The Radically Normal Christian:
Part X: Entertainment
November 27, 2011
This year Christmas falls on a Sunday, which creates a really dilemma about whether or not we should have church service. I know that many of you are immediately thinking “That’s obvious; of course we should/shouldn’t!”
It requires us to choose between a couple of good things, all of which we value:
* On one hand, emphasizing family and time spent together.
* On the other, this church as our community and family.
Since we are having service Christmas Eve, we can demonstrate that there is no legalism about what day that we meet.
Or we can demonstrate that tradition of worshipping together on Sunday is a higher priority than other traditions.
There is no easy answer, but at the bottom, this requires one thing that we highly value as a church: Grace for each other, regardless of agreement – this is a secondary issue.
* As a leadership team, we all had very different opinions, from strongly for church on Christmas to strongly against.
Here is what we decided to do:
1. We are not going to have a regular church service on Christmas; however if there is interest, there will be a small, informal gathering Christmas morning at 10:00 am.
* There won’t be Sunday School or a sermon, but a short time of worship and reading the Christmas story.
* There is no expectation for you to attend; I am not sure how many of the leadership will be there.
2. Because we all agree that Christmas is centered on Jesus and should honor God, we strongly encourage you to set time aside on Christmas morning, here or at home.
* We will have a handout that will help you have a Christmas service around the breakfast table.
Here is what I need from you:
1. Regardless how you feel about that decision, follow the example of the leadership team and respond to each other and us with grace – this is a secondary issue.
2. If you have concerns, please bring them directly to Micah or I.
3. If you are interested in attending or helping facilitate, please mark that on the communication card.
On that note, this is the first Sunday of Advent, the four weeks prior to Christmas when we read passages preparing us for Christmas:
Scripture reading: Isaiah 9:1-7 and Micah 5:2-4
Sermon series winding down; this week is based off of principle #4: God’s rules are for our joy, because we redefine holiness as what we don’t do.
* Back to “Inscriptions” Jan. 1st.
The Evil Smurfs
Q How many of you were not allowed to watch Smurfs? Or play with He-Man? Disney? More recently, read Harry Potter?
As I grew older I promised that I would not be that parent. But then I saw the Bratz – let’s give our kids dolls that are dressed like skanks!
Then there is the cartoon. Sure, the creators say it’s just a show about friendship, but they are friends who are dressed like skanks. Now I have a growing list of shows that I don’t want my daughters wearing, I mean watching.
* I wonder if they will be laughing at my parenting 20 years from now.
But Marilyn and I have seen how the girls are affected by what they watch and what they play with.
Q But is it only kids who are affected by the shows they watch, music they listen to, and games they play?
It is normal in our culture to watch and listen to whatever you want, as much as you want; passively absorbing it without asking how it affects you. Even suggest that something is inappropriate and you’ll get accused of censorship and book burning.
* I know one guy who wanted to boycott Amazon.com because they had the audacity to not carry a book promoting pedophilia.
It is radical to only watch Christian movies and listen to Christian music, preferably music that is outdated by at least 30 years.
Q How many of you watch “Hell’s Bells” in youth group?
* I did and didn’t listen to secular music until my DTS.
Many of us grew up in the church and run hard from the legalism of the past, where my grandmother almost got kicked out of youth group for going to a movie.
* I wonder if we have run too far from that and now are at the other extreme.
It is radically normal to purposefully and thoughtfully enjoy entertainment: There is so much packed into those three terms: “purposefully,” “thoughtfully,” and “enjoy” that the rest of the sermon will be spent on them.
When I was at Bible College, we were watching “The Simpsons” and some irreverent bit caught me funny and I began to laugh. Another student abruptly spun on me and said, “Would you laugh if you pastor were here?”
* My pastor would have laughed harder, to be honest.
But let’s think about this, let’s say you are watching some movie that is funny, even though crass, say “Austin Powers.” Or listening to some catchy music by Lady Gaga.
* Or something that is catchy and funny, like Christopher Walkin reading “Poker Face.”
Q Is that laughter or enjoyment a gift from God or Satan?
I have said early that all joy and happiness find their source from God.
