Letters to the Editor
I’m an alum from the class of 1990 and just read your article/interview
on “Faith and Film” [in the Summer 2003 Response]. I was
very pleased with the Christian perspective that was presented. As a
student at SPU, I never felt I was on the same page as a lot of my contemporaries.
I graduated with a B.A. in clothing and textiles, but for the last three
years have been pursuing a career as an actor. I’ve never felt
led to practice my art in any Christian circle, even when I worked in
the fashion industry. We are called to be in the world, not of it, as
your interviewees’ message portrayed. It is in the world that
we see our humanity most visibly and sometimes frighteningly, but it
is there and only there that we will grow and effect change.
finally proud to say I’m an alum of Seattle Pacific University.
One of the primary reasons I attended was because of the liaison my
program had with the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.
time it seemed very forward for a Christian university and now, with
SPU’s involvement with LAFSC [the Los Angeles Film Studies Center],
you are continuing the same thinking, and I assume it has also brought
some non-Christians to the University as my program did when I attended.
It is with great encouragement that I will continue my acting and pride
that I now see my niece (who is very dear to me) begin her tenure as
a student at SPU this fall.
—Tina Wheeler Borders ’90, Poulsbo,
JUST A COMMENT ON the “Faith and Film” articles,
Favorite Films” by Todd Rendleman. First of all, I must confess
I am from that generation when movies were forbidden to Christians,
although we did get to see a few Shirley Temple films. In retrospect,
I realize the films of that day (1940s and ’50s) were very censored,
good entertainment, and I enjoy watching the movies of that era on videos.
I believe in today’s world, Hollywood has a real agenda of desensitizing
our youth (as well as adults) by the graphic images displayed on the
screen. For example, the last movie on Todd Rendleman’s list, “Working
Girl,” while having a great story line, has one scene where Melanie
Griffth walks in on her fiancée [having sex with another woman]. … I
watched this video with family members and felt actually saddened that
they could enjoy this level of Hollywood entertainment.
On a recent airplane
trip, I sat next to a Christian attorney, and the movie subject came
up. He told me he had a friend who wanted to organize a company to “clean
up” movies to make them acceptable to “people of faith.” He
said Hollywood is blocking his efforts. To me, it sounds like such
a good idea — there are a lot of movies out there that have maybe
one or two scenes making them unsuitable to watch as a family.
even as Christians, we have become so desensitized to “sex” — both
in Hollywood and on our own TV screens, that nothing shocks anymore,
and while I am not of the group that banished televisions from their
homes, I must say I respect their decisions. I don’t know what
the answer is, and there is probably not a pat answer that would suit
every family. If there were an agency powerful enough to do censored
videos, it would be a blessing.
—LaVelle Partlow, Irrigon, Ore.
Editor’s Note: LaVelle Partlow
raised some thoughtful questions that are a natural extension of the
discussion of “Faith
and Film” begun
in the Summer 2003 Response. I have asked Assistant Professor of Communication
Todd Rendleman to join the conversation again to discuss his choice
of “Working Girl” as a favorite film.
AS MENTIONED IN THE Response interview,
the sexual content in movies is a sensitive area, and few agree on precise
standards regarding what is appropriate for a movie to explore. In terms
of “Working Girl” (1988), I
think it’s a classic for many reasons: the crisp, witty dialogue;
great actors performing with real chemistry and zest; Mike Nichols’ confident,
brisk direction; the parallels between Tess McGill moving up in the
business world and Melanie Griffith finally getting a role deserving
of her talents; and, of course, Carly Simon’s fearless
voice singing “Let the River Run.” What I’m suggesting
is that I judge movies on a wide range of criteria, and I don’t
necessarily discount a movie because it is rated R or depicts nudity
or violence. I try to approach movies on their own terms, with discernment
and perspective that considers all of the various elements at work in
As you point out, there is sexuality in “Working Girl,” as
its title hints, and I understand your apprehension. The sheer
amount of sex in many American movies indicates both a failure of the
imagination and a culture that is off its moorings. These issues
can and should be concerns of people of faith. And if the sexuality
in this movie spoils its considerable charms, I’d encourage you
to turn off the videocassette and talk about your standards with your
We live in a society that encourages the practice of individual
and creative expression, and our own life experiences and values shape
our evaluative standards. Consequently, not everyone shares the same
points of view or enjoys the same films. In the face of these realities,
God is at work in our decisions to engage art — or not — and
the resulting experiences. The answer to your concerns, I believe,
isn’t to ask our filmmakers to release edited versions of their
movies. The answer is for people of faith to develop discernment — to
come to terms with what they will or will not engage and to live by
—Todd Rendleman, SPU Assistant Professor
YOU HAVE MY GRATITUDE for giving me the privilege to join the esteemed
Mr. Medved and the insightful Mr. Rendleman in last issue’s interview
about issues of faith and filmmaking. You covered a lot of ground
in just a few pages. It felt like the beginning of a conversation that
could go on for several issues, if there weren’t so many other
subjects to cover!
