Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Love Your Neighbor”

                There is a temptation in Christian circles to give into the current self-improvement focus of the surrounding culture. Many advertisements, books, lessons, and movies portray becoming a better person by focusing on the self is a primary goal in life. “Be the best you” “Ten ways to better yourself today” “Learn to break off inhibiting relationships” “workout towards the best you” “Meet the new you” are all common phrases, and all of them are counter biblical.

                Many advocates of a biblical focus on the self will argue that according to the golden commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” that we must first learn to love ourselves before we can love others. The logic is that if we do not love ourselves then we cannot love others. This is further taken to argue that we have to develop ourselves and grow as a person in able to help others. The first assertion is plain wrong, and the second needs qualifiers.

                The commandment to, “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a direct command phrase, followed by a clause.  The command is, “love your neighbor” the clause, “as yourself” is a qualifying phrase that gives us an example of how to fulfill the first command. It is not a path through which we must first travel to get to the first.

                Furthermore the principle of self-love before love of the other is not a major theme in Scripture. I can’t think of a verse off the top of my head that speaks to that, other than the admonition to the elders in Ephesians to, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” (Acts 20:28). However, this keep watch is in reference to the next verse where Paul tells them that, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” So in context Paul is telling them to guard themselves against incoming attacks, and not an urge for them to watch over themselves first.

                In Philippians Paul tells us to be humble like Christ, who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,” and hopes to send Timothy to the Philippians soon because he has no one else who takes a general interest in their welfare.

                Also in the Hebrew Scriptures the focus on the character of God is his lovingkindness and compassion and forgiveness from generation to generation. No mention is ever made of God loving himself first. The dominant theme of Scripture is the love of the other, and not of the self. We as we seek to be like Scripture must make sure that we are emphasizing what Scripture emphasizes. We must emphasize the love of the other. 


Humor and What We Watch

                Here is a conversation I have had with multiple unrelated people.

Me: “So how was the guest speaker?”

                Person who must not be named: “Good”

                Me: “What was it about?”

                Person: “Uhm, well. The Christian life… and such.”

                Me: “What about it?”

                Person: “Uhm, well I don’t really remember.”

                Me: “Then how do you know if it was good?”

                Person:“It was funny. J”

               

A comment that I used to make about programs like, The Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother,

                Me: “I know it’s pretty crude, I don’t recommend it.”

                Good friend: “Then why do you watch it”

                Me: “I know I know, but it is sooooooo funny!”

 

                The UnHoly Grail of Humor

                Last post I talked about choosing what we watch and how it affects our mind. Everything in culture affects us, whether we like it or not. So why do we as Christians often allow ourselves to watch or be around negative influences? Often times the excuse is humor. “It is so funny!” is used to justify why we watch material that is on the edge, at best. “There is nothing funny out there that is clean.” Is claimed as an excuse; a really poor excuse at that.

                Is humor worth spoiling your mind? My answer is no. When we laugh, we are more likely to remember what was said. Also, we let our guards down as to what is said. We laugh; we don’t critique. Because our guards are down, we just subconsciously learned something. Now it is not that one joke can’t just be a joke. A joke may be harmless, I will be quick to point that out. But often, when it comes to television programs, it is never just one joke. The humor on television programs usually remains fairly consistent in their content. That way viewers know, to some degree, what to expect.

                All I mean to say here is that when you are choosing what to watch and what not to watch do not let humor influence your decision. If a program is unwholesome, it is unwholesome; humor doesn’t make up for it.

                Also, remember that there are plenty of programs that were funny without being crude just a few decades ago. Gilligan’s Island, Green Acres, The Munsters, I Dream of Genie (I am talking purely humor and ignoring her choice of garb at the moment), The Adam’s Family and others. Hollywood primarily produces movies and series that make money. If we as Christians want more comedies that are not crude, then we need to not watch ones that are crude. May, just maybe if all 246 million Christians in the United States[1] only watched good movies and television shows, just maybe Hollywood would change. Will you put your money and time where your faith is?


[1] Note, I don’t find this number very accurate or convincing. The 64% that claim being affiliated with a church (9% less than the 246 million listed) seems a bit more accurate.


What We Watch

Part of engaging culture as Christians is finding out how culture affects us, and acting counter culturally to that. A second part is making sure that we are not partaking in culture in such a way that it hinders our Christian walk. Everything we listen to, watch, and read will affect how we think. How we think will affect our actions.

Subtly, the culture you engage will begin to infiltrate your mind, for better or for worse. For instance, in the short documentary by Jean Kilbourne
, Killing Us Softly (warning, mature content), Jean shows how even just the advertisements that we visually consume can affect every ones views of women, both the way men view them, and the way women view themselves.

She draws strong correlations between the advertisements in a society and the number of cases of eating disorders and self image issues. She shows how consistently in advertising women are presented as sex symbols, victims, prey, objects, and finding value in their relationship to men, not on their own. Where there is no mass media, there are drastically lower numbers of eating disorders.

Advertisements also affect how we think about manhood, womanhood, parenting, children, ethics, morality, sex, vacations, rights, and more. Therefore, we must be careful as to what we consume. Now, we may not be able to avoid all billboards, commercials, and Facebook advertisements, but we can choose what television shows we watch.

The television series, The Big Bang Theory, Community, My Name Is Earl, Friends with Benefits, How I Met Your Mother, and others all devalue the importance and sacredness of sexuality. Sex is a commodity, sex is cheap, sex is between any two consenting adults without repercussion (At least in the movie, Knocked Up, the movie is about a pregnancy after foolish choices).  On a short note, our society does not understand sacredness of any form, and certainly not when it comes to sex.

My primary point though is that whether we like it or not, these shows are going to affect how we think and therefore how we live. Is it then worth it? Is it worth it to watch programs that consistently portray life contrary to biblical principles when there are many other good shows that do not. One could watch, White Collar, or Sherlock

(BBC. Really, you absolutely need to watch this, if you gain one thing out of my blog I hope it is that you watch the BBC Sherlock starring, Benedict Cumberbatch), or movies like, Valkyrie,
, Howl’s Moving Castle any from the Marvel Universe and others.

I am not saying that we cannot watch anything that contains ideas contrary to Scripture, (each denomination would, in their opinion, need their own Hollywood!) but we must be careful and we must remember that self control, and personal sacrifice  are part of the Christian walk and more important than our own entertainment.