As a person in the 21st Century, we have more methods of consuming art than ever before. Everywhere we turn is a screen ready to deliver all sorts of useful knowledge to us instantly. The low cost of entry to information allows inputs of every type into our brains, but ironically, we are not a very conscious people of these inputs. With the advent of streaming services such as Netflix and buffet style movie watching such as Movie Pass, long-form storytelling is no longer relegated to the discerning consumer who waits for the next blockbuster as if it were an event but instead is treated as one treats an assembly line object… disposable. Because of this, our attention to the toll it takes on our lives to watch movies and television, both in monetary cost and psycho-emotional cost is now seen as archaic. We have become consumers of the worst kind. We indiscriminately fill our heads at the table of media as our brains become fat and lazy.
This is a problem for those who believe in Christianity. In Christ, we understand that we don’t need to be doing a sinful action for our fantasizing of that action to be a sin. In Christ, we understand that we are to think on the things that are lovely and pure. In Christ, we understand that our minds are what need to be renewed for our lives to be transformed. Every believer has to wrestle with the way in which he allows media to play a part in his sanctification.
IS THIS A SIN ISSUE?
Where the Bible doesn’t speak to it, it’s an area of Christian freedom that is best spoken of in terms of maturity rather than sin. That being said, to love God is to love his correction, his discipline and his personality. We do not need to be sinning to recieve these things. In terms of our maturity, the question that we have to wrestle with is, “Am I loving God with my mind when i call these things entertaining?”
As Christians our minds ought to be always oriented toward God, especially when our minds are perceiving things which are purposefully meant as distractions from everyday life. There is no greater distraction in this day and age than that of visual media. Our minds must be on.
THINGS I BELIEVE ABOUT ART
Where some might say that it would be better to become ascetic and purge visual media from our lives, I prefer to take the method of direction rather than restriction. I believe our minds should be given wholeheartedly to God through focus. To that end, here are a few things I acknowledge:
- Any creative output is a demonstration of the image of God. This doesn’t mean it is a good demonstration. This doesn’t mean that God likes what he sees. It simply means that our ability to create a worshipful song about Satan is never going to fully extinguish the fact of God in that work. Satan is not bigger than God. We cannot remove God no matter how hard we might try. Everything we do stresses that he exists. This confusion and delusion is why it’s so sad when people’s creative works are wicked, gross or demonic in nature.
- All creative works are worth exploring to the degree that our consciences are moved to praise God. As stated earlier, a creative work can try to not praise God. It can do this by screaming blasphemies. But even these bear witness to God, simply on the basis of the complexities of the tongue they use to deliver them, the wonders of intellect which they use to deliver them and the unique voice which they use. Without God, they wouldn’t be able to dissent creatively or otherwise. Therefore, we can praise God when we see these creative works because what man intends for evil, God intends for Good. However, if in the storm, which God made, we begin to sink… it is because our focus is shifted off of him. At this point, it becomes dangerous and sometimes not even worth the cost of entry to our faith. There are certain works which have defined this high cost of praise for various generations. You can find God in films like A Clockwork Orange, Requiem for A Dream and the Exorcist, but is it a good use of your time? In most cases, I would argue no. Let me be also clear that the acknowledgment that God’s power shines through all darkness is not a good reason to treasure such a work. These works, though still having value, should be treated as sad works that demonstrate how deeply deranged a person must be to tell the story to others. Works that we should treasure are works that freely bring us to praise of our God, not the ones that do everything in their power to remove that praise, but fail.
- We should be well versed in media of all kinds. When people spout movie quotes as if they’re scripture, it’s time to know what the social narrative is. Jude, Paul and Jesus himself quoted the works of the day to better illustrate God’s glory and right teaching. We should be able to do the same. Though a social narrative is not Holy, it should be seen as sacred. Respecting these stories, but lowering them to their proper value under God will help to demonstrate for people how to allow their lives (all parts of it) to be renewed by God.
- Works by Christians should not be viewed the same as works by non-Christians. We operate with different premises. Of course, a non-christian movie has liberal views on sexuality, relationships, and nihilism, syncretism, pantheism or other at its core. What would you expect? We can’t expect a non-Christian to preach Christianity. Christianity, though ultimately logical, defies the world’s sin-stained reasoning. We expect to have to find the value for believers. We expect that it won’t be in the areas of Christian Faith, Hope, and Love.
HOW I REVIEW
- I review the mainstream. I don’t generally waste my time on Pureflix type produced titles… and if I do… I will be much harsher critics because they claim to be producing a Christ-centered form of entertainment. This is because a wolf in the wild may be majestic, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing needs to be put down.
- I review the themes of a media. What is the media trying to tell me about my worldview? It is amazing how many Christians have a worldview based on everything from the Matrix to the Wizard of Oz, but not the Bible.
- I review the consistency of those themes. Are those things consistent in the worldview of the movie or do they have to borrow from Christianity to make sense in everyday life?
- I make challenges based on the themes of the media. Does this apply to your life? What should we do with what we just allowed to be inputted into our brains?
- I compare and contrast the themes with those we should be holding from Scripture. This is not to say that we hold media by non-Christians to the same standards, but instead, we recognize that this media is always vying for a spot on the shelf of our hearts and minds. It’s important that we consistently remind ourselves of the difference between the sacred and the holy.
LETS WATCH STUFF TOGETHER
My hope is to generate discussion about these forms of input. My desire is simple. I hope to grow our filters for true praise and bring our minds wholeheartedly to God.