Photo Credit: Ian Tan
At the jingling sound of keys, I leap off the sofa and reach for the power button on the remote control. I’ve just managed to switch off the television in time as the door opens and my mother walks in. “Hello,” I say as nonchalantly as I can, my heart thumping wildly inside my ribcage. “Here’s your lunch,” she says as we settle down at the dining table. “What did you do today?” she asks. I rattle off everything I did that morning, save for the fact I spent a good two hours watching television.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t watch television at all, but I was not supposed to if she wasn’t at home. It still happened one too many times. Each time I sinned against my mother’s instructions, I would feel a pang of regret. But I never really understood the rationale behind her instructions; I just knew I was wrong to go against her.
Fifteen years on, I finally understand why—each time I allowed my unthinking rebellion to take over, I would end up watching a particular soap opera that extolled values perhaps too insidious for my puerile mind then.
It would be easy to justify the act though. I liked watching that show simply because the plot was so riveting, and I was fully aware it was just fiction. Anyhow it’s not like I would start plotting an act of revenge or betrayal against a friend just because I was exposed to such values.
I don’t watch such shows anymore; in fact, I don’t even like watching them. But the effects of such “thoughtless watching” are a lot more subtle. Even as adults, we could easily fall prey to this predicament. Consider the times we just plonked ourselves in front of the TV after a long day at work and watched whatever that’s screening. There’s also the endless drama serials that we could be devoting hours to—most likely addicted, but too embarrassed to describe ourselves as such.
In the book Worldliness—Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, Craig Cabaniss mentioned that what we watch tugs like a “subtle undertow below the surface” and we can end up being tempted to drift toward love of the world, or at the very least, become accepting of the world’s values. He also warns that we should watch remembering that our hearts are deceitful and our flesh, easily tempted, just as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (ESV).
I’m not proposing that there should be a blanket list of dos and don’ts for Christians when it comes to media consumption. But perhaps, Ephesians 5:8-10 is a good guideline for how we ought to be consuming media: “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”
What we watch should be pleasing to God. It’s a lot easier said than done, especially in the quiet moments on our own. I therefore like what Cabaniss suggests, to “find a friend to be accountable to.” And lest we see this as a burden, remember that “accountability is a gift to aid us in pleasing God”!