Sunday, September 4, 2016

TV, Movies, the Conscience, and Entertainment

I just wanted to watch a nice movie. It had been a long and stressful week. I'd worked all of Saturday writing and by Saturday night I wanted simply to turn my brain off and watch something enjoyable without having to think to much.

I searched for a nice movie like Up. Despicable Me. Babe, Lassie 1997. Eddie the Eagle. Something nice. Children's movies from this summer didn't interest me. I am over Nemo, so Finding Dory wasn't in the cards. She can stay lost as far as I'm concerned. I don't like Rudyard Kipling so Jungle Book was out. Already saw Secret Life of Pets.

I looked up "faith based movies" and was depressed at the list. There were so many false doctrinal movies on it, and I'd seen the one or two that were good. After having resisted it all this time I tried Mom's Night Out. Nope, terrible. I was soooo right to resist it. I tried Risen. Nope, terrible. Platitudes and mushy love talk but no Jesus as risen God and no Gospel. Also, it was agonizingly slow.

Sinking Sand seems to have emerged for a nanosecond and disappeared from every radar known to man. I spent a good half hour looking for it online or on any streaming video service. Nope.

Sigh.


I read Tim Challies' piece on watching the well-regarded new series Stranger Things.
Why am I such a prude? It isn’t because I don’t like to watch movies and shows—I really do. It isn’t because I try to be holier than thou—at least I hope not. I am a prude because when I am exposed to sex and nudity on the screen my conscience immediately sends out signals. 
I have not seen the TV series, it but I'd put it on my list for potential viewing for a while but then deleted it last week. When considering whether to watch a movie or a show, I do the same as Challies, look at Common Sense Media and IMDB Parents' Guide; I also look at IMDB user reviews and external reviews, to get a sense of what the movie contains as far as sinful viewing content goes. Sometimes the search for a clean movie or show takes most of the night and then it's time for bed. Tiredly I put the chosen movie in my bookmarks list for viewing a later time. Often, selecting takes longer than viewing.

In a sermon I heard yesterday delivered by RC Sproul on Jesus' View of Adultery, he'd said that this generation is confronted with the most sinful and lusty material than any other, ever.

The struggle is real, but it's different for each person. In Christian liberty, one "meat sacrificed to idols" may strike one's conscience deeply but a more mature person may be able to handle the material without negative impact.

I recommend the essay by Challies as he discusses his thought process in determining whether or not to watch Stranger Things, and why. A man named Hayden from Oklahoma City wrote a response to Challies' piece as as a letter to the editor. Hayden's response also gives good articulation to his own thought process. He'd said in part,
I wanted to express my deep appreciation for your article about “Stranger Things” and, more specifically, its relationship to one’s conscience. As a young pastor with a degree in video production and a love for all things cinematic, I have had a hard time balancing my love for quality production quality and storyline with a deep desire to not intentionally put any unclean thing before my eyes.
You also might enjoy Carrie from Carrie's Busy Nothings series on the same subject, linked below. She and her husband recently decided to purge their DVD library for the same reasons- an increasing conviction from the Spirit that they were intentionally putting unclean things before their eyes. She had not intended to write a series but the response was such that the "conversation" needed to continue and the different aspects could not really be well articulated between her and her audience in just one essay.

