In this, our final article on some of the results which arose from the online survey we conducted, we examine the results relating to the Brotherhood’s use of television and movies.
It may seem somewhat wearisome that once again the old crotchets of television and movies are being raised in these pages and perhaps already readers are bracing themselves for the “mind is insensibly affected…”, quote of Brother Carter, however we must realise that as old as these media might now be, and although the warning trumpet has been sounded on many occasions concerning their danger, modern technology has made these things much more available and accessible to us than ever before, and shows evidence that the temptation and distraction that such media represent continues to remain a significant challenge for many of us personally.
It surely has to be admitted, that these are still some of the largest conduits through which the values of this world are made available.
The results of the survey indicate that the majority of Christadelphians now have a television in their homes:
Television: Do you have one?
I use others’ 10%
No response 3%
Television: If ‘yes’, are you able to control the time you spend watching and the content you watch?
No response 24%
Perhaps 24% were not sure, or felt the question too difficult or too personal. However the overwhelming majority were confident that they were able to control the use of their television.
Given that the overwhelming majority were confident that they were able to control the time spent and content watched, it was interesting to ask the following question of those who had chosen not to have a television:
Television: If “no”, what best describes your reason for not having a Television?
Don’t have time to watch it 24%
I would not be able to control myself 48%
I browse the Internet instead 17%
I will set no wicked thing before my eyes! 11%
Many of those that do not have a television (the minority in our community now) felt that if they had a television, they would not be able to control it.
Of those that did have a television the majority felt that they could control it. This prompts the following questions: Is it that each is correct in their assessment and that it is just a matter of people having different strengths and weaknesses? Could it be that those who don’t have one underestimate their own strength, or is it possible that those who have it and believe they can control it, deceive themselves in some way?
The question was then asked:
Television: How many hours a day would you spend watching TV?
1–2 Hours 49%
3–4 Hours 17%
5–10 Hours 4%
No response 30%
The survey also probed what type of television programs were being most viewed:
News and Current Affairs 24%
Soaps and Sitcoms 24%
Murder & Crime Mystery 11%
Science Fiction 2%
Some of the more popular programs mentioned were ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘PrisonBreak’, ‘The Simpsons’, ‘Lost’, and ‘Crime Scene Investigation’.
Besides television, there is the specific selection of movies for viewing via DVD, and the survey wanted to gauge how widespread this was, and again, get some idea of the time spent and also the content which was popular.
Do you watch DVDs?
Very Occasionally 44%
No response 1%
Perhaps the more important question relates, as with television, to frequency and content.
How many per week (on average)?
Nowhere near weekly 58%
No response 7%
What was the last movie you watched?
This was one of the free response questions asked in the survey. The responses received encompassed the full spectrum of genres, and it was clearly evident, just from the titles of the movies, that some are finding it difficult to resist the temptation to view movies which are extremely inappropriate in content. What was also noticeable in analysing these responses was that the majority of movies ‘recently viewed’ were the latest releases at the time of the survey.
It is possibly felt that there is a degree of control over the content of what we are viewing when it comes to DVDs, which is not enjoyed with free to air television. It may seem that the local rental store has a seemingly endless variety of genre and titles, making it easy to select something which is ‘appropriate’.
However, relying on our own strength and ability to choose wisely in such an environment with so many enticing options visible provides its own challenges. Whilst we may initially feel that we have the strength to be very firm in our standards as to what we will allow and what we will not, repeated recourse to such places can result in our values and principles gradually being eroded until, before we know it, we are watching things which once upon a time we never imagined we would set before our eyes.
Like any habitual sin, many have found that at this point it is difficult to reverse the cycle as the desire to indulge becomes very strong, bordering on addictive.
Our Biblical understanding of the Bible “devil” demonstrates to us that our nature is not to be trusted. We have a tendency to gravitate to that which titillates the senses and appeals to the flesh and we must realise the constant danger this presents to us. This remains also the danger of having a television in the home. Despite confidence we may have in our ability to control our content, what of our children’s ability? Indeed, what is the Lord’s perspective on how successful our ‘control’ is? Would we be in agreement with our Master as to the success of our ‘control’?
The Bible versus Hollywood
It is perhaps because most of us are partial to a good story, a suspenseful plot or a heartwarming romance, that we find such entertainment appealing, and we shouldn’t for a moment think that our Father doesn’t understand that.
