November 29, 2013

Garbage in, garbage out?

What about watching television or reading books that would not be found in a Christian bookstore? This question came to mind from today’s devotional reading. It was about Bible study and suggested reading useless, impertinent books is a sin for the same reason indulging in useless conversation is a sin.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:29–30)

While the reading didn’t talk about television (it was written in the 1700’s) I immediately included it, for I might sit in front of the tube if I don’t have a book in my hand. I like watching and reading mysteries and crime stories, reasoning this is because justice happens at the end. Yet, is seeing justice accomplished worth putting into my head whatever else happens in the program?

Oddly, when I opened my Bible the passage was not related to the reading, but this one . . .

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:1–7)

I began comparing it with the last version of “The Mentalist” that I watched. I’ve underlined all the things in this passage that were depicted in that episode. Not one person on the show demonstrated any love for God. One was dressed as a religious person but had a knife concealed in her robes and used it to attack someone. As I kept reading, I wondered if I was one of the weak women burdened with sins and led away by various passions, a person who is always learning but hasn’t got it yet.

In the computer world, the GIGO principle is well known. It isn’t so popular when it comes to the human mind. Psychologists try to tell us that there is no relationship between violence committed and violent video games played, and that watching horror movies has no effect on the psychological makeup of those who view them. I’m not sure that I agree.

Back in the day of no movies, television, or X-box, the Bible says that people do this stuff in real life and we are supposed to avoid such people. What about today’s actors and graphic images that do such things? Are they an acceptable substitute for that which God’s Word tells His people to stay away from?

As for books, I know the effect that descriptions of violence and graphic sex can have on me, so I refuse to read books like that. But what about those whose characters set no godly example and are like the people described in 2 Timothy? 

Not all books are filled with sinful people, yet today’s market says those books are boring and the characters are plastic and not real. Actually, the characters in the Bible are real. Scripture describes the life of murderers, rapists, adulterers, thieves, a full range that includes only one Hero who never sins. All of it is honest about real life, but I doubt very much if today’s devotional writer thought about the Word of God that way. He realized, as do I, that God shows us the worst of ourselves so that we want the best that He can offer. He isn’t trying to encouraging sin by telling us about sin, but instead shows the terrible consequences of living for sin and self instead of living for Him. Sin leads to death and eternal punishment.

As I think about television shows and books, I can also see the downhill trends. It used to be that a lead character could make mistakes, but also took responsibility for them and acted in noble ways. Not anymore. Today’s star of the show can violate the name of God in normal speaking and even break the law (or the laws of God) in the name of “justice.” The characters of hero and villain have blurred.

As for this Word from God today, I’m thinking that I can start out admiring the stars of a show or the lead characters in a book, but if their lives begin to ignore their own sinfulness, will I also slide into ignoring that too and continue to admire them? Or will I avoid such people and go find better stuff for which to fill my mind? 

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