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Blessed Are Those Who Binge Watch?

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 1 Corinthians 10:23 NKJV

I was hesitant to write this blog. Mostly because I don’t have any answers for you. When I think about how we are to live as Christ-followers in the culture at large, but not be part of it, I’m not quite sure I know how to do this. I’m still figuring it out.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I mean, there are aspects of our culture that I am actually quite good at (and quite enjoy) not being part of, but the area I wrestle with most is my consumption of entertainment.

Movies are my jam. I spend a lot of time immersing myself in them. (And TV shows, of course, especially now in the Golden Age of Television). I often tell people that movies are like oxygen for me. Sitting in a dark theater, anticipating the emotional journey I’m about to embark on --even just walking past the upcoming movie posters in the hallway-- it just fills me.

I’ve heard it many times before, and in many different ways. “Be careful what you watch and allow into your heart.” “What we put in our minds, comes out of our mouths.” ”Don’t let what you see desensitize your spirit.” There are even a number of scriptures that tell me similar things.* All these points of advice are true, and good. I don’t debate their helpfulness or accuracy. But I never really took them to heart. I would hear them and shrug them off, never allowing them to shake things up. Partly because my inclination is to initially balk at any word of correction. But mostly because I felt I could justify my entertainment choices. 

I can get value out of anything I watch because it teaches me more about my craft and helps me be a better artist. 

I can learn more about the human condition and how to have empathy for people who are different from me. 

The Lord can use any secular piece of art to speak words of life and truth to me if I let Him.

Whether or not these statements bear some truth to them (which they do, and which we can spend multiple blog entries on!) is not the point. I can use “in the name of art” as a (justified) reason all I want, but at the end of the day, when the credits roll, there are definitely things I wish I had never watched and allowed to enter my heart.

The truth is, what we watch matters. It affects us. I watch something precisely because I want it to affect me. I’ll watch Manchester By The Sea or Billy Elliot when I need a good cry. I’ll watch The Lord of the Rings (yes, all three, extended editions--can I get an “Amen?!”) when I want to be inspired. I’ll watch pretty much any Sci-Fi when I want to escape and forget about my problems. But let me not forget that most of the entertainment I consume presents a picture of reality that isn’t really complete. Even amidst the “cleanest,” family-friendly choices out there, or even in the more “metaphorically spiritual” ones, these forms of entertainment typically leave out Christ. They’re missing the one thing I value more than anything. And so I need to ask myself, if this is what I am primarily watching on a consistent basis, am I slowly conforming my mind to the views and perspectives of culture, instead of the Lord? Where I put my eyes, where I spend my time - this is what shapes my mind, my heart, and ultimately my soul.

A man I love and respect told me once, as he was recounting a conversation he had had with his son: “It’s fine to binge all these episodes, but how much of the Lord are you putting into your soul as well? Is it balancing out in the end?” Those words struck a chord. Where I had so often dismissed the earlier calls to a more Godly standard of viewing, this question made sense in a way I had never entertained before.

If I spend more time binging Netflix than I do reading the scriptures, talking with God, writing to God, singing to Him, or just being in His presence, then ultimately I am feeding my soul with junk food. And we all know what happens when we feast every day on McDonalds alone. There’s a movie about that. I mean, I have no problem waking up at 5:20am to watch the Oscar nominations live (yes, just the nominations - I’m a nerd like that) and though it’s only once a year, when did I last wake up that early to spend time with my Lord? [insert sound of crickets chirping].

I didn’t mean for this blog to become a confessional. And it’s definitely not my intent for anyone to feel lambasted or chastised for their entertainment choices. What I’m getting at is that perhaps it’s time to take inventory. What are we watching? Maybe our next step is just simply to ask the Holy Spirit for discernment when next we turn on the streaming device. Is this a good idea for me to watch, in this moment, in this season of my life? Or maybe it’s not so much about what we’re putting in. Maybe it’s more about what else we’re putting in. If we’re not anchoring our faith, consistently, deeply, in the ways of the Lord, then we are both living in the culture and slowly, subtly, but surely becoming part of it. 

* Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-2, Psalm 101:3 are three examples.