Last week, I wrote about my growing love for entertainment that I had previously judged to be lame and/or overhyped. Some of the examples I gave were New Girl, Friends, and The Bachelorette, the first two of which have a fair bit of sexual situations and references and the last of which models pretty much the worst possible way to find a spouse, ever. I received comments from readers which questioned whether or not it was really a good idea for me to be feeling better about and watching these kind of shows. To put it a different way, they wondered, basically, if as a Christian, I really should be a “hater” of them. I’ve summed up the general concerns behind their comments in the form of two questions (hopefully doing them justice):
- Does the amount of questionable content that could negatively influence us outweigh the good things about these shows so that they’re not worth watching anymore?
Even if the questionable content doesn’t make us stumble, shouldn’t we, as Christians, not support shows that present it in a positive light or normalize it?
First, let me say that I’m glad that they shared their thoughts, and I’m grateful for the way they made me think through this issue more thoroughly this week and discuss it with others (shout-outs to Anna, Andy, and Dave, who have all influenced this response). In this post, I’m going to address the first question; I’ll address the second next week.
I think that deciding whether or not the negative aspects of some form of entertainment outweigh the positive ones needs to be done on an individual basis. People have different sensitivities and different weaknesses; what causes one person to stumble or react in an unhealthy way may just be an unfortunate annoyance to someone else. I really think you need to know yourself and follow your conscience.
As time has gone by, I’ve come to know where my line is and what crosses it. I’ve often thought to myself that I’m glad I didn’t really watch Friends or New Girl until I was married. As prudish as that may sound to some people, I know that it would have been a major struggle for me in my pre-marriage days. The sexual references on the show just don’t affect me the same way now as they would have then, and I’m able to enjoy the great writing, lovable characters, and hilarity of the show in spite of them.
On the other hand, some of the sexual situations depicted on House of Cards really, really disturbed me and I absolutely could not handle them. But it’s pretty easy to predict when they’re coming, so Dave and I are still able to watch it because we can just skip them. Sometimes, though, I know I just need to avoid something entirely. I am particularly sensitive to violence, to the point where I can’t even watch a show like 24 without feeling incredibly stressed out and awful. (Seriously, guys. I can’t even listen to it.) I also can’t handle anything gross or scary. That means that, even though I was really interested in the story in the Civil War era movie The Free State of Jones, I knew I couldn’t go watch it in the theater with Dave. I couldn’t take the risk of not being able to handle it and not being able to fast forward through anything. So Dave watches his war movies and shows like Daredevil by himself.
But what about the infamous verse, “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” (Phil. 4:8 ESV)? Does that mean that if there’s any objectionable content in something that we can’t watch or otherwise engage with it? No. If that were the case, we couldn’t even read the Bible -- Judah and Tamar, anyone? We’d have to hide in a hole somewhere, but even then we’d still have our own sinful thoughts to deal with. It comes down to what is going to hinder my walk with Christ. If we are able to engage and enjoy the redeeming, true, honorable features of something without being led astray, I think we have the freedom in Christ to do that.**
I think it’s a similar situation, as Christians, to interacting with non-Christians. Sometimes non-Christians won’t have the same values as you and may do things you disapprove of. Does that mean we shouldn’t spend time with them? No, as long as they’re not causing you to stumble.
Some might argue that what makes it worth risking the potential negative influence of non-Christians is the possibility of witnessing to them and bringing them to Christ, a situation which doesn’t apply to entertainment. While I think witnessing is extremely important, I think to view people only terms of their sin or as a “mission” is extremely limiting and not even biblical. People are sinful, and they do need Christ, but they aren’t evil, and they are more than their bad choices. They are God’s creation, made in his image, and they’ve been gifted with common grace to be and do and create really great things. It’s not only okay but right to celebrate non-Christians just for being people. In the same way, I think that it’s okay and right to celebrate the good aspects of secular shows. In fact, these shows often portray the amazing aspects of people who don’t think the way I do and help me grow in love and understanding of them.
Next week I’ll address the second concern, that even if we aren’t negatively influenced by entertainment with questionable content, we still shouldn’t support it. (Or: How can anyone possibly justify watching the garbage that is The Bachelorette?) Stay tuned.
**Of course, some things are not redeemable, like pornography. The whole point of viewing pornograpy is to lust, which is sinful; you can’t say it’s fine because “it doesn’t affect me.”