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.

Evolution of the Swimsuit and Man’s Responsible Mind

                Jessica Rey’s fairly recent video on the evolution of the swimsuit has been creating a small stir on the internet. She argues in her video that contrary to the position that bikinis empower women, they actually give them power to shut down a man’s ability to conceptually relate. The answer to this negative power is showing off ones dignity through modesty.

                I find her argumentation lacking. Although it may have only been because of time constraint, her arguments lack the depth needed for the topic. First, read this post by Rachel Held Evanst. In it she does help to broaden the discussion beyond just men’s brains and a cursory reference to modesty.          

Rachel points out that the article done by Dr. Fiske of Princeton University has several issues. She includes that the there was only a small sample pool, only headless pictures of women, and that the subjects used already had a sexist view. I would also like to add the critique of a control group. According to the book Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers, there is problem with studying the affects of porn and objectification because it is difficult to find a control group that has not had a great exposure to pornography. I would like to know the porn addiction history of the men in the study by Dr. Fiske.

I would surmise that individuals who have not been exposed to pornography, or any form of advertisement, would be less likely to objectify women. Almost all advertisements and pop culture objectifies women’s bodies and trains men to do the same. This is a culturally trained pattern that men must actively fight against in order to responsible for their own thoughts.

                                Men are responsible to keep their thoughts captive, but we cannot expect them to do this on their own. Should women cover everything up? That would depend upon your culture and I will leave that discussion for someone else. What is necessary is that we equip men to be able to deal with culture and its training to sexualize woman’s bodies.

                From car commercials, to advertisements for watches to television series, women’s bodies are portrayed as sexual, completely clothed or not. In most advertisements it goes beyond how much skin is showing and into the body language of the female. She is postured so as to accentuate curves and present herself as a target.

                Are female bodies innately sexual? I don’t think so. But our society is making it that way. As is evidence by some cultures that find the ankle to be the most sexual part of the female body, what is sexual and what is not is simply what we are trained to think. Currently we are training men to think of every part of a female as sexual.

                As we seek to train men to control their thoughts, we also must train them to think counter culturally. They must learn to think of the female body as a person, not an object of value that helps to sell cars, watches, boats and deodorant. The battle of men and women to control their minds is constant. Understanding what culture is teaching us, and then learning what Scripture teaches us is another very useful skill for the battle.

 

Christian’s Response to Homosexuality

                A few weeks ago Minnesota became the 13th state to legalize gay marriage. Today the Supreme Court gave marriage rights to already married homosexual couples and declared prop 8 in California unconstitutional. A rally against the legalization of gay marriage by Christians will most likely begin with new fervor. Unfortunately, that outcry will fly under the claim that homosexual marriage undermines heterosexual God ordained marriage.

                We as Christians must be careful how we talk about the issue of homosexual marriage and the Christian biblical view of marriage. If we say that allowing two men or two women to marry undermines our biblical perspective of a man and a woman marrying, we are the ones responsible for undermining our marriages, not homosexuals.

                As Christians, we believe that God has ordained marriage as a covenant between a man and woman. It is specifically an irrevocable covenant in which we have the opportunity to be like God in how we keep our promises and be like Christ in his relationship with the church. It is set up by God, and therefore no human action can undermine what God has ordained. If God has made something good, it is good regardless of actions that are counter to God’s character surrounding it.

                 Homosexual marriage has no relation to marriage in the church. Even secular heterosexual marriages are not completely like ones in the church. They may represent God’s character in their commitment to the covenant, but they do not carry with them the implications of Christ and the church. Christian marriage before God is irrevocable and permanent. Contrary to culture, divorce is not an option.

                In Matthew, Christ says that, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (NIV). At first glance it may appear not to make sense. How can a woman commit adultery if she is divorced? But that is precisely the point. The only way it would be adultery would be if she is still married. In God’s eyes, she is still married to her husband even if the paperwork says, “divorce”.

                Man’s actions of divorce do not change God’s view of the marriage. They are still in a covenant. There are two implications of this. First, that the biggest thing that undermines Christian marriage is Christian divorce. When we divorce we are not like God in keeping our covenants in that action. We have not been like Christ and his church.

                Second, is that God ignores man’s view the marital status. Regardless of man’s divorce certificate Christ still sees the marriage the way he made it. In the same way we as Christians should not be concerned with what the world calls marriage. Instead, we should be concerned with our relationships and how they reflect on Christ.

                So as you dialogue and talk about marriage with those for and against homosexual marriage as it relates to the church, remember that our first concern as Christians is the state of our own marriages and how we honor God through them.

Recommended Book: Welcoming but Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality

Influence of Culture

                I write a blog that analyzes culture. Which is ironic, because I know and will try to convince you, that we learn best through stories rather than well thought out (or not so well thought out) arguments. Our thoughts, values, and opinions are formed more by all of the passive messages that we come across every day than by a conscious decision to believe a certain way. If we continually watch movies that portray masculinity and manhood as beating up bad guys, then we will start to think that way. If we watch movies that always portray women as damsels in distress that will begin to affect how we think about women.

                George Lucas was well aware of this, he says, “I’ve always tried to be aware of what I say in my films, because all of us who make motion pictures are teachers — teachers with very loud voices.” In Star Wars, he shows us the journey of a boy into manhood. That journey includes risking one’s life to save others, and making the right choices even when they have consequences. George Lucas portrays evil as something that is a choice. One chooses the light side or the dark side.

                These messages don’t only come through movies though. We learn how to think through advertisements, the news, billboards, (heaven forbid) bumper stickers, magazines, pictures, memes and any other mode of communication. Everything carries a message. What are you learning?

                All media teaches us how we should think and live. Not all of them are of a biblical worldview though. This is why we must again be able to say, “Yes…. But” We affirm what is correct, and deny what is not. What messages do you see Hollywood telling us that are correct? What do you hear them saying that is false?