Shades of Grey
How many hours of the day do you spend in front of a screen? Either your phone, laptop, tablet or TV. Probably most of it, whether it’s on a Netflix binge, snapchatting your friends, trawling YouTube for music videos or connecting on Facebook.
It’s part of our everyday life, media influences our every move, celebrities surround, pop-culture pervades, there’s no escape. Kim & Kanye have named their new baby. The latest episode of Game of Thrones saw a twist no one saw coming. Marvel are rebooting another comic book franchise. There’s a latest crazy challenge dominating YouTube. And there’s a hotly anticipated new album from Taylor Swift. We love it, don’t we?
In the not too distant past the church kept its distance from these things; cinema was for heathens, along with rock music and dancing. But today we are overloaded with pop music, blockbuster movies and viral online channels. How should our Christian faith affect our viewing and following habits?
One might think it easy to give a black and white answer. But grey matters. (As Brett McCracken, author of Grey Matters, suggests) I can’t categorically say Justin Bieber is ok, but Iggy Azalea isn’t. Nor can I say you shouldn’t be watching Game of Thrones but enjoy all The Big Bang Theory you can handle.
There are shades of grey to what’s permissible or helpful, but we do need to be aware of what we’re watching, because it may have more of an effect than you think.
You need to be able to make a decision for yourself about what you watch or listen to, and you need to be able to defend that decision. And the only way you can do that is by taking a step back and considering the match-up between your Christian faith and your media.
Here are 3 good questions to consider:
1. What’s the message? How does it impact my faith?
Everything we watch or listen to has an underlining message and worldview – it’s not always directing preaching at you but it’s there. We can be guilty of overanalysing song lyrics for hints of faith, but songs that sing about the cheapness of sex and human dignity cut across the Christian belief in the value of humanity. So many TV shows or films suggest religion or faith is to be sneered at or pitied. Ask yourself, what message is being communicated through what I’m hearing?
2. What’s the content? How does it impact my mind?
Particularly related to TV and Film, when we put images in our heads, it can be hard to be rid of them. Nudity and pornographic images, likewise excessive violence and gore, impact our minds. Are these helpful images to have? And does the presence of that content mean we should abstain at the cost of missing out on a good plot and great drama? I personally am a sucker for beautifully and artfully shot film and TV, but for me the line comes when the nudity or violence is gratuitous. What’s the line for you? Different people have different sensitivities and temperaments.
3. What’s the catch? How does it impact my life?
It’s true that whether it’s Netflix, YouTube, Snapchat or Xbox, we can become so absorbed in them that we lose sight of life beyond it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the world of online is not ‘real life’ but do our habits make us retreat from friends, school, work and the rest of the world? If so, we need to be aware of that and consider how we can protect ourselves from such a temptation.
Consider that my wisdom, but what does the Bible say?
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
A great question to ask when watching a film, playing a game or listening to a new track is – can a thank God for this? All good things come from God, he is the creator of all creativity and the source of all joy, if we can legitimately thank and praise him for the things we enjoy, then that’s a good sign.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Whatever we’re watching, whoever we’re following, whatever we’re spending time doing, think about how this will lead you to worship God and live your life for him. It might not be straight forward but whether it’s a film that challenges your understanding of human suffering or if it’s a song that makes you think about how much of society is looking for love in all the wrong places, it can lead to worship and you can use what your media influences to lead others to him.
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Consider what we’re putting into our minds.There is a lot of great music, film and TV that harness the creative talents God has given us and this is worth celebrating. Take your pick from Adele, J.J Abrams, or Stan Lee. The media we consume gives us material that stirs us, warms our hearts and inspires awe. Dwell upon these things, rather than settling for so much of the rubbish we find on tumblr, facebook and day-time telly.
It might not be black or white but grey matters and it’s worth challenging yourself – can you defend the media you choose?