back to normal. I lost my childlike optimism. The Germans would undoubtedly come back to our house. My father was gone. Dead maybe. My back hurt. I was concerned for my little sister. I was confused by the secrets. But I felt safe with my mom. And I loved it when the relatives came. Thankfully my family had an inner resilience. They had a faith that passed understanding. I felt that. NO MORE WAR A while later I noticed that the conversations of the relatives were changing again, slowly but surely. But this time it felt like a good change. Their voices became less hushed and more cheerful. Excited even. Other things changed as well. The German soldiers were not marching through the streets of Enschede anymore. Their bragging songs had stopped. Then the exuberance broke loose. The war was over! It took a while for me to understand what it meant to live without fear for the enemy. The marching Germans had disappeared. There were no strange secrets anymore. But there were surprises. One day my mother called me to the kitchen. Two people were sitting at the table. A man and a woman. I had never seen them before. My mother told me that these people were Jews. They had lived upstairs in a secret room. My eyes must have been wide with surprise and my mouth probably fell open. The Germans were right then. We had been hiding Jews. Our Jewish guests turned out to be good company. It was very nice to have them in our house. Not much later the relatives began to discuss the Dutch Resistance workers in the German concentration camps. Supposedly many of them had started to walk home from the camps. That was very good news! Filled with new hope I asked my mother when my father would be coming home. To my disappointment she told me that we could not be sure that he was coming back. He could have died. In the camp. Or on the way home. That worried me. But I remained hopeful. My hope started to soar when my mother told me a few days later that trains had been arranged to bring the liberated prisoners home. A train was scheduled to arrive at the Enschede railway station once a day. Names of passengers could not be provided. Although there was no certainty that my father would be on one of the trains, this was very good news. On the day that the first train was to arrive we got up early. It would take us about an hour to walk from our home on the outskirts of Enschede to the railway station in the centre of town. And we surely did not want to be late. We left the house in high spirits. My sister sat up in the stroller which my mother pushed with joyful determination. And I walked, hopped and skipped the whole way. As we came closer to the railway station we met several other excited people. This would be a day of happy reunion. It could be. We knew that not everyone would come back. But we wanted to be hopeful. We arrived at the train station plenty on time. The wait was long. But finally we could see the train in the far distance. It came closer and closer till it screeched to a halt. The doors opened. Strange-looking men came out. Their eyes were hollow and their bodies had points sticking out at the shoulders, the hips, and the knees. All the women looked closely to see if they recognized these strange men. Soon shouts of joy filled the air. But my mom was not showing any excitement. However hard she looked, she was not able to pick out my dad. Slowly it started to dawn on us. He was not on the train. The way home seemed very long. My mother was crying. But the next day we went again, in good cheer. We were convinced that this would be day that my father would have made it on the train. If he was alive. But again he was not there. On the way home I looked at my mother. She was crying. And so it went, for what seemed an endless number of days. Every morning again we left hopeful; and every afternoon we came home sad. Then the trains stopped coming. My mother was informed that the transportation of liberated prisoners to Enschede was completed. I decided not to believe any rumours anymore. The devastation of false hope was more hurtful than the nagging pain of hopelessness. I tried to stop thinking about my father. Life continued. I helped my mom and I spent time with my friends. One day I was playing in our backyard with some of the neighbour girls. Suddenly we heard happy shouts and laughter coming from our house. My mother appeared in the door opening and started calling my name. I ran over to her, curious to hear what was going on. “Alice! Sweet girl! Dad has come home!” What? Really? I could hardly believe it. Overjoyed I rushed inside. I ran into the kitchen. There was a man sitting at the table. I stopped in my tracks. Was that my father? He talked to me. “Hi Alice,” he said. “I am so glad to see you again. Mom was right. You have grown into a beautiful girl.” Gently he reached down to hug me, but I drew back. This man could not be my father. He did not look one bit like the wedding picture that we had treasured so dearly during his absence. And he stank terribly. I was scared. I looked up at my mom, and ran away. My mom did not call me back. At the end of the day she asked me if I would kiss my father goodnight. But I couldn’t. The next morning “our Jews” joined our family for coffee. We had a nice time with each other. It was clear that Mr. Hen and the man who said he was my father knew each other well. My supposed father used Mr. Hen’s nickname, “Frans,” rather than his formal name “Alfred.” It made me think. I was still not sure that this strange man was my father, but I was starting to consider the possibility. Mr. Hen must have been watching me. Turning towards me, he said, “Alice, do you trust me?” I had to think about that for a minute. Then I nodded. “Very well,” he continued, “Would you believe me if I said that this strange man is your father?” After a pause, I nodded again. Mr. Hen had one last question. “Would you give your father a little kiss to show him how happy you are that he came back?” I decided to stand up. Slowly I walked over to my Dad. He smiled at me. Then I did it. I gave him a little kiss. It was scary. And it was good. I was only five years old when I reconnected with my father. But the connection lasted till death parted us. And his memories are alive in my heart. From this moment on “our Jews” became our honourary relatives: Uncle Frans and Aunt Reina. It took time before my Dad was ready to share his story with us. He never told us the whole truth. He was not able to. He left out the most painful, most disturbing parts. He did not want to relive them, and he wanted to spare us the extent of his misery. And no one prodded him. He did, however, share the story of his liberation from the concentration camp. The Resistance workers in the concentration camp were never officially informed that the Germans had surrendered. But when the rumours of the German capitulation were eventually confirmed, the prisoners started to escape in small groups. My father and two other captives decided to undertake the journey home together. It was not an easy trip. Much of their physical strength had been lost due to the hard labour, mistreatment and malnutrition during their camp years. But they were helped along the way by German farmers. They discovered that many Germans had hated the war. These people were grateful for the opportunity to provide hospitality to the survivors of the camps. After several weeks my father and his two friends arrived at the border-crossing between Germany and the Netherlands, not far from Enschede. It was a very emotional moment. Soon they would embrace their loved ones again. They did not know what had happened to them in their absence. Maybe not all of them would have survived the war. But they trusted that the Lord, who had stood by them in their dark hours, would also have cared for their loved ones. In that confidence the three men traveled their final miles back to their families. THE WAR REMEMBERED The war may have been over, but its horror continued in my soul. Throughout my childhood I relived the fear that I felt when the roaring fighter planes dropped their bombs on our town. For many years I had nightmares about the sight and sound of these low-flying bombers. In these dreams I vividly heard the rumbling roar of bombs that fell on homes and stores, reducing them to ruins. I would wake up in a sweat and run to my mother’s bedroom. She comforted me with tight hugs and soothing words. I did not know at the time that these bombings were accidental droppings by American planes that missed their targets in Germany. After the war our family stayed in close contact with Uncle Frans and Aunt Reina. They found a place to live not far from our home. This provided us with the opportunity to visit each other regularly. Together the families reminisced about the hiding years. I was impressed to hear that Uncle Frans had kept himself busy with reading as well as writing. Together with other Jews who survived the war they decided to rebuild the synagogue in Enschede. When the restoration was completed they invited my parents for a tour. To their joy my parents accepted the invitation. Soon I was old enough to help Aunt Reina with small housekeeping chores. There was always something to do, the more so after the birth of their son. On Saturdays I had a special task. They did not do any work on that day of the week as it was set aside as the Sabbath. They could not even switch on a light. However, they did not object if I performed this task for them. Aunt Reina then treated me to a piece of delicious cake which she had baked the day before. Eventually the three of them emigrated to Toronto, where Uncle Frans started a successful tailor business. But their immigration did not prevent us from staying in touch with each other. My Dad needed to regain his strength. But in due time he, my mother and our dear relatives were all convinced that he was ready to return to work. Without delay he contacted the textile factory where he worked before he was taken prisoner. It was a great joy for him to hear that his previous position was available! I am sure that it made his transition from captive Resistance worker in a concentration camp to fulltime employee much easier. The fact that I passed his place of work every day on my way to and from school made it even more wonderful. What a big difference for me, from fearing that you might never see your father again, to walking by his workplace twice a day. I was very happy. A number of years later my brother Andre was born. We were very excited, and exceedingly thankful for our abundant blessings: health, family, friends, food, employment, and now a baby brother who was born in a time of peace. Several years later our family of five emigrated to Carman, a small town in Manitoba. Our correspondence with Uncle Frans and Aunt Reina gained a new dimension. We could understand their situation much better having experienced an emigration ourselves. My mother sealed the mutual friendship when she traveled by plane to Toronto. She was a brave, loyal woman. And my father was proud of her.

****

[caption id="attachment_7420" align="alignright" width="250"] The house today: Alfred and Reina Hen hid in the attic[/caption] Several decades later it was me who made a historic trip, together with my husband Bert. We had decided to pay a visit to the country of our birth. One place we were sure to visit was Enschede. I was eager to show him the place where I was born. It was not difficult for me to find the old family home. “Bert, here it is,” I said. As I was saying these words, the present merged with the past. This was the place where I was born. In this house the Jews were hidden. Here it was where I had suffered the fear of separation from my father. Here it was that I endured the house-searches by the Germans. Here it was that I was kicked into the hallway cupboard by German soldiers. As I was sharing these stories with my husband, the front door opened. A woman stepped outside. “Are you looking for someone?” she asked. “No, this is the place where I was born,” I answered spontaneously. Immediately the woman opened the door wide and invited us in. But I was hesitant. Would it be appropriate to accept her invitation? Would I not impose on her privacy? But Bert put a bit of pressure on me. He would not want me to have regrets later, and he was curious to see the house. I felt a bit tense as we walked through the front door. Tentatively I looked around. The house was not as big as I remembered. But I recognized the hallway, the door to the living room, the kitchen. We went upstairs. The lady explained that her husband was working on some renovations. With anticipation I turned my head to the place where I expected the entrance to the hiding place. But all I saw was a wall with holes and loose boards on the floor. The husband was taking the hiding place out, board by board. Then, with a shock, I noticed that the brown-yellow wallpaper was still covering the walls. “This is the hiding place,” I uttered. “Our Jews lived here.” “Really?” the lady called out. “Please tell me more about your parents, and about the people that lived here in hiding.”

****

Throughout my life I have often reflected on the war in the Netherlands. At the time I saw it through the eyes of a child. I feared the marching Germans. I was worried about my father. But I found comfort and safety in the arms of my mother. Now I have reached the age of the strong. Over the years I have learned to see the magnitude of the Second World War. Entire nations lived in fear. Many Jewish families were killed. Healthy young men died a horrible death, on both sides of the war. And wars continue to be waged. Yet, I have also learned to trust the Lord. We do not have to fear. He is our shield and our tower, our comfort in life and in death.

This first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2018 issue.

Science - Creation/Evolution

What you need to know to survive and thrive in your secular science class

If you're heading into a secular university or high school science course, and you're a little intimidated, here's something to remember. It is not just the Bible-believing Christians who base their interpretations of nature on their worldview. So do secular scientists. However, these two groups' worldviews, and their assumptions used in interpreting nature, couldn't be more different. Two different starting assumptions The Christian scientist's most obvious assumption is that God’s work and character are evident in nature. Meanwhile, mainstream scientists assume that God will never be revealed in nature, but only matter and processes. One thing that cannot be overemphasized is how important it is to identify the assumptions used to draw conclusions from a given set of observations. The thing about assumptions is that they are based on the worldview of the expert. On this topic, philosopher of science, David Berlinski remarks in his book, The Devil's Delusion:

“Arguments follow from assumptions, and assumptions follow from beliefs…”

The whole point is that there are no objective scientists. Everyone has starting assumptions. The Christian starting point The Christian naturally confesses that God exists, that He is omnipotent and omniscient and has communicated with us. Nature is God’s handiwork. Thus the Christian confesses that we see testimony to God’s work and character when we look at nature. For example, we read in Psalms 19:1-3:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.”

