Saturday, April 13, 2013

For Our Viewing Pleasure?

by Jerry Sheppard (Soul Reach)

"I will set no worthless thing before my eyes"
(Psalm 101:3, NASB)

For the past while now, I have been thinking a bit on how I use my time, especially in the area of entertainment such as the amount of time I spend watching TV and listening to music. It is to the point that I find the amount of time I spend doing these things has affected my time in getting things that matter done. I waste far too much time on such entertainments as TV and music, when I could be using my time doing more productive things. My old acquaintance, Sakurah had written a very interesting article that deals with TV entertainment. What's even more interesting is the fact that she is not even a Christian and yet she has come to the realization of how TV wastes precious time that could be spent doing better things. She wrote the following:
“Lately I've been associating TV with laziness and just general negativity. I feel like it creates temporary fake happiness and even feelings of accomplishment to viewers because they are living through the characters they are watching. It draws you in and enables you to forget everything in your life and in reality. Finally you 'come to' and realize you just spent hours of your of your life sitting/lying on the couch doing nothing but looking straight ahead. This is not living life, is it? All of the experiences you felt you had by watching that TV screen aren't yours. You watched some one else fall in love, your watched someone else go on an amazing adventure, you watched someone else's facial expression when a bright orange fall leaf brushed past their cheek. Look at all the amazing experiences we could've had in only a couple hours in our lives that would be truly ours. Our own memories to look back on and enjoy. You could've had an enlightening conversation with some interesting person at your local coffee shop. You could've felt a rain drop fall slowly down over your face, while walking down your favorite street in town. Lay in the grass with the sun on your skin, felt a breeze in your hair, and imagined shapes in the clouds. You could feel the scrunch of snow under your feet and become amazed by how beautiful it looks on the trees, notice the little footprints left behind by all the animals we scarcely see. Life is really happening around us all the time. Go out and take notice!”1
The above comment written by Sakurah is quite revealing. For it was a known truth taught in many evangelical Churches a number of years ago. Many  Christians at one time even refused to have TVs in their homes, because they well understood how distracting entertainment can be, and how much time it wastes in their lives. They also knew the danger it posed to their spiritual lives as well. They knew all too well how the TV and Movie Theatre would fill their minds with the worldly entertainments and filth that would stifle their fellowship with the Lord. However, many Christians today, myself included have top of the line flat screen TV's where we watch our favourite shows and waste precious time that could be better spent doing more productive things as my friend Sakurah articulates  so well in her above article. Author Craig Cabaniss in a chapter entitled, "God, My Heart, and Media" taken from the book "Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World" made this insightful, but lengthy comment, which is well worth repeating here:
"Think about the power of video entertainment, for instance. Whether viewed on computer, a portable player, or traditional TV set, television and film are without peer in their cultural influence. Ken Myers, an astute Christian observer of popular culture, notes that television is not only "the dominant medium of popular culture" but also "the single most significant shared reality in our entire society." He compares television's impact to that of Christianity centuries ago, when "Christendom" defined the Western world:
Not all citizens of Christendom were Christian, but all understood it, all were influenced by its teaching...I can think of no entity today capable of such a culturally unifying role except television. In television, we live and move and have our being.
Similarly, pastor Kent Hughes offers this alarming appraisal:
Today the all-pervasive glow of the television set is the single most potent influence and control in Western culture. Television has greater power over the lives of most Americans than any educational system, government, or church.
But it's not enough to acknowledge the dominant, nearly godlike authority exercised over our culture by TV, the Internet, and the rest of the media. We must evaluate the content of media messages and the consequences of their influence....

Watching Unwatchingly

Many of us don't think about actively filtering our viewing. As long as we avoid the obvious traps such as pornography, we don't consider deliberate evaluation necessary. Though we may faithfully apply the Scriptures in other areas of life, we may not consciously think about how God's Word applies to our entertainment choices.

All too often, we think about neither what we watch nor how much. Our watching is just inevitable. We watch by habit. We watch because we're bored. We unwatchingly watch as the TV stays on for background noise.

We watch alone or with others. We gathers with friends on Friday night and rent a DVD because there's nothing else to do.

We watch because others watch. Everyone at school or at work is talking about a popular movie. It's a must see—so we must see it. Without researching its content, without thinking about its effect on our hearts, without comparing an evening at the movies with other options, we go, and we watch.

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying it's wrong to watch television, rent a DVD, surf the Internet, or spend an evening at the cinema. The hazard is thoughtless watching. Glorifying God is an intentional pursuit. We don't accidentally drift into holiness; rather, we mature gradually and purposefully, one choice at a time. In the Christian walk, we can't just step onto the right path and figure all is well. Christian discipleship is a lifelong journey consisting of a series of countless steps. Each step matters, and thus our viewing habits matter."2
The truth is, as believers in Christ, we should limit the amount of time and be careful in what we select to watch on TV. Try mentioning this to fellow believers in Churches today and they will label you as being legalistic. They will perceive you as being out of touch with the present times. Actually, many Churches today, particularly Seeker  Friendly Churches use entertainment, such as movies to draw people into their congregations. Sadly, many of these so called movies have little to do with exalting Christ and teaching the Word of God to young people. Another form of entertainment the Church uses to draw young people is so called Christian Rock Concerts that does more to appeal to the flesh than to exalt Christ.

Entertainment in Light of the Scriptures

So what does the Scriptures have to say about such forms of worldly entertainments? Now the Bible doesn't specifically deal with the subject of the television and movies, but it does speak about the content we should guard against. In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Paul instructs us to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (KJV) Again, another well known verse that we need to apply to what we feed our minds with, when it comes to entertainment is Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (KJV). Such Scripture verses should be used to measure the content, morality, and  language of the television shows and movies we watch.  How truly fitting are the words of the psalmist here, "Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity" (Psalm 119:37). A similar truth is conveyed by the prophet Isaiah, when he said, "and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil" (Isaiah 33:15b). Again, the psalmist makes this sobering statement, "I will set no worthless thing before my eyes" (Psalm 101:3). This can certainly apply to the television set, video games, and the movie cinema, and other forms of media entertainment that deadens us to spiritual things that pertains to God.

Effects that Entertainment has on Us

There are people both inside the Church and outside that will argue that such entertainment as what we watch on TV and the cinema movies do not really effect us. It's only a bit of harmless entertainment. Sure people who just watched a movie that showed a bank robbery or someone who got shot and killed, may never go out and personally rob a bank or kill someone. Many will argue this very point I just made. However, what they fail to realize is that such an avenue of entertainment plays havoc in one's subconscious.  They may not steal or kill for fear they may get caught, but they are usually guilty of less risky behaviours such as foul language, adultery, drunkenness, lying, slandering, and petty violence. All these things the media and entertainment contributes to. No wonder Paul commands the Christians at Colosse, "But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Col. 3:8-10, NIV). Why did Paul say this? because he well knew their hearts. On the same note, Jesus said: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23, KJV). So the danger that such entertainment poses to the Christian is that it feeds our sinful flesh, while deadening our spiritual lives with God at the same time. Oh, that we would be wise to guard our hearts in what we entertain ourselves with! (See Prov. 4:23). Indeed, TV is a false substitute for real life. So let's go out and start living life the way it was meant to be lived—to the Glory of God!

1 Sakurah (Alisha) Horwood, "TV", posted on Facebook: Notes, Wednesday, September 29, 2010.
2 Craig Cabaniss, Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, pp. 37-40.