NIV James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Conversely, Satan in the father of lies, he doesn’t make anything good.
John 10:10 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Satan doesn’t have any joy. He is the joyless miser. That enjoyment springs from something God put in you – a love of laughter, a passion of creativity, etc.
Here is what I am saying, we can work from one of two assumptions:
1. Entertainment (music, movies, TV, books, etc) is assumed to bad unless they are redeemed because they are “Christian.”
2. Entertainment is assumed to be good unless corrupted by damaging or ungodly content.
Q Which do you think takes God’s role as the “Father of lights from who all good things come?”
Q Okay, so even if we agree on that point, isn’t’ everything nowadays so corrupt?
To be fair to the radical side, the idea typically isn’t “Only Christians can make acceptable entertainment.” It is “everything else is polluted and unacceptable.”
The thought is that a little bit of poison can pollute a lot of water and a little bit of ungodliness make the whole thing unacceptable for a mature Christian.
Q But does line up with the Biblical example?
The problem is that there is no record of what TV shows Jesus watched. What we do have are a couple of scattered reference to the entertainment of the day.
For instance – dancing and singing were the main entertainment in Israel (not just for worship). The only time it is seen as a bad thing was when it was done in an ungodly situation – around the Golden Calf, etc.
And in the Greek world, theater was a big thing and it was no less raunchy then what we have today, which is why some of Early Church Fathers were against it.
But (to my knowledge) the only time it is referred to in the Bible is when Paul quotes from a prolific playwright, Menander:
1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
That is like saying that Paul had access to all of the smut we see on TV, but the only time he talks about it is to quote from it approvingly.
* This in no way means that he approves of it all, but:
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.
The good and evil are typically mixed, hold on to the good, reject the evil. By the way, this verse is frequently misquoted (because of the KJV’s poor translation) – we are told to avoid evil, not simply the appearance thereof.
But a better, though overlooked example, is sports. Sports was as big of a deal in the Roman-Greco world, as it is today. Many of the religious Jews condemned it because they were typically done in the nude and the games were dedicated to idols.
* Sports were, in the religious Jew’s mind, like modern “R” rated movies.
Yet Paul freely and approvingly uses sports as an analogy of the Christian life. He isn’t using “Christian sports” as his example – there was no such thing. This is years before Tebow praying in the in-zone.
From all this, I draw the conclusion that the Bible starts with the positive assumption – that entertainment is a good gift of God’s but can be corrupted to become damaging.
* We are welcome to enjoy entertainment; holding on to the good, rejecting the bad.
Q Does that mean that we can now watch anything we want?
Not even remotely. What you fill your mind with affects you.
I remember years ago as a teenager, I was working with my dad, and we had to do a lot of driving. We listened to oldies, which were pretty tame lyrically, but by the end of the week we both noticed that affected how we felt.
Proverbs 4:23-24 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. 24 Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
I have a friend in college whose parents attribute their affairs to all the soap operas they watched. Obviously the choice was theirs, but the soaps made affairs seems exciting and romantic.
* Anyone who has kids knows that all the commercials affect our kids.
* There is no doubt modern media was shaped our view of beauty and created a discontentment for our spouses.
Q So what can we watch?
At the beginning of my book, I am going to basically help people decide if they should read it. I will tell them they shouldn’t read it book if they don’t want to think and let me give you all of the answers, ‘cause I ain’t going to do that.
* I want to challenge you to be thoughtful about your entertainment, not to be normal and passively absorb whatever.
The reason why the radical approach is so appealing is it’s so easy. You don’t have to think, evaluate, or discern, just don’t watch, listen, or read anything your pastor hasn’t approved.
It’s not as simple as checking what rating the movie is or if the album has an advisory label. Many G and PG movies are destructive and R movies valuable.
* Stop using old litmus tests and start thinking about what the show or music says; reject the good and hold on to the bad.
Let’s think about this:
Q Is potty humor ungodly?
Q How many of you are familiar with “One Million Moms”?
“OMM is strictly an online campaign focusing primarily on the entertainment media (television, music, movies, etc.). The goal of this campaign is to stop the exploitation of children by such media.”
