Before we dive in today, I’d just like to say that the reason we didn’t have an episode last week was because my wife unexpectedly delivered our first child. There were some unexpected health complications, so she actually had a C-section at 34 weeks. But our daughter is doing great. She’s just needs to gain some weight and learn to regulate her temperature on her own, and then she’ll be able to come home. So that’s kind of what’s been going on with me the last few weeks and still today.
Let’s talk about media and entertainment. I think this is a really important topic, because it’s like the water that we swim in, if we were fish. It’s been said, if you want to know what water is, don’t ask a fish. They don’t know. It’s like air to us. If you’d ask someone before we were scientifically advanced enough what was air, they wouldn’t have known. It’s like, okay, well, I don’t see it. I can’t really feel it perhaps, except maybe wind, but I’m not that aware of it. Media is like that for us.
Here is why I think media is one of the most powerful forces in our lives. It’s the thing we take for granted. It’s the thing we don’t evaluate. In fact, it’s often the thing we go to escape from and not think critically about the world around us. So if you’ve had a hard day, what do you do? Lots of times people will plop down on the couch in front of the TV, and they want to do something they don’t have to think about, they don’t have to work at. Well, that presents an interesting collision of circumstances, because you are now coming to media, to entertainment, uncritically. You don’t want to put much thought into it, and hey, I understand. The day is tiresome. But there’s a whole group of people and a whole industry that is dedicated to teaching you things, to getting you to believe things at a time when you are not thinking critically.
Now, this might just have to do with getting you to buy a product. You’re tired, it’s the end of the day, you don’t have a lot of willpower. Advertisers know this, and they’re marketing you in such a way that they hope to move you and sway you to purchase their product or to think favorably of their brand. But it’s actually more than that, because the very media we’re watching in between the commercial breaks is also trying to sell us on something, to change our mind, and yet we’re coming to this encounter where someone’s being very intentional, and we’re coming to it when we’re not at our best and we’re coming to it when we’ve almost intentionally lowered our guard.
But this obviously doesn’t only happen when we’re sitting down after a long day. It also happens when we’re just listening to a song in our car. It happens when we pay to go to the movies and take our families and watch a movie. You’ve probably noticed that people that are involved in the arts tend to be more liberal politically, morally, religiously, all of those things. And so they’re the ones that are making most of the media that we take in.
Just right off the bat, that should make us a little cautious of the things we’re hearing and learning and the way they’re presented. I don’t think there is a more powerful medium than perhaps a movie today, or the arts. Scientists have routinely presented findings that the best way to encourage someone to learn is to present whatever you’re presenting by engaging as many senses as possible. So if you’re teaching a lesson, don’t just talk; have PowerPoint slides. Don’t just talk and have PowerPoint slides, but have something tactile that they can touch and where they’re actually engaged with their hands. Doing is perhaps better than seeing, which is perhaps better than hearing. So the more senses we can engage, the better.
But movies also engage our emotions. They engage our hearts, and in fact, we don’t want to go to the movie theater to simply watch a historical documentary. (Most of us don’t.) We don’t want to just see facts. We want to be moved. We want to be encouraged. We want to feel lows and highs, and we want to see a struggle. Our whole person is engaged, but we’re not engaged critically, and we need to be, and here’s why. Because the biggest danger in media today is not individual words. It’s not foul language. In fact, it’s more than that. It’s worldview. It’s not words; it’s worldview.
Yet how many of us evaluate movies that way? I’m not inclined to. My default when you say, “What’s this movie like? Should I take someone to go see it?” Is to evaluate it in terms of sex and nudity, which I think is an important consideration. I think many times we’re far more tolerant in that area than we should be with sex/nudity, but that’s a topic for another time. So we evaluate it in terms of sex and nudity, we probably also evaluate it in terms of violence, and then we evaluate it in terms of language. How many curse words are used, and that type of thing. Which, by the way, is kind of an odd standard by which to evaluate media.