It is surely partly for these reasons that the Bible is so rich in its variety of characters and scenarios all calculated to engage us, stimulating our intellect and our emotions, instructing us and drawing us closer to our Father. As such, the Word of God has the capacity to be the main source of inspiration and interest in our lives. The reading, studying and lively discussion about the things contained therein are not to be merely for a select few in the brotherhood; it is something we should all be a part of.
And yet, the world is providing its own endless variety of heroes, plots, and cast of characters for us to find inspiration and stimulation and, with moving soundtracks and fine cinematography assisting, it is easy to observe that this is precisely what Hollywood achieves for many in this world. Plots are analyzed and discussed, next episodes and ‘Part 2s’ are eagerly awaited, and should the on‑screen action fail, then there is as much interest (if not more) in the off-screen lives of the celebrities of this world, whose lives are endlessly photographed, scrutinized, discussed and inevitably emulated as much as possible.
God crafts His Word in such a way that even the darkness of our nature, though starkly portrayed in His Word is always such that it provides His perspective on those matters, and a consideration of even these subjects contained therein are calculated to align our thinking more closely with His so that ultimately we come closer to loving the things He loves, and hating that which He hates.
This is not so with the productions of men. Even if the theme is loosely ‘good versus evil’ and the ‘good’ ultimately prevails, we find that the ‘heroes’ themselves are far from models of virtue and only appear in a better light due to being contrasted with an even worse on-screen nemesis. And yet, by the time the movie winds its way to the usually predictable resolution, and the viewer has often been exposed to a plethora of ungodliness (overt or implied) somehow we find that we have been moved to sympathy and identification with the lesser of the two evils on offer.
Such experiences are never edifying, and more likely it is that we emerge from such experiences with images of impurity in the mind, confusion as a result of the baffling situational ethics portrayed, a decreased sensitivity to the holiness of God and an awakened interest in the very things with which our Lord is utterly disinterested.
The Christadelphian who gets trapped in endless pursuit of stress relief or entertainment via these media, finds them strangely dissatisfying and will experience the frustration of finding that the Bible also fails to move or excite.
Our Father will reveal wonderful gems to us from His Word once we are single minded in our desire to derive our inspiration solely from it. When we do, we will find that it is not only a far more dramatic and moving story than anything this world could produce but it’s our story too. We have been called to be at the very centre of it!
Called to be saints
In Ephesians 1, Paul reminds us that as saints we were “chosen in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
The word “holy” in verse 4 and the word “saint” in verse 1 are cognates, demonstrating that a Saint is a person who has responded to the call to be holy.
Holiness is not only separating from the world, but it is dependent upon us subsequently cleaving to God.
In 1 Peter 1:14–16 we are given the reason for our being holy. It is because our God is holy. Here, the apostle quotes from Leviticus 11:44–45, where the children of Israel are called upon to discern between the clean and the unclean.
The clear inference is that saints should have the ability to tell the difference. The very chapter before, Leviticus 10, illustrates the crucial importance of holiness in those that would approach God. Nadab and Abihu did not live to learn the lesson, but as we observe their immolated bodies being retrieved from the holy place, we must be careful not to miss it: namely, “that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.” In practical terms, being holy in our life means taking thought and care for what we put in our minds, refusing the unclean and embracing that which is “of the Father”.
Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
In the last article we introduced data that suggests that as a community almost all of us are irritated by the prevalence and growth of wickedness in our godless society. As saints it is appropriate that we should be, and yet what we need to appreciate is the incongruity of us finding entertainment in media which are characterised by the very godlessness we deplore! Such anomalies have been noted before:
- “As a community we recoil at the idea of murder and adultery, speaking publicly against it. However some Christadelphians are happy to watch it committed in their lounge rooms every night” – Harry Tennant
- “Television is the means by which we are entertained in our living room by people we wouldn’t have in our home” – David Frost
When he was the director of the British Film Classification Board, Andreas Whittam Smith said the following: “Sometimes after I emerge from a film viewing, I feel that if my mind was to be examined under a microscope, one would find grit inside…”
In the last article we also introduced data that suggests that as a community we are struggling to make and find the time for our spiritual devotions such as prayer, reading and meditation. And yet the results in this area of the survey suggest that for many, a precious one to two hours a day which could be spent deriving our inspiration and rest in communication with our God is being spent elsewhere. This has the potential to cripple spiritual growth, and a feeling of focus, stability and purpose.
