As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.
Every minute your eyes are open, our culture is telling you how to act, how to think, or how to feel. We don't always realize just how much we are influenced, but occasionally something shows us how far off track we are.
A few years ago a friend pointed out that the Christians around him watching "Friends" thought nothing of the rampant sexual immorality and instead were hoping Ross was the father of Rachel's illegitimate child. It's not so much that it's bad to hope Ross was the father as it was sad that most of us didn't even pause to consider the act the made him the father. The show did not mock sexual mores so much as it simply discarded them, and we went right along with it.
This is just one example of the constant influx of non-, if not anti-, Christian views we allow into our minds – be it morality, privatization of faith, or naturalism.
How much tv do you watch? Two hours a day (less than the average US tv watcher) is fourteen hours a week of influence from the world. That doesn't count radio, billboards, magazines, non-Christian books, or the things your friends, family, and coworkers say. We are constantly inundated by things that try to instill in us ideas that are inconsistent with, or even opposed to, having the mind of Christ. And what goes in our eyes and ears will come out our mouths and hands.
How can we fight this corruption of the inside? Remember this? "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Notice that being conformed and being transformed are passive – it is something that is happening to you. Notice also that there are only two options. Either we will be transformed, or we will be conformed. St. Paul instructs us to choose transformation, and that is accomplished by renewing our minds – that is, filling them with the things of God (scripture and also other worthy works). Remember the fourteen hours a week of tv? Can we combat this with two hours a week of church? Fifteen minutes of daily Bible reading the rest of the week is only a marginal improvement.
Having a renewed mind, a mind that is becoming more and more the mind of Christ, requires time and work. Especially time. I’m not advocating cutting ourselves off completely from our culture, but most of what we spend our time on is simply waste. We need to triage our schedules, our tv watching habits, and our reading habits and make time to fill our minds with God’s word and related material. We cannot be different from the world if we think like the world.
(See my “useful links” on the side for some sources of good Christian listening. Make that commute a time to renew your mind.)
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Prov 4:23)
Thursday, August 9, 2007
You are what you eat...and hear, see, and read
As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.
Let me ask you this: Is it wrong to exegete the culture, then? What I mean is, I watch some TV and read non-Christian books. I don't think I do it to excess, but as I watch, listen and read I am constantly comparing these inputs to God's word, in order to determine what is good and what is garbage.
Where does this type of observation fall, with respect to your post?
As I said above, "I’m not advocating cutting ourselves off completely from our culture." We should engage our culture, but we should do it carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully -- which sounds like what you're doing.
At the same time, we have to be careful that we don't spend so much time "examining" the culture that we forget to immerse ourselves in good things. If we're not careful, we will have nothing with which to compare and contrast our culture.
I think it's an error to spend too much time with wordly things. (Some do it blindly; some do it deluding themselves that they're "studying" the culture.) The opposite error is to be so separated from the culture that you can't communicate with it. Missionaries have to learn the culture so they can communicate. But they have to be immersed in the truth so they have something to communicate. That's the balance I want us all to seek.
Something to keep in mind as observers of our culture, especially through the medium of TV and the arts I think, is that it IS impacting us. Take The Simpsons for example, I can’t remember the name of the Christian guy that lives next door, but his identity is probably that of an evangelical Christian. I remember his character as being a happy and genuinely good guy, but I think that they whitewash him with just enough lampooning so as not to appear out-right antagonistic toward Christianity; but still to cause the many Christians that tune in to desire not to be like him. In the end this mentally puts Christians on the defensive in their interaction with the world as they try NOT to be the caricature that they have been portrayed as on TV. The only real way, I believe, to avoid this is to avoid exposure. It is my understanding that the Nazis conducted studies on the impact of propaganda and concluded that even if the person being subjected to the propaganda knew that it was propaganda, it would still produce its desired impact on a person’s mind. To prove this point, listen as conservatives defend President Bush. You know that a defense is forth-coming when you hear the words: “He has made mistakes”, or “he hasn’t done everything right” and then the “but” and a defense. I never hear those words before any other president. Are we to believe that every other president has NOT made mistakes, or are we simply responding to seven years of Bush bashing propaganda?
This is a great post and I agree with it. I don’t think that a person can’t be a Christian AND watch TV. I don’t think a person is a better Christian if he doesn’t watch TV. I also think that there is merit to examining our culture through this medium. But I also think that one must realize that we are not equipped to digest a constant and frequent dosage, nor should we delude ourselves into thinking that even the smallest dosage is not having an impact on our minds.
I agree with your reply. Thanks for clarifying.
Danny, I haven't heard that about the Nazis and propaganda, but it wouldn't really surprise me. In the past I spent a lot of time hanging around online with skeptics, and even though I knew they were the "enemy," I found myself picking up some of their thought patterns.
I think you can minimize the damage if you're aware and consciously trying to counter it, but you're going to be battle scarred. But if you're also immersing yourself in good things, it will help insulate you from the bad.
But in the end, I think you're right that it's best to minimize your exposure.
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