The Conviction of Innocence

Postman argues that the hallmark of childhood is innocence, which is endangered by too-early corruption by uncontrolled exposure to adult information. A distinction needs to be drawn between information that is untimely – good information that will be presented later as the circumstances warrant – and behaviors that are sinful. Innocence and corruption are not opposites, they are conditions. The innocence of children shames and convicts us – and that is why some want their corruption as soon as possible.

When people watch films about children they are being subtly shaped to accept certain behaviors between adults and kids. As rhetorical critic Rod Hart notes, people are most easily persuaded when they are having a good time. Movies designed to get audiences to laugh at vulgar coaches and profane children should bother us. They represent an attack on innocence. Even if we find a ring of truth in the depiction – we all know vulgar adults and profane kids – our response should be sadness rather than laughter.

Conversely, when films depict childhood as a time to be nourished and protected, we can applaud the effort even if our own childhoods fell short of that mark. At the very least such films can inspire people to be better parents, or grandparents, to their own children. Why should the lowest conceivable denominator be the standard we embrace? Give me a hundred "Winn-Dixies" any day, and spare me the "Bears."

Marc T. Newman, PhD ( is the president of – an organization that provides sermon and teaching illustrations from popular film, and helps the Church use movies to reach out to others and connect with people.

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