A quick update: It has been a strange year at the
movies, a season of comic books (“Hulk,” “American
Splendor”), Christian characters (“Luther,” “Fighting
Temptations,” “Hangman’s Curse,” “Bonhoeffer”)
and soul-searching grief (“Mystic River,” “21
And yet there have been signs of life in such poetic
and profound works as “Lost in Translation,” “The
Son,” “In This World” and“Dirty Pretty Things.” Families
have had the chance to enjoy some rewarding works as well:“Whale
Rider,” “Finding Nemo,” “Holes” and, recently, “Secondhand
Representing both Christianity Today and Paste
I had the privilege of joining other film critics in Los Angeles for
a preview of “Secondhand Lions” (a noble attempt, but not
a great work) in August. After it screened, we talked to its stars:
Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and 15-year-old Haley Joel Osment. I was
impressed by what seemed a contradiction to the generalizations I hear
about Hollywood’s elite. The interviews with Duvall, Caine
and Osment revealed maturity and conscience in people who are part of
an industry many Christians write off as merely superficial, materialistic
and, a few would say, even conspiratorial against things that Christians
But then I am also seeing the other side of the coin. Hollywood
studios are learning that a lot of Christians do go to movies and represent
a sizable piece of box office potential. The studios have begun
marketing mainstream films to Christians, trying to present them in
ways that make them look attractive to churchgoers. Yet, as in the case
of the recent musical comedy “The Fighting Temptations,” these
films may be mockeries of true faith.
This only highlights
all the more why Christians need to be active in the arts, developing
their skills, living as examples, learning to portray the world with
honesty and excellence. We need stories that illustrate the truth in
ways that compel, challenge and inspire audiences. It’s possible.
From the recent “Lord of the Rings” films to lesser-known “Stevie” — an
enthralling, heartbreaking documentary that is the best DVD I’ve
rented all year — there are stories out there that can stir up
life-changing contemplation and conversation.
Thank you for
devoting some space to this cause in your last issue. And God bless
SPU for providing a context in which tomorrow’s great actors,
storytellers and yes, celebrities, can cultivate larger hearts and sharper
—Jeffrey Overstreet ’94, Shoreline, Wash.
Congratulations to the Winners
THINGS IN LIFE are pretty predictable.
1.The sun will rise in
2. The IRS will send us our tax bill.
3. Dr. Ed Smyth
will bless many lives, especially at Seattle Pacific.
And it is the
latter that prompts me to be NOT at all surprised to read, in the summer
issue of Response, that Ed was named the 2003 Professor of the Year
at my alma mater.
Congrats to Ed!
I am delighted. When I heard back
in 2000 that Ed was returning to the classroom, I knew that the warmth,
enthusiasm and Christ-centered integrity that he showed me as a student
26 years ago would be communicated to a new generation of students.
When it comes to Dr. Smyth, that was an easy prediction to make.
Fortmeyer ’77, Newberg, Ore.
WHEN I READ THAT Luke Reinsma had
recently received the President’s Award for Faculty Excellence,
I was pleased but hardly surprised. I graduated in the class of 1997,
and was privileged to take one of Dr. Reinsma’s classes in each
of my four years. Being a student of his meant accepting the incredibly
challenging syllabus he laid out each time, but what I appreciated
most was how he would ask for the best I could offer (in an essay,
discussion or exam) and, in his review of that work, ask me to reach
even higher for a better understanding and elucidation of what I had
As an English major at SPU, I was mentored by many members
of the faculty, for which I am still grateful, but six years after graduation,
Dr. Reinsma is still one of the only professors I am in contact with.
I have made my home in New Jersey for the past five years, and on my
infrequent visits to Seattle, his is still the face I look for first.
In my life, he has said many things that mattered, and I consider it
a great benefit for SPU that he continues to do so for future students.
Boyle Webber ’97, Mt. Laurel, N.J.
Familiar Faces in Response
1957, I FOUND MYSELF living with Roald Amundsen and his family
in Nome, Alaska. I went to Nome to have my tonsils removed and ended
up living with them until the end of the school year. Roald was a regular
visitor to our home in Unalakleet, and I wanted to be a pilot and a
radio wizard just like him when I grew up. Six years later I found myself
at SPU in Dick Wood’s first calculus class: 8:00 a.m. every morning
for three quarters. ... The next year Bob Hughson tried to
teach me some electronics. I found the mysteries of tank circuits too
deep and decided that a degree in math was more attainable. It was great
to see all three of these great people featured in Response.
—Mel White ’67, Sequim, Wash.
I THINK YOUR NEW FORMAT is terrific and read
every issue from cover to cover. Even as a 1939 grad, I find much of
interest in each issue. I sang with Roald Amundsen ’41
in the Victory Quartet 1937–1939. Thanks so much for the
update on his life. I am particularly interested in what your faculty
have done and what they are now doing.
—Paul Zickefoose ’39,
AM VERY IMPRESSED by the articles
and format of the Response magazine of Summer 2003, which I
have just read. It has all the qualities of an outstanding professional
magazine. The editor and others responsible deserve accolades and commendations.
... I also enjoyed the Web site, which I viewed for the first time
recently. Best wishes for continued success.
—Burt Stack ’56,
What Do You Think? Don’t be shy!
We’d like to hear your opinion about Response or any articles
printed in the publication. To tell us what you think, send email to
firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit
www.spu.edu/response. You may also write Editor, Response,
Seattle Pacific University, 3307 Third Avenue West, Suite 116, Seattle, Washington
98119–1922. Letters must be signed and will be printed as space