STUDY SIXTEEN: CHRISTIANS, MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT
© Rosemary Bardsley 2006, 2016
This study is about biblical perspectives that impact our media and entertainment choices.
For the purposes of this study ‘Media and entertainment’ includes  printed matter such as newspapers, magazines and novels,  audio material such as radio broadcasts, the lyrics and music of music CDs, MP3s etc,  visual material such as TV programs, videos, films, DVDs, the internet including social media, and  entertainment such as live theatre, electronic and computer games, clubs [including night clubs], theme parks, cinemas, sporting events [attended as a spectator] and discos. [Although the lesson content does not mention children’s media and entertainment, what our children are exposed to is also included, and presents parents and children’s workers with ethical choices.]
A. THE IMPORTANCE OF OUR MINDS
Media and entertainment affect our minds. What we read, what we see, what we hear and what we experience enters our minds and becomes stored in our memories impacting the way we think, the way we feel, the way we perceive reality, the way we respond to people and circumstances. The media also contributes heavily to the formation of public opinion and what is perceived as ‘normal’. This in turn impacts our own perceptions and our own reactions.
From the scriptures below identify our God-given responsibility for what we allow to impact our minds and why it is important for us to develop clear ethical perspectives by which to make our choices in this area. [The western division between ‘heart’ and ‘mind’, and the association of heart with feelings, ought not to be imposed upon the Bible, where ‘heart’ is by far most frequently used in reference to one’s self, and where reference is made to the thoughts of the heart, rather than to the feelings of the heart.]
Not only do media and entertainment influence our minds with non-biblical standards and perceptions, they also subtly influence us with worldviews that are thoroughly non-biblical or even anti-biblical. The presuppositions behind much of what we are exposed to in the media and in entertainment are derived from atheistic, humanistic, materialistic and nihilistic worldviews in which God and his commandments have no real place. We need to realize this, and along with this, to realize also that the fact that we identify with a biblical worldview automatically puts us in conflict with these worldviews that dominate the media and entertainment.
B. THE IMPACT OF THE COMPANY WE KEEP
God is aware of our weaknesses even when we are not. He knows the power of association and peer pressure. He knows that we are easily impacted by the standards of the company we keep. This relates to the question of media and entertainment in two ways:  we are impacted by the media and entertainment choices of those around us, and  those around us can be impacted by our media and entertainment choices. This lays upon us two levels of ethical choices: firstly, to be selective in the company we keep – are their standards God’s standards? And secondly, to keep guard over our personal choices, for our choices will impact those around us, especially those who look to us as examples.
How do these scriptures direct our choices in the area of media and entertainment?
C. MORAL ISSUES IN MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT
Media and entertainment impact our morals in a number of areas:
Sexual standards – in which media/entertainment is constantly lowering the standards of what is acceptable, and biblical values are cast aside like an old rag
Marriage and family issues – in which marriage and the two-parent family are no longer portrayed as the norm
Sanctity of life issues of violence and murder – in which we are so inundated that we become insensitive to gross violence against human beings
Respect for authority – in which it is anything but ‘cool’ to obey the rules, whether parental, school, police or state.
Respect for property of others and of governments – in which destruction of property is portrayed as a joke
Issues of honesty and integrity – which are overridden by the importance given to pleasure and prosperity
Contentment versus covetousness – in which covetousness is encouraged by both media portrayal of lifestyles and by advertising.
The ‘norm’ portrayed in media and entertainment falls far below the Biblical standards in each of these areas. This perceived ‘norm’ is constantly bombarding us and our children, undermining the values commanded by the Word of God. Given the importance the Bible places on our minds this desensitization and re-structuring of values that is taking place in Christian minds is entirely out of sync with the Christian’s commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.
D. STEWARDSHIP IMPLICATIONS
All that we have comes from God. In the Old Testament this was acknowledged by tithes and offerings, including the offerings brought in at the beginning of harvest. This dependence on God was further acknowledged by Sabbath days and Sabbath years.
The person who believes in the God of the Bible lives with this consciousness of God as the source of all that he/she is and has. Our physical environment, our food, our possessions, our money and investments, our job, our family, our abilities, our body – they all come to us from the hand of God. Looking at it a different way, at the bottom line, we, and all that we are and have, belongs to God. This consciousness is expressed in the following scriptures.
What do these texts teach?
If we live with this consciousness of God as the source and giver of all that we are and have, this raises the following questions about media and entertainment:
Should I spend any of God’s gifts to me [time, money, energy] on those aspects of media and entertainment that work against God’s commandments?
Is it good stewardship to use the time, money and energy that God has given me to promote and fund a lifestyle that brings dishonour to his name, turns people away from his kingdom, and encourages people [including myself] do disobey his will?
Is it right to spend God’s gifts [time, money, energy] on things that will corrupt my mind and heart?
How much of God’s gifts to me [time, money, energy] should I spend on media and entertainment that does not conflict with his commands?
How does what I spend [money and time and energy] on media and entertainment compare to what I spend [money and time and energy] on the Lord’s work?
How does what I spend [money, time, energy] on media and entertainment compare to what I spend [money, time, energy] in reading and studying God’s Word, prayer and worship?
These are confrontational questions. We do not like to be challenged in areas in which we think we have the freedom to make personal choices. But God’s word challenges us continually to do all things as if we were doing them for him [Colossians 3:23], and to do all things for his glory [1Corinthians 10:31]. This ‘all things’ includes our relationship to media and entertainment.