The apostle Paul points out the importance of this revelation from nature when he quotes the above passage. Thus he writes in Romans 10:17-18:

“So faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

We see God’s works revealed in nature. The secular foundation The secular position contrasts sharply with the Christian view. Mainstream scientists maintain that natural explanations can be found for everything. It isn't just that they don't see evidence of the supernatural, but rather that, from the start, they presume no supernatural input will ever be evident. Different questions lead to different answers With different expectations on the part of secular individuals and some Christians, there is a big difference in the questions asked of natural systems and the answers obtained. For example, suppose that somebody showed you a photograph of an unfamiliar object (for example an alga). If you were to ask that person “How did you make that?” the only possible response would be some sort of process. However, if you were instead to ask “Did you make that?” then the person has the opportunity to reply that he did not make the object, that it is in fact an alga floating in lakes in the summer. Similarly, in our study of nature, it matters what questions we ask. If a scientist asks “How did life come about spontaneously?” Then the only possible answer is a process. They have assumed it must have happened spontaneously, and aren't open to any other explanation. However, if the same scientists were to ask “Could life come about spontaneously?” he now has opened up an opportunity to examine what cells are like and what biochemical processes in cells are like. And then the evidence will show him that life could not have come about spontaneously. He will be able to reach a conclusion he could not have seen if he didn't ask the right sort of question. The answers obtained from the study of nature depend upon what questions are asked. Mainstream science has blinded itself The mainstream scientist approaches the study of nature with a specific agenda. Nature is to be interpreted only in terms of matter, energy, and natural processes, even if the results look ridiculous. A prominent geneticist, Richard Lewontin actually stated this very clearly. In a famous review of a book by Carl Sagan, Dr. Lewontin wrote:

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science…. because we have an a priori commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door” (New York Review of Books January 9, 1997).

What Dr. Lewontin said, was that scientists bias their studies so that only natural explanations will ever be obtained. Secular scientists may restrict what explanations about nature qualify for the term "science" but they cannot at the same time claim that what they are dealing with is truth. For example philosopher of science Del Ratzsch from Calvin College pointed out in 1996 that:

“If nature is not a closed, naturalistic system – that is, if reality does not respect the naturalists’ edict – then the science built around that edict cannot be credited a priori with getting at truth, being self-corrective or anything of the sort.” (The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate. InterVarsity Press. p. 167).

Thus secular scientists, with their expectations of never seeing God in nature, have confined themselves to mechanistic explanations and interpretations. As Dr. Ratzsch remarks: “… materialists have no viable choice but to view the world through evolutionary spectacles of some sort” (p. 197). And concerning the creationists, Dr. Ratzsch remarks:

“… creationists who accept the authority of Scripture and take it to be relevant to issues also will have unique input into their view of the cosmos, its origin and its workings. And there is nothing inherently irrational merely in the holding of such views — at least not on any definition of rational that can plausibly claim to be normative. Some critics will, of course, refuse to grant the honorific title science to the results of such views, but that is at best a mere semantic nicety. If the aim is genuine truth, the mere fact that a system purporting to display that truth does not meet the conditions of some stipulative worldview-laden definition of the term science can hardly carry serious weight” (p. 197).

What better statement could there be to the effect that no one should be intimidated by the pronouncements of mainstream science? Any scientist who claims that science proves that man has descended from chimps has based his conclusion on a biased study of the issues in that it presumes a materialistic worldview. Conservative Christians do not need to be intimidated by such conclusions. Conclusion The nature of the materialistic assumptions and objectives of mainstream science must not discourage Christians from studying science. It is very important to understand how the information content and irreducible complexity of the living cell (among other issues), can really only be understood in terms of creation by a supernatural mind. There are many who want their children to appreciate this and to be able to resist the appeal of mainstream science.

Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of “No Christian Silence on Science.” This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the June 2015 issue of "Creation Science Dialogue," (Create.ab.ca) where it appeared under the title "Surviving advanced courses in Science." It is reprinted here with permission.


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Family, Movie Reviews

Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures

Buddy Davis is a musician, dinosaur sculptor, and children's entertainer. In his "Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures" series, he's teamed up with the folks at Answers in Genesis to craft something that kids will really like. Below I review all 5, rating them, and providing the trailers for each. To market the series, Answers in Genesis has posted the first episode online where it can be watched for free. I provide the link down below. I Dig Dinosaurs! 26 min. / 2011 RATING 7/10 In this children's video Buddy invites along to go on a dinosaur bone dig to see how paleontologists find them and take them out of the ground, and then put them on display. Davis really knows his stuff. Dinosaurs have long been promotional tools for evolutionists, but Davis will have none of that. He approaches the topic of dinosaurs and their fossils from a thoroughly Christian, creationist perspective. In a number of instances, he contrasts the biblical position with the evolutionary one. So, for example, he explains that fossilization doesn't need to take millions of years – as he explains, they've even found fossilized teddy bears! And kids are also told about how elastic blood vessels have recently been found in dinosaur bones that shows they couldn't possibly be millions of years old. These animals aren't as old as they have been made out to be! Our host is enthusiastic and energetic and keeps things hopping without it getting frantic. While I enjoyed this, I'd recommend it more as a kid's video than family viewing. I mean, parents won't be bored, but they likely won't want to watch this as many times as their children! To generate interest for the series, Answers in Genesis has made this first episode, I Dig Dinosaurs!, free to watch online right here. And you can watch the trailer below. Swamp Man! 45 min / 2012 RATING: 7/10 Our family really enjoyed the first in the "Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures" series so when another popped up at our local library we had to check it out. Once again Buddy is our guide as we go out and explore God's great outdoors from an explicitly Christian perspective. In Swamp Man! Buddy takes us to the Florida Everglades where he gets up close and personal with alligators, lizards, dolphins, turtles, manatees, and snakes – lots of snakes! This is fast-paced, cutting from one animal to the next every minute or two, and in between Buddy has us zooming around on an airboat, a mudboat, a motorboat and an ATV. So there's lots of action to keep kids' attention, and mom and dad are sure to learn something too. I think I enjoyed this one almost as much as my daughters – very good family viewing! Anyone with a snake phobia will want to give this one a miss – of all the animals we meet, these are by far the feature creature. That's why this isn't a video I'd show my pre-school kids right before they go to sleep. It's not all that scary, particularly mid-day...but alligators, bears, and snakes at bedtime don't seem a good combo. That aside, this is a great family treat - one that mom and dad and kids anywhere from 2 and up will enjoy. Extreme Caving 58 minutes / 2013 RATING: 7/10 While Buddy Davis and the Tennessee Caveman Robbie Black are the hosts of this episode, the real stars of the show are the Cumberland Caverns themselves. This is one of the longest cave systems in the world, running at least 30 miles. If you've ever wondered what it's like to hike and climb and descend through caves that are hundreds of feet below the ground, you're going to love this! Davis, and his professional camera crew, takes us through passages and caverns that vary in height from dozens of meters to tight squeezes that are just a matter of inches. We get to see flowers made of gypsum, popcorn made of calcite, and translucent "cave bacon." We go stoop-walking and belly-crawling, pit-crossing, butt-sliding and even scuba diving into parts of the caverns that people don't normally go. We go so deep down that for a while even our guide loses his bearings! While Davis is normally an energetic, even hyper, host – all in an effort at keeping kids' attention – the physical demands of this episode mellowed him out some. That might be why I liked this one a little bit more. It's still a show for children, but the more restrained Davis is a little easier for adults to enjoy in an adult way. There is still lots of fun for the kids though, with animated scene transitions, a fun song about a skunk, lots of peppy bouncy music, and a close look at a cute furry fruit bat. The whole "Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures" series and is produced with an explicitly creationist worldview, and one example of where that's evident in this episode is when Davis explains how many caves may have been formed by the Flood. The only caution I can come up with is that at least a couple of the Scriptural references Davis shares are on the random side, not particularly relevant to what he is trying to relate them to. But this is only a minor quibble in this remarkable video. At about an hour-long, this might be a bit too long for many a kid – it could be good to watch it in two parts. What I most appreciated is that it is something the whole family can enjoy, with lots of fun for the kids, and lots of amazing sights to see for the adults. Shucks, this has me think of checking out the Cumberland Caverns for myself! You can see a 2-minute clip of the episode below. Alaska! 25 min / 2015 RATING: 6/10 This time we head way up north, to Alaska! Bears are the big focus, as Buddy teaches us about the different species, and even shows us the damage a bear can do to a cabin (fortunately it happened while they were away!). There is a bit of an evangelism focus in these videos, which comes out in this one when Buddy talks about his love of fishing and segues to what the Bible says about becoming "fishers of men." Alaska! is a short adventure, at just 25 minutes, and while my kids loved it, and my wife appreciated it too, I found this one a little lacking in content and slower-paced. If your family has liked the other Buddy Davis adventures this will be worth checking out too – Buddy is a charming man – but this might not be the best one to start with. You can watch a 3-minute review/trailer of Alaska! below. Ice Age 25 min. / 2017 RATING 7/10 This time Buddy Davis takes us to the snow and ice of some giant glaciers left over from the Ice Age. He takes us paddling amongst the icebergs that result when huge chunks of ice "calve" right off the glacier and fall into the lake below. Davis also introduces us to some of the creatures from the Ice Age, including bear-sized beavers, saber-toothed tigers, and mastodons, which I always thought was another word for "wooly mammoth" but it turns out the two are quite different from one another. As always, Davis has got songs and jokes interspersed throughout, which the kids really seem to enjoy. What I liked best was Davis' overview of creationist thought about the Ice Age. Evolutionists talk about ice ages – plural – but Davis explains that creationists believe there was just the one, happening not so long after the worldwide Flood. I popped this DVD into the player when a couple of my kids were sick and home from school, fully intending to leave them to it while I went off to get some work done. But there was more than enough here to grab my attention too, so I had to stick around. This ended up being my own favorite of Davis' amazing adventures, and the girls liked it too. Other Buddy Davis adventures All of "Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures" can be purchased as DVDs or as downloads at the Answers in Genesis store here. Davis also has another series, "The Creation Adventure Team," that features Davis and a robotic dinosaur assistant named Proto who tackle A Jurassic Ark Mystery and its sequel, Six Short Days, One Big Adventure. Both of these can be watched for free here and here though the episodes are broken up into ten-minute chunks....

