The media is a neutral thing, neither good nor bad – it’s
just raw technology. The problem is that
because it is so often used in negative ways, one needs filters or one will begin
to wither spiritually under its influence.
To cultivate the contemplative life, you must selectively screen the
For many of you, this may feel like a tired subject,
especially if you’re a parent who has watched the corrosion that comes when your
kids plug their minds into the alternate reality the media creates. If you question the result of its impact,
just check out Barna’s
site (citing the 30,000 acts of violence the average 23 year old will have
witnessed, or the thousands of hours of pornography) or his new book, Revolutionary
The media addiction most of us struggle with is particularly insidious because it has wormed its way into our lifestyle, perhaps without us even being awake to the fact. If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels in your relationship with God, this may well be the issue that is blocking you. I know it’s an issue for me. I love to watch movies, surf the net, and do emails. All of these media-related activities in and of themselves may be innocuous, but cumulatively, they take their toll (“as a man thinks, so is he”). And chances are, they lead you too close to the slippery slope of allowing violence, sex, and degrading lifestyles to corrupt your thought-life.
I felt led to catalog some of
the ways it can undermine your spiritual health:
1. News. We wake up and get a dose of what is called
the “News”. It should be called what it
Bad News. Yesterday
morning, for example, I read nine more soldiers were killed in Iraq. What a thing to munch on while I’m swallowing
my corn flakes. News like that colors
the way we think, it drains hope. We go
to work depressed and we don’t even know why.
Yes, stay informed, but why not focus on broad trends instead of the
drumbeat of death and depressing factoids that CNN serves up on the half hour.
2. Noise. We grow accustomed to a back drop of
noise. Our TVs, radios, and iPods are
always on. We can’t hear ourselves
think. The thoughts cruising thru our heads are not our own – they are rogue intruders bullying aside God-generated thoughts.
3. Moral decay. Our morality is under steady assault by an
entertainment industry pushing sex, violence, and profanity. We all know this, but are so awash in it,
we’ve become inured to zombies biting people’s arms off – it’s become like
4. A.D.D. The amazing number of media options available
to us turns us into a nation of A.D.D. channel-flippers who can’t focus on
anything for very long.
5. Mind-numbing. We are diverted from the life-giving, creative
activities like a long conversation or playing make-believe (both as children
and as adults). We trade the interactive
right-brain activities for passive, mind-numbing, left-brain activities.
6. Poor people
skills. Our children are spending
more time in “virtual relationships” online than in real ones. We’re watching a generation growing up with
poor people skills. When we interact
with people in real life, we perceive them three ways: body, soul, and
spirit. Over the web, we just exchange
information, and the data we do exchange is often reduced to dull
sound-bite-sized packets that convey little. Myspace is impoverishing our children, rendering them ever more
7. Bad decision-making. The “un-delete” button on our computers is
protecting kids from the consequences of their actions. By protecting a generation from the effects
of its folly, we are filling the world with fools. This subtly feeds a relativistic perspective
that calls into question absolute truth.
I’ll say it again: to cultivate a contemplative life or to
have any hope of cultivating it in your children, you must develop strategies to
combat the media’s pervasive influence.
As parents, you are doubling the difficulty of your task of raising
radical Jesus-followers if you have cable TV.
I’m not saying you can’t do it; I’m just saying that it’s hard to stay
pure and “avoid every kind of evil,” as the Bible says, when you’ve got a daily tide
of murder and sex pouring into your living room.
And unrestricted internet access is even more
insidious. I am not being Chicken Little
when I say, “Parents, I can almost guarantee it will result in your boys
developing a pornography addiction.”
They simply are not equipped to practice self-restraint. And even if they are the few who manage to
steer clear of porn-sites, Myspace-type sites will introduce them to a culture
without restraint where the lowest common denominator of sexual attraction is
lingua franca of the realm.
The Bible is clear about such matters in this incisively prohibitive passage:
People are going to be
self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane,
contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending,
slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless,
bloated windbags, addicted to lust and allergic to God. They’ll make a
show of religion, but behind the scenes, they’re animals. Stay clear
of these people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (I might add for the modern Jesus-follower: stay clear of them even if they are “virtual people” on-line or on TV).
I don’t think I’m being prudish or reactionary here. If you aspire to being any kind of
Jesus-follower, particularly a radical one, you will either have an aggressive
strategy for dealing with the media, or the tide flowing in will eventually wash
you out to sea.