My friend Rebecca Cusey has a very thoughtful piece on the outstanding Patheos website titled, “Christians and Movies: Recognizing the Danger Within, Not Without.” She writes:
In Matthew 15:10, Jesus states, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” In the passage, He taking religious people to task about their rigid dietary rules, but I think the words apply more broadly. It applies to all makers of dairy products, as Monty Python would say.
We must each do the hard work of recognizing our own weaknesses. For some, it may be that sexual content does indeed feed a weakness within. Others may revel in the dark side of violence or evilly enjoy gruesome scenes. For many women, the danger is a false depiction of romance, as in ‘Titanic,’ which feeds the selfish dissatisfaction in our hearts with our spouses and families.
It’s not only entertainment media, but all aspects of consumer culture that can light the warning lights in the dashboard of our hearts….We give media too much credit for having power over us, and let ourselves off the hook in the process. It’s much easier to blame media for our strayings and discontentments than to recognize they come from within.
I appreciate this point of view and her emphasis on the importance of taking responsibility for ourselves, our actions, and our responses to what we see. On one hand, we must acknowledge that we are influenced by media and culture. A multi-billion dollar industry is devoted to using the latest and most sophisticated techniques of psychological conditioning to get us to buy things (Cusey acknowledges that she is as or even more likely to be led into temptation by a catalog as a movie). The artistic and commercial focus behind any movie or television show is on engaging our emotions and directing our thinking. And part of responsible, mature behavior is protecting our minds and spirits from toxic influences as we protect our bodies from harmful substances. But Cusey is right that too often religion-based fears about media fixate on the wrong questions.