Ok…keeping it real here…I’ve been hesitant to write this post for a while. For one…I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. And also…this is a topic where I have a tough time following my own advice. When I put something out there writing about it, it forces me to hold myself accountable. To be honest, sometimes I just don’t want to do that! But…here we go!
I like watching TV dramas. Specifically, I like serial shows that tell one big story over time. Action is good, suspense is good, and anything with surprises and twists that you don’t see coming is awesome. Every fall I get excited about the new shows starting…(hoping that one will be the next Lost). With Tivo and Netflix there is a seemingly endless possibility of shows to try out. But, I battle with something…are there socially acceptable shows out there that I (as a Christian) should NOT watch?
Philippians 4:8 reminds me, “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.” Does that mean it is a SIN to watch a tv show that is not “pure” or “honorable”? Because…there is NOT a lot out there that I would consider pure. And Luke 6:45 tells us, “The good man produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure in his heart; and the evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil in his heart; for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart.” But, to get better perspective, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 10:23 that says, ””All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.”
So if I’m going to draw an acceptability line based on these concepts…is it “ok” for me to watch Veggie Tales? I’m going to go out on a limb and say YES. What about watching hardcore porn…is that “ok”? I’m going to say…NO. So…what about Modern Family…CSI…Scandal…The Walking Dead…House of Cards…Orange is the New Black…Game of Thrones? Where does the YES turn into NO? There is a very wide range of gray out there.
I’m not going going to draw a line in the sand to tell you what YOU should or shouldn’t watch. For one thing…I believe that line is going to be in different places for different people. And also, it’s not my place to make that call. But, I do want to challenge you with 2 thoughts about the subject…
1. There NEEDS TO BE a line:
I often choose what to watch without regard for this line…without regard for what is good for me. As a result, I am subjecting myself to sinful influences of various natures. Maybe it is “permissible”, but that doesn’t mean it is good. And if something is not good, is it really worth me using my time to consuming it? Is it good for you to subject yourself to a TV show or movie with a lot of violence in it? Is it good for you to hear a lot of bad language? What about something with sex or nudity? Sure it’s easy to SAY you can watch something without it affecting you…or claim you can see sex and nudity without lusting…but is that really true? I think an important distinction is to decide what content can potentially affect YOUR walk with Christ, your thought life, and the way you act, and then avoid shows with that sort of content. And the best way to figure this out is to pray about it and listen to what convictions God gives you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because something is “popular” or it wins awards then it is good for you to watch.
2. Be aware of your influence on others:
If you have decided it is ok for you to watch certain shows, that DOESN’T mean it is ok for everyone. Romans 14:14-15 says, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.” Paul is referring here to what people eat and the sinful influence it can have. So, if that applies to a relatively innocuous subject such as eating, I feel it applies even more to something like what you watch. Different people are tempted and influenced by different things. You may be able to watch a show with violence and it not bother you. But, someone else may become disturbed by the same thing. Or, it may affect their personality and bring out more violence in them. The same thing could be said for bad language. When you tell people how great something is, you are giving it your seal of approval, which is in turn encouraging them to watch it. So if that show has content in it that could be bad for them, you are encouraging them to consume something they shouldn’t.
It’s similar to alcohol. I don’t feel drinking alcohol in moderation is bad. However, if you’re with someone who is an alcoholic and you’re drinking and going on about how good it is and how they should try it…you probably should have gone with a sweet tea instead. Don’t cause someone else to stumble by what you do. The TV shows you watch and talk about should be no different.
Imagine you’re at church and the pastor shares a quote from the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. That action would be essentially telling everyone, “I have seen this movie”, “I like this movie”, and “I think you should watch this movie”. The same can be said of any of us within our sphere of influence. When you tell people about your favorite shows, or make comments on social media about them, you are telling everyone who can hear, “I watch this show”, “I like this show”, and “I think you should watch this show”.
Guys, this applies to your role as a leader of your family too. What you watch impacts not just you but your family as well. Your wife and kids will be influenced by your choices. Even if you don’t watch with them, your kids will know what shows you like, which teaches them what is acceptable as they grow up and are able to make their own choices.
Now don’t think for a second that I’m encouraging you to watch whatever you want but just make sure to keep it a secret! If you are watching things you shouldn’t, keeping it hidden is NOT the way to handle it. For this advice to be helpful, it needs to be used in conjunction with advice #1 above (there needs to be a line). If you are watching something you think is sketchy that you’re not sure you should…the answer is NOT to simply keep quiet about it so you don’t cause others to stumble…the answer is to STOP WATCHING IT. However, if you feel that what you are watching IS appropriate for you, but you think it COULD be inappropriate for others…THAT is when I suggest keeping it to yourself. As Paul says later in Romans 14 (vs 22-23), “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
Let me share a personal experience I’ve had with this: I read a few of the Game of Thrones books. It’s a very intriguing story with interesting characters and a compelling plot, but it is far from wholesome. They are filled with greed, evil, and sex. I was willing to overlook this for the sake of the excitement of the books though. I guess it seemed to have a minimal effect on me to read it (at least that’s how I justified it). When it was made into a big budget TV series, of course it’s going to be exciting. So, I watched a couple of the episodes, but was overwhelmed at how wrong it felt (to me). The sex and nudity was prevalent and the evil felt that much worse to see it instead of read it. I didn’t want anyone to know I saw them and realized that was probably a sign that I shouldn’t…so I stopped. I didn’t want influences like that inciting lust or filling my mind with evil character and violence. So now I cringe whenever I see someone on Facebook going on about how amazing the show is. Not because I feel they shouldn’t be watching it (hopefully they are considering point #1 above and making a good decision for themselves, plus it is not my place to judge what is right or wrong for them), but it makes me worry how many people are being drawn into watching it by hearing how awesome it is from people they know and trust, only to have it fill their mind with evil, violence, sex, and sin.
But at the same time, I will watch The Walking Dead without hesitation. It is probably the most violent show I’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t bother me and I don’t feel any conviction about it hurting my walk with Christ. Still, I try not to “recommend” it to other people because the content definitely isn’t “good” and could easily be something that does bother someone else.
My advice to you:
Don’t assume that the popularity of a show or the fact that someone you know likes it means it is good for you to watch. It may seem silly to do so, but spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal to you if there are shows you watch that you should stop. And if you do watch things that YOU feel are ok, but you realize others could take issue with, I encourage you to be careful with how to promote them to others.