Animated, Movie Reviews

Curious George: Royal Monkey

Animated / Children's 2019 / 86 minutes RATING: 7/10 In this homage to The Prince and the Pauper, our monkey friend George accidentally switches places with his simian look-alike Philippe, the kingdom of Simiana's "royal monkey." While the two could be twins, they couldn't act more different: George is all fun-loving and childish irresponsibility, and Philippe is reliable and downright somber. This is the fourth Curious George feature film (though there is no number, the events take place right after Curious George 3) but it's second only to the original in charm. The one criticism I'd have is pacing. It is a bit slower than some of the other films, so even as my kids absolutely loved it, I would have enjoyed seeing George get himself into a few more tight spots. However, even a relatively calm George is a very fun George, making this one that the whole family, young and old, will be sure to enjoy. As they often explain in the also charming TV series, George is a monkey so sometimes he does things we shouldn't. That's a good way of letting kids know they better not do what George does, but our youngest will still sometimes get quite stressed at George's antics because she understands that, well, if she were in George's shoes, what he's doing would be quite naughty! So I appreciated how in this film the writers managed to so arranged things that the trouble George gets into isn't his fault (at least for the most part). While watching TV, George spots a commercial for a new theme park called "Castleland" where every guest is "treated like royalty" and the man in the yellow hat tells George that if he's good, he'll arrange for a visit. So when, after the monkey mix-up, George ends up with the Simiana royal family, he isn't surprised that people start treating him like royalty. And he isn't at all naughty going off with this other family, because he thinks this is the visit that the man in the yellow hat had arranged. If you know the Prince and the Pauper then you might be thrown just a bit by the one-sidedness of the lessons learned here. George teaches the royal family to be less uptight, and the man in the yellow hat teaches Phillipe to be less uptight too. Was there a lesson for George to learn? If there was, our monkey friend missed it. Oh well. I guess that just means there'll have to be a Curious George 5. I'm looking forward to it. For a preview of the film's first ten minutes, check out the video below. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants

Animated / Family 2014 / 89 minutes Rating: 7/10 In this utterly unique film, a lost ladybug teams up with a colony of black ants to fight off a horde of red ants who want their sugar stash. A couple of things set this film apart. First, it seamlessly meshes animation and gorgeous nature footage, with the overall look more like a Planet Earth episode than a kid's cartoon. Another unique element is the lack of dialogue – other than  20 seconds of scene-setting narration, no one speaks. Or, rather, when they speak, it is only in Antish and Ladybuguese (I had the English subtitles on, but shucks, no translation was provided). Our kids had to decipher the storyline from strictly physical cues which had them paying very close attention. It also meant that their Dad had to occasionally "narrate" the action to help them figure out what was going on. Cautions This is G-rated film, free of any language, sexuality, or violence concerns (there is a big battle scene but no injuries are shown, and the rest of the "violence" is of the slapstick variety). But while the action was muted compared to many an animated film, Miniscule's brilliant use of sound and music really amplifies the tension. If you have younger viewers – maybe 9 and under - you can help them through these sections by either turning down the sound (minimizing the music's impact) or, by doing what we did. While we were still early in the film, we ended up showing our girls the last ten minutes of the film so they could know that it all turned out alright. They still sometimes forgot so we'd have to remind them, but each reminder helped a lot. Their response reminded my wife of how when we as adults have our own tense moments, we're also comforted by knowing a happy ending awaits – that's one reason why God has "given away the ending." It might also help youngsters to know that the only actual bad guys in the film are the red ants and, briefly, a large fish. Any other seemingly villainous sorts turn out to be friends. Finally, the music also adds impact to the Ladybug's wistful recollections of his lost family. Early in the film, as a young bug, he gets separated from his parents and siblings, and in two brief recollections afterward our 6-year-old was in tears feeling bad for him. Conclusion This is film kids will appreciate for the story and mom and dad can enjoy for its beauty and the brilliant way it tells a story without words. I've spent a lot of space warning about how some particularly sensitive or very young children will find the tension troubling, but overall this is quite the gentle movie. Our family really enjoyed it, even with the tense moments. Americans who subscribe to Amazon Prime can watch it for free. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The Giver

Drama / Family 97 minutes / 2014 RATING: 8/10 My brother Jeff wrote a review of the book this film is based on that hits all the high points of the film too. So with his permission I've included it below with slight modification. The Giver is a brilliant dystopia – a vision of the future where things have gone horribly wrong. What makes it so brilliant is that in the brief space of a couple hours, we're shown, as dystopian story always do, that the desire to make a utopia always leads to disaster. The original Utopia (which literally means "no-place"), by Thomas More (an English Catholic writing around the time of the Reformation), is a vision  of an ideal, perfectly regulated society, where people live their lives with leisure and work balanced, and the wealth is fairly shared among all. All these features are appealing, but given human nature, any attempt to build society through regulation will result in the stomping out of individuality and the oppressive power of whatever authority we trust to organize everything. Basically, there is a kind of idolatry of human systems and power. Of course, we know that idols always disappoint, and idols always demand horrible sacrifices. That's what's going on in The Giver. The story begins with what looks like an ideal, well-organized society where everyone has his or her specific role set by 18 years old (in the book this all happens by 12). All the angst of adolescence in our society has been taken care of through this selection of each person's career by the community, as well as by the suppression of the disruptive disturbance of teenage hormones. The result is a village in which there is no significant crime; in which each person is given a specific role and, in return, has all his or her needs are met from cradle to grave by the community; and in which both the physical storms and emotional storms have been subdued by technology. This "sameness" has been maintained for generations. Even the memory of the relative chaos of our own society has been wiped out, but the elders of the village have ensured that the past is not entirely lost, so that in the event of crisis, the elders can learn from it. This is where the main character, Jonas, comes in. At eighteen years old, he is given the unique role of the Receiver of the community. What does he receive? The memories of the village before the "sameness" - from the Giver. Jonas's unique knowledge enables him to see what a terrible place our own world is – with war and other suffering – but also what emotional ties like family and romantic love were lost with the oncoming of the "sameness." His own crisis comes when he sees what sacrifices his seemingly utopian village demands to keep its stability. Why would Christians want to watch this? The Giver shows us both the beauty and the cost of human emotion and desire, but also the foolishness of playing God in trying to wipe both out by human power. What we need is not liberation from our own humanness, but liberation from the sin which has corrupted our humanness – by the death of Christ - and the redirection of our emotions and desire – by the work of the Spirit. Neither the book nor the film explicitly put us before God's throne, but both do a fine job of knocking down one of the idols that serve as a stumbling block blocking our view of His glory. The film does differ from the book in some ways, with the most notable being the insertion of some actions scenes. But author Lois Lowry was quite pleased about how her book was translated to the big screen. According to her, yes, this is a different medium, but very much the same story. Cautions There are no language and sexual concerns, but some for violence. As the Giver shares his memories with Jonas, one of them is an image of "war" - it's a brief look, but includes a man getting shot in the chest and bleeding, and another man getting shot repeatedly. The most disturbing scene in the film is one of a baby being euthanized by injection - we don't see the actual injection...but we almost do. So no blood, but quite horrifying. I suspect it is this single scene that boosted this from a PG to PG-13 rating, and quite rightly. One other concern would be the way God is portrayed. For the most part, He simply isn't, but among the memories Jonas receives are ones showing the various religions of the world at worship. These are only brief glimpses, and not much is made of them, but neither is Christianity distinguished from any of the others – all religions are treated as equivalent. Conclusion This is a fantastic film, that hasn't been rated all that highly by the critics. I think that's because they are assessing it simply as entertainment. But this is meant to be a thought-provoking film, one to be discussed and not simply watched. And as such, it rates much higher. I'd recommend it as family viewing so long as the youngest viewers are at least in their teens. For more on dystopian fictions see "Why is dystopian fiction worth reading?"...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Remembrance Day

Sgt. Stubby: an unlikely hero

Animated / Family 2018 / 84 minutes Rating: 8/10 I read a review by a parent who arrived at the movie theater with his four-year-old and picked this film based solely on the smiling ever-so-cute doggie he saw on the movie poster. One problem: while this is about a charming, incredibly clever dog named Stubby, it's also about life in the trenches of World War I. And that's not 4-year-old material. Why, oh why, don't more people read movie reviews! But, as we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the "Great War" this is a movie that many a ten-year-old and up will enjoy and should watch. It's based on the true story of Sgt. Stubby, the most decorated dog in American history. The story begins with the homeless dog attaching himself to a unit readying itself to be shipped overseas. First, he charms his way into the heart of one Private Robert Conroy, the main two-legged character in the film. Then, one by one, from the lowest private to the general in charge, he wins over everyone. Well, not everyone. Some folks just aren't dog people, and Private Elmer Olsen just doesn't understand what's so special about Stubby. When the unit heads overseas, Stubby manages to sneak aboard the ship, and he too is heading to the fight. From this point onward there's one perilous scene after another, but to make it appropriate for (nearly) the whole family, the filmmakers decided to make this an entirely bloodless film. Even as bullets are whizzing, no one gets shot. German bombardments send both soldiers and dirt flying, but the soldiers get dug out and emerge both unbruised and unbloodied. While parents will appreciate the nonexistent blood and gore, by muting the violence and death the film ran the risk of also muting the sacrifice that these soldiers made. But as the film draws to a close there is one death - to a secondary character - that drives home, even to the younger audiences, what these men risked and what they lost. Without giving it all away, I'll note that the death happens off screen and we don't even see the body. It is the soldier's absence that is noted – while his friends are looking for him after the last big battle, Stubby brings them his helmet. That'll get some kids crying, and even moisten the eye of many an adult. But it is necessary. And it is done with great care and restraint. As you'd expect with an energetic pooch as its star, there is a lot of fun in the film. Kids are sure to enjoy Stubby training along with his fellow soldiers, getting chased by the cook, and winning over the Colonel after Conroy teaches his little buddy how to salute. In another treat, Gérard Depardieu makes an appearance as a large, wise French soldier, who along with Conroy and Stubby is tasked to spy out German positions. These "three musketeers" become fast friends, saving each others' lives. Cautions There are only a couple of concerns, including a little bit of language. The worst of it includes one character saying "What the devil?" and another exclaiming "I'll be darned." There is also just one bit of "naughty" comedy as the drill sergeant lectures his men on they should imitate the never-complaining, always-ready-to-roll Stubby but he makes this speech just as Stubby decides to lick his nether regions. That gets a laugh out of the sergeant and his men as they are presented with proof-positive that Stubby has some traits that aren't worthy of imitation. The big caution would concern the near constant peril. This is not a film for four-year-olds. But most ten-year-olds will be sure to enjoy it. Conclusion This was such a pleasure to discover. Before this, I couldn't have imagined a war film that would be appropriate for the very young and yet still be a treat for their parents. This would be a great one to watch with the family for Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, or Anzac Day. You can find out more about the film at its website: StubbyMovie.com. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Swallows and Amazons

Drama / Family 2016 / 96 minutes RATING: 7/10 I remember my older brother reading Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons to me when I was very young, and being charmed by it. It was a story of four children - two brothers and their two sisters – making up their own adventures during a summer holiday on the lake, fighting off imaginary pirates and pretend sharks. It was a gentle book. That's why I thought it would make for a gentle movie to share with the family. But while a lot of the book's charm made it to the silver screen, the filmmakers decided that in addition to the children's imagined peril, they had to add some of the real kind – spies! The four Walker children are on a lake for the summer, in 1935 Britain, and they have their parents' permission to take the Swallow, a small sailboat, out to explore a densely wooded island and camp there. But they are not the first to land on the island: a sign, surrounded by animal bones, warns that it belongs to the "Amazons." This is all loyal to the book – the Amazons are a couple of girls with a sailboat of their own, and the two groups get to pretend to be rival pirate gangs. But the island is also home to a real life spy. And there are a couple of other suspicious sorts following him. For a small little island, there's quite the population on it! The additions of the spies adds to the excitement, but brings tension to a story that didn't really have that before. So, if you like the book, you probably aren't going to appreciate this adaptation – it's like adding a couple of spies to Winnie-the-Pooh. Exciting, yes, but not at all in keeping with the spirit of the original story. However, if you don't know the book, or can at least forget it for a bit, this is quite the adventure. There are chases scenes on the water and through the woods, and even through and on top of a train. We see spies following each other, Walkers following spies, and spies following the Walkers. I don't want to give the impression this is all action – there's also the calmer fun of the Walkers learning how to camp, create fire, and catch and cook their own food. It still has the charm of the book. Just with tension added. CAUTIONS There is a bit of language, with one spy saying "Damn it" in his native language, and the movie not so helpfully subtitling the translation for us. The siblings also call each other various names including "duffer" and "idiot." And one girl says, "shut up" a number of times. The only other concern would be some behaviors that we wouldn't want our own children to model. There are a few times where the children do something hazardous (like sailing a boat at night) against their mother's expressed wishes. So mom and dad might have to pause the movie here and there to ask what the Walker children should have done. CONCLUSION While Swallows and Amazons was far too scary for my 8 and under young'uns, I think some 10-year-olds and anyone 12 and up would find this just the right level of exciting for them. It's great movie night material for families with older children, and it's bound to inspire either a camping or sailing request. Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com....

