Saturday, April 24, 2010
James and Media
I was reading in James tonight, and I had to stop in verses 26-27 of the first chapter. It's not often that I have to stop like I did, usually I can finish a book like James in one sitting and then Meditate and think on what I've read. But this section stopped me dead:
"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
The relevant part is at the end. Christians are called to keep ourselves "unstained" from the world. The language James is using is the same as 1 Peter 1 talking about the sacrificial Lamb being without blemish. this got me thinking (again) about what Christians should and should not partake in when it comes to media.
Pastor James Harleman from Seattle has his own site where he reviews movies that most Christians won't even watch. (reviews available here) he explains why here but a shortened quote may help those who don't want to read the whole thing:
"We are image-bearers of our Creator, a master storyteller whose narrative spans all of creation, a metanarrative in which we all play a part. Made in the image of our Creator, we have a yearning to both create, and be entertained, by narrative"
By connecting "secular" narratives created by that save God-given creativity to the metanarrative of the scriptures, Harleman takes cultural engagement to a new level.The question now is what is acceptable to watch and what is not.
The answer to this comes from Jesus, in Mark 7:15 Jesus says this: “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Yes, in context, Jesus obviously was not talking about movies or any form of media. The immediate context is food and eating. But the broader context applies directly doesn't it? I'll explain.
I had a conversation with my lovley wife tonight, we were talking about the recent controversy surrounding "South Park". Read about that here. In the end she won't watch South Park and certain other movies because the gratuitous language may cause her (and other good friends of ours who share the same postion) to fall into the same behaviour themselves. I on the other hand am free to watch the show and appreciate the (usually) excellent social commentary without it affecting by behaviour.
What we have here is a basic "weaker brother" situation. Some of us are free to watch things like South Park et al because they woun't blemish us or defile us and some cannot. Because the measure is mot what goes in, but what comes out.
Christianity: we have shades of grey too!