Today is part two of my discussion of whether or not Christians should watch shows with questionable material. My first post addressed questionable content as a stumbling block. Today, I’m answering a second question:
- Even if 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 off, I agree with the idea that there are some shows that shouldn’t be supported, even if the questionable content isn’t a stumbling block to the person watching. But deciding what those shows are needs to be done on an individual basis, with discernment and taking others’ views into account. If this election cycle has taught us anything, it’s that Christians can come to extremely different conclusions on which candidate to support for president; how much more so is this true when it comes to shows, where your “vote” on whether or not to watch it matters so much less?.
There are many examples of things some Christians choose not to support. Some Christians are completely against the Harry Potter series because they think it supports witchcraft. Some Christians think we should boycott Target because of their recent decision about transgender people and bathrooms. Some Christians think we shouldn’t shop at stores that use questionable labor practices. Some Christians think we shouldn’t watch extremely profane, explicit, and nihilistic movies like Deadpool. Some Christians are against Pokemon because of its psychic characters. And on all of these issues, some Christians disagree. Ultimately, just like in elections, while I may vehemently disagree with those who come to a different decision than I do, in the end, I have to respect their choice because they have the Christian liberty to make it.
One decision we can’t make is to refuse to support anything that has ANY objectionable content, because, as I argued in my last post, we’d end up hiding in a hole. And as I also argued last time, if we drew the line here we’d have to avoid the Bible as well. Yes, most of the time the Bible doesn’t present its questionable content in a positive light, but sometimes it presents questionable content without comment. To use my favorite example of descriptive and not prescriptive biblical passage, Nehemiah, in his anger, once tore someone’s hair out. Is that really an action that I want to support? Not really. But I still support the Bible.
So how do we discern what shows cross the line to where we don’t want to support them at all?
Here are some of the things I personally take into consideration:
1) What is its intended purpose?
2) Who is its intended audience?
3) Are the people involved in it there by choice?
To explain how I think through these questions, I’ll describe how I apply them to a show I’m fine with watching (The Bachelorette) and to a show I refuse to support by watching it (19 Kids and Counting, et. al).
What is the intended purpose of the Bachelorette? To be a fluffy, stupid show that entertains adult audiences. It’s purpose isn’t to be a guide on marrying well, and again, it is intended for adults or older teenagers (hence its TV14 rating), not impressionable children. I think that most people involved with the show know to some extent that it’s ridiculous, but if they don’t, they are all adults who have freely chosen to participate in it.
In contrast, a show that, over time, I decided I couldn’t support is 19 Kids and Counting and its various spin-offs. The intention of the show, for the Duggars, is to be a “ministry” that models the Christian life, and it is aimed at all ages. After the Josh Duggar scandal(s) blew up and after doing some research on the family, it became clear to me that the legalistic, repressive way the Duggars raise their kids is extremely harmful, and putting their whole family as a model for living on TV is exploitive. Which leads me to my third consideration: the Duggar kids had no choice if they wanted to do this, and they now have a good 10 years of their lives out in the public eye, for good or for bad. So, to sum up, their purpose is to model their ideal Christian life that I completely disagree with, for families, and without their children’s consent. I can’t support it.
In the end, my hope is that people are using their critical thinking skills whenever they’re engaging in media, and that they’re teaching their kids to do the same. I get a little nervous when people get so focused on finding 100% “clean” content for kids; I worry that they think it means they don’t have to think about it. Even “clean” things like Disney movies have potentially harmful messages (e.g., about women’s ultimate goals in life) that should be discussed with your kids. I even find myself struggling with that most squeaky-clean of media choices, Veggie Tales, which I love with all my heart. For one thing, its creator has said that it really preached moralism instead of the gospel, which is no small thing.
For another, I found myself struggling with some of its advice for kids. I was watching Veggie Tales with my nephew a while ago, and in their opening letter from a kid, “Billy”** asked for help because “Bobby”** was hitting him. Their response? Maybe he needs a friend! My boundaries alarm was going off like crazy. I thought, or maybe you shouldn’t hang out with that kid! You should be kind to everyone, but you do not have to be around someone who is hurting you. Period. All this to say, I still love Veggie Tales, and I still want my kids to know all the words to Larry’s silly songs, but I’m definitely going to have to talk to them about some things.
So: use your brain, use your critical thinking skills, use your discernment, and decide what you’ll support and what you won’t. Feel free to discuss and share your views and arguments for them with others, but respect their choices if they disagree. And enjoy your shows, even if they’re delightful garbage like The Bachelorette.***
**I don’t remember what his or her name was.
***I feel compelled to note that my support does NOT extend to Bachelor in Paradise. To me, its level of stupidity is just too high, to the point where it doesn’t even look fun to watch.