Drama, Family, Movie Reviews

The man who shot Liberty Valance

Western 1962 / 123 minutes RATING: 8/10 What does it mean to be a man? In this classic Western, Hollywood offers up two answers. Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) is a successful horse rancher living just outside the town of Shinbone who prides himself on not needing anyone and not fearing anyone. He solves his own problems, and figures that everyone else should do the same. Self-reliant - that, in his mind, is what makes a man a real man. Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) is a lawyer, newly arrived to Shinbone who starts a school for both children and adults when he discovers that most can't read. He wants to bring law and order to town, but via the law book, and not the gun barrel, and that makes him naive. But he's also principled and caring, and that, in his mind, is what makes a man a man. To put both these models of manhood to the test, we have Liberty Valance, a bully and a killer. He and his gang do whatever they want, and none of the town folk dare stop him. Doniphon could stop him... but that would be solving other people's problems for them. Ransom wants to stop him... but he'll need more than just his law books. Cautions This is an all-time classic that everyone will enjoy...if they have the patience for it. It starts off slow, and the pacing throughout is far more relaxed than anything a modern viewer is used to. If it were made today, they would cut at least a half hour. But, if you go in understanding that, then this will be a grand film. It's the nature of Western to have some violence in them, but in this one a lot of it occurs offscreen, though just barely so, as when Ransom is whipped. Onscreen we see a manic Liberty striking furiously, but Ransom is just below the frame, so we don't see the blows land. A couple of people are shot, but without any real gore. The only language concerns would be one use of "damn" Conclusion If your children regularly watch TV then the pace of this film will be too slow to keep their interest. But otherwise this would be a classic worth sharing with the family including children maybe 10 years old and up. It's good fodder for a discussion about the difference between Hollywood's ideal man, and the type of man God calls us to be in passages like Ephesians 5:21-33. ...

Drama, Family, Movie Reviews

The Seahawk

Drama / Action 109 minutes / 1940 RATING: 8/10 While The Seahawk is set in 1585, and pitches Spain against England, this film was all about the politics of its day. Spain is clearly a stand-in for the Germany of 1940, and King Phillip could only have been more Hitler-esque if they had given him the small patch mustache. The story begins with Phillip laying out his plans for world domination. He demands from England that they refrain from building a fleet and offers his friendship, if they give in to his demands. Queen Elizabeth does her very best Chamberlain imitation, refusing to prepare for the clearly hostile Spain. She chooses to appease the tyrant, even as Phillip is building an armada. Then there is Captain Thorpe (Errol Flynn) with his own stand-in role. He has his own ship, which is part of an English privateer fleet, the Seahawks. Even as Elizabeth appeases Phillip, the Seahawks raid Spanish towns and sink Spanish ships. Thorpe is channeling at least a little Churchill, urging the queen – and through her, the nation of England – to prepare for war. That makes this film fascinating on two very different levels. It is a fantastic swashbuckling film all on its own, and it is also a wonderful bit of anti-Nazi propaganda, intended to rally the nation to resist. Queen Elizabeth concludes the film with a speech that is a clear call for America to come join the war. "When the ruthless ambitions of a man threaten to engulf the world, it becomes the solemn obligation of all free men to affirm that the earth belongs not to any one man, but to all men." Cautions There is a lot of fighting, with folks getting stabbed and shot. But there is no gore. Conclusion I had an opportunity to watch The Seahawk with a group of friends who, as a general rule, don't watch black and white films. A few exchanges struck them as a bit corny – acting in the 1940s did sometimes take a melodramatic turn – but the swashbuckling action and the self-sacrificial hero, the Second World War subtext, well, it swept away all their resistance. They simply couldn't help themselves: they had to love it! Jon Dykstra also reviews movies at ReelConservative.com where some of these reviews first appeared. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Born free

Family / Drama 1966 / 95 minutes RATING: 8/10 When a man-eating lion has to be shot, and his mate too, three little cubs are left as orphans. Game warden George Adamson takes them back to his wife Joy, and their home. As you might expect, three wild lion cubs can get into all sorts of hijinks when they're kept inside. Seeing Elsa, Lustica, and Big One bound on the furniture, and on the Adamsons will be a favorite part for many younger viewers. The Adamsons raise the triplets until they are too big to manage, and then send two to the Netherlands Rotterdam Zoo. But Elsa, the runt of the litter, ends up staying with them....until it become impossible to keep her too. But how can they send Elsa off to a zoo when all she's known was the wide spaces of the game reserve? The couple hatches a plan to teach their Elsa how to hunt and survive in the wild. Cautions The story begins with a woman, busy washing her clothes in the river, getting attacked by a lion. We see only the lion charging, the woman shriek and put up her hands, but not the attack itself. Afterwards a shot of the river shows blood flowing by. While this opening scene is too scary for young children, if parents fast-forwarded that bit (explaining, rather than showing, what happens) the rest of the film could probably be viewed by most children 8 or 9 and up. A 1-minute scene (in the last 10 minutes of the film) of one lion fighting another might also be too intense for young viewers. Language concerns include one instance of "damn it" but nothing else. Conclusion In children's entertainment, whenever Nature or the environmentalism is addressed, Man is most often portrayed as a curse on creation rather than as a caretaker of it (think Bambi, Ferngully, The Lorax, etc.). But in Born free the Adamsons are games wardens, responsible for the care and management of creatures. We might question some of their priorities (when the Elsa stampedes an elephant troop into a village that should have been reason enough to send her away to a zoo). But overall, in Born Free Man's management role is assumed - the Adamsons are exercising dominion (Genesis 1:28). That makes this film a counter to some of the unbiblical environmental propaganda children will encounter, particularly if mom or dad use it as a conversation starter. Based on a true story, Born Free is simply enchanting. Some of that is due to the on location shooting in Africa, as well as the Oscar-winning score. But the scene-stealers are the lions, especially when the three sisters are all cubs getting into laugh-out loud mischief. Whether you are a cat person or not, watching these beautiful creatures jump and play and hunt will have you in awe of the Creator who crafted them. Born Free is a film that all ages will enjoy...so long as parents note the warnings above. *****...

Drama, Family, Movie Reviews

The Spirit of St. Louis

Family / Biography 1957 / 135 minutes RATING: 7/10 Charles Lindbergh's 1927 flight wasn't the first to cross the North Atlantic. That was accomplished 8 years earlier, in May of 1919, by a crew of United States Navy aviators flying in a biplane equipped with floats. The floats were so it could land on the water, which it did a number of times to give the crew time for repairs and rest. Their flight, from New York State to Lisbon, Portugal took 19 days. That flight has largely been forgotten because it was eclipsed, just two weeks later, by a pair of British aviators, John Alcock and Arthur Brown, teaming up to make the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. They took a far shorter route, flying from Newfoundland, to Ireland. Their biplane managed the journey in just under 16 hours, crash-landing in a bog the pilots mistook for a suitable landing field. Both men were unharmed. So why is Charles Lindbergh's crossing the one best remembered? One reason was the $25,000 Orteig Prize for the first successful non-stop flight from New York to Paris. It had been offered since 1919, but despite a number of efforts over the next 8 years, no one had yet managed to claim it. Another reason was that Lindbergh's flight was the first solo flight across the Atlantic. And the third reason is related to the first – by flying between two major international cities, New York and Paris, Lindbergh's flight showed the world that commercial aviation was a real possibility. Just a dozen years later the first commercial transatlantic flights began. But enough history, how was the film? Well, if you like Jimmy Stewart, or appreciate biographical films, or enjoy learning even as you're entertained, or have wanted to know more about Charles Lindbergh, or wanted a nice family film, then you're sure to enjoy The Spirit of St. Louis. The film is named after Lindbergh's plane, and the story begins on the night before his journey begins. Even as "Slim" is tossing and turning, trying to catch some sleep before he begins what could be a 40-hour flight, he starts remembering what led him to this point. We see, in these flashbacks, and others that take place during the flight, how Lindbergh first bought his first plane, how he handled his job as a mail aviator in terrible weather conditions, how he convinced a group of St. Louis businessman to back his transatlantic attempt, and how the Spirit of St. Louis was designed and built. Some of these recollections are told to a stowaway – a fly who comes along for the first part of the flight. It's a charming device, which our kids really enjoyed - Lindbergh points out to the fly where they are on the map and how long they've been flying. I was even a little disappointed when the fly decides he'd prefer to stay on this side of the Atlantic, and takes his leave out the open cockpit window. For some kids and adults, used to more frenetic action, the pacing might strike them as a bit slow. The film is also long, at more than two hours, and I suspect it might have lost our kids' attention if we hadn't watched it in two separate chunks. But broken up that way, it kept the attention of our whole family from 4 to 46. Cautions The topic matter of the film raises a few issues that could be worth talking about with the kids. The first is hero-worship. Lindbergh had drive, skill, and charisma – we can't help but root for him. But what the film doesn't get into is his failings – he had several affairs. Of course, our kids don't need to know all about that, but it is good to remember that our heroes have feet of clay, so we should not put them on a pedestal. Another topic worth a discussion is, what sort of risk is appropriate? Lindbergh was probably not a Christian and likely an agnostic, so he wasn't assessing risk from a Christian perspective. But we can. And in light of the other pilots who had died earlier trying this same flight, was it a good and worthy thing for Lindbergh to attempt? Or was he treating carelessly the life that God had entrusted to his stewardship? Questions worth discussing. Finally, Lindbergh's religious views do come up, briefly in the film. Lindbergh was a private man, so his religious views seem hard to nail down, but he wasn't an orthodox Christian. However it's said he flew combat missions in World War II with a New Testament, and later spoke of the importance of Jesus' ethics. In the film his muddled thinking about God comes up in a few brief scenes. First, Lindbergh notes that when he flies he doesn't ask God for help. A Roman Catholic priest tries to set him right, and later on a friend superstitiously sneaks a St. Christopher's Medal on the flight for good luck (the medal is thought, by Catholics, to ask the saint to bless a traveler's journey). Finally, as he is at the end of his flight, sleep-deprived and unsure he can land it, he tries to recall one of the priest's prayers, and ends up simply crying out to God for help. This confusion about God might be surprising to very young viewers, and worth a discussion. Conclusion The 49-years-old Jimmy Stewart was playing a man 24 years his junior, and if Lindbergh seems a little older than 25, Stewart still pulls it off. This is an interesting bit of history, charmingly acted. Another good one for the whole family. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

