Jeanne and I recently watched a movie on television. It was an Irving Berlin musical from 1942 called “Holiday Inn,” starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. One of the featured songs from that movie is the iconic “White Christmas.”
I think it is good to watch period pieces like this.
They serve as a time capsule filled with social norms and attitudes from an era gone by.
It allows us to see how much things have changed.
For example, we found the “blackface” scene in the movie to be both inappropriate and most uncomfortable to view. Yet, I’m glad it wasn’t edited out.
We also gasped as chrysotile asbestos gently feathered down as “snow” on set. Back then, they had no earthly idea what that could do to a person’s lungs.
It is true that time does change how we view things.
Along those lines, we have a sign over a living room window that says, “Baby it’s cold outside.” We put it up for the late fall and winter months. This is based upon the 1944 song by that title. Jeanne and I sang it while in Texas as part of a fund-raising effort to benefit the local volunteer fire department.
Now, there is a controversy over the song. I find this sad and disappointing.
Some time ago, Moses Lake High School performed the musical “South Pacific.” I understand that initially there were objections to performing this play. It was viewed by some as racist. Thankfully, some folks came forward to teach the truth – that the play, in fact, raises the issue of racism by emphasizing the dangers of “being carefully taught” prejudice.
How far do we take things to make them politically correct? A person could argue that musicals such as “Guys and Dolls,” “Grease” and “Annie Get Your Gun” are sexist, and should be banned.
You know what? I believe that they are sexist when compared to today. Yet, I also believe that they should remain. Why? It is because they beg to be used as a teaching tool to educate people about how far we have come and how far we need to go.
To sweep away such things, to erase them from the eyes of future generations, does a terrible disservice. It takes away opportunities to critically examine our history. We learn a great deal from where we have come.
We should learn from the Jewish people and the Old Testament. They did not burn the books of their ancestors. They did not shy away from self-critique. These God-inspired writings point out some very appalling and embarrassing deficiencies of the past. Yet, they have been preserved, as part of a most-sacred record of their history, with all its blemishes, to benefit future generations.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.