The Culture and The Christian: Cause and Effect

Last week, I wrote about Christians in the media, or specifically, in movies and TV.  So this week, I’m going to briefly write about the media in Christians.

And no, I’m not referencing anyone’s inner drama queen. =)

Instead, I’m thinking about how the things we watch, read, and enjoy affect us.  I used to watch one show where the characters breathe in really awkward places.  One of the main characters who was on the show most likely started this trend, and my hypothesis is that the newer character picked up this different style of speaking from this character.

I even started saying some things a little oddly after watching the show for a while.  Obviously, this is a rather insignificant example, but it does go to show how subliminally we can be affected by the things we watch.

I once watched a video called “The Fire” by Nate Pfeil, which I’ve posted below.  The video is certainly challenging.  It forces you to reevaluate things that you might be settled into, and the speaker is quite blunt about what he has to say.

It makes you think… mainly in that it calls to your attention that “true love of God is true hatred of sin.”  God is more repulsed by sin than I think we could ever really handle, and as Christians, we should also be turning away from such sin.  Instead, a lot of times, we enjoy watching it.  We condone it, and we think it’s okay.

Quite honestly, I haven’t figured out where I sit on this yet in terms of media intake, mainly because it’s such a challenge.  If I stopped watching any show with sinfulness, I may as well throw out my television.  If a show features graphically inappropriate scenes, then yes, I think I shouldn’t be watching it.  But there are seemingly good shows out, and we’re certainly not perfect people.  Still, perhaps we don’t need our sinful behavior reinforced.

It’s something I’ll have to pray about.  As the Lord’s prayer says, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Just a disclaimer, I was in no way associated with the making of this video, and I wanted to share it with you to encourage you to truly think about something that we often disregard, just as this video got me thinking.

I hope you take some time to think about all of this, and let me know what your opinion is!  I also hope that you’ve enjoyed this exploration of the Christian the culture.  Next week, I’ll have a guest blogger kicking off a string of semi-related posts about girls, boys, and love, though perhaps not in the way that you’d think.

Have a great week!

Advertisements

The Culture and the Christian: On the Big Screen

Before I start today’s post on The Culture and the Christian, I would like to make two announcements.

1.) Please continue to pray for all of the devastation and pain, not only in Haiti and Chile, but for all people living around the world in poverty, fear, and so many more trials than many of us can even imagine.

2.) I am so grateful to my readers!  I have now been blogging for 6 months, and it’s incredibly exciting that people are still reading the words I write.  I hope you all have been as blessed, encouraged, and strengthened by reading this blog as I have been by writing it.  As always, if you have any feedback or questions, don’t hesitate to email me at sumparakaleo@gmail.com.  Thank you, thank you for reading!

And now, The Culture and the Christian series continues. =)

~

When a new show comes out, I first judge it by its preview.  If I can’t even handle a preview of a show, I’m not going to watch an entire episode.  If I make it to the episode, I judge by the half-hour or hour of content.  I remember I stopped watching one show just because I was incredibly annoyed with how self-centered the main character was.  But more often, I just don’t share the show’s sense of humor or appreciate the use of violence or profanity.

But if the show turns out to not be upsettingly profane or inappropriate, there’s still at least one thing that I have to keep an eye out for- the Christian character.

Several of the shows or movies that I started watching within the past year or so have a character who is, or claims to be, a Christian.  I’ve noticed that many of these characters are condescending, hopelessly confused, excessively strange, or generally unpleasant.

Why are we being portrayed this way?

This isn’t a call to write any major television or film companies and demand a more “proper” representation of Christians and Christianity.  It is a call to look at ourselves and consider why non-Christians view us in such a negative light.

I honestly can’t say I have the answer for this.  My guess would be that they’ve had some sort of interaction with Christianity that left a negative impression on them.

The screenwriter of a popular but controversial film about a Christian high school once explained that he attended a religious high school where everyone had to be at least six inches away from the opposite sex, they had record burnings, and the entertainment at the senior prom was a puppet show.  Others who worked on the film suggested that they felt that Christianity had to be more modernized and simplified, at least on the big screen, to appeal to a teenage audience.

It’s so sad that these sorts of opinions and experiences are the ones getting the most attention and making the most money, overshadowing the message that Christians should really be trying to get out.

I’m no giant movie producer or actor, but I believe that you and I can still do something about this on a smaller level- we can be the Christians that God has called us to be.  We can radiate Christ to the people around us.

“A new command I give you: Love one another,” Jesus said in John 13.  “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

As I was looking up this reference, I came across a troubling comment on a question/answer message board about this verse.  “I imagine you’re thinking of the verse in John 13,” the comment said.  “Problem is, I generally know someone is a Christian by his hypocrisy.”

No, no!  This is not how the world should recognize us.  It should be by our love, by our ever-increasing similarity to the loving, forgiving, holy God to whom we owe our lives.

There’s one fairly new show that I truly enjoy.  It has a Christian character, played by an actress who is a Christian in real life.  This character isn’t your stereotypical “TV Christian.”  She stands up for what she believes in.  She says no to certain temptations.  When people ask her how she endures certain things, she speaks clearly, confidently, and intelligently about her faith.  Other characters sometimes mock her, but that’s the sort of thing that does happen in real life.  The show, however, portrays her as a confident, beautiful, intelligent woman.  She definitely makes mistakes, but she apologizes and repents, and is generally a very positive portrayal of a Christian.