The absent-minded professor

Family 1961 / 96 minutes RATING: 7/10 The classic begins with a bang – a lab accident blows up Ned Brainard's garage and leaves the professor knocked out cold. The good news? This explosive experiment has produced a wondrous new substance - a rubbery material that when rolled up in a ball and dropped gains height with each bounce. It's almost like this rubber can fly so, of course, the professor names it flubber. And what's the first thing he does with flubber? Why, use it to create the world's first flying Model T of course! The bad news? While he was out cold the professor missed his wedding...for the third time! Betsy Carlisle is his long-suffering fiancee. While she loves her Neddy, this is it – she doesn't want to hear any more excuses. "I say, three strikes and you're out!" To make the situation that much more difficult for Ned, he has a rival for Betsy's attention. Professor Shelby Ashton is egotistical and even more self-absorbed than Ned but he has one thing going for him – he knows how to shows up on time. To get Betsy's attention Ned puts his flubber to use and this is where the fun really begins. When the college's basketball team is losing badly, Ned secretly irons flubber on to all of the players' shoes. When the second half starts the Medfield team is now able to jump, not just over the other team, but right over the gym rafters! While this stunt doesn't impress Betsy, Ned and his flying Model T do catch the attention of all three branches of the US military and a particularly unscrupulous businessman. Car chases and hijinks soon follow. Cautions As children do sometimes do as they see, the biggest concern might be language. One of the villains – businessman Alonzo Hawk – calls people "idiots," "stupid," or "tells them to shut-up." There is some violence – a shoot-out in which no one gets hit, and two thugs unsuccessfully trying to get Professor Brainard – but this is of the comic sort and even our six-year-old knew everything was going to be okay (but our four-year-old had to be reassured). Oh, and at one point Hawk gambles on a basketball game. It may be worth pointing out to younger viewers that the "hero" of this story, Professor Brainard, is not a good example at the beginning – he's prioritized science over his bride-to-be! Thankfully, by film's end he's learned the error of his ways. Conclusion This classic spawned a sequel and two remakes but they never improved on the original. A flying car, a villain who can leap buildings in a single bound, a damsel who's in distress because her bumbling knight has left her at the altar again – this is fun that everyone will enjoy. ...

Movie Reviews

200 movies King David might watch

Great minds think alike, and this month two of those great minds belonged to a missionary in Brazil and an evangelist in California. The evangelist, Ray Comfort, passed along a story, first told by Jeremy Archer, about a man who invited all sorts of folks into his house to meet his family. Often the visitors would talk crudely and angrily with each other, teaching his children words he'd rather they not know. But these visitors could also get his whole family laughing so the man decided to focus on the good they did, rather than the bad. Over time the man could see the visitors were having an impact on his family, and it wasn't a good one. He found that his own children were now using crude language and making coarse jokes. What was worse, the visitors were behaving outrageously, even taking their clothes off right there in front of his family! That's hard to believe, isn't it? Why didn't the man just kick them out? Why didn't he protect his family from their influence? Well, it turns out this man had some sense, and as the visitors started getting naked the man acted. Together, with his family, the man finally "turned off the television." That same month the missionary, Rev. Ken Wieske, expressed the same concern, titling a Facebook post "David vows to get rid of his TV." Underneath he included the text of Psalm 101 which reads (in part): I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. The pastor's point was clear: most of what's on TV is worthless and if King David were here on earth today, he might well pitch his TV right out of the palace. Of course, it isn't quite as easy as that. Today we also have computers, and smartphones, so getting rid of the TV isn't going to restrict our access to fluff and filth that's so readily available. So let's take this a step further. Yes, much of what's on TV (and on YouTube, Facebook, etc.) is worthless. But some of it isn't. Some of it is quite good. Excellent even! So if we were to make the same promise King David makes in Psalm 101 – to put away all that is worthless – what sorts of film and videos might we still watch? I've got some suggestions, and I've listed them under 10 categories, with 15 or so movie recommendations in each category. My hope is that this list can help families find something worth watching. With over 200 suggestions I'm also hoping there will be something for everyone. Title, year, and length, are included, and, if there's a review available on ReformedPerspective.ca, or my movie review blog, ReelConservative.com, then I've indicated that by making the title all caps and clickable. I've also included an entertainment rating. This is out of 10, and in my books a 7 is a solid mark, while 8 is something special, and 6 is still watchable but there is some notable flaw (maybe corny writing, or a bad bit of acting, that sort of thing). The only reason I've included a few films that rate as low as 6 is because they have educational value. One other note: none of these films and videos take God's name in vain. That's important. While a degree of violence and even sexual content of some sort (kissing, hugging) can be appropriate on screen, the way God's name is abused on film just isn't. More than a dozen of the films below have the tag "FREE ONLINE" and can be viewed for free by clicking on the link provided. ANIMATED VIDEOS (15) This mix of shorter videos (the longer ones are made up of several parts) can be ideal when mom wants to take a nap, but doesn't want the kids sitting in front of the TV forever. Anne of Green Gables, Vol. 1-3 – 2003, 150 minutes – 7/10 Adventures in Odyssey: The Knight Travelers – 1991, 27 minutes – 7/10 THE GRUFFALO  – 2009, 27 minutes – 8/10 Horton Hears a Who – 1970, 30 minutes – 7/10 JUNGLE BEAT – 65 minutes – 10/10 – FREE ONLINE Larry-Boy and the Fib from Outer Space – 1999, 30 minutes – 7/10 Lord of the Beans – 2005, 52 minutes – 7/10 Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride – 2014, 60 minutes – 7/10 The Pond – THERE'S SOMETHING FUNNY IN THE WATER – 2005, 27 minutes – 8/10 – The Little Things – 30 minutes – 7/10 – The Rise and Fall of Tony the Frog – 30 minutes – 7/10 – Alligator Hunter – 30 minutes – 7/10 – Big Mouth Bass – 32 minutes – 7/10 Wallace and Gromit in Three Amazing Adventures – 1989-1995, 85 minutes –  7/10 THE WAY THINGS WORK – 2001, 300+ minutes – 8/10 ANIMATED FILMS (19) Looking for something good for a family "dinner and a movie" night? THE BOXCAR CHILDREN – 2013, 81 minutes – 7/10 THE BOXCAR CHILDREN: SURPRISE ISLAND - 2018, 82 minutes – 6/10  Chicken Run – 2000, 84 minutes – 8/10 Curious George – 2006, 88 minutes – 8/10 Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle – 2015, 81 minutes – 7/10 CURIOUS GEORGE: ROYAL MONKEY – 2019 / 86 minutes – 7/10 Finding Nemo – 2003, 100 minutes – 8/10 Fox and the Hound – 1981, 83 minutes – 8/10 LOST AND FOUND – 2013, 24 minutes – 8/10 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – 1977, 74 minutes – 8/10 Meet the Robinsons – 2007, 95 minutes – 7/10 MINISCULE - 2014, 89 minutes – 7/10 Monsters Inc. – 2001, 93 minutes – 9/10 SGT. STUBBY: AN UNLIKELY HERO - 2018, 84 minutes – 8/10 THE PEANUTS MOVIE – 2015, 88 minutes – 8/10 Tangled – 2010, 100 minutes – 9/10 Up – 2009, 96 minutes – 9/10 Wall-E – 2008, 98 minutes – 9/10 WINNIE THE POOH – 2011, 63 minutes – 8/10 BASED ON A BOOK (16) It's always hard to live up to the book, but some of these get awfully close! The Adventures of Robin Hood - 1938, 101 minutes – 8/10 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – 1939, 82 minutes – 7/10 Animal Farm – 1954, 72 minutes – 7/10 THE GIVER – 2014, 97 minutes – 8/10 Ivanhoe – 1952, 107 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT – 1977, 77 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – 1979, 95 minutes – 7/10 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – 2005, 125 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1949, 121 minutes – 8/10 Little Women – 1994, 118 minutes – 9/10 THE LORD OF THE RINGS – 1978, 133 minutes – 7/10 POLLYANNA – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 The Prince and the Pauper – 1937, 118 minutes – 8/10 Pride and Prejudice – 2004, 104 minutes – 8/10 Sarah Plain and Tall – 1990, 98 minutes – 8/10 SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS – 2016, 96 minutes – 7/10 SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON – 1960, 126 minutes – 8/10 BLACK AND WHITE CLASSICS (13) These have all stood the test of time and are still being watched again and again. 12 Angry Men – 1957, 96 minutes – 8/10 THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR – 1961, 96 minutes – 7/10 Adam's Rib – 1949, 101 minutes –  8/10 Citizen Kane – 1941, 119 minutes – 7/10 High Noon – 1952, 85 minutes – 9/10 I Remember Mama – 1948, 134 minutes – 7/10 It Should Happen to You – 1954, 87 minutes – 7/10 The Man in the White Suit – 1951, 85 minutes – 7/10 THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE – 1962, 123 minutes – 8/10 Meet John Doe – 1941, 122 minutes – 7/10 Mr. Deed goes to Town – 1936, 115 minutes – 7/10 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – 1939, 129 minutes – 8/10 The Shop Around the Corner – 1949, 99 minutes – 9/10 BIOGRAPHICAL (21) Some of these are great, others only okay, but all are educational. Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace – 1999, 90 minutes – 7/10 THE CASE FOR CHRIST – 2017, 113 minutes – 7/10 C.S. LEWIS ONSTAGE – 2018, 76 minutes – 7/10 End of the Spear – 2006, 108 minutes – 7/10 Final Solution – 2001, 102 minutes – 7/10 God's Outlaw: The Story of William Tyndale – 1988, 93 minutes – 6/10 GOSNELL: THE TRIAL OF AMERICA'S BIGGEST SERIAL KILLER – 2018, 93 minutes – 8/10 Hellen Keller – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 JOHN HUS: A JOURNEY OF NO RETURN – 2015, 55 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE LONG GOODBYE: THE KARA TIPPETTS STORY – 2019, 88 minutes - 10/10 Martin Luther – 1953, 105 minutes – 7/10 The Miracle Worker – 1962, 106 minutes – 9/10 THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS – 1957, 135 – 7/10 Torchlighters: – THE CORRIE TEN BOOM STORY – 2013, 34 minutes – 7/10 – THE JIM ELLIOT STORY – 2005, 30 minutes – 6/10 – THE MARTIN LUTHER STORY – 2106, 34 minutes – 7/10 – THE RICHARD WUMBRAND STORY – 2008, 30 minutes – 6/10 – THE WILLIAM TYNDALE STORY – 2005, 32 minutes – 6/10 TORTURED FOR CHRIST - 2018, 77 minutes - 8/10 UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION – 2018, 98 minutes – 8/10 THE WRIGHT BROTHERS – 1996, 27 minutes – 7/10 CHILDREN (16) This is fare for younger children – not a lot of tension here. And that means, while the kids will probably like it, mom and dad might not. The Adventures of Milo and Otis – 1989, 76 minutes – 7/10 Buddy Davis' Amazing Adventures: – ALASKA – 2015, 25 minutes – 6/10 – EXTREME CAVING – 2013, 58 minutes – 7/10 – I DIG DINOSAURS – 2011 – 26 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – SWAMP MAN – 2012, 45 minutes – 7/10 The Creation Adventure Team – A JURASSIC ARK MYSTERY – 2001, 45 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE – SIX SHORT DAYS, ONE BIG ADVENTURE – 2002, 38 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE Tintin: Destination Moon – 1992, 83 minutes – 7/10 INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFY EVOLUTION I – 2006, 47 minutes – 7/10 Lassie Come Home – 1943, 90 minutes – 8/10 A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY – 2015, 93 minutes – 7/10 MISTY – 1961, 91 minutes – 7/10 THE NEWTONS' WORKSHOP – 1997, 226 minutes – 7/10 The Runner from Ravenshead - 2010, 81 minutes – 7/10 THE WILD BROTHERS (8 episodes) – 2015-2016, 28-30 minutes each – 7/10 ON CREATION, EVOLUTION AND DESIGN (17) Evidence of all sorts, to the genius of our Creator... ALIEN INTRUSION – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10 DARWIN: THE VOYAGE THAT SHOOK THE WORLD – 2009, 55 minutes – 8/10 DRAGONS OR DINOSAURS? – 2010 / 84 minutes – 7/10 EVOLUTION'S ACHILLES' HEELS – 2014, 96 minutes – 9/10 Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed – 2008, 95 minutes – 8/10 FLIGHT: THE GENIUS OF BIRDS – 2013, 63 minutes – 9/10 GENESIS: PARADISE LOST – 2018, 109 minutes – 8/10 Icons of Evolution – 2002, 52 minutes - 7/10 INCREDIBLE CREATURES THAT DEFINE DESIGN – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10 IS GENESIS HISTORY? – 2017, 100 minutes – 8/10 LIVING WATERS – 2015, 69 minutes – 8/10 Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies – 2011, 64 minutes – 8/10 MOUNT ST. HELENS: MODERN EVIDENCE FOR A WORLDWIDE FLOOD – 2012, 36 minutes – 7/10 NOAH'S ARK: THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX – 2008, 35 minutes – 8/10 THE PRIVILEGED PLANET – 2005, 60 minutes – 8/10 REVOLUTIONARY – 2016, 60 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE THE RIOT AND THE DANCE: EARTH – 2018, 83 minutes – 8/10 DOCUMENTARIES (26) The very best documentaries pack books' worth of knowledge into a short hour or two. And these are just that sort. 180: FROM PRO-CHOICE TO PRO-LIFE IN SECONDS – 2011, 33 minutes – FREE ONLINE BABIES ARE MURDERED HERE – 2014, 54 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE BABIES ARE STILL MURDERED HERE - 2019, 102 minutes – 7/10 - FREE ONLINE THE BIBLE VS. THE BOOK OF MORMON – 2005, 66 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE CALVINIST - 2017, 89 minutes - 8/10 Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson – 2009, 93 minutes – 9/10 Cool It: Are We Saving the World or Just Burning Money? – 2010, 88 minutes – 8/10 CITIZENFOUR – 2014, 113 minutes – 7/10 DEMOGRAPHIC WINTER – 2008, 56 minutes – 7/10 EXPEDITION BIBLE: JERICHO UNEARTHED – 2010, 34 minutes – 8/10 THE FOOL – 2019, 65 minutes - 8/10 – FREE ONLINE THE FREE SPEECH APOCALYPSE – 2015, 89 minutes – 8/10 HOW TO ANSWER THE FOOL – 2013, 85 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE INDOCTRINATION – 2011, 102 minutes – 8/10 IRREPLACEABLE - WHAT IS FAMILY? – 2015, 104 minutes – 8/10 LOGIC ON FIRE – 2015, 102 minutes – 7/10 March of the Penguins – 2005, 80 minutes – 8/10 Microcosmos – 1996, 80 minutes – 8/10 THE NARNIA CODE – 2009, 59 minutes – 8/10 NOTES FROM THE TILT-A-WHIRL – 2011, 51 minutes – 10/10 THE PURSUIT – 2019, 77 minutes - 7/10 THE RECKONING – 2006, 96 minutes – 7/10 RESCUED: THE HEART OF ADOPTION – 2012, 62 minutes – 7/10 UNPLANNED – 2011, 62 minutes – 7/10 WAITING FOR SUPERMAN – 2010, 111 minutes – 8/10 WAIT TILL IT'S FREE – 2014, 82 minutes – 9/10 FAMILY FUN (17) These are films that mom and dad can enjoy too, but that does mean that some of them have action or drama that may be too intense for younger children. So be sure to research age-appropriateness. BEYOND THE MASK – 2015, 103 minutes – 8/10 BORN FREE - 1966, 95 minutes – 8/10 CITY OF EMBER – 2008, 95 minutes – 7/10 CONDORMAN – 1981, 90 minutes – 7/10 The Court Jester – 1956, 101 minutes – 8/10 Greyfriars Bobby – 1961, 87 minutes – 9/10 Hangman's Curse – 2003, 106 minutes – 8/10 Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates – 1962, 90  minutes – 7/10 Love's Long Journey – 2005, 88 minutes – 7/10 The Last Chance Detectives – 1994, 47 minutes – 7/10 Old Yeller – 1957, 84 minutes – 9/10 Seasons of the Heart – 2003, 99 minutes – 8/10 Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D – 2005, 93 minutes – 7/10 STORM: LUTHER'S FORBIDDEN LETTER – 2017, 105 minutes – 7/10 THE THREE INVESTIGATORS IN THE SECRET OF SKELETON ISLAND – 2007, 91 minutes – 7/10 Time Changer – 2002, 99 minutes – 7/10 Who is Simon Miller? – 2011, 85 minutes – 7/10 FOR MOM AND DAD (22) Films to enjoy with your better half...and sometimes the older kids too. 2081 – 2009, 25 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE ALLEGED – 2011, 93 minutes – 8/10 Anastasia – 1956, 105 minutes – 7/10 AUDACITY: LOVE CAN'T STAY SILENT – 2015, 50 minutes – 7/10 – FREE ONLINE The Caine Mutiny - 1954, 124 minutes – 7/10 COURAGEOUS – 2011, 129 minutes – 7/10 THE HOBBIT TRILOGY – An Unexpected Journey – 2012, 169 minutes – 8/10 – The Desolation of Smaug – 2013, 161 minutes – 8/10 – The Battle of the Five Armies – 2014, 144 minutes – 7/10 I CAN ONLY IMAGINE - 2018, 110 minutes - 8/10 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – 2001-2003 – 10/10 LIKE DANDELION DUST – 2009, 104 minutes – 8/10 Rear Window – 1954, 112 minutes – 8/10 Roman Holiday – 1953, 118 minutes – 8/10 The Second Chance – 2006, 102 – 7/10 The Song – 2014, 116 minutes – 9/10 TO SAVE A LIFE – 2010, 120 minutes – 8/10 The Ultimate Gift – 2006, 114 minutes – 7/10 A Vow to Cherish – 1999, 84 minutes - 7/10 Woodlawn - 2016, 123 minutes - 8/10 BONUS #1 - 4 SUPER SILENT FILMS If you've never gotten into silent films, be sure to start with the comedies – there the overwrought acting just adds to the funny. And Buster Keaton is the best! The General – 1927, 80 minutes – 8/10 The Gold Rush – 1925, 96 minutes – 7/10 Seven Chances – 1925, 56 minutes – 8/10 SHERLOCK JR. – 1924, 44 minutes – 8/10 – FREE ONLINE BONUS #2 - 12 WORLD WAR II FILMS MADE DURING WORLD WAR II The very best World War II films were made during the war... BATAAN – 1943, 114 minutes – 8/10 CASABLANCA – 1943, 103 minutes – 10/10 DESPERATE JOURNEY – 1942, 107 minutes – 7/10 Destination Tokyo – 1944, 135 minutes – 8/10 FLYING TIGERS – 1942, 104 minutes - 7/10 THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT – 1940, 120 minutes – 7/10 Objective Burma! – 1945, 142 minutes – 7/10 Sahara – 1943, 98 minutes – 7/10 SEA HAWK – 1940, 127 minutes – 8/10 THE SILVER FLEET – 1943, 88 minutes – 7/10 They Were Expendable – 1945, 135 minutes – 7/10 To Be Or Not To Be – 1942, 99 minutes – 8/10 BONUS #3 - WORLD WAR II FILMS MADE AFTERWARDS ...though there were some good ones made afterward too. Decision Before Dawn – 1951, 119 minutes – 7/10 Twelve O'clock High – 1949 – 8/10 BONUS #4 - FOREIGN FILMS This is a chance to see a different slice of the world. Children of Heaven – 1997, 87 minutes – 7/10 NOT ONE LESS – 2000, 106 minutes – 7/10 The Story of the Weeping Camel – 2003, 87 minutes – 7/10 This post first appeared on www.ReelConservative.com....

