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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Judges, a Paradigm for Media

How are we to discern which secular media (movies and television shows in particular) is fit for consumption, and not only that, but which we can commend to others?  Alan Noble from Christ and Pop Culture basically explains that a book such as Judges portrays the world as it is, and thus portrays truth, and in the context of a larger redemptive truth.  The assumption here is that there are similarities between this truth and the redemptive themes that my run through secular media.  To this end, I offer the following brief analysis of Judges 3:7-11 as a paradigm for true redemptive narrative, which will in time become and introduction to a sermon I suspect.  Please bear with me and consider these thoughts:

Observations and Arguments.  First, this book is included in Holy Scripture, so there is something that can be learned or emulated from it.  Christian cultural commentators might say that it is the portrayal of truth, and that the communication of truth is always desirable.  The book simply recounts people acting as they are.  Second, the book of Judges portrays the sin and rebellion of the nation of Israel.  Cultural commentators are quick to parallel this with the sin that is portrayed in media, and that viewing or reading about sin does not necessarily cause us to sin.  An honest presentation of mankind is incomplete without the depiction of sin.  Third, the book demonstrates a subsequent downward cycle of rebellion and wickedness.  Judges does not end with a fairytale happy ending.  So others take this to show that movies must not necessarily have happy endings.  Sometimes evil appears to triumph over good, and these cases may still and often most powerfully teach a lesson or make a point.  Finally, Judges is not only permissible to read but imperative, as it is Scripture. and portrays the reality of our world.  Movies, likewise, portray aspects of the world and allow us to be involved and experience what we might otherwise be unable to, in order to better understand the world in which we live.

Analysis.  While clearly the above are arguments given in support of media, there is not merely a fine distinction but rather a gaping hole in the argument.  After meditating on the passage the differences are irreconcileable.  Certainly the book of Judges records the history of the nation of Israel in the time between the Exodus and kingship.  However, the account is not merely historical but also theological, written and preserved in such a way as to make a point.  I concede that media makes a point as well.  So one task is to compare the purpose and see if they are aligned, or even similar?  What is the purpose of the book of Judges?

The purpose of the book of Judges is to highlight the faithfulness of God in contrast to the faithlessness of His people.  Did you catch that?  God is the great protagonist, and the judges act out his will upon the earth.  It is the Spirit upon them which gives them their strength.  Perhaps you don’t like my purpose.  Expositor’s Bible Commentary decides that the purpose is to demonstrate that Israel’s spiritual condition determines its political and material situation.  What was the purpose of the last movie that you watched?  I imagine it does not have the God of the Bible anywhere near its controlling purpose statement.

With that in mind, we might now respond to the four claims above.

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“Prayer is God’s appointed way for obtaining things, and the great secret of all lack in our experience, in our life and in our work is neglect of prayer.”

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Discernment

In a recent conversation, a friend remarked that he would like to watch a movie that is rated NC-17, but as a Christian he is unable because of the overt sexuality. So, long story short, he’s hoping a cleaner version comes out since a lot of Chinese versions clean up the adult content. What’s wrong with this picture?

On that note, here are a few Plugged In articles on the topic of discernment.

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In case you missed it, this was my favorite question, and it was God’s good fortune that in the fifteen minutes I watched during dinner I happened to see it on TV.

For those wondering, Giuliani doesn’t profess to be a believer, Romney is a Mormon, and Huckabee is a former Baptist minister.  I’m curious how the Democrat hopefuls would have answered the question.

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The Golden Compass

There has been a lot of talk on the internet and in Christian circles about the upcoming film The Golden Compass.  It’s author, Phillip Pullman, is an avowed atheist and promotes his views in his work.  Yet, he is definitely a talented writer.

Among the different posts it has inspired is this one from Josh Harris.  I really like his conclusion:

A lot of supposedly faith-friendly, family-friendly media content these days can lead to a spiritual numbness that is just as concerning as an outright attack on faith. In some ways, I’m more concerned about the potential for our kids to be seduced into compromise by the sweet, steady allure of worldliness than I am that they’ll be kidnapped by an atheist in a polar bear suit. Of course, I don’t want either to happen.

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Comment Magazine has an article which offers nine “signposts” for watching movies.  I’ll distill the list, but please read the article for a full explanation of each point.  For those who might wonder if “thinking” will ruin your movie experience, this list is not for you, though I would hope we can in this way use it to be accountable for our short time on earth.

1. Films are not books

Some of the differences are easy: films average about two hours in length, show the story visually, depend mostly on dialogue and action to move the plot along, and use actor’s facial expressions to show emotions and thoughts.

2. Viewing, not watching

While films are not books, viewing a film is not a passive activity. Instead, it is participating in a different medium in its own distinct way. Films allow us to be voyeurs, to watch uninvolved in the comedy and tragedy of the characters on the screen, and to go home after escaping our routines and problems, if only for a time.

3. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. —1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)

Knowing what is beneficial and constructive involves knowing ourselves, our community, and our culture. What weaknesses and obstacles might we encounter in film that we might better avoid than test our ability to engage it? There are viewers who are sensitive to violence, sexuality, or language, and we should respect our own and others’ limitations (for me, war movies are especially hard to watch).

4. Where’s the moral in the story?

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Virtual Sin and Our Desires

I’m starting to like the Christ and Pop Culture blog.  I certainly don’t agree with them, but it is good sharpening for me and a motivation to learn how to communicate some of my deeply held convictions.  In a recent post,  Alan Noble asks

Does a sin committed by a digital character constitute a sin on the part of the player?

That is a great question!  I believe it comes down to a case-by-case basis, but I’m grateful the question was posed and hope that others consider it as they choose their media and entertainment.  As in all things, what doesn’t proceed from faith is sin, so it is a question we all must be able to answer for ourselves.  Is there an objectivity that must be dealt with?  Certainly, and I’ll continue to think about it over the course of the next week.

Finally, the comments have been vigorous, and one from The Dane stood out to me:

To use a popular example here, despite not finding Rowling’s Potter books to be really of any positive moral value, I read them and thoroughly enjoyed them because they succeeded in their art. Their story was engaging and I wanted to know what would happen. If the story and characters weren’t engaging, I wouldn’t have bothered – even if the values portrayed in the series were intimately entwined with my own.

Of course I would not disagree.  And I would likewise hold my tongue when speaking to youth and young adults who exposed the same ideas.  Yet, I would ask myself, for my own accountability, why it is that I desire these things so much.  What does that reveal about my heart, and what should I do about it?

Biblically stated, the question we must ask in everything that we do is this: In this activity, how can I do it to the glory of God?  I surmise that not only are we settling in our activities for what we want to do and finding excuses for it, but we aren’t honestly answering this question.

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