“I want to do things that either will have a message at the end of the day, a good moral message, or things that will encourage people or families in a positive direction,” the actress said in an interview.  Then, speaking about her character in the same interview, she said, “I think [she] is trying to represent what unconditional love is. I know that has a lot to do with her faith and God’s unconditional love for every one of us. I think [she]’s trying to live that out.”

You never know who’s going to become what.  That person frowned at with annoyance this morning while driving out of church might be the next James Cameron.  The girl you gossiped about could be offered an acting role as an ill-portrayed Christian in 15 years.  The guy who overheard your questionable weekend plans might walk away with a complete misunderstanding of what Christianity is and who Christians are.

While all of this is true, and we should definitely try to radiate Christ, I don’t want you to feel that if you mess up, you’ve completely ruined everything- that you were a little mean towards that person, and you’ve ruined their view of Christians forever.

Don’t forget that if God wants to bring someone to Him, nothing can stop Him.  If that girl or that guy is meant to be a Christian, they’ll become one regardless of what you do.  But how incredible would it be to allow God to use you, even if you might not know it?!

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another. Let’s represent our Lord as we have been called to do.

The Culture and the Christian: Regrets

I’ve wished I were in a movie many times before.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could wake up, hit the alarm, sigh, and then cut to you walking down the street to wherever you’re going?  You could completely skip the agonizing act of getting out of bed and going through the morning routine that you just went through in that very realistic dream.

Some of my favorite movies, though, are ones that let you go back in time.  One TV show features a character who constantly go back in time to relive, and sometimes fix, her greatest regrets.

After watching one too many episodes, or watching one too many back-in-time movies, I often wish I could go back in time… and fix that mistake I made, or make the clever remark that I thought of hours after the conversation, or talk to that person more…

I think that maybe I’ve messed up somehow and wonder what I would go back and change.

We’ve all made mistakes and we’ve all been frustrated with some of our decisions.  I often start to wonder, what if I’d wound up going to such-and-such college?  What if I’d become better friends with so-n-so?

“We can never know what may have happened, Lucy,” Aslan tells Lucy when she regrets not making the right decision earlier in the film Prince Caspian. “But what will happen is another matter entirely.”

I think that instead of focusing on all of the mistakes that we’ve made, we should focus on the truth that’s going to last forever– that God is righteous and loving and that His blood has covered and forgiven all of those mistakes.

We can certainly learn from our mishaps and all of the things that we would change, but then, we should turn our attention to what will happen; what we, as wiser, stronger Christians can do today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our purposeful lives here on earth.

“He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart,” says Ecclesiastes 5:20 (NIV).  The New English Translation reads the last half of that verse as “God keeps him preoccupied with the joy he derives from his activity.”

There’s so much to do right here and now.  Let’s not get stuck trying to relive a negative past the “right” way.  I believe that God knows exactly what’s meant to happen every second of our lives, and that He doesn’t make mistakes.

Let’s press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us- let’s be preoccupied with joy.

The Culture and the Christian

It was a little hard for me to get back in the swing of things after winter break, which ended a while ago, and watching all of that free time slip through my fingers.  I had making decisions about how to use the new, more minimal free time that I have once a semester starts.

Two of the biggest things I have to give up are T.V. shows and reading opportunities.  But taking in so many shows, movies, books, and magazines over the break got me thinking… what exactly is popular culture trying to tell us?

We give up hours and hours of our time to watch our favorite shows, or to read the new popular novel, and I think it’s impossible to read or watch something without getting something from it (even if that “something” is annoyance or boredom).

My extensive show-watching and reading made me start wondering about how Christians and/or Christian principles are or are not portrayed in the media.  Sometimes, I would be incredibly annoyed.  Other times, I’d smile because someone seemed to finally get it right.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to write a series called “The Culture and the Christian” and just look at how, as Christians, we relate to the ever-accessible popular culture around us.

We’re told to be in the world, but not of it, though I don’t believe that exact saying is in the Bible.  Rather, Jesus prayed about His disciples, “I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them form the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”

Jesus came to this earth with a very specific purpose, and we too have a purpose- to glorify God and to radiate His Son.

Still, we’re in this very awkward spot.  We’re in the world, but not of it.

It’s like when you go someplace that you know you just don’t belong, but you have to be there.  It’s sort of like a younger sibling’s birthday party.  You’re at home because you couldn’t make any other plans, but you are definitely not into the conversations that you had years ago when you were that age, simply because you’re not of one mind with that lifestyle and those people anymore.  You’re in the gathering, but not an engaged, belonging part of it.

The wonderful C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

As Christians, we, quite frankly, are not (or should not be) of one mind with the rest of each world.  While they’re focused on achieving other goals, noble as they may be, we’re specifically charged to love and bring glory to God.  Our entire purpose- our greatest desire- is different.

The next few weeks aren’t meant to be about insulting popular culture- there’s definitely some aspects of it that I enjoy and I think that you can learn a lot from different movies and shows, though not all of them are necessarily worth watching.

What I do hope the next few weeks will be about is exploring how popular culture impacts us as Christians and how we should react as people in the world, but not of it.

Let me know what you think!