In Galatians 6, Paul states clearly the law of sowing and reaping: “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”. As with the natural so with the spiritual, and so in reference to what we entertain our minds with, this principle is very appropriate. Our actions take their cue from our thoughts. This is why Godly characteristics and actions are called in Galatians 5 “fruit of the Spirit”. They are the fruits of spiritual thinking: because spiritual thoughts have been sown, Godly actions are subsequently harvested.
It follows logically that the opposite is true. If we fill our minds with “the flesh” via whatever medium, our minds will produce like actions.
This principle was taken a step further by the prophet Jeremiah, who looked out on a nation whose fleshly thinking had produced fleshly actions. He spoke of the judgment of Yahweh being the “fruit of their thoughts”.
Jeremiah was reminding the people, as Paul reminds us, that “God is not mocked”. Their ungodly thoughts had produced ungodly actions and God was now going to deliver to them the ultimate “fruit of their thoughts”, judgment from Babylon.
The purpose of this article is not to induce crippling guilt or despair but to highlight our need to take these clear principles very seriously. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that what we put into our minds does not affect us. The testimony of Scripture (and of many a brother and sister’s bitter experience) demonstrates that it does. We have a collective and personal need for reflection, examination and action on these issues.
A resolute spirit needed
In Psalm 51, David acknowledged before God the fruit of his thoughts, and pleaded with God to set him right once again. He knew it was imperative that he see his sin for what it really was in God’s sight, and that he utterly forsake it. In this context he pleaded for a “pure heart”, and asks that God ‘renew a resolute spirit’ within him. It may be that there exists a need for us, too, in light of the issues highlighted by this article, to acknowledge our sin and pray earnestly for a resolute spirit that would see us echoing the determination a younger David expressed when he stated: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (Psalm 101:3).
Making the decision to say “no” to the world’s offerings must be accompanied by ‘Josiah-like’ actions: ruthless uprooting of the causes of stumbling in our lives; a thorough cleansing of uncleanness providing a firm, clean foundation on which we can build an altar of burnt offering; an earnest re-dedication to the opening again of the Word of God in our lives.
Psalm 1 speaks of a man who does not have anything to do with the converse of the wicked. We read that his delight is in the Law of the Lord and he meditates in His ways day and night. He is in love with it, and because he is, the fruit of his thoughts is righteousness. We, too, will find that if we take steps to purify the stream of thoughts flowing into our mind, our communication with God and our ability to serve Him will increase.
We must go all-out to create an atmosphere in our homes and ecclesias where the Word of God can be seen and experienced to be the exciting, stimulating and moving book that it is. A pattern of reading, discussion and sharing amongst ourselves will assist to this end, and ensure that the stream of thoughts is not sullied by opposing values and thoughts.
Behold the bridegroom cometh… go ye out to meet him
Our Lord’s coming is surely imminent and as the collective “ten virgins” we will be called upon to go out to meet him. It is up to us to ask ourselves the questions now: What will we have in the way of supplies? What have we been meditating on? Our mind will be revealed to have been soaking up… what exactly? Where have the roots been?
We asked this question in the survey.
How do you feel about the return of Christ?
It can’t come soon enough –
I’m on tiptoe with expectancy! 1%
It could be any day but I’m prepared for however
long it might be and I’ve got plenty to do in his
service in the meantime 47%
I hope it’s not too soon – I need more time 23%
It’s not going to be for years and years 1%
I don’t often think about it, to be honest 5%
No response 8%
Could it be that approximately 20–25% of us feel that ‘we hope it’s not too soon, we need more time’? How much time do we think we have?
It maybe that 47% answered this question pragmatically, and yet if Christ was to return in 2008, how would we feel about a figure of only 10–15% feeling ‘on tiptoe with expectancy’?
Whatever time we have left, it must be acknowledged that there never was a greater urgency for appreciating the truth of a quote we know well:
“The mind is insensibly affected by the stream of thoughts flowing through it. It is therefore desirable to keep that stream as pure as possible.”
 Malachi 3:16
 2 Timothy 1:9
 Romans 6:19
 Leviticus 10:1–3,10; see also Hebrews 12:14 and
 Jeremiah 6:19