There’s a question that’s been on my mind for awhile that is troubling me. As a christian, how are we supposed to live a life that is pleasing to God, yet enjoy popular culture? We hear stories of many saints who shunned the world and focused on religious concerns. Can we as christians with a clear conscience enjoy the latest hollywood film, book or tv program and not feel guilty having done so?
That depends on the individual film, book or TV program. The recently deceased novelist John Updike was a believing Protestant, but some of his work was not very Christian. Some years ago I started to watch The Silence of the Lambs. Then I asked myself, “Why am I watching this?” I turned it off. If you start watching or reading something, and it gets too violent or too explicitly sexual, drop it.
In the majority of cases of the popular culture’s media (music, tv, books, movies, etc.) in these times, no one cannot enjoy it without a bad conscience. And that bad conscience is there for a reason. The reason is that these productions generally contain occasions of sin, blasphemy, and content that is simply bad for the mind and soul – it entertains by provoking reactions that are disordered and teaching values that are disordered and yet become part of the viewer.
Therefor of you spend much time with this media you must change your lifestyle if it depends upon these things into one which does not, and seeks other forms of entertainment and entertainment in smaller doses relegated to its primary purpose for the refreshment of the mind.
Our joy should be living for Christ and those occupations of our time which are for Christ.
Speaking practically here, even the nature shows and some old movies have problems – as one separates oneself one notices them, but this is generally what people turn to initially instead of that which is generally always unacceptable.
The short answer is discernment. In the past, movies and TV shows had the influence of the Catholic Legion of Decency, which was established to promote the arts of film and television so that both forms could be used in a way that was obviously good for people, believer and unbeliever alike.
As a Catholic, I am tired of the profanity and the constant fornication in movies and on TV. I’m tired of the comedians throwing out profanity, giving graphic talks about sex and even bashing the Bible and Christians in general. There was a time when none of that happened in movies or TV. I hung out with artists in the late 1960s who wanted “freedom.” What kind of freedom?
Sex outside of marriage, whether it was single or married people.
Bashing the Church or other organized religions.
Saying all religions are the same. No such thing as one true way.
Lust is OK, otherwise you are repressed sexually.
In the 1970s and 1980s, entertainment, I thought, wasn’t too bad. But I was wrong. I threw out a lot of records, books, magazines and tapes. My movie collection is very small. By the 1990s, I had to turn off the radio. Shock jocks and rap, and then the internet.
As Catholics, we are called to holiness. Holiness is not an option - it is what we are called to be. And we can’t be indifferent to the current culture. There are a lot of books and magazines I will not buy. There are a lot of TV shows I will not watch. There are a lot of movies I will not watch and will not own.
Being Catholic did not change but movies, TV, books and magazines changed. I bought a book and ran across a few instances of profanity. I sent an e-mail to the publisher saying I don’t want to see this in their books. I didn’t tell them what to do. I told them what I believed, politely. They thanked me for my input and I thought that was that. I was surprised to get an e-mail from the author who told me that he was simply relating the way people talked. He didn’t seem to understand my concern. My point was, if we don’t speak up, who will? If we don’t say: Hey, this isn’t right ot appropriate, then it will continue to get worse, and it is getting worse.
The buck, as they say, stops here. If it’s offensive to your Catholic sensibilities, don’t buy it or watch it or read it.
Now each of us are different, but Jesus said, If you love me keep my Commandments.
So, yeah. There’s not much out there that’s suitable mentally or spiritually. I pick up Popular Science from time to time. There’s a few science web sites I go to. A few history sites. I watch old TV shows on youtube. I read mostly history books.
Perhaps this is an oppurtunity for more of us to get involved with our Church and in our communities. Pray about it.
I’ve long thought about media creation and in fact it is one of the greatest of responsibilities, because one is responsible for whatever media is created as long as it exists and for all that it causes.
So if one causes media to be created that is an occasion of sin – you are responsible – and rather than celebrating the more people view it, the worse it is for your soul.
If one who creates such a thing still manages to somehow make it to Heaven via Purgatory – repentant of but unable to fix the damage caused – the purgation may be a long one. I know of stories of those who have been consigned there until the harm caused by the media they created ceases to exist.
If one is seeking to be an author or creator of content one has to strive for great holiness to prevent one from doing something one eternally regrets.
This follows from the fundamental principle of great care about even to our basic actions, our everyday words as teachers to others about Christianity, speaking about what is good and evil.
We witness the saints so hesitant to write a word often enough, and taking great care when they do.
When you read about conversions of authors, actors, or similar to Christianity who do not thereafter repent and repudiate their past media, or you read about what the idiot in charge of movie reviews employed by the USCCB recommends, you just have to stand back restrain your horror at what is happening.
The restoration of Christian culture – We are very, very far from this in these times – It has been under a grinding wheel of destruction for decades. There is next to no purity of conscience among the media creators.
If you are strong in your faith, you can use the evil as an example of what not to do.
It also helps to combat the argument of those who say we are out of touch.
Just remember that you must ensure your soul is nourished with the love and the beautiful Truth of Jesus Christ on a daily basis.
It’s like your diet, garbage in, garbage out. So keep the evil to a minimum, only to serve the good!
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!
If you want to know what the place the media has in the life of the Church, try looking here:
It’s my own website (:o), but it pretty much just points you to the right places on the Vatican website. I have attempted to bring together in one place all the Church documents regarding the media. (Ed, if I have missed any, let me know! :))
Others have given you good answers. I like Ed’s answer: Discernment. We don’t have to shun everything. But neither should we uncritically accept everything.