Friday, April 28, 2006

TV Talk

This week's lineup on Boundless includes an article by Josh Harris of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl and Not Even a Hint fame.

In it he talks about the dangers of absorbing pop culture and the biblical warnings against it. Because so much of our media looks not only harmless but good, he reasons, it's easy to fall into the sin it promotes. His reasoning is solid.

"The greatest danger of the popular media is not a one-time exposure to a particular instance of sin (as serious as that can be)," he writes. "It's how long-term exposure to worldliness — little chunks of poison pill, day after day, week after week — can deaden our hearts to the ugliness of sin."

The more books for singles I read (authors like Camerin Courtney, Connally Gilliam and secular author Jillian Straus come to mind), the more I'm convinced that popular entertainment is what's shaping single women's attitudes about men, courtship, marriage and family. References to Friends and Sex in the City abound in recently published books. The top rated shows of yesterday and today all paint a dim picture of marriage and family. The best sex, according to them, is single sex. As Straus says, "there's hot sex, romantic sex and married sex." Once you get married on these shows, that's when the fun stops; unless of course you cheat on your husband.

But it's not true. Straus goes on to quote studies that show married sex is actually the best; married people report the most sexual satisfaction. Still, we tend to believe what we see on TV.

The Christian authors talk about singleness being more holy than marriage — they talk about having a Godly view on their status — but their thinking, on display in their writing, bears witness to the influence of television more than the verses they quote. As Harris says in the Boundless article, "Too many of us sow to the flesh every day — watching hours of TV but spending 15 minutes in devotions — and wonder why we don't reap a harvest of holiness."

And this influence isn't limited to published authors. For example, I often view the blogs of people who comment on my blog. In their profiles they say things that identify them as believers. One caught my attention when under "favorite movies" Pride and Prejudice appeared right next to Bridget Jones' Diary. Even my Barnes and Noble copy of Pride and Prejudice talks about what a bastardization of P&P Bridget Jones is; full of profanity and promiscuity and utterly foolish situations that Elizabeth Bennett never would have abided.

Still, Christian women go on loving pop culture, unaware of or unwilling to shield themselves from the lies that interfere with biblical thinking. Even Debbie Maken referenced Sex and the City in a way that made me wonder if she's a fan of the show. As much as I love her book and think it's the best one on the market for singles who want to be married, I think it's time we all take a hard look at what influences our thinking, and by default, our actions. Harris' article is a good place to start.

"Following Christ carries radical implications for the believer's lifestyle," he reminds us. "If we would honor God in this area, we need to regularly re-evaluate our media habits."

You cannot uncritically inhale the cultural air and still expect to exhale biblical virtue.

Entertainment has everything to do with our ability to live out our faith.


At 3:39 PM, Blogger Ashleigh said...

Great insights, Candice!

I've been doing a lot of thinking about these topics lately (having a degree in Film and Television probably influences why I'm so interested in how the media affects us), especially how they pertain to women and our views on love, marriage, sex, etc.

I've actually been working on a manuscript (in between changing diapers, watching PlayHouse Disney, and playing dolls) about chick flicks and how they influence our emotions and therefore our thinking, perspective, and ultimately decisions.

Anyway, great post!

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Mike Theemling said...

Now there's an interesting question: At what point does the "watching" become "condoning"? And at what point does "watching" become "corruption"?

First, from a Biblical perspective, Jesus said the eye is the lamp of the body. Whatever you see, whether light or dark, will fill the entire body.

So definitely we need to keep an eye on what we watch. The problem is there are very few things in this world which are 100% light. Many visuals (whether fiction or non-fiction) are a mix of the good and bad. Take for example the movie Braveheart (one of my favorite films by the way). On the one hand it seems to exonhorate some very bad behavior (extra marital sex, taking personal vengence, etc) but the overall themes are noble: There are some things which are worth dying for, there is more to life than life itself ("Every man dies, not every man really lives"), etc. Even the brutal battle scenes do not glorifying violence. It is merely showing the reality and costs for causes such as freedom.

Therefore, regarding mainstream entertainment (television, movies, books, etc) there are 2 alternatives I see to control the negative influence: Avoid it completely or engage with discrenment. As much as I'd like to see the former practiced more, I doubt you could convince all Christians in this country to live like the Amish. This isolationist attitude will also produce a very nasty side-effect: We will be like a light that is held under a bowl.

