Whether you want to believe it or not, the media you watch affects your actions and thoughts.
Last week I found myself with a bucket of popcorn at midnight. Even though I haven't read the books, some friends invited me to the midnight premiere of The Hunger Games. As I sat in the theater surrounded by crazed fans in futuristic costumes, I thought of you. I wondered how many of you are among the thirty million readers of the bestselling books. How many of your dollars contributed to the $155 million the movie garnered opening weekend? But mostly, I wondered how to help you ride the next media wave with wisdom and pure thoughts intact.
This post is not a commentary on The Hunger Games (although I welcome that dialogue). This isn't my opinion on whether or not you should or should not read the books or see the movie. I simply can't keep writing about every media smash that might capture your heart and mind. I can't be your conscience when it comes to media choices. I don't want to Monday morning quarterback for you by watching what the weekend brings and then telling you how you how I think you should think about it. There are only so many midnight showings I can stay awake for.
Before The Hunger Games there was Twilight. Before Twilight there was Harry Potter. Before Harry Potter there was some other must-see movie or must-read book. And the hits will keep coming. Media has become the beast of our times, which no one can seem to tame or predict. There are plenty of potential land mines out there when it comes to books we can read, movies we can watch, shows we can turn on, and songs we can listen to. Truly the charge given to us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts "above all else" is difficult in a world where media has such a heavy influence.
And when we misstep, we lose more than $8 on a movie ticket. Passages like Proverbs 1:10–33 make it clear that ignoring God's warnings to guard our hearts have far-reaching negative effects.
Even so, I'm less interested in placing these pop culture phenomena into the categories of "good" and "bad" on this blog and more interested in helping you squeeze everything the culture throws at you through the grid of God's Word.
With that goal in mind, here are three principles to apply as you consider The Hunger Games or wonder how to ride the next big media wave.
In Matthew 6:22–23, Jesus says, "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"
Our body follows our eyes. The idea that we can watch or read whatever we want and not have it impact the way that we respond to the world around us doesn't hold water. Be honest with yourself about the fact that your media choices aren't "just entertainment." They do impact the way you think, act, and react to your world.
Philippians 4:8? says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
This is a simple litmus test for you to use for your media choices. Simply ask, "Is this movie, TV show, music, or book true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise?"
This doesn't mean that you can't ever watch or read fiction. The "true" part in this verse refers to being rooted in truth. In other words, does the movie reflect God's truth?
Don't be a lemming
First Thessalonians 5:21–22 says, "But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."
Test everything. As in, everything everything. Put the messages that pop culture throws at you under the microscope of God's truth. Lemmings are tiny rodents famous for their odd habit of following the pack over the edge of a cliff. Sometimes when it comes to our media choices, we all have a tendency to be lemmings. Everyone else is watching it, reading it, or listening to it, so we simply join the crowd. Curiosity can be a major motivator to jump off a media cliff. But part of being a Christian is swimming upstream against the culture; this includes our media choices.
I like how The Message paraphrases it in Ephesians 4:17–18.
And so I insist—and God backs me up on this-that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They've refused for so long to deal with God that they've lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can't think straight anymore.
Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's wise. Make a habit of praying about your media choices and seeking input from the Bible and other wise voices, such as your parents.
The media is an ocean of ideas and options. Just like the ocean there is potential danger lurking in the water, but there is also enough beautiful coastline to keep us from sticking our heads in the sand. Your ability to ride the next wave well will be determined by your willingness to be trained by God's Word. So grab your board and join me. The water's fine. I think I see a wave on the horizon.