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Autumn 2003 | Volume 26, Number 4 | Letters to The Editor

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.

I’m 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. At the 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, Wash

JUST A COMMENT ON the “Faith and Film” articles, namely “10 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.

However, 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.

I think, 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 them.

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 family.

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 those principles.

—Todd Rendleman, SPU Assistant Professor of Communication

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 Grams”).

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 Lions.”

Representing both Christianity Today and Paste Magazine, 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 care about.

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 minds.

—Jeffrey Overstreet ’94, Shoreline, Wash.

Congratulations to the Winners

SOME THINGS IN LIFE are pretty predictable.
1.The sun will rise in the morning.
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.

—John Fortmeyer ’77, Newberg, Ore.

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 learned.

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.

—Sarah Boyle Webber ’97, Mt. Laurel, N.J.

Familiar Faces in Response

IN 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. Thank you!

—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, Albuquerque, N.M.

A Quality Magazine

I 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, Pasco, Wash.

What Do You Think? Dont be shy!

Wed like to hear your opinion about Response or any articles printed in the publication. To tell us what you think, send email to, or visit You may also write Editor, Response, Seattle Pacific University, 3307 Third Avenue West, Suite 116, Seattle, Washington 981191922. Letters must be signed and will be printed as space permits.