Few things frighten me any more than the
passing comments I hear brothers and sisters in the Lord make about movies
and TV programs they've permitted themselves to see. Just when I believe
there may be a deepening spirituality among the Lord's people in our day,
someone who is thought to be a part of the real strength of his or her
congregation tells me what they rented at the video store last weekend or
what they watched on TV last night -- and I find it difficult to be
optimistic at all about where we are headed as a people. When it comes to
telltale signs of spiritual shakiness, there are none more disturbing than
the problem we have with obscene movies and TV programs.
How Bad Is It? It is an
obvious fact that pop entertainment has gone from bad to worse in the matter
of obscenity (as well as violence and secular philosophy, which are, of
course, no less a problem). In regular broadcast television, not to mention
cable TV or the movies, the language has grown increasingly profane and
vulgar, producers are daily pushing the limits on nudity and sexual content,
homosexuality has come out of the closet and onto the tube, and the "moral"
values that are promoted are farther and farther away from anything the
serious Christian can identify with. What is being pumped into our living
rooms has changed for the worse so noticeably that even one secular writer
previewed a recent TV season with an article entitled, "The Family Hour
Fades to Black."
But the worsening of movie and TV content
itself is not the whole problem. The acceptance of this fare by supposedly
strong, faithful Christians is what is truly alarming. We may have an
admirable devotion to the Lord in many things, but when it comes to
entertainment we are bowing before the altar of television; we are going to
the theater to see virtually any movie we believe we will enjoy; we are
letting our kids watch nearly anything they want at the movies or on TV; we
are paying to get the cable movie channels, which rarely carry anything the
Christian can afford to be interested in; and we are renting movies at the
video store that not too many years ago would have been classified
pornographic. Basically, we've sold our souls for a mess of footage, and it
is impossible to contemplate what has happened without being concerned about
The Worrisome Aspect of the Problem.
Obviously, none of us can say we have been entirely consistent in our
entertainment, least of all this writer. To my discredit, I have been places
and seen things no Christian ought to. But the thing about the present
situation that seems different to me is that I'm encountering mature saints
who not only watch obscene movies and TV programs, but defend their practice
as perfectly acceptable conduct for the Christian! It's one thing to give in
to temptation and, when confronted, offer excuses about not being as strong
as one should be. But if, as is apparent, we have come around to the view
that those who question our viewing habits are the ones with the problem,
then we have entered a new and worrisome phase in the battle against
Increasingly these days I'm hearing
responses like the following whenever I express amazement at a movie or TV
program a fellow Christian says he has seen:
it didn't have much profanity in it. I hear it so much at work, it doesn't
bother me. I just tune it out.
it bothers or offends you, then it's not a movie you should see -- but it
didn't bother me.
you can't handle it, you shouldn't see it -- but I've been out in the real
world enough, I can handle it.
it embarrasses you, you shouldn't see it -- but I'm mature enough that
things like that don't embarrass me.
rented it and watched it at home. There's nothing really wrong when it's
Surely we can't fail to notice the common
thread that runs through these remarks: that obscenity is acceptable
entertainment for us if we personally have been so "desensitized" that
obscenity no longer bothers, offends, or embarrasses us. That we think that
way is cause enough for concern. But that we are pleased with ourselves for
thinking that way is truly frightening. If we have, in fact, lost our
sensitivity to obscenity and are patting ourselves on the back because of
it, then we are not far from qualifying for Paul's description of those
"whose glory is in their shame" (Phil
But on the other hand, whether one is
bothered or embarrassed has very little to do with the question of whether
one should or should not indulge in certain entertainment. The Lord, if He
were on earth today, would be strong enough to "handle" far more than any of
us -- but you would not catch Him entertaining Himself with the stuff we
watch. What it comes down to is that we've turned decency upside down when
we start defining how spiritually mature and strong we are in terms of how
little embarrassment we feel in the presence of obscenity.
Whether we realize it or not, we have
adopted the basic posture of the Gnostic libertines of the first century.
These were brethren who believed themselves to be a select group of
Christians who had achieved such a high plane of strength and enlightenment
that they could indulge in immorality and not be hurt spiritually. They
liked to think the amount of fleshly indulgence they could "handle" was a
sign of their advanced knowledge and sophistication. But John, as well as
other inspired writers, called this enticing doctrine what it always is: a
lie. He wrote, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie
and do not practice the truth" (1
The NT Admonition to Purity.
Need it be pointed out that the Scriptures call us to inner sanctity? Have
we forgotten that the Lord said,
"Blessed are the pure
in heart, for they shall see God"
5:8)? Have we forgotten that Paul
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"
4:8)? Whatever any of us
individually may or may not be "bothered" by, the passage is still there
waiting to be dealt with which says that there are some things not "fitting"
for the Christian to dally with, among them "uncleanness" and "filthiness" (Eph.
5:3, 4). Those around us, whose
souls we hope to reach with the gospel, deserve to see in us a better
example. We owe it to them, as well as to the Lord and ourselves, to
demonstrate that the path of purity is better than any other path we may