Picture this if you will…you and your spouse have a rare night off together. The children have no commitments that night, so the whole family will be together to spend the evening. What would you decide to do? Game night? Go out to dinner? Stay in to eat a “picnic” in the living room instead of the kitchen table? How about, as a special treat while having the “picnic,” you decide to watch a movie. Of course, it would have to be a carefully selected movie. One with none of the unwholesome trappings so prevalent in today’s films. That’s what we decided to do one evening…what a mistake!!!
Now there were the obvious films and genres to avoid. Movies like Braveheart were excluded immediately. Any gangster or rapper movies were easily eliminated (actually they were never even thought of). We had been given the DVD of the movie Annie for Christmas. I had seen productions of Annie in the past and loved the story. It’s a story of a red-headed Shirley Temple-like girl who sings. She is orphaned and eventually becomes adopted by the richest man in America. Its rating is PG. What could be so bad?
The movie is just over 2 hours. For more than an hour and a half it was a great movie. Then, for no logical reason other than shear stupidity on the part of the writers, swear words began, and one especially vile swear word was said. Honestly, we were lulled into a false sense of safety, thinking we had found a good family movie, and then, without warning the swearing began. Not only that, but it was a phrase that took the Lord’s name in vain. After over and hour and a half, those swears seemed so out of place. You would expect to be bombarded with vulgarity in movies like 8-miles, but not Annie! There were other disappointing things throughout that movie that made it not really suitable for Christian parents to allow their children to see…so avoid it!!!
We recently saw the Broadway production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. This child’s fairytale had a very macho character being stalked by a gaggle of girls desperate to win his affection. When they found out he wanted to marry another girl in the village, they began to cry. They stopped crying when he assured them that after his wedding, he would still continue their “little rendez-vous.” In other words, I’m willing to be married and still keep up the illicit relationships on the side. Maybe that would be lost on 7-year olds, but teens, which should be starting to desire intimacy, and learning how to foster relationships with exclusivity, may be taken back by that. So again, there is such a field of landmines that can wound families and individuals alike in the seemingly safest of places…”family entertainment.”
Here’s an interesting fact according to the Dove Foundation. Hollywood produces twelve times more R-rated movies than G-rated movies any given year. However, the G-rated movies make 11 times greater profit. But, incidentally, it may not be because more people see G-rated movies. One account for this explains that because R-rated movies generally have larger budgets to produce, the ticket sales to R-rated movies are larger than G-rated movies, but don’t reflect that in profit numbers. And since R-rated movies need larger audiences to produce profits, they are made to attract more and more people by including gratuitous sex, language, and violence as the draw.
The sad thing is that some of these people buying tickets to R-rated movies are the same parents filtering what their children watch. According to one research firm, “The side effect of this trend (gratuitous stuff) is an increasing backlash, for that same mainstream that slurps down the tawdry entertainment often rejects it as too violent, too suggestive, morally subversive or using whatever the current euphemism is at the moment. The transparent hypocrisy beneath this is of course the obvious fact that movies are made and sold to theaters because people pay to see them, and the more thrilling and sinful the flick the more people will buy a ticket to watch it, basically, which is why R rated movies make more money than G rated ones and why movie production companies create more R rated movies in any given year.”
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a toddler, a teen, a young adult, or an older adult, the fact is that there is less and less mainstream media suitable for viewing. Would you allow your cohabitating neighbors to come into your house and sit down with your children and proceed to tell you stories of their immoral activities while you laugh as they recount their adventures? Of course not, but do you watch Friends? How about Three and a Half Men? Do you watch Melrose Place? How about soap operas? There’s no difference. You’re allowing the same subject matter to enter your home through what you allow on television as you would if your cohabitating neighbors came over. Television and other media entertainment is seen in a whole new light when we remember what Deuteronomy 7:26 says, “Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing.”
Is fornication something that God abhors, and likewise we should also? Of course it is. But you would be hardpressed to find a sitcom today that doesn’t have immorality riddled throughout…but they make their way onto our televisions. In the Journal of Pediatrics, a study was reported that showed that basically, kids with higher exposure to sex on TV were almost twice as likely than kids with lower exposure to initiate sexual intercourse. -published in the September 2004 issue of Pediatrics. And it’s not just children, adults too can get desensitized to the sinful aspect of what’s prevalent in society today as portrayed through today’s entertainment.