Yes, but HOW different?
NOTE: This is a personal story of God's work in my life. It wasn't written or shared to come across as "super spiritual" or to pass judgement on anyone for not doing the same. God's working in each of our lives in different ways - this is simply the way He's currently changing me. If it starts a discussion in your home or just gives you something new to think about, all glory to God because I'm certainly still a work in progress!
And so, to clarify
Last week I shared about a God-led decision to remove films and shows that we previously considered "family friendly" from our home movie collection - sacrificing the sacred cow of entertainment, if you will. This personal upheaval in "life as usual" is more complex than I have time - or desire - to unpack in a single blog post, but the simple version is that God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, has caused us to rethink our standards.
What Kind of Impression Are You Making?
Last month our perspective changed. It happened subtly and then suddenly, and the outcome (purging more than 3/4 of our extensive DVD collection) ended up being far less painful - liberating, in fact - than either of us anticipated. True, the adjustment hasn't been without hiccups - like the first post-purge weekend when we walked around, looking lost and asking, "what do you want to do?" - but the conversations that have taken place in the 2+ hour time slots that were formerly filled with movies or TV shows have been far more fulfilling and challenging.
As I'd mentioned I also take time to carefully select viewing entertainments. Sometimes I'm fooled, as many were by Stranger Things, when a scene just sneaks up on you and the glowing reviews from Christians hadn't mentioned it. There is nothing wrong with relaxing, and one way I like to relax is by watching a good movie. The danger for me is not ignoring the conscience while making the decision on what to put before my eyes.

Sometimes I wonder how it was for the Roman Christians who as pagans enjoyed watching the Gladiator games, and after conversion were horrified by their own entertainment choices. Sometimes I wonder how it was for young Daniel and his three friends being pressured to eat meats intended for idols, or young Joseph resisting Potiphar's wife day after day. We know how it was for David, who succumbed to the naked bathing charms of Bathsheba. Paul struggled. He said this is what he had to do:

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Even then, he didn't always succeed (though he never fell below reproach). He'd said in Romans 7:15,

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

My living room. I got rid of the TV a while ago since
I'm already paying for streaming TV & movies on my laptop.
The 'thing he wanted to do' obviously was to obey Jesus. The sin-nature we possess is powerful, and vigilance is necessary to subdue it. We also rely on the Holy Spirit, who has the power to overcome it. I do appreciate men and women like Challies, Hayden, and Carrie sharing the struggle and being transparent, so that we may take hope that we are not alone in these struggles. And also that we may praise the Spirit for convicting our consciences and leading us into righteousness.

What a day that will be when we are freed from these struggles in resisting sin! What a glory it will be to have a mind and heart perfectly cleansed and liberated from all sin. What a day that will be when there is no sin anywhere around us, and we are dwelling on a new heaven and a new earth with a perfectly holy Jesus. These sinful days with their struggles will be a disappearing memory.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Keep vigilant, and keep looking for the day when all things are made new!

11 comments :

  1. Agree with you 100%.

    Sadly, our experience has been that saying/attempting these things in church doesn't go well... unfortunately, we've had people at church - including leaders - and I do mean in Bible believing churches, friend - chastise and discourage us (I'm being reticent here) away from pursuing/desiring holiness and purity. So we do it on our own, with the support of only a few close, mature, trusted Christian friends. Like the word says, we walk in integrity in our own home (Ps 101:2).

    -Carolyn

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    1. Hi Carolyn,

      I think that people have forgotten the main thing in life, which is pursuing holiness. When we pursue holiness, we pursue Jesus. It's heartbreaking to me that you've experienced active discouragement from doing so. Praise to the Spirit for keeping you on track anyway!!!

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    2. Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for your kind words. We - that is, my husband and I - are frankly disgusted by what we have endured in church. Not in the world. In church. You are correct, we have been actively discouraged by many from pursuing the Lord and His Word.

      As you correctly said, many believers have forgotten that the main thing in life is pursuing holiness - which is pursuing Christ! We marvel how many believers consider pursuing holiness "legalism".

      Salvation is about having a holy walk here on earth. It's not just about having our sins washed away and going to heaven when we die, but it is about actually living in the newness of the Spirit in the here and now. It's about daily having a renewed mind, a clean conscience, and a new heart. It's about putting on the new man and putting off the old. Doesn't Scripture say, without holiness, none shall see the Lord? That while physical exercise profits a little, godliness profits far more greatly, both in this age and the age to come? The righteousness of Christ is what we need to rely on, walking in the Spirit, and not pursuing the desires of the flesh.

