Must Flee TV? (Nov-Dec 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

by Shannon Whitehead
November – December, 2002

The weekend edition of the local paper has arrived. I, like millions of Americans, tear through the paper’s more mundane sections in search of the juicy part: Entertainment. No sooner have my fingers touched the page then I am inhaling the latest “news”: what movies premiere this weekend (and are they thumbs up or down), which TV shows deserve the hottest ratings, and what shade of red will Julia be wearing to the next awards show. After learning the latest scoop, however, a sobering thought interferes: does this glitz and drama fit in with my Christianity? Can it?

American theater has “progressed” a long way since Rhett’s once shocking farewell phrase to Scarlett. Hollywood’s insistence that reality equals filth has led to more and more carnal images; yesterday’s sporadic objectionable words and suggestive scenes seem almost quaint against today’s tableau of profanity, violence, and sex. Wholesome movies like The Sound of Music and Hoosiers have given way to raunchier reels like American Pie and Queen of the Damned. Ma and Pa Ingalls are out; Will and Grace are in.

How is a Christian to respond to all this Glitter & Gunk?

Some believers choose the “cut it off” method that Jesus referred to in Matthew 5. They listen only to Christian music, read mainly Christian authors, disconnect their cable, and avoid any movie beyond G. In so doing, they are seeking holiness, avoiding every form of evil and keeping their minds on things above—all solid Biblical concepts.

But they don’t know the thrill of belting out “Free Falling” on the highway, and they haven’t heard of any bestseller except for The Prayer of Jabez and Left Behind. Which leads me to ask this: does God only exist in the religious section of the bookstore? Can’t traces of the divine be found while humming to Allison Krauss or delighting in a film like The Rookie?

In her book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, author Madeline L’Engle attests that, “in art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we are asked to endure, we who are children of God by adoption and grace.” Our Creator is capable of wielding the tool of man’s creation to touch our souls with fresh insights—even in darkened movie theaters.

I once heard a preacher recommend a non-G movie to his church, saying “Don’t let the cuss words in it keep you from missing this great message.” I felt the same way when a friend of mine missed out on the beautiful redemptive story in Regarding Henry because she was counting the times someone said, !&*#!

Nevertheless, choosing to partake of Hollywood’s offerings can be dangerous. I’ll never forget the horrible feeling I had after leaving the theater from the movie Seven. Even though I recognized the arguably spiritual “message” of this dark movie—that society is numb to the seven deadly sins God warned about—the evil techniques the story used to teach that message made me want to throw up. I can’t imagine the Holy Spirit was pleased with my presence there.

Discerning proper forms of entertainment in view of God’s call to holiness can be a tricky tightrope to walk. It may be easy to steer clear of I Want Your Body, Part 3, Merciless Bloodbath and Gay in the USA. But what about everything in between? Should it be a spiritual battle whether or not to watch ER on Thursdays? Should we be ashamed to know the latest skit from Saturday Night Live? Where does a Christian draw the line between “ignoring the bad parts for the message” (or the amusement) and “avoiding every form of evil?” (I Thes. 5:22).

Answers to these questions are not always black and white. For now, I evaluate shows on an individual basis and keep the fast-forward button handy. I am not always consistent: I have ruled out certain shows with conviction then watched others I shouldn’t.

The day may soon come when God convicts me that holding onto this human habit is hopeless, that “Must-See-TV” must become “Must-Flee-TV.” Until then, I will read my Friday editions with a grain of salt, remembering that the same Lord who calls me to walk in holiness calls me to watch in holiness.

And his Direction never fails.New Wineskins

Shannon Whitehead is a former English teacher who is happily raising her new son with her husband in Franklin, Tennessee. She is also assistant copyeditor for New Wineskins. Favorite Faith and Film Flick: It’s a Wonderful Life. Contact Shannon: [Shanwhitehead@aol.com]

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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