Media and the Christian
I was blessed as a child to be raised by godly parents. We were at the building every time the doors were open. We didn’t go to the beach for vacations because of the immodesty that was featured at most beaches. I wore sweatpants instead of shorts for the basketball team. And we didn’t have cable television.
Cable television for a kid growing up in the church in the 80s was a big “No-No”—at least for my family because it wasn’t regulated. Cable television stations could show anything they wanted to. We were even restricted about what we could watch on major networks. I was never allowed to watch the Dukes of Hazard, Cheers, MASH, Dallas, and a host of other shows deemed inappropriate. The only family endorsed show I truly remember was The Cosby Show—we watched it every Thursday night as a family (news of Bill Cosby’s personal behavior was a shock and disappointment to almost everyone from my generation because of our great memories with the must-see-TV on Thursday night).
The reason for those restrictions was simple. They wanted to protect my mind from consuming the wrong things. They understood that the wrong kind of entertainment would provide the wrong kind of thinking. Simply put, they agreed with Paul:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8, ESV).
My parents operated off of 80s computer term GIGO. If you put garbage in your mind, your mind will then produce a garbage-filled life. It seems the wise man agreed with my parents: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, ESV). The only way to ensure a pure life is to have a pure heart. The only way to have a pure heart is to protect what you put into it.
Fast-forward thirty years and network programming is arguable worse. There is no Cosby Show—or anything remotely close to it. Prime time television today features shows like that promote immorality, recreational drug use, homosexuality, violence, etc. It could be argued that if one is going to have a television in their home, cable is a necessity to ensure there is decent programming through Food Network and ESPN—even then some shows are suspect. Many have cast out their TVs in the spirit of Matthew 5:29–30, solely because of how little programming is suitable for consumption.
We live in a society that constantly bombards us with media that violates our core values. We personally invite this attack on our morality, because Satan has been so effective at crafting subtle seductions. His fiery darts come dressed as Doritos commercials, music lyrics (country, pop, rap, or other), Sitcoms that make us laugh at immorality, video games that train young people to steal cars and pick up prostitutes, etc. And we lack the faith and convictions to extinguish his attacks (Ephesians 6:16).
Our willingness to be exposed to the influence of mainstream media has had a profound impact. It has impacted us as individuals when we tolerate sin or even defend it. It has impacted our families, as we see divorce and adultery have a common place in Christian homes. It has impacted our churches as we have an overall weakening of moral standards. Let’s face it… Christians don’t stand as often or as strong as they once did on moral issues.
A simple clear example is the apparel often displayed in our assemblies. Christians dress with the intent of attracting attention to their bodies, more than they do their godliness (1 Timothy 2:9–10). Why? Because we have been trained by our culture through media and other outlets to believe physical attraction is more important than spiritual attraction.
It is time for Christians to stand up for what is right. The question becomes, how? Keep in a mind a few suggestions for dealing wisely with media:
Quit your stinkin’ thinkin’. Paul said to focus on what was “…true…honorable…just…pure…lovely…commendable…anything worthy of praise…” (Philippians 4:8). Our problem is we tolerate things that are false, shameful, disgusting, ugly, degrading, and worldly in our media. We ignore obscenities, sensuality, violence, etc. because are used to it. We have hardened our hearts and have “stunk up” our minds. It’s time for Christians to memorize Philippians 4:8 and start using it. Apply it to everything. That was Paul’s point. In everything you do and think, use those seven principles to guide you. If a show, movie, or song don’t reinforce those values, then you shouldn’t be listening or watching.
Remember your mission. Our mission is to serve God and make disciples (Matthew 28:18–20). Media doesn’t just erode our morals—it also distracts us from our mission. It gets us off-track. One of the most effective ways Satan has distracted us from learning and sharing the Gospel is through media. Too many Christians know more about Supreme Court rulings, elections, and political controversy than they do the truth. It’s not just the evening Sitcom featuring same-sex couples that is pulling us away from God. It’s FOX News, MSNBC, CNN, etc. It’s the forwarded emails promoting and supporting the divisive issue of the day. It’s the addictive nature of checking our Facebook more often than we open our Bibles. Too often we overlook this dangerous effect of our media-addiction.
Turn off, unplug, disconnect, and throw away if necessary. In the movie Fireproof, the main character, Caleb Holt, unplugs his computer, throws it outside, and destroys it with a sledgehammer. The scene is a literal interpretation of Matthew 5:29–30. Am I suggesting that everyone should take their 60-inch outside and destroy it? Certainly not. The principle of casting off in Matthew 5 is just as easily fulfilled by hitting the power button on your remote as it is by throwing out your TV. But if you struggle to turn off your TV, then perhaps you should disconnect your cable and remove it. It is better to lose your television programming than suffer eternal destruction (v. 30).
John said, “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). Let’s make sure we aren’t inviting the world into our homes and hearts through entertainment. Remember… Garbage In, Garbage Out!