December 6, 2018

On Media Choices: Different Is Not Deprived

Every once in a while I have an interesting conversation with someone about media choices - specifically, what I choose to read or watch and what I choose for my kids. Of course, a lot of my friends and I have similar views so we affirm each other's choices. And sometimes the other person thinks I'm too liberal - for example, an acquaintance once questioned the decision my husband and I made to take our daughters to see Brave due to moments of admittedly less-than-wholesome content peppering the film. But, more often than not, a person who questions my decisions about media believes I'm "too conservative."

I certainly won't dispute the fact that I'm discriminating. For example, I don't read the "latest craze" in books, tune into a popular TV show, or go out to watch the most recent chick flick just because "everyone else" does. I also have no interest in what now passes for popular music, preferring instead to listen to talk radio, classical music, or Christian stations. Similarly, we're careful about the movies we attend as a family - and those we buy for our home collection. I also monitor the types of books my daughters choose - guarding against both inappropriate content and "twaddle" - and have happily encouraged their disinterest in many things related to the "pop culture" that ensnares many of their same-age peers.

Am I depriving myself or my kids? Hardly. Lest you doubt, come on over and take a look at the girls' movie collection, which includes well over 100 titles representing everything from Pixar to Broadway musicals to current action/adventure and intense drama - any of which they're free to choose for a movie time - or tune in with us when we enjoy Mythbusters or Dirty Jobs together on TV. Likewise, take a look at their home library, overflowing with great books from a wide variety of genres, and tag along on weekly visits to the library and to any of the handful of movies we see in the theater each year. As for me, I probably watch too much TV and have more books on my personal "must-read" list than I'll have time for in the next 10 years.

Yes, we eschew a lot that interests some of our friends and neighbors - for example, of the more than 800 stations available to us on cable TV, we gravitate toward less than half a dozen, ruling out many based on our estimation that they're inappropriate for us. But choosing a different path than the one chosen by the majority is not the same thing as being deprived. In fact, our "different" media choices aren't a burden at all because they simply flow out of our choice to see all of life differently. Specifically, we've embraced the truth of what the Bible says about our real citizenship as believers in Christ: we are merely aliens here on this Earth (1 Peter 2.10-12). In other words, contemporary American culture is not our real, ultimate culture, and so we needn't (and in many cases shouldn't) have an affinity for it.

In that regard, the final arbiter of what I choose to read or watch - or what I choose for my kids - is not what might seem "fun" or what others we know are doing. Instead, it's God's Word, which, as former blogger Shannon McKee points out, " unlike any other book and is the standard by which I judge all other [media] - fiction or non-fiction, Christian or non-Christian. It is the source of Truth and God's own letter directly to the human race." Thus, I rely on verses like Philippians 4.8 for guidance, which makes it clear that, in all things, we need to seek "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable ... anything [that] is excellent or praiseworthy." Or we can think about it a different way, asking ourselves, "What would I feel comfortable reading if Jesus were looking over my shoulder or watching if he were sitting next to me?"

Some might argue that, while I have the choice to make such decisions for myself, I really ought not  "limit" my children in the same way. But the truth is that all parents have the right and responsibility to raise their own children as they see fit, whether that's according to a biblical worldview or something else. Besides that, in our case, each of our daughters has already made a personal commitment to put Jesus at the hub of her life, and so living according to a biblical standard is no more a burden for them than it is for my husband or me. They see and think about and value things differently than many of their peers, but they know it and it doesn't bother them. And we don't prevent them from knowing about books, shows, or movies we choose to avoid; instead, we talk about media choices all the time, discussing our reasons for partaking or not. In our family, our media choices are simply about practicing Christ-following discipleship together.

Of course, one thing we greatly appreciate about having been placed by the Lord in this country is the freedom we have to live out our faith convictions about media (and anything else) without government interference or any serious persecution. And I likewise respect others' right to make media choices for themselves and their children according to their beliefs and values. I'm not afraid to express my opinions about certain books, shows, movies, and music, and sometimes choose to engage in what might become spirited discussion about them. But, ultimately, I understand that each person gets to make his own choices and is free choose for his children. I might not agree, but I won't try to push someone out of her comfort zone in order to comply with my values. And I can only hope for the same level of respect toward my choices, no matter how "different" they might seem.

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