(Samuel Milton Vernon, "Amusements in the Light of Reason, History, and Revelation" 1882)
We find that as matter of fact, the good and the holy of all times have pronounced the theater to be disgraceful.
We can trace the theater to a definite beginning in the feasts of Bacchus, five hundred years before Christ; from which time, hand in hand with the wine-god, its first lover and life-long companion — it has journeyed through the world, spreading demoralization and desolation on every hand. We consider it to be the devil's most successful scheme for destroying the morals of the culture.
The theater, the saloon, and the brothel are the three confederate tempting devils of civilization, seeking to despoil the flower of humanity.
The theater insinuates lust, murder, theft, hypocrisy, and profligacy upon overworked and sensitive minds, under the name of amusement and recreation. It inoculates our fairest sons and daughters with the most deadly poisons — corrupting personal purity, destroying domestic happiness, and dishonoring the sanctuary of home — under the guise of entertainment. It has proven to be "a school of vice and the home of debauchery" under the name of recreation. It is . . .
black with the curses of the souls it has ruined,
infamous for the social impurities it has nursed into life, and
abhorred by everyone who studies its work of degradation and destruction.
We are now to examine the character of this ancient institution, whose whitened locks, as it stands before us clad in the robes of its own history, might awaken our veneration were it not for . . .
the blood-spots on its hands,
the demon leer in its eye, and
the foul odors from its filthy clothing proclaiming it one of the vile monsters that still lingers on the earth, because mankind have not had virtue enough to exterminate it!
From the days of Athens until now, the wise and good have not ceased to bewail the demoralizing effects of the theater. Throughout history, Christian people have always been at war against "Satan's chapel" — the theater.
Plato says: "The diversions of the theater are dangerous to the temper and sobriety of mind. They rouse the feelings of passion and sensual desire too much. Tragedy is prone to render men unfeeling — and comedy makes them buffoons. Thus those passions are cherished which ought to be checked, virtue loses ground, and reason becomes uncertain."
Aristotle says: "The law ought to forbid young people the seeing of comedies until they are proof against debauchery."
Solon, the wisest of the Greeks, and their lawgiver, forbade "theatrical exhibitions as pernicious to the popular mind."
Cicero says: "The theater exists on lewdness!"
Seneca, the great heathen moralist, says: "Nothing is so injurious to good morals as theaters, for then vice makes an insensible approach and steals upon us in the disguise of pleasure."
Mr. Wilberforce, known and honored wherever freedom unfurls her banner, affirms, "The debauchee, the sensualist, the profane, have ever found in the theater, their chosen resort for enjoyment." He asks: "How can a virtuous mind seek pleasure in such a place, amid such companions, and from such persons as the actors and actresses are generally known to be?"
Pollok says: "The theater was from the very first, the favorite haunt of sin; though honest men maintained that it might be turned to good account. And so, perhaps, it might — but never was. From first to last it was an evil place; and now such things are acted there as make the demons blush!"
In 1778 Congress passed a law providing for "the dismissal of any officer of the United States who was found in attendance upon a theater."
Soon after the declaration of independence, the following resolution was adopted by Congress: "Whereas, true religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness:
Resolved, That it be and is hereby earnestly recommended to the several States to take the most effective measures for the suppression of theatrical entertainments, horse-racing, gambling, and such other diversions as are productive of idleness, dissipation, and a general depravity of principles and manners."
Augustine calls the theater, "a cage of immorality and a public school of debauchery!"
Tillotson, speaking of the conduct of certain parents, says, "They are such monsters, I had almost said devils — as not to know how to give their children good things. Instead of bringing them to God's Church, they bring them to the devil's chapels, playhouses, places of debauchery, those schools of lewdness and vice."
If we may accept the testimony of those most to be trusted, the theater grows worse, rather than better, as it grows older — a strong indication that its character is essentially bad.
To consent to look upon vice without a protest against it, is the first step to moral degeneracy.