Family, Movie Reviews

Misty

Family / Drama 1961 / 91 minutes RATING: 7/10 If you have girls in your home there's a good chance you've already heard of Marguerite Henry and her most famous book Misty of Chincoteague. It's the story of two orphans who, after coming to live with their grandparents, fix their minds on buying a pony named Phantom. But it's not going to be easy. First, Phantom is a wild pony, running loose on the neighboring island of Assateague, and to this point no one has been able to catch her. If she is caught, it'll cost the two children $100 to buy her and they don't have any money. And last but not least, Phantom is three years old already, and their grandfather says that no one can gentle a pony that's been wild that long. These two have their work cut out for them! This is a faithful adaptation of the book, and quite the sweet film. The grandparents are loving and kind, but no pushovers. The kids are energetic, a little mischievous, but respectful. It's just good old-fashioned family entertainment. CAUTIONS Language concerns are limited to a few instances of "gee." At one point bets are placed on a horse race between the nearby islands' fastest ponies. The grandfather gets caught up in this and seems to even travel to another island to find more people to bet with. Overall this is a minor element in the film, amounting mostly to an opportunity for jokes. But children need to be told that we should never seek to become wealthy at another's expense – that's what's wrong with gambling. CONCLUSION The moral of this story is an old-fashioned one, and while powerful, it is gently presented: "love is not possessive; love seeks the best for the other." I'm not going to spoil things by telling you how that moral is learned, but if you have a sensitive daughter or two, there might be a little crying at the end of this one...though it certainly ends on a happy note. Sweetest quote: When the town mistakenly concludes the grandfather has fallen on hard times, he hugs his grandchildren and exclaims: "They think I'm poor? I'm the richest man on this whole island!" This is reprinted with permission from ReelConservative.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teqr9SZpGmY...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Incredible Creatures That Define Design

Documentary 62 min / 2011 Rating: 7/10 The folks who brought us the 3-film series Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution are back, and with a fun new twist on the incredible design we can find in God's creation. This time they are looking into the field of biomimicry – this involves engineers applying the innovations and creativity they find in the natural world to help them solve challenges they face in the civilized world. So, for example, a fan manufacturer looking to make a more powerful, but quieter, model decided to look into the way that an owl can travel quickly but silently through the air. The closer they looked at the design of its wings, the more they found there was to learn and imitate! Other examples of brilliant design in creation that the documentary explores include: sticky burrs spirals found everywhere in nature the glue used by mussels the aerodynamics of the box fish and the strange way that butterflies can give off such beautiful colors even though some have no pigment in their wings. In one instance after another, even as engineers use Nature as their inspiration, they're forced to admit that their best efforts can't match the genius they find there. CAUTIONS Unlike the Incredible Creations The Defy Evolution series, in this film God is never given the credit that is His due. Instead, this is more like an Intelligent Design presentation, in which the genius found in creation is celebrated, without any specific mention made of Who that Genius is. The only other caution concerns a scene in the section on mussel glue. Here we see a brief enactment of a man having a heart attack at a restaurant. He then presumably receives care using glue, rather than stitches. It's not all that shocking, but more so than anything else in the film, and might alarm some small children. CONCLUSION This is one for that will most intrigue the science geeks among us. I think families with older kids – maybe 12 and up – could enjoy this together, particularly if they have watched documentaries together before. But it does require some knowledge to fully appreciate what's being explained – younger children simply won't know enough about aerodynamics, or about how loud fans can be, or what pigmentation is, to really appreciate how "Nature" – God! – has done it all so much better than even our best and brightest can do (even after being given an example to imitate). This is reprinted with permission from ReelConservative.com. Incredible Creatures That DEFINE Design - Trailer from Exploration Films on Vimeo....

