In this series, we are looking at different ways that Christians have approached secular pop culture. This post will examine the approach of watching secular media from a Christian perspective and comparing themes with Biblical principles. First off, what are the advantages of this approach to pop culture? The first advantage is that we do not have to shut ourselves away from all secular entertainment to avoid unbiblical influences. Human nature does not respond to blanket prohibitions very well (Romans 7), and insisting that Christians avoid secular entertainment altogether could intensify desires to see it, resulting in mental obsessions. Furthermore, Christians who create music, literature, or movies can advance their skills by incorporating stylistic elements from a wide range of sources.
The second advantage is that, by watching secular media with a Christian perspective in mind, we can blur the distinction between our recreational life and our spiritual life. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says to “walk by faith, not by sight.” If we think that we are closer to God when praying or reading the Bible, and farther from God when entertaining ourselves, then we are, to some extent, living by sight instead of faith, because we let activities we see ourselves doing influence how we perceive our relationship with God. As I described in Part 6 of my series “Being a Real Christian,” for those who understand the message of Romans, holiness is not about what we are doing as much as the focus of our minds. If, by looking at secular movies, music, or books, we can remind ourselves of certain Scriptures by comparing or contrasting themes with the Bible, our attention is pointed in the right direction.
So then, are there disadvantages to watching secular media with a Biblical mindset? Well, there are a couple risks if this approach is over relied on for spiritual development. The first is that our theological focus can become a bit shallow if we generalize Biblical themes to a level that can be demonstrated in secular media. The second potential problem is superfluously comparing secular media with the Bible. For instance, one could develop a tendency to see something in a movie, and then declare it Biblical or unbiblical based on certain Scriptures, without considering the deeper or more diverse perspectives expressed in the Bible itself.
The last potential disadvantage would be if a secular work has immoral content so pervasive that it could cause one’s mind to get obsessed with immorality.
In general though, as long as the approach is not overly relied on, I think that observing secular media from a Christian perspective is a good way that Christians can approach popular culture. In the next post, we will consider portrayals of Christianity within secular media itself.