As a friend recently observed, if you say the F word once, it’s a PG-13 movie, but if you say it more than that, it can’t be PG-13. So once is okay. Well, is twice worse if I watch two PG-13 movies and I hear two F words? Is that worse than one R movie? I don’t know. So I think this show is kind of the arbitrariness of some of these rating scales for movies.
But nonetheless, in my experience growing up, both in my own home and looking at my friends and hearing people talk today, many parents are more concerned about the words in a movie than the worldview the movie puts forth and often glorifies.
Now what are we talking about when we talk about worldview? Well, it’s the way we look at and understand reality. It tells us what God is like, if he even exists. It tells us what man is like. What are human beings like? Are they basically good? Are they basically bad? Are they basically just a more complicated and complex and intelligent animals, or are they something fundamentally different? It also tells you what right and wrong is like and where it comes from.
Obviously, almost everyone has a view on these topics. It’s not always coherent; it’s not always well thought ought; it’s not always internally consistent; but almost everyone has a view on these issues. The people making our media have views on these issues, and those views come out in their art. Many Disney movies, in fact, present a view of God that we can call pantheism, where everything is God. Or where God is in everything, That would be a view called pantheism. I don’t want to get too complicated with the terms today, but this whole idea that there’s a life energy in everything and that everything kind of controls everything. That’s a view called pantheism. It’s an eastern religious idea. It’s a very different idea than the fact that there are inanimate, non-God objects, that there are animate, non-God objects like animals and you and I, and then there’s God, and God is fundamentally different. He’s not an animating life force in that way.
You know what’s interesting, when God is everything, then everything is God, and that’s a very different view than the view that the Bible presents.
I was a big Star Wars fan growing up, and I still am to a little bit of a lesser degree, but it’s interesting when you look at Star Wars. Star Wars is kind of a mix of different eastern religious ideas, and perhaps most notable in Star Wars is this idea of the Force. It’s this energy that is in everything, and you can learn to control this, but how do you do it? What does the movie in the Star Wars series teach you in terms of how you actually commune with this energy and control it for your own purposes? You let go and you trust your feelings. Is that actually what we need to be pushing into people’s minds today? I don’t think so. I think that’s a very dangerous idea. Not much good happens when you let go of your rational capabilities and simply trust your feelings. Feelings are deceptive, the heart is deceitful above all things, our feelings, left to our own devices, do not create goodness and righteousness.
It’s a movie, you might say. Yeah, it is, but what if you watch a lot of movies? What if the movies and the entertainment you watch and your family consume kind of become the water that you all swim in, and you don’t question it, and you don’t use those anti-Christian worldview ideas as a springboard for conversation, but they go unchallenged? I think that’s where the struggle is. So my view here isn’t that we shelter ourselves and our children, necessarily, from the movies with bad worldview or bad language. That is all over the place, and in fact, it’s not just in movies, right? It’s when you have a conversation with your neighbor, and you should be having conversations with your neighbor. The point though is that we need to be aware of what’s implicitly taught so that we can address it explicitly. We need to be aware of what’s being implicitly taught in our media that our family, and our children, and ourselves, are listening to and watching, and then we can address it explicitly.
My wife and I have been watching a series that was popular quite a while ago, and it’s interesting seeing where we are as a society today in terms of our moral values and seeing what was, at the time, a moderately edgy show, and how it led the way. The things that were glorified in that show are now just core secular values, like a woman wouldn’t change her last name when she got married because she’s independent, and it’s kind of this feminist idea. The idea that you don’t have to be married to sleep together, that you don’t need to be married to have kids. Media led the way in these areas. It’s actually that way now.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the media has made LGBT considerations seem like they’re the largest concern our nation has, and yet percentage-wise, it’s just one to maybe three or four percent that fall into that LGBT bucket. But why, you may ask, are so many businesses putting little rainbows in their Twitter profiles, and why are people taking sides and saying, “You know what? My whole sports franchise is not going to play in your state because of laws that concern LGBT people.” Why is this happening? Because the media has chosen to make that a huge consideration. And so now all of us implicitly feel like it’s a really, really big deal. But it’s a big deal because the media has crafted that type of situation and scenario based on how much coverage they’ve given, how they talk about it.
