The Christian and the Media

The contemporary world is one absolutely saturated with media. It seems that in almost every pocket, living room, bedroom, bar, and classroom in America there is a piece of technology that connects us to the media.  By “the media” I mean simply the public broadcast of rhetorical or entertaining material. There is really no historical precedent for this level of media saturation.  Historical peoples have had circuses, horse races, theater, or the opera.  But these pastimes were not available 24/7, on demand, on private devices. I’d like to give a perspective from neuroscience, from sociology, and strait from the Biblical, to help us understand how to feel about these strange times.

Neurology: Mirror Neurons
Mirror Neurons were not discovered until the early 1990’s, but they have incredible implications concerning our social behavior.  Scientists have discovered that when we observe behavior performed by someone else, our own brain activity mirrors that of the actual participant. This is what can make video-based media so engrossing.  When we see someone smile, our own brains behave as though we were smiling.  When we see someone using a hammer, our own brains behave as though we were using a hammer. The same principle applies when we see sexual acts or instances of graphic violence or revenge in the media.

Sociology: Distortion of Perspective
Media sends messages to us about what is important. Malcom Muggeridge put it this way: “Now can this really be, as the media continually insists, what life is about–this worldwide soap opera going on from century to century, from era to era, whose old discarded sets litter the world?”
Essentially, the media tells us that everyone else, “the public,” is very concerned or interested or entertained by exhibit A, and that we should be, too. There is an intense focus on violent crimes, the latest celebrity gossip, etc. In this way, it inflates the importance of subjects that only distract us from our own personal talents and responsibilities, and the work to be done in the Kingdom.
Bible: Intentions of the Heart
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

Jesus is pointing out for us that something as simple as visual a stimulus is capable of opening the door to very damaging mental processes. He goes on to tell us later in the sermon that “the eye is the lamp of the body.”  Jesus knew what contemporary psychology and neuroscience is telling us, that what we see has a profound impact on us.

I urge Christian readers, consider the motives behind your consumption of media.  Consider the effects that television and movies may be having on your values.  And I urge us all to meditate on great themes and do great things in this world.  Do not sacrifice your mind to the media.

Why The World Needs Christians

Many who live without the gospel pride themselves on leading the way towards a progressive, blissful, godless future. But is dispensing with all things Biblical really in our best interest?

The world needs people who have been profoundly impacted by the gospel.

These people embody the kind of unconditional love that only the cross makes logical. It is the kind of love that brings peace and prosperity at every scale from the individual to the international.

They have personally experienced a power strong enough to free the believer from addictions and damaging lifestyles. It is a power that realigns us, rescuing us each from our own unsustainable trajectories.

They give family the importance it will need if our society is to flourish. They champion God’s beautiful model of mothers and fathers lovingly investing in their children.

In a society that is increasingly individualistic, they maintain a sense of community that is vitally important to the human experience. They care enough to put down their electronic devices and invest in each other’s lives.

They are awake to the destructiveness of pornography. While marital sexuality falls to pieces in a world that has made even sexuality a selfish endeavor, they stand not simply against what is immoral, but also for what is most beautiful and fulfilling.

They value human life not simply for its utilitarian value, but for it intrinsic worth. In a world where abortion is a matter of convenience, they state clearly that each and every human life matters because it possesses an inherent worth, not simply because it meets the selfish needs of others.

There is so much to be done to improve our world as we march collectively into the future. There are so many social ills and so much unnecessary suffering for us to seek to eradicate. As Christians, we ought to be the ones leading the way.

Planet Earth from Space

“Be Saved from this Perverse Generation”

Times Square
On the day of Pentecost, when the Lord’s church was established, Peter preached a sermon that was followed by 3,000 baptisms.  The Bible tells us that after encouraging the crow to repent and be baptized, “with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’

Apparently we aren’t the only generation in the past 2,000 years or so to get a few things wrong.  As the early church was set apart from the wickedness of popular culture in the Roman Empire, are we setting ourselves apart from that which is amiss in the 21st century?

Ours is a culture of intense individualism.  Each person chooses their own path, rises or falls by their own merits, and considers the needs of others as secondary.  What about you?  Do you look out not merely for your own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philppians 2:4)? Are you helping to build a loving community in Christ?  Are you making sure others are not falling through the cracks?

Ours is a culture that misuses technology.  The power of modern technology for good or for evil is immense.  It has been suggested that man is no more wicked than ever before, though he continues to invent more sophisticated means to his wicked ends.  How will you, the Christian, use the convenience, privacy, mobility, anonymity, availability, and scope of content and features provided by technology?

Ours is a culture crazy for entertainment.  Sports, television, film, and video games are all multibillion dollar industries, with film bringing in over a half a trillion dollars a year.  What does your spending reveal about your priorities?  What about the use of your time?  How many times have we spent a couple of hours watching TV or browsing the internet, only to realize that we are exhausted and go to bed without so much as 15 minutes for the Creator?

Will you be saved from this perverse generation?  Can a Christian be faithful in such a wealthy, self-centered society?  With man, it is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).”