Media is a consuming presence in American Culture, if not all cultures, tribes, and nations. I remember a TV antenna on the roof of a tent in the middle of the Sinai wilderness. The year was 1983. I was not sure where the electricity even came from. Media sounds and voices permeate almost every public place we go, whether background music, billboards, or commercials that find their way to our cell phones. Most people I see walking in a local park have headphones on or are “on” their cell phones. A quiet restaurant is hard to find, and table conversations often have to overcome the volume of background music and other dialogues. I have also wondered why churches and other religious venues have ‘background music’ playing when praying and meditating alone or in groups. If God speaks with a still small voice like a whisper, is anyone hearing? Is anyone even listening for God’s voice? What does the content of the Media we consume reveal about our souls publicly or individually? Is what we hear and view a window into our own soul?
I Only Listen to the Beat
“It’s only words.” Or “I only listen to the beat.” When I was a young adult minister, these were popular defenses questioning the choices young people made when purchasing and listening to music. As a “Rock n Roll” drummer in my teenage years, I had purchased and played lots of music based on its creative beat without regard to the lyrics. I had also enjoyed some catchy lyrics like, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” or “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” or “Stairway to Heaven” without much regard for the meaning or influence of lyrics. Contemporary Christian music offers lyrics and rhythms and beats that were not available when I was a teenager, but would I have chosen it over the secular music that was more readily available?
I once was confronted by a Sunday School teacher after seeing an R-rated movie with my parents. He asked me if I liked the film, and when I said “yes,” he asked me how, as a Christian, I could be entertained by several immoral and irreverent scenes in that movie. I really had ignored those scenes and wondered how he knew about them. His loving confrontation opened my heart and mind to be more prayerful about what Media Messages I consumed.
What am I…What are we…What are our children and our children’s children being “fed” or “consumed by” in today’s media and communication channels? Cell Phones, Internet, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Television, Video Games, Radio, Cable, Streaming, Billboards…? So many more “mediums” and messages are available now. It is so much harder to find or maybe even tolerate silence and stillness. Are we still consumers, or are we being consumed?
What Does the Bible Say?
May I suggest a few Biblical guidelines that challenge us to be wise consumers not to consume ‘fools’? Perhaps these are guidelines for enjoying media and not becoming casualties in the spiritual war that comes through media channels.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8 is a litmus test for just about every form of communication we give or receive.
“Little Children, guard yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21
“The things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile a person” Matthew 15:18
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23
What do the words say literally? What are the “hidden meanings” or deeper philosophical or religious implications? What moods does this media reinforce? Anger? Frustration? Happiness? Contentment? Peace?
How much time and energy is this choice taking away from quiet, study, reading, listening, praying, exercising, having meaningful conversations, and growing in wisdom and understanding?
Am I entertained by images or messages that contradict what I believe is Christlike or the person I am in Christ?
Is what I am hearing edifying, building my character, strengthening my faith, or helping me love and trust other people?
Is what I am purchasing supporting a cause or voice that is an antithesis to what I believe is a Christian or even a healthy lifestyle?
So, the question remains: What’s in your mind, and is it a window to your heart?