Toward Cleaner Entertainment

remote-control-205828_640A friend and sister in Christ came with her husband to visit me a few years ago. We talked, we laughed, we baked, and during their visit I shared one of my favorite movies with them. I love the characters, the humor, the creepy bad guy, and the happy ending. I’ve seen it a dozen times at least. But I never realized until my Christian friend was sitting there on that couch with me how much language and nudity are in that movie! I was intensely embarrassed. Now, to be fair, the majority of the times I have watched that movie have been with the aid of the TVGuardian device, which cuts out bad language. I probably never worried about the scene with the mostly naked woman because as a young person, you learn early that it’s not supposed to matter if you see people of your gender undressed. But with our husbands on that couch? You’d better believe it mattered! I have recently apologized to my friend for putting those images and words in their hearts. I was just not thinking! But I have to wonder, how does a Christian come to find herself in that situation? How did that happen to me?

Another movie, shared with us by a preacher’s wife and beloved by my family at holiday time, was on television one afternoon and my dad ​​and I were watching. I’ve seen this movie probably two dozen times. A humorous line was spoken about a male body part, and my dad said this: “I don’t know why we ever let you watch this.” We changed the channel. That’s the question, isn’t it? Why do I ever watch these movies in the first place? ​It must have been a time when I had my guard completely down. Maybe at the time I chose these favorite movies, my senses had not been exercised to discern good and evil (Hebrews​ 5:14​). My conscience must not have been trained properly, or might have been seared. And now that I appreciate the characters and the plots, it’s hard to let them go.

I feel the same about the sitcom Friends. When Friends came out, I was only six, but as it played well into my teen years I remember Christians saying how ungodly and terrible that show was. Well, I guess I wanted to see for myself, because when another Christian recommended it in my twenties I bought the DVD set and watched every episode. After seeing it all, I must say that the series was very well written. I laughed so much. The characters are unforgettable. At the end of it all, you really feel like Chandler and Joey and Ross and Rachel and Phoebe are your own friends (and could Monica please come clean my house?!), and you miss them when the show ends. But you know what? That show has loads of sexual humor, lesbians raising a child, unscriptural divorces, a man having had a sex change, a female minister, lots of immodesty, a seance, cohabitation, and exactly zero main characters who save themselves for marriage. You might be wondering, why would someone who claims to be a Christian watch nine seasons of that sort of content? I think the answer is emotional involvement. Good entertainment makes the viewer identify with the main characters. So when I say I feel like Chandler is my friend, what I ​reveal is that I have become emotionally invested in the show, and have thereby lost the ability to consider the content objectively. When you research the content of a new movie you’re thinking about seeing, using a resource like Kids in Mind or ScreenIt you can read a detailed report of all the objectionable content within a movie. When the movie is stripped of its beloved characters, flashy trailer, and well-known storyline, you can easily tell which movies and shows to avoid. I can make an objective decision as to whether or not I’m going to buy a ticket or watch the pilot. But it’s different when you’ve already watched a season’s worth of episodes, or when a movie is as much a family tradition as the Christmas tree. I’ve got movies and tv and music I became familiar with when I wasn’t being vigilant, and now it’s hard to let them go. I’m emotionally involved. We watch that movie every Christmas… and it’s time to stop. When preachers say, “Could you watch your favorite tv shows with Jesus on the couch by you?” I always thought they were talking to someone else, but the truth is they’ve been talking to me all along.

You want to know who is supposed to have had my emotional investment first? Christ. When He asked for my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), and I said He could have it, that ruled out letting inappropriate entertainment into my heart and my mind. Even if it’s a hugely influential part of pop culture. Even if every single one of my friends, in the church, is watching it. Even if it’s well written and really, really funny. As one preacher said, we mustn’t laugh at what makes God cry.