Myth: “Today’s media can’t significantly influence my life.”
Although I personally don’t have a problem with my entertainment choices, I’m selective about telling people in church about my media habits. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid they’ll think I’m too worldly because I like to listen to the morning show on the “new rock” station every morning or, even worse, that I’m peddling feminism to the youth I teach in Bible study just because I read Cosmo in my spare time. If I happen to be listening to a secular CD when I pick up a friend from church for lunch, I subconsciously wonder if she expects me to tune into Dr. Dobson and Christian radio 24–7. Call me paranoid, but I don’t think my suspicions are unfounded. That’s not to say I don’t have standards about my choices.
For example, I’ve made a firm decision not to see R-rated movies in theaters. Although if they have some historical value (or have received that rating for something other than nudity or capricious violence), I may rent them to watch in the privacy of my home. I intentionally don’t subscribe to premium movie channels whose convenience could tempt me to compromise my standards. However, when it comes to popular culture, I don’t see the harm in keeping up with what’s going on. So I occasionally check out usmagazine.com or people.com to catch up on the latest celebrity gossip. And I personally find reality TV shows ridiculous, but I think they’re pretty harmless and overall mindless timewasters that keep me in the loop with everyone at work.
However, I’m not naive. I realize I’m walking a fine line between monitoring my own behavior, modeling what’s appropriate for my Christian brothers and sisters and remaining sensitive to God’s promptings in this area. But I think I’m doing an OK job. After all, I’m a strong Christian, and I don’t think my choices are hurting anyone.
The human heart and mind are delicate instruments. Sensitive to the least influence, our minds are constantly receiving input from our surroundings, shaping our hearts with an artist’s precision. When our minds take their cues and impulses from the Word of God and wise counsel, our hearts follow suit. However, if we allow the culture to regulate our hearts and minds, we soon lose our perspective on our relationship with God.
While we may know better than to participate in outright sinful activities, we may not approach areas of subtle influence with such diligence. For example, did you know that the majority of women feel depressed after flipping through a fashion magazine? They’re subconsciously reminded of how they don’t look and what they can’t afford. Harmless? Not quite.
The worldly influence of the media may appear as unobtrusive as fine grains of sand in the cogs of a machine. Some influences are so seemingly insignificant that we might not notice their effects right away. We assume our over-exposure to crime, domestic violence, profanity, crude humor, homosexuality, promiscuity and adultery as a mainstay of movies, television and music is harmless. We hardly notice it anymore, so how could it be harming us?
However, over time, being out of rhythm with the Word of God and its principles can prove dangerous to our spiritual health. God instructed Israel to separate itself from the surrounding culture. Extended exposure to pagan cultures can influence even the strongest Christians—if not to break their moral commitments, then at least to bend them. How should you respond?
- Ask God to search your heart and your media habits (see Psalm 26:2–3).
- Examine your habits: Are they out of balance with your intake of God’s Word and wise counsel?
- How does the media influence your attitudes, thought patterns, beliefs and actions?
- Discernment is key: How adept are you at viewing the world around you through the lens of Scripture?
- Remember, if you aren’t looking out for your mental purity, who is?
“Internet users spent 32.7 hours per week online and about half as much time watching television (16.4 hours).”
—IDC Study, 2008
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”