This article may come off as judgmental, and I’m fine with that. Any exhortations made are directly from the Scriptures. So with that out of the way, let’s jump into it.
The world of entertainment is incomprehensibly vast, and with mass media and the internet, nearly all of it is accessible anytime anywhere. As with most progressions in the human experience, this accessibility can be both good and bad. Good, in that our imaginations have an endless supply of creative food to ingest and digest. Bad, in that there is a whole lot of filth out there alongside the gems.
As Christians, we are called to a higher standard in our thoughts (Col. 3:1-2) and in our lives (Col. 3:5-10). We are not simply going through life feeding our urges before we die. We are meant to be Christ’s representation on Earth (1 Cor. 5:20) to shine His light to the unbelieving world. We as sinful entities are dead, and it is Christ who lives in us (Gal. 2:20). This means that we should strive to be more Christ-like in everything we do, no matter how monumental or trivial.
The reason I bring is up is because I want to look at an issue I’ve noticed in the Christian creative community, and especially in my own life. This issue is a lack of discernment in the entertainment we consume. This weakness manifests itself in many forms. Personally, I’ve always had an imagination that tended toward darker things. Dark music, dark imagery, dark books and movies. Nothing that outright glorified Satan, but my imagination would get excited by ominous imagery like skulls and weaponry or foreboding movie moments such as when the Ring-wraiths came galloping out of the gates of Mordor in slow motion in The Fellowship of the Ring. Something inside me would grin wickedly and whisper, “Awesome…!” I also channeled my grim inclinations into my early books, trying to be as melodramatic and shocking as possible (I can still vividly see the image in my mind’s eye as I wrote a passage about a disemboweled priest of the Church of Satan crucified on a pentagram in a cathedral). I devoured books, movies, and music that dripped with Gothicky goodness, and while I’ve never been a depressed, gloomy, or negative person, it would be dishonest to say that my creative inclinations were borne out of a Biblical mindset.
As I’ve grown closer in my walk with Christ, I’ve started to examine areas of my life through the lens of Scripture that I used to think didn’t matter, or I deliberately “hid” from God because I was afraid I would have to change. Sinful foolishness, I know, but our flesh is still a powerful influence in our lives, despite the fact that we are new creations in Christ. If the goal is to be like Christ (1 John 2:6), then no part of our life belongs to us. We can’t say, “Yeah God, I’ll give the big things in my life to You, but there are some things that I just really want to hold on to.” We either walk in the flesh, or we walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:17).
Before you get all huffy, I am not saying that dark imagery, fictitious violence, etc. are necessarily wrong. What is wrong is if we enjoy such things apart from our walk in Christ. Do you get a thrill out of seeing someone get killed in a really cool way in movies or TV shows? Do you get a tingle when a demonic or monstrous character displays their full power? Do you cheer for a woman who indulges in promiscuity under the guise of “owning her sexuality?” Ask yourself: where does this enjoyment come from? As believers, the Holy Spirit lives in us (Rom. 8:9) and He is our guide in truth (John 16:13). Do we enjoy the things we enjoy because they bring us closer to God, or do they tickle the sin nature that we are dead to (Rom. 6:2) yet still lingers with us (Rom. 7:20)?
Some will say, “Dude, chill. It’s just a movie. It’s just fiction. No one’s really dying. It’s not real sex. Those skulls and bones on his armor are just props.” That is all irrelevant. What matters, and what is real, are the emotions and urges that are stirred up within us when we enjoy our entertainment. Everything in our life should be examined through the lens of Scripture and we must heed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I found that in my own life, there were things I needed to move away from, and there are still many more that I cling to, but in my heart, I know that nothing I give up for the sake of Christ is a loss. And my imagination is still very active and well-fed.
Yes, there are many levels of discernment, maturity, and tolerance, and it is not for another believer to judge another outright, unless they are indulging in flagrant sin (Gal. 6:1). Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:18) and refuse to open some areas of your life to God’s examination. If your conscience is clear, then praise God. If not, make a change. To borrow from Jiminy Cricket’s catchy tune in Disney’s Pinocchio: “And always let the Bible be your guide!”