Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9
How can we apply the meaning of Paul’s words to the media? Is there anything noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy on TV, in the movies, online, in video games, or in books? Besides, that is, very conservative Christian fiction or nonfiction?
There is an ongoing debate among Christian writers and publishers about what is acceptable in “Christian” literature, and, by implication, on TV and in movies. Is it okay for Christian writers to show violence, sex, or profanity?
Another question we may ask, is it okay for Christians to ever watch or read of these things?
Answers, of course, vary. What some see as gory, others will accept without qualms. And the real question is this: Can violence, sex, or profanity ever show things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?
On the surface, it seems not. How can the portrayal of sex or violence be any of these things? The Bible shows us how.
Although the examples are numerous, let’s just look at a few.
One example that shows a praiseworthy or noble reaction to violence was when Stephen was stoned. We can’t deny that stoning is extremely violent. Yet, something praiseworthy came from this violence.
Let’s look at an example of a reaction to a sexual act. We certainly know what Potiphar’s wife had on her mind when she grabbed Joseph’s cloak. She told Joseph what she had in mind. Yet, Joseph’s reaction to her advances was pure.
Can the reactions be seen without the dishonorable actions? Doesn’t the action, whether violent or sexual, have to be shown to some extent for the Christian reaction to be seen? Of course.
Let’s go one step further. Do the actions of sex or violence ever have positive connotations? The Bible says yes.
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrew 13:4
Sex is pure in the confines of marriage. How much “action” in the form of sex can be shown? Song of Solomon gives us an idea. Some of the actions are blush makers. Yet they are shown as pure and lovely.
How about the action of violence? Is it ever praiseworthy?
It is when in the defense of others or of God. The act of overturning the tables in the temple by Jesus has to be judged as violent.
Imagine someone entering our home and overturning a table. Definitely a violent action. Yet if a computer were sitting on the table with pornography on the screen, the violence is something that would be praiseworthy. (I’m thinking here of Fireproof when the husband takes a baseball bat and destroys his computer.)
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
I recently read a book by a well-known Christian author and found it too violent for my taste and stopped reading. Each person has their own threshold of how much violence is too much or how much sex is too much.
For me, sometimes it simply overloads my senses and I say, enough! Sometimes it depends on what I gain by the experience of reading a book, or watching a TV show or a movie portraying sex or violence. If I gain a greater understanding of human nature, I have a higher tolerance. Especially if there is a triumph over adversity or evil.
I will give you an example of this. I refused to watch Home Improvement. Why? Because the husband/father is constantly ridiculed. Yet, I watched Everybody Loves Raymond. The husband/father is ridiculed also, so what’s the difference? In Everybody Loves Raymond, everyone is ridiculed. I do not get the sense that the wife if far superior to Raymond. Furthermore, human nature is accurately portrayed. We clearly see the mistakes being made in the marriage and this can lead to greater insights in our own relationships. (And I watch the reruns still just because they’re hilarious.)
However, a bird swoops down to make a meal of the butterflies while a wolf hides behind the bush, waiting for the rabbit to hop a little closer. Meantime, you’re in the cottage with your spouse . . . . (Fade out.) And, unseen, a dragon clambers up that hill.
Better get your sword out. For that is simply life.