Why We Gave Hollywood the Right Boot of Fellowship
I have recently been dealing with what kind of entertainment I allow in my life and the life of my family. I will share some of the reasons below why we have kicked Hollywood out of our home. I hope these thoughts help some people who are wrestling over this issue.
I grew up watching hours of television a day. My childhood was a blur of Cartoons like Transformers and G.I. Joe; sit-coms like Three’s Company and Cheers; and of course the awesome action of The Dukes of Hazard and Miami Vice. Nickelodeon, MTV and HBO were all part of my regular diet of entertainment over the years. Not to mention the time I spent at the movie theater watching hundreds of movies; everything from A Nightmare on Elm’s Street to Beverly Hills Cop.
Maybe you are saying, “That is awful that your parents let you watch such things!” In their defense they were not serving God at the time, and I’m sure much of what I watched was without their permission. Or maybe you are saying, “So, what’s your point? There is nothing really awful on that list.” Whichever attitude best describes your response to my childhood entertainment habits, I can say that growing up watching these things is one of the great regrets of my life.
After coming to Christ when I was in high school I became more selective in my choice of movies and TV programs, but not too much more selective. My standard for choosing what and what not to watch was simply “Does it tempt me to sin or not?” Cuss words bothered me a bit, so if the cussing was incessant I would usually choose not to watch. But as long as it was not over the top, I didn’t feel tempted by a cuss word here and there. I forbid myself any movies with sex scenes or nudity, but even then I would sometimes rationalize watching a movie if there were only one or two things that I could fast forward though. Violence, as long as it wasn’t gory didn’t bother me much; after all, I wasn’t about to go out and shoot anyone. Besides if you want to understand the life of a police detective (which is an extremely important thing for every disciple of Christ to understand;) you are going to have to see a few people get shot, that is part of the learning process.
Choosing not to watch anything that directly tempts to sin is a pretty good place to start as a standard for video entertainment, but I always felt I was called to something higher. It is practical for keeping out of obvious transgression, but that is all. The Christian life is not a life of practical convictions, but of holy convictions. Holiness should be my standard. Holiness is not just a negative, but a positive. It is not just keeping away from sin, but also an active and perpetual growth in Christ-likeness. Holiness is not just the absence of sin, but the abundant presence of godliness.
I have recently realized that even though something doesn’t tempt me, doesn’t mean it is holy. In fact, all wickedness and worldliness has a diabolical affect even when it can’t be immediately seen. We live in this world. All around us is darkness, evil and unbelief. We can’t escape it, nor are we called to. Instead we are called to go into the heart of darkness to rescue souls who are lost and dying. In the last few months our church has seen several transvestite prostitutes come to Christ, be baptized and be added to the church. I can tell you, that I have learned things that I wish I didn’t know. There is no getting around it though, if these guys are going to be truly sanctified, my mind is going to have to be dragged through the gutter. That is the messy business of discipleship. There is no avoiding it.
Even in the normal course of life we are faced with this corrupting influence of the world. The immoral jokes we hear at the office, the back stabbing gossip we see our relatives engaged in and the greed we see on Wall Street as well as on Main Street. We can’t help being affected by this. We might not be as greedy as our neighbor, but his greed certainly makes ours look a little less evil, which in turn gives us an excuse to avoid changing. We might not laugh at the jokes around the water cooler, but the punch line sticks with us throughout the day nonetheless. And though we don’t slander others, the slander we hear affects our opinions.
The world is dark, and we have to face it. We can’t stick our heads in the sand if we hope to be a light to the world. But there is a big difference between over hearing immoral jokes and dedicating a half hour to a sit-com that is loaded with them. In fact, the reason we understand the jokes at the water cooler is because they are based on the latest episode of our favorite sit-com. Anyway, I will stop with the examples. If this issue is challenging to you, then you can come up with your own, and if it is offensive to you than I am just going to get myself in more and more trouble.
But what I have finally come to accept is that cuss words and blasphemy have no place in my entertainment, not because I am tempted to cuss and blaspheme, but because my ears are part of God’s holy temple. How dare I subject the Holy Spirit which dwells within me to hear such things through the ears Jesus redeemed with his blood just so I can feel the momentary excitement of a chase scene through London or Dubai? How can I watch immoral behavior as entertainment that I would be dismayed to find in the members in my own church? How can I enjoy watching someone created in the image of Almighty God stabbed in the gut or shot through the head?! The answer is, I can’t.
I have always been very picky about what my kids watch on TV. The Disney channel with its Camp Rock and High School Musical were generally off limits. My 9 year old had no business learning that in high school finding a girlfriend is a top priority. But I have recently become ashamed of the worldly things I did let my kids watch. It is not that the characters in their programs were “bad,” it was just that all of the characters lived like God doesn’t exist. The majority of programs they watched reinforced the idea that people can live without God. I would be upset if the teachers at my children’s school taught them that God didn’t exist, so then how can I let them be entertained by shows that teach the same thing by example.
Some of my favorite shows the last few years have been the Mentalist, Monk and a detective show called Numbers. All of these are “clean” as far as prime time TV shows go. But since there were some adult themes I would pause what I was watching when my kids came into the room. They were aware that when daddy is watching TV, it is things we kids aren’t supposed to see. I hope you see the danger in such a practice. They could only imagine what daddy is watching. So we recently made some changes!
We only allowed the kids to watch 3-4 channels on the TV in the past including the Discovery channel, Animal planet, Disney Junior and sometimes Disney. But now we have decided that none of these met the standard God calls our family to. As I write I am wondering if I am going to get labeled a legalist. Well, I have not only been labeled worse things, I have also been worse things;) So I will brave it. We got rid of the TV cable completely, because Daddy’s CNN & TNT didn’t make the cut either. We also went through all of daddy’s DVDs as well as the kids DVDs and chucked everything that wasn’t God’s will for our family.
I will wrap this up by sharing the guidelines we use for deciding what entertainment we allow in our home.
1. It must acknowledge Christ. If the characters live as though God doesn’t exist, we choose to ignore their existence as well. This doesn’t mean a program has to talk incessantly about our King, but the characters must live in light of his presence in this world.
2. It must encourage righteous behavior. If it doesn’t challenge us to obey God, why watch it?!
3. It must glorify God. We decided on this one after we watched a “Christian” movie with the kids. The one minute long kiss between the unmarried couple was not acceptable to our kids, or to my wife and I;)
We now watch a lot of Little House on the Prairie, Hermie Wormy and Friends, as well as other movies and cartoons we believe meet our standards. In the time we have been practicing these standards in our home, the atmosphere of fellowship around the TV has become more blessed and uplifting. Whenever the TV is on, everyone is welcome into the room. No more age discrimination;) And it is not just that we are watching better things, but everything in our home is reinforcing what we believe. This strengthens us for when we are each away from home engaging the darkness that rules the world. As a family, we need a place of refuge, we call that place home.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
If you feel I am being legalistic in regards to entertainment, no need to post a comment, your concerns are noted. If you feel personally attacked by this post, please don’t, I truly had no idea you were going to read it;)