“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” – Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
Paul’s words serve as our best guide when it comes to entertainment choices. He doesn’t tell us to avoid books. Or magazines. Or television. Or movies. Or paintings. Or newspapers. Or sculptures. Or music. Or lectures. Or magazines. He doesn’t even tell us to – gasp! – avoid dancing. I know. You probably need to take a break from reading and process that.
Now, of course this reality doesn’t give us a free pass. There are things that we shouldn’t indulge in. Pornography isn’t true, noble, just, pure, lovely or of good report; it lacks virtue and there’s nothing praiseworthy about it. There are many musicians that glorify or trivialize drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity and violence. Much of what passes for good television isn’t worth the drop in IQ that comes from watching it. For women, fashion magazines often contribute to our sense of ugliness or worthlessness, and so should be treated with caution.
Yet there isn’t a hard and fast rule here. When it comes to entertainment, the journey in faith is highly individualized. For example, I used to be a fan of Grey’s Anatomy. Most of the episodes were very well done – the characters were complex and interesting and so were the story lines. For years, nothing bothered me about it. And then I just couldn’t watch it anymore. I realized that I was watching something that, despite having good qualities, didn’t line up with what I said I believed. The same thing happened last summer when I got hooked on Parenthood.
The truth is, I don’t watch a lot of television or movies. Part of that came after learning in therapy that everything – and I mean everything – impacts the way I think and feel. That lesson was repeated just a few months ago when I figured out how to use Spotify. I built a playlist full of songs from my high school days (N*SYNC, anyone?) and got a real kick out of listening to it. Slowly and subtly, I began to romanticize and long for that time in my life. I wasn’t living in the moment. I began to feel discontent. It was the music, and I had to delete the entire playlist.
Could another Christian person watch Grey’s Anatomy or Parenthood and listen to music from their high school days without feeling convicted about it?
We walk by faith, not by sight. Those who believe follow the path that God illuminates, and He often shines light on different things at different times for different people. I can’t stand the song “Blurred Lines,” and I’m happy to talk with anyone about it should the conversation arise, but I’m not going to judge my Christian brother or sister by whether or not they like it. I’m not going to assume their faith is lesser than my own. And while I firmly believe that we have to protect our minds and thereby our hearts, I also believe that the art of protection is never fully achieved. There are probably things in my life right now that I think are fine that I won’t be able to watch or listen to a year from now. It’s a process.
Lastly, nowhere in Paul’s words, and nowhere in Scripture, in fact, do we find a basis for detaching from artistic expression. Anyone who believes that faith equals the possession of nothing more than a Bible and a commentary set needs to go out and look at a flower. God is an artist. He is the ultimate Master. And so I would dare to say that Christians should be pursuing the arts with vigor. Who better than the redeemed to write, act, dance, sing, paint, sculpt, draw and speak? Cannot all of this bring glory to God?
For all the posts in the Not the Fundamentals series, go here.