Family, Movie Reviews

Storm and Luther's forbidden letter

Family / Drama 105 minutes / 2017 RATING: 7/10 Storm Voeten is the 12-year-old son of a printer, living in 1500s Antwerp. Martin Luther has written his 95 Theses and his ideas are a source of debate and division across Europe. That's also true in the Voeten household, where Storm's mother, a staunch Catholic, doesn't even want to hear Luther's name. But his father is interested in learning more...and he's even willing to print Luther's ideas. The opening scene has Luther making his brief appearance in the film. He's writing a letter, even as a squadron of soldiers is heading his way. The letter is entrusted to the care of an assistant to quickly and secretly take to Antwerp. Though the events in this film are more of the "inspired by" variety, rather than purporting to be historically accurate, there is some real history here. Luther did send a letter to Antwerp. In the film the letter is a rallying cry against the Catholic Church, and a call to rely on Jesus alone. In real life, while we don't have the letter itself, other accounts make it sound as if it had an additional target, the Anabaptists. But that doesn't come up in the film. When Luther's assistant arrives in Antwerp he seeks out Storm's father. Voeten Sr. accepts the printing job, even though the town's Inquisitor has already arrested another printer for producing forbidden Protestant materials. And that's when the film turns into a chase movie. The authorities catch Storm's father in the act of printing and arrest him, but not before Storm runs off with the letter's printing plate. He gets chased through the alleys and only escapes when 12-year-old street orphan Maria, and her handy sling, intervene. Now it's up to Storm to figure out how to get the letter printed, and how to save his dad. CAUTIONS There are no language concerns, and any "sexual content" is limited to one short kiss between the two 12-year-olds at the film's end. But there is a fair amount of violence. All of it is muted and some of it takes place off screen. But here's a partial list: A printer's burned hand is shown briefly (one second). The printer is tortured by the Inquisitor – via some form of water boarding – and while we don't see it happen, we do briefly hear the man pleading. A couple of soldiers get hit in the head by rocks hurled by Maria and her sling. Maria hits a soldier in the head with a pole. Storm hits a soldier in the head with a pole. One man is murdered by the Inquisitor, but off-screen, and before Storm arrives. We do see the body with just a little blood for a second or two. In addition, there is quite a lot of tension. Some of it involves chases, and some of it involves not knowing what will happen next – when Storm's father is set to be burned at the stake, the young audience doesn't know whether he'll be saved, and that makes this quite scary. For those reasons I'd say the target audience for this is probably 12 and up. One theological concern: Maria thinks that the Virgin Mary helps her. Storm tells her Luther's thoughts on idols, and that Mary is just an ordinary woman, but the issue is left unsettled. By film's end, Maria hasn't clearly changed her mind.  So that might be a good topic to discuss with younger viewers CONCLUSION The big caution with this film concerns the tension. This is more a "chase film" than a theological exploration of Luther's views, but that might just make it perfect for the younger audience it's aimed at. While the plot is a bit simple for mom and dad, the authentic 1500s setting will keep their attention. This is good, clean, even educational, fun. The film was carefully shot so that it could be dubbed into a number of different languages. If you pay attention you'll notice that the principal characters often speak with their mouths obscured in some way. Sometimes we see their mouth when they start speaking but, as they continue, the camera cuts away. That's because this was shot in Dutch, and this clever camera work means the dubbing is hardly noticeable in the English version. An English trailer doesn't seem available, but the Dutch version still gives a good idea of the look and feel of the film. While the English trailer is hard to find, it's easy enough to find online stores that sell or rent the English film. A version of this review first appeared on ReelConservative.com. https://youtu.be/BcbR4at2p_U...

Movie Reviews

4 fun family-friendly films

Don't know what to watch with the family tonight? If you have some younger children, here's four possibilities that might just fit the bill. (And you can find family film recommendations for a slightly older age group here.) Winnie the Pooh Animated / Children 63 min, 2011 Rating: 8/ 10 Our favorite silly little bear starts his newest adventure in bed, waking up only at the insistence of the narrator. Winnie-the-Pooh "has a Very Important Thing to Do" today, so he simply must get up! Once out of his little house Pooh proceeds to have a series of adventures. The first involves Tigger and a balloon, and the second, a fearsome beast (or as fearsome as a Pooh cartoon can be) named the Backson. The longest adventure of all is a search for Eeyore's tail... or for some substitute that could serve in that role. This is a gentle family-friendly gem. Disney has produced a score of Pooh films but this is the first since 1977's The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh to fully capture the charm of the books. Adventures remains the best of all the Pooh films, with this a very close second. One caution to note concerns the language, but happens after the films’ ten minutes of credits have run. There is one final, very short scene in which the word "gosh" is used twice. The other caution is about Pooh who is a little more self-absorbed and selfish than usual. As an example, when the group sets out to trap the Backson, Pooh is content to let his little friend Piglet do all the work while he supervises. Pooh's shallowness (including his obsession with honey) is the central "conflict" in the story, and one that parents should point out to their children – the "hero" of this little story is not being a good friend right here. Of course, Pooh does gets his priorities figured out by the end of the film. When faced with the choice of finally getting some honey, or bringing Eeyore his missing tale, Pooh chooses friend over food. The story concludes with Christopher Robin congratulating Pooh for the "Very Important Thing" he did today: "Instead of thinking of your tummy you thought of your friend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbFz--GCkOM   The Gruffalo Animated / Family 27 min / 2009 Rating: 8/10 How can a mouse meet up with a hungry fox, snake, and owl, and live to tell the tale? It helps that he has a monstrously big friend who is just about to meet him. And a fox, or a snake, or an owl, wouldn't dare eat a small mouse who has such a big friend! But...what if they found out what the mouse knows: "There's no such things as a Gruffalo"? Or is there? This short film, based on the book of the same name, is a clever tale about a mouse who thinks his way out of trouble. It is beautifully rendered, visually and musically, with the only concern being that everyone wants to turn this little mouse into a little morsel. So in our household the pause button had to be used a few times to calm some anxious viewers. For those under eight, especially if they don't watch much TV, there is a little bit of tension here. In fact, kids under three might find it just too scary. But it does all work out in the end, and reassuring any little ones of that might help them make it through. So, two thumbs up for this short, fun, and clever story. Who could ask for more? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVkj4McR1Fo Pollyanna Family 2003 / 99 minutes Rating: 8/10 Aside from a change of setting – from Vermont, to England – this is a faithful adaption of the source book (and far more so than the 1960s Disney version). Pollyanna is a poor but cheerful girl who, after becoming orphaned, is sent to live with her very rich, and very strait-laced aunt Polly. The two have very different ways of viewing the world, with the joyful Pollyanna seeing nothing but wonder, despite the losses she's faced, and aunt Polly seeing nothing but the problems, despite the riches that surround her. So whose worldview is going to win out? Is Pollyanna going to stop giving out hugs, or is her aunt Polly going to get over her reluctance to be touched? Something has to give! The only caution concerns one shocking/sad moment that will cause young viewers distress – Pollyanna gets seriously injured. It all happens in a flash, so nothing gory is shown, but our girls needed to be reassured that Pollyanna would recover. Young ladies are going to love this one, and I think young lads may even be up for it, with a little encouraging. And if mom and dad can get past the British accents, they, too, are sure to love this well-acted, authentic adaption of a timeless classic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI52WZqMA5w The Boxcar Children Animated / Children's 2013 / 81 minutes Rating: 7/10 The Boxcar Children is the first title in a popular and still expanding children's series of books. And just like the book, the film is about four children - three brothers and one sister - who have lost their parents, and have been told they will have to live with their grandfather. But Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny don't know their grandfather at all, and imagine that, because he never came to visit, he must be a cruel man. So they run away. The first part of the story is about how they get by, all on their own. It's when they find a long abandoned railway boxcar that things start looking up for them. Then the older brother can go into town to do odd jobs, and the other three can start setting up the boxcar as a real home for them. Of course it has a happy ending and I don't think I give away too much to say it involves their cruel grandfather not being cruel at all. The only cautions would concern language: in one instance a character says "holy mollie" and in another someone utters "oh my gosh" but that is the extent of it. There are also a few moments of tension – a chase scene early on – but this is quite a gentle movie. It’s something that kids will love, and parents won't mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TVLHl98y1E These reviews first appeared on ReelConservative.com where longer versions are available....

Movie Reviews

Martin at the movies

Torchlighters: The Martin Luther Story 2016 / 34 minutes The strength of this film is its short length. At just 34 minutes, it can be shown in the space of a single school period. For the pre-teens this is intended for, that might be just the right length, with the quick pace, and colorful animation sure to grab most students’ attention. But the biggest weakness of this short film is….its length. It is far too short to tell this story with the gravitas it needs – Luther’s spiritual wrestling is dealt with in just 7 minutes! It also ends abruptly, with Luther busy translating the Bible into German in Wartburg Castle. The narrator then spends just a single minute summing up the whole of the second half of Luther's life. And then the credits role. I should note a couple of inclusions that might have been better left out. Luther is told that the very night he nailed up his 95 Theses, his long-time protector, Duke Frederick, had a dream about a monk writing on a church door with a quill that was so long it extended all the way to Rome "where it toppled the crown off of a lion." This is presented as the reason Frederick was willing to defend his rebellious trouble-making monk: God had told him ahead of time that his monk was going to topple the pope. But while the movie portrays this as fact, there is reason to think this might just be a popular myth. Also, at the film's conclusion, there is a passing, two or three second shot of a title page illustration from one of Luther's books depicting Christ on the cross, with Luther and John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony kneeling below. I make mention of it, for any who consider this a violation of the Second Commandment. That said, this is a great film for children who don't yet have the attention span for a longer Luther film – it will certainly keep most children engaged, and does give a good overview. Check out the trailer below https://youtu.be/GPTazLGftJ8?t=16s   Martin Luther 1953 / 105 minutes What sort of film is Martin Luther? The sort that gets produced by a church, and yet gets nominated for an Oscar – solid theology paired with high production values. How often has that happened? It does get off to a slow start; the first couple of minutes are more documentary than drama. But when we get introduced to Niall MacGinnis as Luther, his brilliant portrayal sweeps us into the story. We follow along, starting with his tormented time in the monastery, and continue all the way through to his marriage to an ex-nun. MacGinnis captures all the contradictions of the man – even as the Reformer stands before the Diet of Worms strong and defiant he is distraught and trembling. This is certainly among the best Christian films ever made. As a caution I will note that while there is nothing graphic in the film (it is G-rated), some scenes are psychologically intense. I think that would just go over the heads of most children, but for some young sensitive sorts, Luther's spiritual turmoil might be too much. This is a black and white film, which is a mark against it in many minds. But if you're considering showing this to your class or to your family, here's the secret to helping them get into it: make the sound your priority! In a dialogue-driven film it's the sound, much more than the visuals, that really matters. I still remember watching this with my Grade 6 classmates, years ago. The screen was small – minuscule by today's standards – but this big box TV had great speakers. There was no fuzziness, no straining to understand what was being said – we could all follow it. And after 30 minutes or so, we were all hooked. There are quite a number of films about Martin Luther, with at least a half dozen dramas, and more than a dozen documentaries. The best known is probably the 2003 Luther that played in major theaters, and starred Joseph Fiennes (of Shakespeare in Love fame). It is a wonderful film (and in color!) but marred by an instance or two where God's name is taken in vain. As well, it focuses a little more on Luther's external struggles with the powers that be, and a little less on his own internal struggles. That makes for more action, but less of a theological focus – more about Martin, but God somehow fades into the background. So the 1953 Martin Luther is the better educational film. This would be great for a family movie night. I've seen kids as young as 7 enjoy it, though with younger children you're going to want to break it into a few "chunks" so it's spread out over two or three nights. But for those 12 and up, so long as they are "forced" to give it a half hour ("No, you can't check your smartphone while watching this") it will grab them and give them a good understanding of the amazing work God performed through this man. Watch the trailer below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqqplZ-JYQI  ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Swiss Family Robinson