Psalm 101:3 warns: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” Now the television, the movies, Internet, and other forms of mass media may not be what’s wicked, but what comes through them can certainly be something wicked that we should not place before our eyes. Look how the Psalmist felt about such things…he HATED the works of them that turn aside. There are many people out there making shows, movies, music, and such that draw people away from God and into sin. And it will draw people into sin, like the teens in the above Journal of Pediatrics study.
So we need to begin policing what comes into our homes, or what we go spend money on to sit and watch in movie theaters. Just remember though…just because it’s G-rated doesn’t mean there’s nothing objectionable in it for young impressionable Christian minds. Disney’s heroines are all drawn with immodest apparel that would be unsuitable for any church function. Doing a quick “Content Advisory for Parents” search of G-rated movies via the film industry website http://www.imdb.com, the majority of the concerns are over the way characters are drawn and the sometimes covert conversations between characters that are obviously in the dialogue for the older viewers to understand. And if G-rated movies have their problems, don’t even bother researching PG-rated movies…they’re worse with regards to what you need to keep from your children and yourself.
So what are parents supposed to do with their families? Well, the first thing is that parents need to begin having the same discernment for those things we watch. It should be no different than what we believe is acceptable for our children to watch. We can’t watch Friends and then tell them they can’t watch Sabrina the Teenage Witch because it promotes occultism. Episodes of Friends have probably portrayed the breaking of every commandment, making it as unacceptable for viewing as a show that promotes the abominable practice of witchcraft. By the way…wouldn’t a “wholesome” show like Bewitched be unacceptable when held up against biblical standards.
Some families have safeguarded their homes against sin by practicing the principals in Matthew 5:29, and have removed the television from their home altogether. Other families will not go to the movies or go to rent videos so as to not promote that industry in any way. It’s been said so many times before that “money talks,” and if less people watch television shows, advertisers will go away, and the networks will have to reassess. But as long as shows like Desperate Housewives remain as popular as they are, the advertisers will keep buying up spots while the industry will push for more programming like it, while we, in turn, will have to decide to watch…or not watch.
By the way, you know what age groups Nielsen found were the biggest fans of Desperate Housewives? They were 9-12 year olds. What do they know about family life at 9 years old? Not enough to know what they’re seeing on television isn’t right. Hollywood is not on the side of families and family values. The majority of Hollywood is against Christian ideals. And again, well-meaning parents can get duped. Of course, careless parents who use the television to keep the kids quiet while they do something else are just looking for trouble. Maybe that’s one reason children today, on average, will watch about 4 hours of television everyday. Not only that, but 44% of children admit they watch things when their parents aren’t around that they otherwise would if their parents were present. So maybe as you give them free-reign of the remote while you take a nap, they might just stumble across Sex and the City.
I don’t have an easy answer if you’re one of the many families waking up to the fact that we have let our guards down for a long time and regaining control of the programming we watch needs to be accomplished. We may find it difficult to alter our viewing habits. If we have young children who don’t quite yet understand many of the biblical offenses found in children’s programming (evolution, occultism, immodesty, etc.), they might bristle at the suggestion of not watching those movies. Hopefully if you have young children, they would still prefer time spent with mom and dad in lieu of their favorite movie or show…but the older the children get, the less likely that seems to become.
The media, in all its forms, could be both a weight that slows down the growth of love and closeness in your family, and it may also be a besetting sin if you watch too much and it keeps you from doing the things you should do, like praying and studying the Bible, among other things (Hebrews 12:1). We know what the biblical standard is for separation and purity…”Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (Second Corinthians 6:17). Much of what’s out there right now needs to be left alone. It’s unclean. It’s dirty. It’s sinful.
Here’s probably the biggest warning we have, and it comes from a secular philosopher and author named Noam Chomsky. He is quoted as saying, “He who controls the media controls the minds of the public.” We’re fed ideas that shape young minds (Proverbs 23:7). We’re desensitized to sin and its consequences (First Timothy 4:2). We’ve devolved as a human society (Matthew 24:37). Television in its inception was just a foothold for the devil in the hearts and minds of families. Today, with all the media outlets available to us, the devil has a full-fledged beachhead…and he’s well entrenched. But like any enemy, he will thrive if he continues to be supplied. So it’s up to us turn off the power…pull the plug on the devil…and plug our families into what matters most…