Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What does it take?

What does it take for evil to have a grip on a person? Is it black and white or are there shades of gray? What does it take for a thing to be ungodly? I only ask questions and do not presume to have the answers to any of them.

These thoughts stemmed from a recent conversation with a friend about media. I don't care what it's rated--hand me a movie made in the last 10 years and I'll be able to find something ungodly in it. Even some of the most innocent G rated movies have loads of swearing these days, not to mention violence and inappropriate images. Everyone has a particular limit as to how much bad content can be in a movie before they won't watch it, and some are more conservative or liberal than others. Personally, I care not at all what a movie is rated and instead judge it by its morals, its production quality, its maturity, and the amount of sexual content. Most violence doesn't bother me, but if a movie has a significant amount of language or sexing, I choose to avoid it (and of course, the word "significant" is very relative and undefined).

I never claim that this is a good standard or that it would work for anyone but myself, but the point is: how much is too much? If you could assign a point value to every immoral or questionable thing in some particular movie, what's the limit? Before we even get to that, we must consider whether everything weighs the same or if some things are "worse" than others (basically the question of "Are all sins equal?"). Once we have that figured out, what's the number? Does it take 100 units of badness to classify a movie as ungodly? Perhaps this could amount to 10 minor cuss words, 2 major ones, a couple of scantily clad women in the background and a few explosions with a bit of blood. Most people I know would be okay with that movie.

But what's the limit? 100? 10? Or just one? Does a thing have to be completely pure in all its parts to be pure as a whole? Or can a thing be wholesome and good despite a few flaws? To slightly misquote a popular 90s cliche, what would Jesus say about it?

I started rereading a book I really love by Greg Johnson called The World According to God. In it, he simply states that the purpose of a thing's existence is a direct result of the purpose of its creation. He says that in order to find out how we are to be living our lives as Christians, we must start with why we were created in the first place. In the context of popular media, its purpose is simple: it seeks to provide us with entertainment--nothing more, nothing less. Entertainment by itself was created good, just like sex. It's how it's used (or misused) that determines its godliness.

I do not seek to condemn anyone for the music they listen to, the movies they watch, the web sites they visit, or even the places they go. Besides, I'm as guilty as anyone. But I think we ought to take a second look at the reasons why we are so infatuated with our entertainment. I firmly believe that God wants us to enjoy life, and he gave us entertainment as a way to do that. But we must honestly ask ourselves if the cost is worth it.

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