So I was planning on watching Deadpool. Seriously. I was psyched.
But then I tried to convince my wife that it was worth it. She applied the appropriate amount of disdain for the idea (yes, I had her watch a trailer), but that wasn’t the motivating factor in the end.
What transpired was an in-depth conversation about how much VSL content (violence-sex-language) was too much with my brother-in-law. As I was driving back after our weekend with them, I was verbally-processing to my wife. It went something like this:
C: “Not engaging is not an option for me, even when content is heavy.”
C: “There’s a lot of truth and beauty in some content-heavy material, besides the importance of understanding situations realistically.”
C: “I mean, there are things I won’t watch because of content…”
L: “Are there?”
The truth of the matter is that there haven’t been for quite some time. Walking Dead is “worth it” because of the interesting moral dilemmas. House of Cards was politically intriguing and c’mon, it’s Spacey. What an antihero. Who engages in awful, horrible things. Jessica Jones was not only excellently acted and written, it was a riveting depiction of abuse and manipulation in relationship. Which makes the content… apropos?
I guess I’ve always had a scale in my head that weighed artistic quality and imperative dialogue against offensive content. The problem being that while I was defining it as offensive and leaving it at that, I was gradually becoming less offended where it mattered – in my spirit.
In other words, I’ve been choosing my level of engagement by my ability to ignore offensive content rather than by obedient holiness.
Here’s the thing – engagement in the arts and cultural streams of communication is vital for us as creative people who are the salt and light in this broken world. However, to think that mere engagement for the right reasons makes me immune to unholy pressure is ignorant. Intaking sinful acts, usually portrayed with all of the allure that they inherently hold, is not without consequences. But we are also called to confront darkness with the light of Christ. How do we reconcile our own weakness with our call to courageously and lovingly proclaim Christ to a dying world?
Recall the oft-quoted: “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret”? With some context comes further understanding:
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:8-16 (italics added)
In other words, our involvement in culture is an “in-the-world-not-of-it” variety, in which we choose to expose the fruitless deeds of the culture rather than ignore them while we look for truth. Part of living in a truth-suppressing culture is shining the light of Christ into each situation (and media stream) we see.
This is holy obedience. This is faithfulness to Christ. This is believing that our weakness is transformed into strength by His redemption.
Questions we should not ask ourselves are:
- How much can I handle?
- Is the engagement worth the content?
- Will knowing about this increase my street cred with unbelievers?
The prayers we should offer are:
- Lord, what do you want me to do in this moment?
- Help me to see my weakness, and rely on your strength for courage.
- Guide me to holiness and love that will transform my perspective, my soul, and the lives of those around me.
- Guide me through Your Word to know the next steps in this conversation.
This could mean engaging in cultural streams with content depending on the context and the leading. This kind of engagement involves dogged reliance on Scripture, prayer, the Holy Spirit, and the communion of believers to guide our interactions and conversations about culture as we encounter it. It involves the recognition that we sometimes have to sacrifice our own fleshly desires or pseudo-spiritual comfort-fear to clearly communicate the Gospel.
And it also involves humbly listening to those closest to you when they rebuke you (thanks, sweetheart).