Friday, June 26, 2009

John Piper on Television & the Movies

As an avid movie watcher and an occasional television viewer, I found John Piper's recent comments on these forms of media both challenging and uncomfortable. Dr. Piper, a pastor out of Minneapolis, was on a panel at a conference and was asked to speak to his aversion for television, which was assumed to be in direct opposition to that of Mark Driscoll, another well-known pastor and fellow panel participant.

By his own admission, Piper offered a curt response at the conference and failed to adequately address the question. You can watch the interaction in question here. He then wrote a well thought-out viewpoint on his blog in which he explains why he doesn't own a television.

Like many other forms of technology, television and, by extension, movies have the ability to draw people both away from God and closer to Him. They also have the capacity to help families bond or lead them into isolation from one another. It all depends on how we choose to utilize them. So although I'm not one that feels all Christians should not own a television, I do think Piper's onto something.

As a minister of the gospel, I believe it's important for me to understand what is going on in popular culture in order to be relevant to those I'm seeking to minister to. However, it doesn't mean I have to immerse myself in the stuff. I knew who Lady GaGa was for months before I finally heard one of her songs this past week (and for what it's worth, I don't really get it). But even in the desire for relevance, we can easily get caught in the snare of temptation without even intending to. Look at what Piper has to say on the matter:
"I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies.

If you want to be relevant, say, for prostitutes, don’t watch a movie with a lot of tumbles in a brothel. Immerse yourself in the gospel, which is tailor-made for prostitutes; then watch Jesus deal with them in the Bible; then go find a prostitute and talk to her. Listen to her, not the movie. Being entertained by sin does not increase compassion for sinners.

There are, perhaps, a few extraordinary men who can watch action-packed, suspenseful, sexually explicit films and come away more godly. But there are not many. And I am certainly not one of them.

I have a high tolerance for violence, high tolerance for bad language, and zero tolerance for nudity. There is a reason for these differences. The violence is make-believe. They don’t really mean those bad words. But that lady is really naked, and I am really watching. And somewhere she has a brokenhearted father."
Lori and I have made the choice to not have cable television in our house. We have TVs and utilize over-the-air broadcast but we don't spend a lot of time flipping through channels looking for what is on. If there is a network program on that we want to watch, we watch it. But we don't feel compelled to always have the television on. We find other things to do (like board games, video games, sports, etc.) in order to spend time together. But we also watch TV shows and movies together as a family.

The questions we have to ask ourselves are:
1. Does this movie or television show draw me closer to God and the ones I love?
2. Does it lead me into temptation or into sin?
3. Is there a better way that I can be spending my time right now?
There is no cut and dried answer about whether Christians should watch TV or go to the movies. But, for most of us, we probably need to examine how we spend our time and consider if we're wasting hours away on things that won't last for eternity. When we look towards the end of our lives I doubt any of us will wish we would have watched more TV. But many of us will have regrets concerning our failure to invest our time in the eternal.

1 comment:

Greg said...

John Piper... thank you for your stand on this issue. We must rebuild the burned gates and broken walls of our spiritual lives as Nehemiah did in Jerusalem Thus preventing the enemy (world views) from invading our weak minds.It's a tough job, but one we must do. Otherwise we bring reproach on our God and His people. GLC