"Have you ever watched the show _________?"
A friend of mine asked me this question recently about a television show that is particularly popular right now. I told him I'd never heard of it and asked him to describe it for me.
He went on to explain that the show centers around a man who works for the police department by day, but who moonlights as a vicious serial killer. And this lovely man is the protagonist of the show. Those who are familiar with the show recognize the plot description-- I'm intentionally omitting its name from this post, because I honestly don't want to motivate any new viewers to go check it out.
As he described some of the graphic, violent, highly sexualized imagery of the television show I began to feel my stomach turning. People actually watch this for entertainment? And they root for the homicidal maniac as he dishes out his sadistic brand of "justice"?
Now I am not normally a particularly squeamish or prudish individual. I watch a few TV shows, and enjoy a good suspense or action movie as much as the next person. I'm also not an alarmist -- I don't truly believe that watching a show about a serial killer will produce a nation of crazy maniacal murderers.
That having been said, I've found myself more and more sensitive to the violence and sexual perversion that often presents itself as entertainment in our culture. Perhaps it's a consequence of having children -- I can't watch fictional images of people being tortured, abused, murdered, or used without thinking, "That's somebody's child or father or mother or friend." I just don't find it entertaining anymore. Perhaps it's a consequence of the Holy Spirit's increased conviction in my heart -- I keep remembering passages like Philippians 4:8 that remind me to consider carefully what I think about.
Those who believe that what we put into our minds has no impact on our behavior or thought processes are simply wrong. I could cite study after study, and there are many (see parentstv.org if you want a few), but I don't really need to cite them. What we put into our minds affects how we think. How we think affects how we act.
No, I don't think shows like the one I've described will make me go kill somebody. And no, I don't think watching Desperate Housewives will make me a raging adulterer. But I do think that continually viewing graphic, bloody, heartless murder just might lower my ability to empathize with those who are suffering. I know that constantly looking at highly sexualized images of young men and women will lower my ability to view other people as anything more than objects for my personal gratification.
How do I know that? Because I speak with people nearly every week who are drowning in sexual addictions and pornographic images, which follow them around at school, at work, and at home. Such thoughts color their attitudes toward other people and deeply harm their ability to love and serve others as Christ does.
I don't need another new study -- I've seen the devastation.
So what is the point of all of this? Simply this: Are the shows you are watching, the sites you are surfing, and the music you are hearing consistent with Philippians 4:8?
Do the images you put in your head and your heart honor or degrade the image of God in your fellow human beings?
Are the heroes you cheer on dark and twisted anti-heroes, or are they men and women fighting for what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy?
Would you invite Jesus to watch with you?
Guess what? If you know Him, He's there with you already.
Still sure you want to watch that?
Question for you: Do you set standards for what you choose to view or hear? What are they, and what sort of steps have you put in place to ensure that you adhere to them?
[Image via http://www.physorg.com/news162468111.html]
First a confession: As of this writing I have not yet viewed the series finale of LOST. I intend to watch it this evening. However, I've gathered from comments by friends and a few posts on Facebook that a strong contingent of fans is unhappy with the ending.
I can only surmise that (1) not all of the questions posed by the show were answered or (2) the questions were answered in an unsatisfactory way or (3) the questions were answered very well but people were still left unsatisfied for some other reason (or perhaps some Other reason, ha!). If I had to guess, option (1) is probably the correct one.
Let's ask ourselves, however, what sort of ending could have satisfied our deepest longings for resolution. A complete run-down of all the answers in prosaic form? Maybe that "previously on LOST" guy could come out and say something like, "Well, here's the 411, people. The island is a mirror-matter moon. The light is an old strobe dropped down a hole that now bears the character of deity; long live disco!"
But would such answers really satisfy us? Or would we just be angry that the answers were not to our liking?
The reason I bring all of this up is because the parallels are uncomfortably close to how I think we view our relationship with God. How many times have I told myself, "If God would just visit me in my living room and explain everything it would be so much easier"? He could tell me why evil exists, where He comes from, how to keep my toddler from eating paper candy wrappings. It would all be so satisfying!
But then I read the Scriptures.
And I see that answers do not always satisfy. Didn't the Israelites have the literal experience of God present before them, in cloud and fire and judgment and miracle and thunder and lightning? Didn't He tell them explicitly and exactly what He wanted from them?
And yet somehow the very visibility of God seems to have produced the opposite of the desirable effect. They made a calf and worshipped it. They repeatedly and deliberately disobeyed. Why?
Because our deepest longing is not for clarity. It's for communion. Relationship with the triune God. A closeness that goes beyond understanding and accepts my finitude in the face of His glory. Answers rarely comfort; love usually does. The Israelites had clarity without communion because Jesus had not yet come. There was a gap between them and God, produced by human sinfulness, that only Christ could bridge.
Bad news for all of you who hope for perfect clarity about God and life and everything in between: You will never receive it. Not even in eternity. God is still infinite. I will still be finite. But we will experience communion. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, the gap is bridged for those who believe. I will know Him fully and be fully known -- not understand Him fully, but know him.
In the final analysis, LOST is just a television show. No, really. No, seriously. I mean it. Don't throw stuff at me, please. I don't even know if the creators intended to deal with any of this. Maybe they just threw together a hodge podge of Star Trek and Narnia and Gilligan's Island to get people excited. I'm really not sure.
Could it be, though, that we are feeling so LOST because we are looking for something that only eternity will provide? We think we are looking for answers from a television show or from God Himself, but what we are really looking for is communion. An encounter with holiness that goes beyond answers and leads us to true knowledge of our God.
So ask yourself again: Why am I feeling so LOST?