Why #2 - We are called to cling to what is true and refuse to engage with the vile or vulgar.
I think one of the most important concepts for modern parents to understand with regard to media is this: exposure is a choice. Just because we live in 2013, doesn't mean we have to accept or embrace what pop culture throws at us.
We can choose to avoid it, shut it off, throw it out, and/or replace it with appropriate alternatives.
I'm sure you've noticed, it's becoming harder and harder to find quality programming.
I've been asked so many times what media we avoid and it's a tricky question. We all live individual lives with individual convictions. To be completely honest, we avoid most mainstream media. If it's really popular, we're probably not watching it or playing it. That doesn't, however, mean that we never watch a show. Just like most families, we enjoy a great movie or educational program.
Let's be completely real with each other - media can be a stumbling block for us all. If it isn't content that trips us up then maybe it's the amount of screen time. It is in our face non-stop and it is incredibly difficult to discern just what is acceptable for ourselves and our children.
As with all things in life - we can find truth-rich, reliable guidance in the Word of God. The bible is a living, breathing love letter to us and in it there is incredibly relevant information and direction about every aspect of life, even media. No, the verses don't specifically talk about screen time (let's face it, there were no ipads back then) but they do speak very clearly to what we should and should not allow into our hearts. And media? It goes straight for the heart, friends.
Two verses have played a huge role in defining our media choices over the past several years. They are:
"I will refuse to look at anything vile or vulgar..." (Psalm 101:3 ASV) and
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (Philippians 4:8 NASB)
Some food for thought -
What is vile?
1. a : morally despicable or abhorrent b : physically repulsive : foul
3. tending to degrade <vile employments>
What is vulgar?
1. a: lacking in cultivation, perception, or taste : coarse b : morally crude, undeveloped, or unregenerate : gross c : ostentatious or excessive in expenditure or display : pretentious
2. a : offensive in language : earthy
b : lewdly or profanely indecent
Do any of these definitions remind you of today's popular culture and media? Lacking in taste, morally despicable, of little worth, degrading, offensive in language, crude, and I could go on. We are called to turn away from this stuff, friends. And we are called to help our children do the same.
Why are we called to 'refuse to look at' these things? Because we have a God who loves us and knows what's best for us. This is all part of guarding our hearts. "Above all else, guard your heart (or your child's heart) because everything you do flows out of it." The heart is life's wellspring. Scripture also tells us that what comes out of the mouth comes directly from the heart. (Matthew 15)
The point is this:
garbage in, garbage out.
On the other hand, we are advised to dwell in things that are right and pure.
1. to live or stay as a permanent resident; reside.
2. to live or continue in a given condition or state: to dwell in happiness.
3. to linger over, emphasize, or ponder in thought, speech, or writing (often followed by on or upon)
Things that are praise-worthy and pure are things that are pleasing to God. Things that are eternity-minded and have investments in people and outpourings of love. Not things that are mindless and focused on entertainment and consumption. I know it's intense, but it's truth.
The scripture is clear. Jesus tells us that what comes out of the mouth and what flows out of our children comes from the heart. Then, we are called to pour goodness and purity, and truth into their souls and help them dwell in that goodness. How can we dwell in goodness and truth if we are consumed with dark media?
I like these verses because they go hand in hand. One gives a strong command for what we should avoid, the other gives inspiration for what we should cling to instead.
The "Can we thank God for it?" Test:
As I mentioned in Part 1, I love Josh Harris' book, Not Even a Hint. In it, he gives a great benchmark for discerning media choices. I'd love to adopt his method and stick to it for years to come. He says, when choosing programming for our children, we should ask this question:
Can we thank God for it?
Can I honestly, wholeheartedly thank God for a program in its entirety? If the answer is yes, then it's probably ok to watch. It's a tough test though because, although our God is loving and merciful, He has high standards for His children. Honestly, most modern media will not pass this test. I'm telling you now so you're prepared. If we want to live radically on fire for the things of God there just isn't room for entertainment that pulls us from Him. We were called out of the darkness and into His wonderful light, friends! (1 Peter 2:9). Why do we willingly launch our children BACK into darkness for the sake of entertainment?!
Our family is unique and not everyone will make the same decisions as we make. That's why I just don't feel right about providing any kind of 'list' of dos and don'ts with regard to specific programs, movies, music, etc. I just wouldn't feel comfortable and I don't think it's necessarily biblical either.
What I will offer, though is the reality that many media messages can and will consume your child's sense of God, truth, and purpose. We absolutely can sin through what we watch and we can actually lead our children to sin and lust after sinful things by what we allow into our homes through the media. I love what famous evangelist John Wesley's Mom said. When her son asked her to define 'sin', she said this:
"Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself."
In short, if that media program takes the edge off your spiritual hunger, if it leads you to darker places or weakens your judgement and reason with regard to 'pure' things - it is wrong for you. And that means, the same can apply to our children and their media exposure.
The absolute best way to discern your family's media choices is to PRAY. Get into God's word. Seek God's direction. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Cling to what is pure and true. Turn off and throw away what is vile and vulgar. Stick to your beliefs and what you know is right your your family, never mind what anyone else says.
Stand firm. Your life will be transformed and your mind will be renewed, friends! Be open to change and be open to raising your standards for the sake of your child's heart and soul. You won't regret it for a second.
I'm on the journey with you...