Lenses of Faith: Discerning Media Consumption

As a Christians, we are exhorted to keep our eyes and bodies free from darkness so we can be effective missionaries in the world.

Christ teaches us that “[t]he eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes.So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is clouded or evil, then your body will be filled with evil anddark clouds” (Matthew 6:22-24). We must guard what we consume through media because it has a direct effect on what goes on with us spiritually.

Whatever we allow into our homes, into our eyes, we are allowing into our souls.

By allowing evil into our souls through what we watch or listen to we are creating spiritual openings where evil can grow and take root. Let’s put on the armor of God even for something small, like what we put on the radio. It will fortify our hearts.

It is not enough justto be a Christian in the world, we must actively direct our focus on what is good and holy.

The question we have to ask ourselves is if we are being prudent in what we are consuming. Am I saying that we have to disavow everything that is not explicitly Christian? By no means!

Oftentimes, stories have deeply significant spiritual lessons that can be used to evangelize to non-Christians. Historically, stories are the most effective educators. Through stories humans have been able to mold and change society; they can inspire others to action and cultivate morality.

It would do well for Christians to immerse themselves in the wide culture (be of the world) not in it- in order to proclaim the Truth to those who do not know it.

We can use stories to teach those in our society, however, that doesn’t give us license to be indiscriminate about what we allow into our minds and hearts.

Our intake of media should be based on the idea that we are called to announce the Good News: Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, suffered, died, and rose again that we sinners may inherit eternal life.

Media consists of movies, television shows, music, video games, books, comic books, or social media; anything that can be consumed on a regular basis for entertainment, must be carefully judged before watching.

With this in mind, we need to be mindful of what we watch and keep our eyes open to truth, goodness, and beauty that our human nature longs for. With the Holy Spirit we can develop a discerning eye to what we consume on a daily basis.

Here are some questions that might help you decide:

Does this use the Lord’s name in vain?

The Lord’s name is Holy. It is through this word, Jesus, that the world has its being. “All people, under the earth, know that he is God”… If a show or movie is constantly using the Lord’s name in vain, it should cause us to stop and think. Would we want to be responsible before God for hearing that and doing nothing? What we want to become accustomed to saying something like that ourselves knowing that we will be accountable for everything that we say?

Does this glorify or hail darkness and evil? Does it highlight the occult?

If we are watching a show that’s main focus is evil or murder then we need to figure out if it actually contains anything of value. Too many modern shows use satanism, the devil and witchcraft as the main focus. Would we want to honor these types of stories? Anything to do with Satanism, Witchcraft, New Age ideology should not be something that a serious Christian watches or pays attention to. Why would we passively allow evil into our hearts. We know that Satan’s only goal is to drag us to hell- we shouldn’t be encouraging him or making it easier for him.

Does this glorify promiscuity, drunkenness, licentiousness etc.

If we feel we would need to confess this behavior if you acted in a similar way then it’s probably a safe bet that it’s not appropriate to watch. Anything overtly sexual is contrary to our human nature. Drunkenness is against our common dignity.

Does it show a twisted version of reality?

Oftentimes the shows, songs, and games we play are built around societal agendas. When consuming media we need to be aware of these agendas and how certain propaganda is affecting us. Oftentimes the divisions between people are exacerbated just as a plot point. This is particularly important to consider when watching news programs or reading non-fiction articles.

Does it encourage immoral behavior, such as gluttony, lying or anger.

Oftentimes, reality TV shows are purposeful in creating drama that focuses on the lowest base instincts of humanity, they may pit people against each other, or create areas of drama for titillation. I know sometimes it makes us feel superior to have someone to laugh at but we are allowing our brothers and sisters to wallow in filth just for our passive entertainment.

Is it supremely violent?

Anything that is gratuitous doesn’t serve a higher purpose. An example could be the “Saw” movies that are entire films dedicated to highlighting extremes forms of torture. By watching these sorts of movies we are keeping ourselves chained to violence. Do we really want to be people that enjoy the suffering of others?

Does it appeal only to the lowest common denominator and fail to highlight anything good, truthful, or beautiful? Is it hateful towards the less fourtunate? Does it encourage crudeness.

Anything, crude or crass is to be avoided. When we watch something like Jerry Springer that uses its platform to jeer and mock others, then we are not functioning with a pure and sincere heart. All people are meant to be loved and cared for, it is uncharitable to use someone else’s problems to entertain ourselves. It is unchristian to laugh at the misery of others instead of praying for them and offering them help.

The least in our society are meant to be loved not mocked.

Would you be comfortable showing this to a 5 year old?

I heard a story that says that Pope Benedict XVI once told a journalist that he has never watched The Passion of the Christ because it was not made for children and he is a child of God. This may seem a little extreme but we must remember that we are all children of God. If we wouldn’t be comfortable watching it with a child or your very devout grandmother maybe you should reconsider. Of course, we have to be fair-minded but if it wouldn’t have any value then make consider if it has any value for you.

Does it mock or denigrate Christ or Christians?

We are Christians first because we believe that Jesus is the risen Messiah. We believe that he died to redeem us and give us a new life. Our belief is serious justly because through the Lord he teaches us how we can be fully alive. Christians are far more often, mocked in tv shows and used as the punchline. Over 2000 years of history and we went from being killed on the street for proclaiming Christ to being the punching bag in mediocre comedies. Why do we allow this?

Is the focus materialism, wealth or fame?

Our lives are not our owns, and they are not limited just to this life. We are promised eternal glory, in making our focus worldly goods we are limiting ourselves. Extraneous goods at the detriment of our focus on heaven is contrary to the gospel. We are not promised riches or glory here on this earth. To focus on this is disordered and not aligned with what Christ teaches us. We must remember that our true treasures are stored in heaven for us.

Of course, this checklist can’t be exhaustive but it is a good jumping off point for those who are not sure where to start in curbing their media use.

All things are made to glorify the Lord.

Does what we consume daily highlight who we are as God’s children?

If you do find that there are specific things that maybe you are called to not watchwe can replace them with educational shows, time in reading, classic films. There are a lot of ways in which what we watch can be replaced by something that better aligns to who we want to be.

What do you all think?

Is there a way to identify what is appropriate for a Christian to watch and what’s better left alone.

Do you agree?

Share this checklist with any Christians that may find this helpful!

Prayer for Discernement in Watching Media:

Lord, Jesus Christ,

we thank you for creating us to love you and honor you in our life.

I pray that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that we may keep our bodies pure.

Let our hearts be pure,

Let our minds be pure,

and let our eyes be pure.

In focusing our attention to your glory,

I ask that we may be effective in showing the truth of

Christianity to those around us.

Thank you for your Mercy, and filling us with your Light.




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