I use to have a salt water aquarium. It was, to say the least, a pain. You had to be extremely particular in keeping it maintained. If the salinity, temperature, or chemical balance of the water was off just slightly it would kill the inhabitants. Whenever new fish or crustaceans were to be introduced into the tank, you had to place the news creatures into a bucket of their previous water, hook a hose up to the aquarium, siphon the water into the bucket, and let it drip very slowly for hours and hours. The new fish or crustaceans couldn’t be placed into the new environment directly because it would shock their systems and they would die. Instead, they had to be introduced to the new environment gradually, one drop at a time.
This has been Satan’s great strategy in the lives of Christians when it comes to the media content we consume from our culture. Satan has done well not to “shock the system”. Instead he has slowly desensitized us by a steady drip, drip, drip. Christians consume media that is full of expletives and moral corruption on a daily basis. Do we not? I know I have. It is incredibly easy to ingest the environmental toxins that culture spoon feeds us.
What sort of movies and television do you watch? What kind of music snakes through your headphones, out of your ear buds, into your ears and registers in your brain? What kind of websites do you visit? What books do you read? What magazines do you thumb through?
My question for us as Christians is, are we keeping our identity as Christians in a pagan culture? Are we living a lifestyle that is set apart? I am not advocating a “bury our head in the sand” mentality or a “escape and isolate from the culture” agenda. I am simply asking, are we monitoring what we consume and paying attention to how media affects us.
Eugene Patterson paraphrases Romans 12:2 in the Message like this: Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
When it comes to the movies we watch, we Christians are an interesting lot. Sometimes we make movie recommendations and say, “Yea, it just had a couple of words” when in actuality it had hundreds. Have we become that desensitized to profanity?
I also love the disclaimer that we often use. “It was a great movie, but it did have some language in it. I just hate that they feel the need to put that stuff in there.” As long as you give that disclaimer when recommending a movie, well then, you have your bases covered. Again, I am not saying we shouldn’t watch movies that have profanity. I am saying there needs to be some serious discernment when it comes to the content that we let our minds absorb.
What about movies with nudity, sexual innuendoes, suggestive themes, crude jokes, and the devaluing of sexuality? I am surprised sometimes at what we as Christians will consume.
What about our music? Should we just listen to Christian music? No, I can’t make a case for that. It turns into a legalistic line in the sand, but I can make a case for discernment. What about our magazines? Can Christians peruse the newsstands and flip through an issue of Cosmo or Maxim without being affected? I will let you be the judge of that.
One of our favorite rationalizations as Christians is, “Well, it just has a little bad content. It isn’t much. It’s no big deal.” So, if I drop one F-Bomb in the middle of a sermon, will you be alright with that? Oh yea, I get it. Sure, church is a place where we worship God. It needs to be free of worldly contaminants. I agree with that. What about us, though? Do we need to be free of worldly contaminants? Can we open up our hearts to be filled with God when we have just finished seeing moral debauchery carried out through the story on a screen?
In I Corinthians, Paul writes, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.”
Generally, in scripture leaven or yeast refers to sin. The amount is really irrelevant. It only takes a little lump of leaven to effect the whole loaf of bread. It only takes a tiny amount of explicit media to change our thoughts for the day, or even longer.
So what do we do as Christians? Am I telling you to stop watching your favorite show? Not necessarily. I am saying that we need to evaluate what we are being fed and actively consuming by our culture. What effect is it having on us? This is a call for discernment.
This topic has tremendous apologetic value to us as believers. We don’t need to become segregated people that live in a bubble. We need to know where society is at and what ideas are being promoted. The arts and media are generally where these ideas are played out to the public at large. We need not become irrelevant. Also, as believers, we desire to enjoy the arts and media, and there is nothing wrong with that. We just need to do so with a discerning eye and a strong awareness.
I am not saying we should draw a hard, fixed line in the sand either. “Well, I will only watch PG or PG-13 movies.” I have seen R rated movies that are relatively clean and thought provoking and PG movies that I had to shut off. Let’s not lean toward legalism or try shut out the world. Again, let’s just be cognizant of what we are consuming and use discernment. Let’s not lie to ourselves and say that what we inhale from the many forms of consumable media does not affect us.
The famous preacher and theologian, John Wesley, once asked his mother as a young boy, “Mother can you give me a definition for sin?” Listen to her response.
“Whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things. In short, if anything increases the authority and the power of the flesh over the spirit, that to you becomes sin, however good it is in itself.”
Can we keep this in mind as we take in movies, music, television, video games, websites, books, magazines, social media, etc? Can we ask ourselves if we are being entertained by sin? Can we analyze to see how what we see and hear effects us morally, emotionally, and spiritually? Will we be sensitive enough to notice if we are steadily becoming desensitized? Will we pay attention to the tenderness of our conscience?
We must stand out. We must live a life that is different from our culture. We have to swim against the strong cultural currents. We must continue to be informed. We have to stay relevant. It is alright to have fun, but we must remember, that a tiny lump of leaven will affect our entire loaf.
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. -Philippians 4:8
So, what are your thoughts? This is an area I would love to have as many people as possible weigh in on because I feel this is a difficult area for us as Christians to find firm footing. How do you discern what you watch and listen to?
Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed
P.S. Ten points to anyone who “gets” the obscure reference in the title!