September 04, 2009

Defeating the Media Monster—Part 1

Written By Cary Schmidt

Media will eat your family alive, unless you tell it not to!

I have a deep inner aversion to living things that crawl, creep, fly, or slither around and find their way into places they don’t belong. They bother me. They creep me out. I just want them dead as quickly as I can make it happen. It’s not really of fear, but of something that has more to do with dominance and my human right to “not be creeped out”! (After all, it’s in everybody’s basic rights—life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the freedom to be uncreeped!)

Not long ago, I had a bat in my office. Another time, a bird came flying in—yes, a BIRD—into my third-floor office! Shortly thereafter, a lizard showed up in a secretary’s office. And as you might imagine, these things not only hindered work flow, they significantly raised the threat level on the “creep-ometer.” They were nasty little living things that found their way into areas they didn’t belong. They disturbed and disrupted, and they had to be dealt with. And in each case—they were. (The sentence was “death by broomstick.”)

In much the same way, only on a spiritual level, the media of our society is constantly and forever trying to creep its way into places it doesn’t belong—in our hearts and homes. The tools of that media come in a wide variety—from TVs, to computers, to video game consoles, to cell phones, to iPods, to social websites and dozens of other helpful and potentially enjoyable gadgets and toys. The message of that media depends upon our day to day choices—who we communicate with, what we listen to, what we post, what we watch or play, and who we follow or befriend. The media itself isn’t all bad and the tools of media are not intrinsically wicked—it’s what that media can become and the unrestrained messages it brings with it that poses great risk.

Simply put: media will eat your family alive unless you tell it not to. When unrestrained, media can be like little roving creatures looking for a new place to settle. Uncontained, it will creep and crawl its way into every possible area of your life, family, and relationships—threatening a lot of good stuff along the way. In our society, media is Satan’s primary tool of communication and destruction—in spite of the good that modern technology can bring.

So what do Christian families do with so many varieties of media threats? There are two extremes. The first is to completely ignore the threat, letting each family member have complete media freedom. In this case media becomes a raging monster rampaging through a home with an insatiable appetite for destroying relationships and addicting hearts to sin and vice. The second extreme is unprincipled abstinence—the decision to remove all media from our lives without explanation or biblical training. This approach results in our children eventually facing the media monster alone in their adult lives with no biblical foundation on which to stand. In the first extreme, media becomes dominant in the home and relationships die early. In the second, media waits patiently to ravage an unprepared life later.

In a multimedia age, it’s time that parents and children engage in the day to day process of understanding, discerning, taming, and containing the media beast. Proverbs 22:6 teaches us, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The process of “training up” is a time-consuming, fully-engaged, active, and deliberate course of action. Yet, I find that few parents have intentionally determined to “train up” their children in defeating one of the greatest threats to their future spiritual well-being—mass media (including airwaves, music, internet, video games, cell-phones and all that comes with them.)

Some parents desire to “train up” but they feel overwhelmed or are not sure where to begin. Yet, the risk is too great not to jump on this beast and ride it into submission. Honestly, we’re all still learning and media is ever changing, but for the next page, let’s examine the big challenges media brings, and then some practical steps to defeating and taming this monster. There are five huge challenges that media brings into our homes:

First, the challenge of perversion—whether it’s a TV show, an inappropriate website, or a profane facebook posting, the media of our culture has given a loud and long voice to a massive amount of perversion. It’s difficult to even buy a gallon of milk without having to see and hear the filth of our world being broadcast or displayed. Even the conservative news outlets are shameless when it comes to advertising or stories having to do with sexual matters. This challenge threatens our purity, and God commands us to flee youthful lusts (Ephesians 4:29) and to be wise to that which is good and simple concerning evil (Romans 16:19).

Second, is the challenge of deception—the media of our culture is constantly heralding Satan’s lies about love, happiness, and life. Additionally, the internet gives someone a lot of opportunities to “be someone else” or to participate in gossip, slander, and harmful chat. The deception of anonymity has drawn many into second lives, inappropriate relationships, and deceptive communications. But God tells us in James 4:8 to cleanse our hands, purify our hearts from double-mindedness and draw nigh to God once again.

Third, is the challenge of obsession—emails, twitter, blogs, cell phones, video games, internet chat, forums, and a variety of other media tend to become dominant in our lives. Frankly, these mediums impact us in ways we don’t even fully understand yet. Science has only just begun to examine the power that these things can have over us and the developmental results over time. Practically speaking, in counseling, I’ve seen that these things can literally become obsessions—almost holding us hostage and causing us to disengage from real relationships. But in 1 Corinthians 6:12 God instructs us not to be “brought under the power of any”—speaking of things that may not be evil, but also may not be expedient (or helpful).

Fourth is the challenge of disconnection—media is so dominant in some families that it has completely over-run real family connections. A healthy marriage relationship or parent/child relationship requires a close heart connection—the product of time, eye contact, heart-to-heart conversation, frequent affection, and real-time interaction. Abundance of media literally kills time, robs focus, shortens attention span, and makes human relationships seem boring and shallow. But Ephesians 4:32 and 6:1-4 teaches us to develop loving, tenderhearted, nurturing relationships in our homes.

Fifth, is the challenge of emptiness—this is the result of the first four challenges. When media is allowed to “take over,” everyone in the family is familiar with everything in the world except each other, and that leaves the heart very, very empty and hungry. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 1:17 that he gave his heart to know madness and folly and ultimately is was nothing but, “vexation of spirit.”

Stay tuned for part two of this post when we will examine eight practical steps we can take to protect ourselves and those we love!

Note: Please share your thoughts and insight regarding the challenges of media in today’s society, and consider someone else who might benefit from these posts and encourage them in this area!