John wrote in his first letter that we need to not love the world or anything in it, but he also recorded in his Gospel that Jesus prayed we not be taken out of the world but be protected from the evil one (John 17:15). Of course, this doesn't mean we consciously walk into temptation or things which we know can harm us. But it does confirm that we live in the middle of a spiritual battlefield.

Now the $50 question: What does "engaging with discernment" look like? I think Mr. Harris presents a good list and would agree that better to err on the side of caution. In addition, becoming full of the Spirit isn't just avoid the bad but taking in the good.

And what about those shows which have a mixed message? Sadly, I have no definitive answer. What one Christian in a culture calls sin another may not. Perhaps all I can say is that such discrenment is a mix of input from godly friends/family, what the Bible says, and the Holy Spirit.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Excellent post! I'll probably post a link for it on my blog, if you don't mind...

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Elena said...

Yes, I admit it. I am the reader who put Bridget Jones's Diary in front of Pride and Prejudice on her list of movies on her Blogger profile. The order of the list means nothing, but I do realize that including such a movie has ramifications.

I ask myself, Am I more concerned with what God thinks about my watching this movie; or am I more concerned about what Candice and other Christians who come across my blog, will think of me? Ouch. There He goes steppin' on my toes again. (Ever notice how God gets stricter and stricter on us—for our own good and for His glory, of course—the longer we are Christians?)

I thought about what I liked best about BJD, and the list is really short—Bridget is a goofy, curvy girl whose clutziness and "verbal diahrrea" don't prevent her from landing the man of her dreams. It held out hope for me (a curvy gal whose clutziness, goofiness, and speaking-before-thinking often make her seem utterly ridiculous), and I can see that I was looking for hope in the wrong place.

I grew up reading fairy tales, watching Disney's versions of fairy tales, and reading fiction—romances were my milk and bread. Yes, I read Bible storybooks and went to Sunday School too; but those other books and stories held a dearer place in my heart. Even now, I'm more likely to look forward to a fiction book than Bible reading. That's not a lovely thing to realize about oneself (for the umpteenth time).

I'm not saying I'm going to pull a Fahrenheit 451 and burn all my books, but that Joshua Harris quote in Candice's post is a good point: "Too many of us sow to the flesh every day — watching hours of TV but spending 15 minutes in devotions — and wonder why we don't reap a harvest of holiness." If I replaced all that time spent on movies, TV, and other books with time with God in prayer, Bible reading, and Bible study, I'd discover that the holiness and goodness of God isn't bland but alive, vibrant, beautiful.

Too often we allow ourselves to be enamoured of the world's shimmery that doesn't satisfy or nourish. It lingers only for a moment, and then it's gone, leaving a bigger hole than was there before. The beauty of the things of God is's better (so I know from Scripture)...and it's long-lasting. Too long we've bought the lie that God's love will be just nice...OK...nothing thrilling...but at least it'll be right.

Oh, Father, make what we once were enamoured with be bile in our stomachs. Make it hateful to our eyes and ears. Show us Your beauty. Let us hear Your song. Send us a message from that far-off country...and call us back homeward, to You.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Debbie Maken said...

This is Debbie Maken, and I would like to briefly explain my Sex and the City references. I do not watch that show, I do not approve of that show, and I think it is sad and disgusting. However, during the course of my research for the book, there were a couple of episodes I looked at from a critical point of view. I even watched a few movies, like Wedding Crashers, (something I would never recommend anyone ingest), because of Medved's comments that the movie informed young men that it was perfectly okay to prey upon the innate desire of young women to marry. Sometimes, I view these things to help me get a grasp on what exactly is going on "out there." Both of my references to Sex and the City drew upon comments of dissatisfaction from an endless cycle of dating. I was merely trying to make the point that the system we now have in place will fail women, whether they were wild or remained pure, and will often leave them hopelessly single. That is all I wanted my reader to take away from the references.

There was also a second motivation for me to mention that show in the book. There is a lot of pressure on Christian authors, especially those who submit somewhat academic and didactic manuscripts, to make themselves "relevant" and "accessible." In order to demonstrate to today's readers that I was "hip" and "with the times," could I have perhaps referenced "The Simpsons" as a show which has some great insights into extended singleness? Yes. But then someone else might have taken issue with me on that and thought that I was a fan of weakened father figures. There's no way for me to win here.

I hope that helps answer why I did what I did. I apologize for any confusion my references created or the possible inference that I was a fan or endorsed that kind of media programming. I agree with Candice that Christians should keep their eyes pure and think about what is pure and good and trustworthy.


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