The Rev. Matt Cox, pastor, EastLake Community Church, 2734 La. (South Junior High):
I am an avid gamer and love a good movie. Unfortunately it’s common for Christians to get dogmatic about entertainment, making broad brushstrokes about what types of movies you can or can’t watch. Two issues: One, the Bible is silent on what types of entertainment are “OK”; two, genres of entertainment are mostly value neutral.
It’s not enough to ask about “violent movies” or comedies or whether a movie is rated PG or R. In fact, if the MPAA were to rate the Bible, it would get a NC-17 rating because of explicit violence and sexual content.
While the Bible never speaks to any genre guidelines, there are two things we should consider when approaching entertainment: One, God wants us to rest and relax; and two, what is the condition of your heart when experiencing entertainment?
God wants you to have fun in life. He designed us to enjoy community and the creations we make — fictional stories to modern art to great food. Do you enjoy a good story as a way to experience another’s creation or are you using it as an escape from your dissatisfaction? Are those movies in your Netflix queue because you’re legitimately interested in the concept or because you knew there were sex scenes that you could remember later as an escape from your spouse?
You know the why of what entertainment you choose. Be honest when you choose.
But here’s a tough reality that we need to get: Entertainment usually does a much better job asking honest questions about life than almost any “movies” found in the “Christian genre.”
If we need a Christian bookstore’s endorsement to feel spiritual about what we watch, we’ll grow more out of sync with a hurting world asking R-rated questions we’re too absorbed to come out of our PG bubble for.
— Send email to Matt Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, Chabad Jewish Center, 1203 W. 19th St.:
There is a fascinating statement in the Talmud: “Although one might feel justified to steal from a thief, don’t do it because it leaves the ‘taste’ of theft in your mouth.” Jewish wisdom inspires us to be selective as to what triggers our pleasures and what content consists as our entertainment.
We believe that what one watches penetrates deep within the viewer and affects both the conscious and subconscious. So if I am watching a violent movie, or reading a violent novel, that violence is entering my mind and is more likely to affect my actions. Considering the amount of explicit, violent and graphic content being featured in this film or video game, the results can be frightening.
This, however, does not state that media is inherently bad or evil. The Talmud states, “Everything G-d created in His world He created to express His glory.” This teaches us that the media, Internet, television and all other technological advances can and must be used as a modem for expressing G-dliness.
Indeed, everything can and must be used for the good. But when does that happen? When the human being is using the technology. But when the technology is using the human being, what good can come out of that?
Compare it to raising children: If you can remain an adult and interact with your children, then you can raise them into adults. But if you become nothing more than a device in their hands for getting what they want, then it’s them pulling you down, rather than you raising them up.
All the more so with the power that technology puts in our hands: These tools have tremendous potential for good, as long as they are just that — tools and not masters.
That’s why I am selective as to what I view, read or play. Since, after all, I aspire to be the “master” in my own life.
— Send email to Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel at rabbi@JewishKU.com.