There was a time when I sought to be a fiction writer. I was taking graduate coursework in creative writing and working with a published author on a novel that he felt should be shared. It was a mind-grueling process, developing characters, settings, and plot lines from the deepest recesses of my mind. Some were birthed from actual experiences; others were created as the story unfolded. It was a patchwork of ideas, meticulously woven and crafted together to share a message. It was my message to the world, and I had to get it right.
The author I was working with told me how important it was to mold every detail so that it shaped the very story I wanted to tell and revealed the message from its core. We talked about character development and what it meant for a character to drive a white car verses a red one and the conclusions the reader would draw from either choice. I practiced writing descriptive paragraphs, describing the kitchen of one character verses another, using details to develop each character so that they would come to life through the setting.
There was one illustration, however, that managed to stay with me all of these years. He told of a story that made it a point to describe a rifle that hung over the mantel of a fireplace. Its color, handcrafting, and engravings were descriptively portrayed, each detail creating a three-dimensional picture in the mind of the reader. The rifle was in the most prominent place in the home; it had a place of honor. He then explained that if the author went to such a great extent to describe the rifle, he’d better make sure to fire it by the end of the story.
The point he drove home for me was that every word, every detail, every nuance should be purposeful. Intentional.
In writing, everything sends a message. Everything. And it is up to me as the author to make sure that I use everything to send my message. It is up to me to make sure my message is heard.
Over the years, I have pondered these lessons in the context of media. We gave up cable a few years ago and much of the mainstream content that went with it. Stepping back has given me a new perspective on the programming I used to watch and the influence it had had on me at the time. Every now and then, during a football game or basketball game, I get a glimpse of prime time TV, the shows that still make their way into the homes of families across our country. And I see them.
Many of the shows, movies, songs, and video games point to a culture that I am in but am no longer a part of. It is a secular culture, and it stands in direct opposition to the Biblical teachings I embrace.
What the Bible calls sin, the secular world glamorizes, celebrates, and promotes. Sexual immorality? Drunkenness? Sorcery? The occult? It’s all very much a part of the secular culture, where character traits like purity, self control, and Christianity are ridiculed and condemned. It amazes me how much gore and satanic influence has infiltrated what we refer to as “entertainment” and has literally taken over much of the family movies in our local DVD kiosks.
What used to be considered detestable is now “normal”. What was once frowned upon is now revered. TV shows with titles, such as Lucifer and You, Me and the Apocalypse (meant to poke fun at the rapture), are now publicized without reservation during all hours of the day. It saddens me that the secular influence no longer has to be subtle or vague as it was in the past. Our society has become so desensitized that it has embraced secular teachings willingly, without so much as a flinch.
This is because the media is powerful. It was once noted that TV entertainment was so “mindless” that the brain shut down every time a person sat down to view a show or movie. New research, however, has shown that only one side of the brain actually “shuts down” and becomes passive, the left side responsible for reason, analysis, and logic. The visual right side, on the other hand, becomes active as it readily absorbs the visual stimuli of television, releasing endorphins that create a craving for more stimulation. Researchers discovered that because of this, the brain was more apt to accept ideologies and beliefs when received visually via the media. In other words, the messages viewed on television are received without being questioned or processed. They are absorbed.
I had to step back for a moment to think about this for a while. For you see, if writing is intentional, how much more is the media? Every song, every wardrobe choice. Every word spoken, joke, or action taken. All of it is crafted together for one purpose: to share a message. And if this message is strictly secular or promotes what the Bible calls immoral, is this one I want our children to absorb without question?
I struggled with this a bit, wondering if I was being too over-protective, too guarded over our children’s minds. My husband and I have had many discussions, praying for discernment in how to best select media choices for them and what to teach them about the media for when they are old enough to make their own choices.
No, it’s not all bad. But a lot of it is.
And that’s when it hit me. If for a moment, I thought I was being too guarded, too bent on making sure our children were raised on Biblical principles, then how much more guarded is THE MEDIA in its efforts to promote its own secular principles?!! It has become a river of influence that has flooded our homes via streams of TV shows, movies, songs, radio, video games, advertisements, magazines, and even clothing. It has come at us from every angle, strategically placing its messages before us from every possible portal. We have been taught how to think, what to think, what to prioritize, what to value, how to dress, and how to behave via these waters.
It has been intentional–just like any effective piece of writing.
And so, I realized that as a follower of Christ, I must be even MORE intentional, more intentional about sharing God’s message and love with our children, more intentional about guarding their hearts and minds for Christ. My husband and I must be strategic in the messages we share with them, and the media choices we make. We must also teach them how to use discernment and make good choices on their own and how to handle inappropriate influences.
As a family, we will read more, talk more, pray more, and think more about what we believe to be important. We will focus on The Word and share our own streams of songs, shows, movies, games, etc., that we believe to be edifying and uplifting. We will have something more to stand on than the empty promises of lust, deceit, debauchery, the occult, relativism, and humanism. We will focus on that which is true, good, and lovely. Yes, we will be purposeful. Intentional.
We will give that message a place of honor in our hearts and in our home, where it is hanging beautifully over our “fireplace mantel”. And when every last detail is experienced and celebrated, . . . we will make sure to fire it.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
-Philippians 4:8 (KJV)