MADISON, Ind. (BP) — Fall is nearly in full swing. Leaves are turning color, Saturdays are filled with football, pumpkins are gracing doorsteps and firewood is stockpiled.
But there is one harbinger of fall that I dread: when the already arid wasteland of American television engages in an orgy of horror genre promotion.
You cannot watch the news or the ball game without enduring ads for the umpteenth rerun of so-called classic horror films. Stalkers, slashers, serial murderers and deviants of all kinds are welcomed into our homes, all in the name of good fun. The Frankenstein creations and mummies of my youth have taken a distant back seat to what can only be seen as a sort of national obsession with flesh-eating zombies.
Oddly, I see little concern among Christians over glorifying the perverse and violent.
We seem to have so accommodated ourselves to the culture that we simply drink from the fountains that water it, no matter how polluted. In the name of entertainment, we have forgotten the call of God through Scripture: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NASB) No good comes to Christians when we feed our minds on images and plots that focus on perversion, corruption, deviancy and gratuitous violence. On this diet, our minds are not renewed and our lives fail to “appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15, NASB).
In making this charge, many contemporary believers may accuse me of failing to appreciate the artistic and theatrical merit of these works. Perhaps they have something there; as I faintly recall, my professor from art appreciation in college seemed to agree that my artistic perception was pretty dull when he graded my papers.
Still more will rush to label my opinion legalism — a catch-all label of choice whenever anyone calls Christians to any standard of behavior. To be sure, legalism is a dangerous soul-destroying cancer that has too often been found among us.
But does the label fit here? I think not for several reasons.
One reason to do with an oft-neglected facet of theology: anthropology, or the doctrine of man. Christians believe that men are the apex of God’s grand creation, created in the very image of God (Genesis 1:26). This doctrine should affect how we view the body and life itself.
It is simply incongruous to advocate for the sanctity of life and then embrace as entertainment films that celebrate the wanton destruction of life. Images of men and women being slashed, dismembered, terrorized and — God forbid – eaten, strike at the heart of our theology. These are His image bearers. To tear them from limb to limb is a sort of affront to the very God whose being they represent.
The second reason is more straightforward. The Bible plainly tells us not to fill our minds with such muck; it is a matter of obedience to these teachings. Philippians 4:8 is a great truth to keep in mind when weighing entertainment options: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things.”
While there is legitimate room for discussion of exactly what falls in line with that rubric and what does not, I think the majority of programming I see advertised easily fails to meet the test. Jesus Himself warned us of the dangers of what we see: “And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, rather than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire (Matthew 18:9)!
Christians, the heart is influenced by what we allow to enter through the mind. The mind, in turn, is impacted by what enters through the eye. Our entertainment choices, then, are not spiritually neutral. Choose the television channel wisely and remember the wisdom of God’s Word: “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life” (Proverbs 4:23).