Drama/Adventure 126 min/1960 RATING: 8/10 Based on the classic 1812 Johann Wyss book, Swiss Family Robinson tells the tale of a family of five that gets shipwrecked on a tropical island after being pursued by pirates. Life on a tropical island can be fun, with ostrich and elephant races, but work is involved too. The family has to struggle together to build a treehouse that will keep them safe from the island's tiger. But what will keep them safe from the pirates, who are still looking for them? The big concern in this film would be violence. While most of it is softened (a tiger, rather than maul its victims, sends them flying high into the air) there are intense scenes near the end of the film, as the pirates attack, that would scare young children. There is also a snake attack that may have parents rolling their eyes (the actors seem to be grabbing the boa constrictor, rather than the constrictor grabbing them) but it had my daughters' eyes bugging out. We played some of these scenes with the volume down low, so the dramatic music wouldn't have the same effect. That seemed enough to make the scenes palatable for even our four-year-old. This is a good old-fashioned classic with lots of gallantry on display – it's a great film to teach boys to look out for girls. It's also a good one to get your kids appreciating older films. Some of the acting is a little wooden, but as a family film that's fine – this was never going to win an Oscar, but there is a reason it's still being watched 50 years later. All in all a great film. The trailer below, at 5 minutes long, will give you a good feel for what the film is like though it might give a bit too much away. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

City of Ember

Adventure/Family 95 min/2008 RATING: 7/10 For humanity’s remnant to survive they have to hide deep underground for 200 years in a specially prepared city – the City of Ember. But when 200 years pass no one alive remembers there is another world out there. The only light they know is provided by light bulbs powered by their mighty generator. The bigger problem? The generator is starting to break down. The biggest problem? No one will admit what’s happening. To the rescue comes Doon, and his friend Lina who uncover some long-lost and only partially intact instructions from the city’s original Builders that they need to piece together to save their family before all of Ember’s lights go dark. The film has no language or sexuality concerns at all, but does have a mole the size of Volkswagen whose tentacles are a bit too squirmy for my tastes. The more notable caution would be that God is never mentioned, and His absence in a movie about a coming end to the world is glaring. A post-apocalyptic tale is not your typical family fare, and a story in which the kids are smarter than the adults is all too common fare. So Ember is a film that shouldn’t be treated as simply mindless entertainment – it is entertaining, but it should be discussed. Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at www.ReelConservative.com where longer versions of some of these reviews can be found. ...

Family, Movie Reviews

Condorman

Action/Adventure 90 min/ 1981 RATING: 7/10 When comic book creator Woody Wilkins gets the chance to help out the CIA he jumps at it. But he gets a little too into the role, telling his Russian contact – his beautiful Russian contact – that he is a long-time secret agent with the code name "Condorman." He so impresses the Russian agent that when she later decides to defect she tells the CIA she'll only go if they send their "top agent" Condorman to come pick her up. Woody is willing to help again...but with a few conditions. He'll go, so long as the CIA agrees to give him a few special tools he's dreamed up, that come straight out of his superhero comics! The only cautions are of a minor sort. The beautiful Russian agent wears a rather clingy dress on the DVD cover but that is more risqué than anything in the film. In one scene she changes clothes behind a dressing screen and is shown naked from the shoulders up. There are a lot of fistfights, car chases, and explosions, all of the comic variety, with no blood seen. Younger children, particularly those under 6, may find it too much. This is an action-adventure, romantic comedy, Cold War, spy, superhero parody. If you take it seriously this is dreadful…so don’t. As a parody it is hokey, cheesy, goofy, slapstick fun. ...

Parenting

4 for family movie night

The last decade has seen a big shift in how families watch films. With a screen in every pocket, there's now no need to gather round and watch something together on that big box in the living room. But while there is no need, it is still a lot of fun – sharing the experience makes it even better! A family movie night can also be an educational opportunity for moms and dads to seize. There's a lot of interesting and even important discussions that can be started by a good movie. So break out the popcorn, grab some good snuggly blankets, and gather the whole clan! The suggestions below are organized by "age-appropriateness," starting first with The Peanuts Movie, which is an all-ages film. The last, City of Ember, has some scary moments, so might be for tweens and up, and the other two fall somewhere in between. The Peanuts Movie Animated 88 min/2015 RATING: 8/10 The comicstrip Peanuts was always a little hit and miss for me. I liked Linus and Snoopy and PigPen and Marcie, but found it downright depressing when once again Lucy would get good ol' Charlie Brown to fall for her disappearing football trick. That’s why the film was so much better than expected: it has all of the strip's funny, minus the melancholy. Charlie Brown has his misfortunes, but he also has good friends – including a far more loyal version of Snoopy – to help pick him back up and push him to keep on trying. Cautions are minor, but parents might want to note that Charlie Brown is silly to obsess about a girl he has never even talked to. At one point he offers up what might be a one-line prayer, and if so his “Don’t I deserve a break?” plea shows that Charles is no Calvinist. Highlights include how (SPOILER ALERT) when the often lonely Charles has to choose between popularity and honesty, he doesn’t even hesitate before doing the right thing. This boy is a man of character. Our whole family enjoyed this, from two on up. A Charlie Brown who doesn't have to wait 50 years for a little happiness is a wonderful improvement on the original! Swiss Family Robinson Drama/Adventure 126 min/1960 RATING: 8/10 Based on the classic 1812 Johann Wyss book, Swiss Family Robinson tells the tale of a family of five that gets shipwrecked on a tropical island after being pursued by pirates. Life on a tropical island can be fun, with ostrich and elephant races, but work is involved too. The family has to struggle together to build a treehouse that will keep them safe from the island's tiger. But what will keep them safe from the pirates, who are still looking for them? The big concern in this film would be violence. While most of it is softened (a tiger, rather than maul its victims, sends them flying high into the air) there are intense scenes near the end of the film, as the pirates attack, that would scare young children. There is also a snake attack that may have parents rolling their eyes (the actors seem to be grabbing the boa constrictor, rather than the constrictor grabbing them) but it had my daughters' eyes bugging out. We played some of these scenes with the volume down low, so the dramatic music wouldn't have the same effect. That seemed enough to make the scenes palatable for even our four-year-old. This is a good old-fashioned classic with lots of gallantry on display – it's a great film to teach boys to look out for girls. It's also a good one to get your kids appreciating older films. Some of the acting is a little wooden, but as a family film that's fine – this was never going to win an Oscar, but there is a reason it's still being watched 50 years later. All in all a great film. Condorman Action/Adventure 90 min/ 1981 RATING: 7/10 When comic book creator Woody Wilkins gets the chance to help out the CIA he jumps at it. But he gets a little too into the role, telling his Russian contact – his beautiful Russian contact – that he is a long-time secret agent with the code name "Condorman." He so impresses the Russian agent that when she later decides to defect she tells the CIA she'll only go if they send their "top agent" Condorman to come pick her up. Woody is willing to help again...but with a few conditions. He'll go, so long as the CIA agree to give him a few special tools he's dreamed up, that come straight out of his superhero comics! The only cautions are of a minor sort. The beautiful Russian agent wears a rather clingy dress on the DVD cover but that is more risqué than anything in the film. In one scene she changes clothes behind a dressing screen and is shown naked from the shoulders up. There are a lot of fistfights, car chases, and explosions, all of the comic variety, with no blood seen. Younger children, particularly those under 6, may find it too much. This is an action adventure, romantic comedy, Cold War, spy, superhero parody. If you take it seriously this is dreadful…so don’t. As a parody it is hokey, cheesy, goofy, slapstick fun. City of Ember Adventure/Post-apocalyptic 95 min/2008 RATING: 7/10 For humanity’s remnant to survive they have to hide deep underground for 200 years in a specially prepared city – the City of Ember. But when 200 years pass no one alive remembers there is another world out there. The only light they know is provided by light bulbs powered by their mighty generator. The bigger problem? The generator is starting to break down. The biggest problem? No one will admit what’s happening. To the rescue comes Doon, and his friend Lina who uncover some long-lost and only partially intact instructions from the city’s original Builders that they need to piece together to save their family before all of Ember’s lights go dark. The film has no language or sexuality concerns at all, but does have a mole the size of Volkswagen whose tentacles are a bit too squirmy for my tastes. The more notable caution would be that God is never mentioned, and His absence in a movie about a coming end to the world is glaring. A post-apocalyptic tale is not your typical family fare, and a story in which the kids are smarter than the adults is all too common fare. So Ember is a film that shouldn’t be treated as simply mindless entertainment – it is entertaining, but it should be discussed. Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at www.ReelConservative.com where longer versions of some of these reviews can be found...

Animated, Family, Movie Reviews

The Peanuts Movie

Animated 88 min/2015 RATING: 8/10 The comic strip Peanuts was always a little hit and miss for me. I liked Linus and Snoopy and PigPen and Marcie, but found it downright depressing when once again Lucy would get good ol' Charlie Brown to fall for her disappearing football trick. That’s why the film was so much better than expected: it has all of the strip's funny, minus the melancholy. Charlie Brown has his misfortunes, but he also has good friends – including a far more loyal version of Snoopy – to help pick him back up and push him to keep on trying. Cautions are minor, but parents might want to note that Charlie Brown is silly to obsess about a girl he has never even talked to. At one point he offers up what might be a one-line prayer, and if so his “Don’t I deserve a break?” plea shows that Charles is no Calvinist. Highlights include how (SPOILER ALERT) when the often lonely Charles has to choose between popularity and honesty, he doesn’t even hesitate before doing the right thing. This boy is a man of character. Our whole family enjoyed this, from two on up. A Charlie Brown who doesn't have to wait 50 years for a little happiness is a wonderful improvement on the original! ...