      We are to be altogether different, in the world but not of it. It is the WORD and the SPIRIT who attract the lost, not a church that looks so much like the world, that they're nearly indistinguishable. The Truth is what we should be presenting to the lost and representing with our lives as a living sacrifice!

      Yes, the Holy Spirit has kept us on track in spite of this. But it has been a very painful road, especially since many of the hardships have come from the very hands of those who should have been building us up.

      -Carolyn

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  2. Everything is a kind of trojan horse. Even documentaries have hidden agendas. The naturalistic view of the world has been in force in public schools so people have long been primed to regard the vice of modern entertainment as just so much information. They think they are protected by detachment and the illusion of choice.

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  3. Thanks, Elizabeth for dealing with this - it effects so many of us!

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  4. Elizabeth, early a.m. on Monday you will find a link to this article in a post at my blog called: Go read! Elizabeth Prata. I don't have the link to give you now but here is the link to my blog. Somehow I can't log into blogspot using my wordpress url:

    https://pilgrimsprogressrevisted.wordpress.com/

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  5. As you know, I usually agree with most everything you write but this one not as much. I am so puzzled by your (and Challies, too) assertion that these things are a gray area. As if a spiritually mature Chrisitan can handle it. The thing is: no mature Christian will desire to watch people sin on a screen. And those who aren't mature but think they are will use this as an excuse. I know people change and grow in their convictions as they grow as believers but I am frustrated that this is not shown to be simply sinful. Filling our minds
    with worldly tv, movies, and music is a sin. It is not a gray area. James 1:27 tells us to remain unspotted from the world. How do we do that if we are steeped in the world's entertainment? Why do we Christians think we need to apologize for standing against
    this? So, so puzzled by this. I truly believe this love affair with the world's entertainment is what has drawn the church away from God's Holy Word. Just a few of my thoughts :)

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    1. Hi Leslie A,

      thank you for your comment. Let me explain my thinking.

      When I wrote that "The struggle is real, but it's different for each person. In Christian liberty, one "meat sacrificed to idols" may strike one's conscience deeply but a more mature person may be able to handle the material without negative impact" I was not writing about sex. I personally do not think it is ever appropriate to view sex on a screen.

      There are all manner of different sins, not just sexual, and it is those sins that are in the gray area.

      Some people are bothered by scenes in which people are drinking. Others are not. Some people have a zero tolerance for swearing, even mock swears like fudge or sugar. Others who accidentally hear 1 swear in a 2 hour movie decide not to abandon the movie. Other people won't watch a movie about divorced people under any circumstances while others need to know the context (for example, if they reconcile in the end). Before I was saved I loved a good caper movie, like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels or Oceans 11. But thievery and coveting are sins and I don't watch those caper movies any more.

      You said "no mature Christian will desire to watch people sin on a screen" and you're right. Does that mean you never ever watch any TV or movies at all, ever? Even children's movies have some double entendres, and even Christian movies depict for example, a married couple fighting in anger, and anger is a sin. The cleanest movie might show someone gossiping, or someone coveting.

      So unless you are absolutely a big NO about on any movies at all, you will see sin on a screen...? What I was saying is that Christians make decisions about the level of sin which they will tolerate when making lifestyle decisions.



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    2. Yep, that does make more sense. I do watch some things. But even some I have deemed ok make me wonder sometimes. I find myself wondering if God is pleased by even 1% of what Hollywood spews forth. I am sure that I, too, have been hardened to some degree because I have excused sin on a screen. I have found in my life that spiritual maturity has generally yielded a much reduced appetite for entertainment no matter what kind. Although, I, too, Just want to sit down to watch a movie sometimes and have been dreadfully disappointed at the options. Even old movies I remember fondly make me cringe when I realize what I deemed excusable in the past. Thanks for explaining, Elizabeth. I agree with you :)

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