Monday, May 2, 2016

Whatever is Lovely, True, Noble...

“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 of such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice. And the God of peace be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

I believe that when it comes to making decisions about what we will allow or disallow to come over the threshold of our homes, minds, hearts and souls, this verse is an unequivocal guide.

So whatever is lovely: is laughter lovely? Yes. Therefore, comedians can be a lovely entity. But what if they are eliciting laughs from sexual innuendo, or overt and hurtful mockery? Comedic films can soothe the soul, but they can also bring us into the gutter, and the fact that we are finding it all funny doesn’t make it lovely.

We can run the constant flow of thoughts, feelings, reactions, responses, approaches, intentions and what we expose ourselves and our families to by the Philippians four verses.

Because what it comes down to is influence and condoning. And though we might believe we have a very strong filter that will allow us to participate, unaffected, in all sorts of leisure time activities, view any and all media content, and talk one way with one group and another with a different; and while we might engage with ugliness, violence, cheap shots, vulgarities, shrillness and sexual exploitation through jokes and visual excess so as not to appear prudish, or because we think it makes us authentic participants in the "human experience", we are merely justifying these things and offering them a potential foothold.

Not that we can’t or don’t balance these choices with ones of beauty, loveliness, purity, etc. But Scripture is clear: we are to focus on and practice these things listed in Philippians. Scripture is loaded with this general motif.

It doesn’t mean we shun documentaries of hunger and despair: hunger and despair are true. It doesn’t mean we ignore or turn a blind eye to the sex trade, which is very ugly, but also very true.

It means we don’t contribute to the problem by supporting an industry of visual imagery that promotes, even if in a bad light, illicit sex. It means we understand how tragic drug abuse is simply by reading the newspaper and listening to friends’ and family’s ordeals with it, without having to watch Blow and Pulp Fiction.

To justify time and money spent on violent portrayals by telling ourselves that we are coming to a greater understanding of the dead-end of drug use is, in my opinion, delusion, and only adds to the perpetuation and normalizing of drug use

I mean, has drug use been reduced with every depiction of self-destruction? Do people, so moved by watching Scarface, show up to volunteer at recovery shelters?

And while drug use continues, especially the epidemic of prescription pain killers, ironically I have never witnessed a time of such obsession with physical health and what people permit and do not permit to enter their bodies. 

Veganism, vegetarianism and organic living are at an all-time high, and increasing by the hour. People avoid GMO’s like the plague. Parents are shunning vaccines for their children. Alternative medicine has become mainstream. People are reading food product labels with a fine-tooth comb and researching the farms and countries from which their sustenance comes.

And yet. Where is this same kind of meticulous screening when it comes to what we allow in our viewing, hearing, speech and doing? Where is the impetus to be just as discerning and boldly critical when it comes to media, word choice and cultural values and trends?

I ask myself these questions, knowing that I am guilty.

I am currently following a Masterpiece Theater series which is giving me pause: why am I loyally showing up every Sunday to observe infidelity, illicit sex, heavy drinking, gambling and a father turning his back on his family? This "entertainment" depicts everything I stand against, and to which I certainly do not want to give a stamp of approval.

So I write this convicted that I have not been focusing on that which is lovely and noble and right. I am spending time every week doing the exact opposite. And it’s not enjoyable anymore. It makes me uncomfortable. And so that’s the end of it.

And that can only be a good thing.

copyright Barb Harwood

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;” 2 Peter 1:5-6

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24

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