Liberal Doses of Conservative Confusion

By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©1999
Ok, what does the term “conservative” mean? How does it apply to what Dr. Baehr does in his publication called MOVIEGUIDE? Is it a “dirty word”? Or could what he does best be described as “liberalism”? In this article Dr. Baehr explains the traditional definition of these two terms, and where he stands on each.



We seem to be living in an age of distrust. Although this is a consequence of the breakdown of morality, it exhibits some wisdom since God’s Word tells us to trust no man and trust only in the Lord. Of course, then the question is, do we trust in the Lord?

The other day I was surprised when someone asked how “conservative” MOVIEGUIDE® is. I responded that I always thought we were more conservative than other Christian review services.

However, by more conservative, I mean that we analyze movies from a biblical Chris­tian perspective. Some family review services give their seal of approval to any movie that does not have sex, violence, nudity, or profanity. These are good criteria, and this ap­proach seems like a logical thing to do, but, over the years, we have seen that the majority of these G-rated and PG-rated movies contain other, less obvious, but no less problematic, offensive elements. By this I mean such things as New Age elements or spiritism, which are not only antithetical to God’s Word written, but corrosive to the spiritual and moral development of our youth. In fact, quite often we have given these G-rated movies a “minus 4” or “evil” acceptability rating because we find them to be abhorrent to a Christian worldview. For instance, the Dove Foundation gave their Dove Seal to the Walt Disney movie Mulan, to which we gave a “minus 4” for spiritism, occultism and other biblically objectionable content.

At the same time, another group of so-called family review services appear to read moral messages into movies that are full of sex, violence, nudity, and profanity. We believe quite strongly that we should not rationalize our desire for entertainment by reading mes­sages into a movie, but rather that we should interpret the movie according to Christian, biblical principles. Thus, MOVIEGUIDE® reviewers ask: Who is the hero? Is he a redemp­tive hero? What is the story’s premise? How does it compare with a biblical premise? Who is the villain? And so forth, for the 24 specific criteria that we use to examine entertainment.

Perhaps the word “conservative” is the problem. We are certainly both Christian and conservative, in a very old fashioned sense.

I sit on the Steering Committee of the Theological Summit Conference, where we debate theology and uphold the creedal Christian faith. After one of our debates, a well-known theologian said that I should be doing theology full time. I said that I am–I am doing theology for teenagers and parents in MOVIEGUIDE®.

Furthermore, in a real sense, Christianity is not only conservative, it is liberal, liberat­ing, compassionate, and loving–and Christians are called to conserve that very truth. To­day, the word “liberal” usually stands for “big government,” which is a code word for Na­tional Socialism, an ideology that Americans repudiated in Germany, Italy and Spain during World War II.

Traditionally, however, liberalism means freedom–freedom to own property, freedom to move and travel without restrictions and freedom to realize that the government is subject to the will of the people, under the ultimate authority of God, not the people subject to the will of the government. Traditionally, also, the word “conservative” means preserving the constitutional government that allows us to live in a liberal society. Today, regrettably, conservative often is a synonym for moralism, Victorianism and legalism.

Thus, the words liberal and conservative have been corrupted. In their corrupt form, neither applies to what we do, because first and foremost we at MOVIEGUIDE® are Chris­tians involved in cultural apologetics seeking to equip other Christians so that they can take every thought captive for Jesus Christ in a culture that is becoming increasingly frag­mented, polarized and sinful.

Perhaps we, as Christians, should be proud, satisfied and challenged enough just to call ourselves mere Christians in a world overcome by confusing labels and anti-Christian bigotry. Nothing is more inspiring than putting Jesus Christ at the head of all our efforts. For He is the cornerstone of our faith, the Word incarnate who enlightens every man.

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