Sounds good enough – when something offensive is found in the media, they ask their million moms to protest it via email. One of the recent issues revolved around a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavor: Schweddy Balls.
Please send Ben & Jerry’s Public Relations Manager, Sean Greenwood, an email letter requesting that no additional Schweddy Balls ice cream be distributed. Also, highly recommend they refrain from producing another batch with this name or any other offensive names or you will no longer be able to purchase their products.
Okay, so they don’t like Schweddy Ball. Fine. But is it “wrong”? So much humor comes from what is odd about us, and few things are odder than our bodily functions.
Q Why do we feel that potty humor is less than holy?
Let’s be honest here, Jesus used the bathroom. Jesus farted. Yes, I said that. Because Jesus and his disciples were guys, I would bet money that they’d be sitting around the fire and one of them would let a huge one rip and they’d all laugh.
Q Why do we (myself included) recoil at that?
Fart jokes, potty jokes, references to our anatomy may be in bad taste to us, but they are a part of who we are. This is how God designed our bodies, and I think God must find it hilarious.
Q What about sex jokes, those are bad, right?
* I am not so sure; sex is the strangest thing about us. Being unable to laugh at ourselves in the bedroom is a bad sign.
There are two different types of jokes about sex – those told because they poke fun at our incongruencies and those designed to illicit a lustful response. Guess which one is damaging.
* That’s what the Bible means by “course jokes” (Eph. 5:4) not simply jokes about sexual matters, otherwise God is guilty.
No carry that to all references to sex and nudity in media. The problem is how it affects us, not that it is there. The nudity in Schindler’s List was graphic, but not arousing.
How about violence? Being American guys, most of us love a good action flick, but is it really okay to watch someone being blown to bits?
The Bible certainly doesn’t shy away from violence – it rather enjoys the gory details. Here is one of my favorite stories:
Judges 3:15-25 15 Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer-- Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. 16 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. 17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. 18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way the men who had carried it. 19 At the idols near Gilgal he himself turned back and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.” The king said, “Quiet!” And all his attendants left him. 20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them. 24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the house.” 25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.
* Killing, gory details, potty humor, this story has it all!
The problem with all of these things it not the thing itself, but how it affects you.
Survey your entertainment – how does what you put in your mind affect how you feel? Fast from some of it and see how it affects you.
Let me add that we need to be thoughtful about how much time it takes. I don’t care if you are watching a ten-hour “Touched by an Angel” marathon, that is still a waste of time.
* Evaluate how much time you give to it.
But, many of you wonder what about that “think on these things” verse? Glad you asked:
Philippians 4:8 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.
The idea is that we are to meditate, fill ourselves with, dwell on things that our true, noble, and right. The idea is not that we only see things those things, but only let them in.
* It is normal to passively absorb, but radically normal to be purposeful; to reject the bad, hold on to the good.
What makes this passage so interesting is that it uses several terms from Greek philosophy. These are all ideals of pagan and Christians alike.
I love the way one commentator interpreted this passage:
If there is such a thing as moral excellence (and you believe there is), if there is a kind of behavior that elicits universal approval (and you believe there is), then continue to strive for this goodness and attain to this level of behavior that will command the praise of humankind and God. You must not fail to live up to the ideals of your fellow men and women, which were also your ideals before you were converted.1
This is what I mean by radically normal – look at all this common ground between Christians and non-Christians
* Truth and goodness flow from the throne room of God.
By being purposeful and holding on to the good I mean learning what you can learn (EG: Chef Ramsey).
And I also mean finding points of contact, ways that you can use the world’s media to show them truth. (EG: Moulin Rouge).
To sum it all up, I am not saying watch whatever you want to watch, but to thoughtfully enjoy what you can, but be careful about how it affects you and how much time you give it.
I don’t want a church that only watches or listens to Christian stuff, nor do I want a church that passively absorbs it all and it being unwittingly poisoned by ungodly and destructive attitudes and perspectives.
* PPT: Please text Rachelle; service is almost over: 770-9777
Q & A
1 Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 43, R. P Martin.