Adventists and visual media

Lynelle Ellis gains her doctor of philosophy degree in communication from Regent University

On March 22, 2019, Lynelle Ellis, associate professor of communication, gained her doctor of philosophy degree in communication from Regent University.  After months of scrutinizing all the articles, published by the Seventh-day Adventist church, on the church’s stance on visual media, Ellis gave a successful defense of her dissertation, “Seventh-day Adventists and the movies: An historical and contemporary look at the conflict between Christianity and visual media.”  

In her dissertation, Ellis divides her findings into a historical study and a study of current viewpoints. The first focuses on all published work by the Adventist church on the topic of visual media, and the second is composed of data from 36 interviews with individuals of varying ages, backgrounds, and ranges of perspectives. These interviews highlighted the challenging and complicated relationship that Adventists experience with visual media.

Ellis chose to study this topic in order to find answers for her own questions, especially concerning Adventist heritage and media. She was particularly searching for the history of the phrase, “Your angel will not go into the theater with you.” This was compelling, because the same media can be seen other places than the theater, and Ellis hypothesized that the original remark wasn’t made about the building, but rather about the effect of media on the mind. She found in her research that much of the stigma surrounding the theater stemmed from the ideas of Frances M. Wilcox, editor of The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald  from 1911-1944.

Ellis believes that Adventist have far to go in becoming responsible media consumers as Christians. She is concerned with the level of media literacy Adventists have as a church and how little understood are the effects of visual and auditory messages.  She believes that media is important and that by avoiding “visual media altogether, as was advocated in the past, we also miss an opportunity to tell stories that are important and worth telling.”

“I hope my findings will help current Adventists to think more carefully about their use of media. I'm hoping it will challenge deeper thought and better discernment related to visual media. Rather than black and white rules--which we’ve thrown out anyway, we need principles and guidelines that help us make good decisions that lead to a closer walk with God and better relationships with others.” Ellis remarks that “Visual media is a powerful and effective art form that will influence society in a way that makes the world a better place--as well as sharing deep truths about God and his character, that will make a difference for eternity.”

Posted May 28, 2019


Portrait photo of Lynelle Ellis wearing a suit jacket and red shirt.
In her dissertation, Ellis studied the historical context and the current relation of Adventists and visual media.