It’s often been asked, “Why do Christians talk about homosexuality so much?” And the answer is, culture has been the one that has started that conversation. Often it’s Christians, when they go on a radio or TV show, who are the ones being asked about it. They don’t even bring the topic up. Now, yes, we obviously are talking and teaching about this as a response to a cultural revolution, but nonetheless, it’s the fact that the media has crafted oftentimes this idea that these are the largest considerations people need to be concerned about. And yet we should take a step back and say, is that actually the case?
But back to some specific examples from movies. I hope what you’re seeing here is that in Star Wars, there’s this idea that the Force is kind of like God and it’s in everything. Avatar has eastern religious ideas woven all throughout it, and oftentimes it looks really cool to a kid to think that he/she could maybe learn to control this thing, or that’s how God is.
And what about movies that downplay religious people and convictions? In fact, I don’t think you could watch a movie that isn’t produced by a Christian today that talks about Christianity and not see some type of straw-man, caricature, or distorted view of what Christians believe. I have not found a respected religious Christian figure in a piece of entertainment in a decade. You just haven’t seen one that isn’t made to look dumb or to have a blind faith. When was the last time in a movie you saw someone who had an informed, well-reasoned conviction in the deity of Christ and the trustworthiness of Christianity based on evidence? I’ve never seen it in a movie. The Christians are the wackos.
They’re presented as doing different things intentionally than their convictions. It’s not just that they’re saying, “I’m a fallen person and I really tried.” They’re represented as blatantly hypocritical, and yet, what happens when we show our children these movies and we don’t clean up there and say, “That’s not what that person should have been like,” or “I don’t know if you noticed it, but in this movie, it kind of presented the idea that God is in everything, and that’s not true. So we’re watching this, we’re gonna suspend some disbelief. It’s gonna be a fun story, but let’s remember” – this is kind of you addressing your family perhaps – “that God is actually not like that. God created everything; he’s not in everything. He’s separate from his creation. He stands over it, rules over it, lovingly controls and tends to it. He took on flesh and came down to the earth and died on a cross for sinners.” Let’s be clear and use popular movies and entertainment as springboards for conversation.
But that requires us as parents (yes, I’m a new one in that category; it sounds a little odd to say, and I won’t be doing that with my two-week-old at this point) and even as single people to analyzing the things we would let into our mind uncritically.
There was a Disney movie recently that had what was said to be a very short gay scene, and everyone, it seemed like initially, was going be up in a tizzy, and then people realized, “Oh, it’s not that bad.” And as a friend of mine who I’ve had on the podcast before, Hunter Levine, pointed out, Christian parents were then saying, “Oh, it’s not that bad now,” but didn’t someone spend a lot of time and thought putting that in there? It was a really big deal most likely to the LGBT culture warriors, and people in media. What they’re trying to do is slowly” – and we’ve seen this; if you look back, you will see it – “They’re trying to slowly accommodate culture and Christians to more and more progressive ideas.” And just like boiling a frog in water, you don’t turn the temperature up all at once. You do it very, very slowly, one step at a time.
Does that mean we remove ourselves from media and entertainment? It actually may mean we remove ourselves from some types, but at the very least, it should mean that we become more discerning in what we’re watching, and what we’re letting our children watch, and we’re not just looking for specific bad words. They’re gonna hear those at school. That doesn’t mean they should use them. But that’s not the main concern here. The main concern is the worldview; what does the media and the entertainment we’re watching communicate about God. About man? Is he good, is he bad, is he created in God’s image? Is he just an animal? What does it communicate about right and wrong? Is it just up to individuals to determine? And what does it communicate about how we know right and wrong? Do we look inward, or has God spoken authoritatively? Do we just go by our feelings or is there some external standard? Worldview is incredibly important in entertainment.
I hope this episode has been helpful, and I hope to be able to speak with you next week on Unapologetic.