How does a Christian writer tackle the tar-baby issue of worldliness and our media consumption? Go too far one direction and you end up promoting living in Amish-like isolation. Too far the other direction and you end up saying that everything is relative so it doesn’t really matter what we watch or how we deal with the internet.
In Worldliness, contributing author Craig Cabaniss attempts to navigate this realm in the chapter God, My Heart, and Media. I believe he does a good job in his attempt to continually point us to the Bible and avoid wrecking upon the rocks of media avoidance or media indulgence.
Cabaniss starts right off by declaring, “I’m not saying it’s wrong to watch television, rent a DVD, surf the Internet, or spend an evening at the cinema. The hazard is thoughtless watching” (p 40). His stress throughout the chapter pushes this point of being discerning in our pursuit of glorifying God and spiritual growth in our viewing habits. In the section Watching with Immunity? he reminds us that our love for the world isn’t a monster hidden in our plasma tv’s but is in our flesh, and thus we should be careful in thinking that we are immune from being influenced by our media intake. The L Word section of the book addresses the topic of legalism that gets thrown around whenever the topic of tv, movies, and internet gets brought up in Christian circles.
Our discernment in what we view is hammered again in Living Coram Deo (“before the face of God”) when the writer states, “it means we surf the Internet, listen to the radio, watch television, or rent a DVD in God’s presence. We make our choices – all our choices – with God’s holy face in view. It’s not the gaze of our pastor, parent, fellow small group member, or unbelieving neighbor that matters most. We’re accountable to God in all things, including our entertainment” (p 47). He goes on to describe this as Grace-motivated Obedience based on Ephesians 5. Cabaniss does an excellent job of presenting balanced case studies of applying Ephesians 5 in Watch What They Do, Watch What They Say, and Viewer Discretion Advised. The last section has a great section to aid in our discernment with a series of heart searching questions to ask ourselves in regard to time, heart, and content.
In the closing paragraphs of the chapter, Cabaniss demonstrates his ability to strike a balance in holding to Scriptural parameters without declaring a need to isolate ourselves from all media influence or confining ourselves to purely “Christian” forms of entertainment.
We’re not limited to watching only explicitly Christian programs or films. By God’s common grace, unregenerate artists made in God’s image do create works that make “true” observations about life. Unbelievers can craft “honorable” stories and “lovely” songs. they can produce films with “commendable” screenplays and “excellent” visual artistry. It’s possible to enjoy entertainment media for the glory of God, and this passage [Philippians 4:8] helps us do so. (p 66)
While I’m optimistic about the possibility of watching for the glory of God, I’m also realistic about life in the mediasphere. For most of us, applying biblical discernment and viewing with discretion will mean watching less than we currently do. But that’s no great loss. It means more time to interact with actual people – a date with your spouse, talk-time or play-time with your children, fellowship with your friends, serving people in your church, or reaching out to unbelievers. There’s a world of things to do with the TV turned off. (p 67)
This chapter was both refreshing and challenging. I recommend reading it with active thought, questions, and discernment. It will likely challenge you whether you grew up in a culture that generally painted watching tv, movies, etc as categorically “worldy” (with the possible exception if they were “Christian” or produced by Christians) or with a background that never really challenged your viewing and listening intake.