How To Make Wise Media Choices (Part II).
Main Point V. Let’s take a look at some interesting messages/trends taught by different forms of media:
A. Think about fast food commercials. I enjoy fast food. But why are the people in the ads often young, pretty, handsome, cool, and in really good shape? What’s that all about? It’s like the commercials are trying to trick our minds into thinking that we can eat fast food all the time and still be thin, have six-pack abs, and so forth…
B. Or think about basketball shoes. Air Jordan’s have been around for over 20 years, and people will pay upwards of $200 or more for them. I intensely desired and owned numerous pairs of Air Jordan’s when I was growing up. Why? Because the commercials subtly imply to us that we can play basketball like Michael Jordan if we have them. I’m not and never have been in the NBA, by the way, even though I owned many pairs of these shoes (I even drank a lot of Gatorade so I could “be like Mike;” didn’t happen, though!).
The same applies to sports equipment/gear in general. Ever seen the people who ride their bicycles in packs and on the road? I have friends who do this, so I am not indicting bicyclists here. But many of them look just like Lance Armstrong—from the bikes, to the tight colorful jerseys, to the cool aerodynamic helmets, etc. I’m sure these cyclists are skilled at biking, are in great shape, and could wipe the pavement with me in a race any day, but none of them are anywhere near as good as Lance, and yet many of them spend thousands of dollars to have the same bike, helmet, shoes, gloves, water bottles, etc. as him. Why?
C. In many rap music videos the rappers have extremely expensive cars, homes, and jewelry. But actually, many rappers rent those items to make it seem like that is the life they lead by being a rapper. Many people—mostly young, white, suburban males—think that by purchasing their music and acting like rappers, they too will have such cars, homes, clothes, popularity, etc. But it’s not true! Many rappers don’t even have that stuff themselves—they have to rent it to create their image of wealth and prestige. It’s often simply not real…
D. Many songs and romantic movies lead people to believe that they need to find that one person who will complete their lives. They even use language similar to that found in the Bible when talking about Jesus: Music and movies will talk about finding “Mr. Right”, “The One,” that one person who will “complete you,” your “soul mate,” your ‘all in all,” etc. This is to be, according to such songs and movies, the most important search of our lives—finding another person who will make our lives exciting, amazing, and worthwhile and who will help us to feel completed, fulfilled, needed, etc. Is that what the Bible says, that we need another person to complete us? Well yes, kind of, but His name is Jesus…
And if you’re married to someone, the songs and movies say, who doesn’t make you feel like that, well then you need to go and find someone who will, because the person you are with certainly isn’t “The One” if they don’t make you feel amazing, fulfilled, completed, needed, etc. each and every day. Is this what the Bible says about marriage? Do we make God feel amazing each and every day? Then why doesn’t He get rid of us? Maybe because love is also choice, not just a feeling…Think about it.
E. Why do so many companies have women in bikinis in commercials advertising products from chewing gum to soft drinks? What is the point of that? What connection does a woman in a bikini have with the kind of gum I chew? Seriously!
F. One example of the role a t.v. show can have in changing/shaping our opinions is the Simpson’s. Again, I’m not lambasting the Simpson’s here or telling you never to watch it again (most of you don’t watch it anyway—you watch Family Guy, I bet). I’ve watched the show many times. However, it does paint a picture of men and fathers through the character of Homer Simpson. He is shown to be a well-meaning but unintelligent, foolish, selfish, buffoon of a man and Dad. He is lazy and unproductive at work (yet everything still seems to work out for him, meaning he never gets fired and always has his nice suburban house, vacations, food, pets, etc.) and is disrespected by his son, Bart. The Simpson’s has influenced many people that you don’t have to respect your Dad, cuz really, what does he know? But we as men—and we as Dads—are called to so much more than being like Homer Simpson. And children: God has called you to treat your Dads (and Moms) way better than Bart treats his.
Questions to Consider
1. So who are your role models? Which people influence your life the most? Who do you want to be like? (Be honest!) Are they positive or negative role models?
2. Usually, the people who influence your life most are the people you spend most of your time with. Who do you spend most of your time with? Or, which t.v.show do you watch the most? (Many people spend more time watching characters on t.v. than they do interacting with people in real life).
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV): “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
Philippians 3:17-19 (The Message): “Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.”
1 Peter 2:21 (NIV): “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
Main Point VI. Popular Company Slogans:
Important Note: I am not claiming in any way that these companies are bad, unethical, immoral, are to be boycotted, or anything remotely related to this, etc. I shop at some of these companies and own some of their products. This list is merely here so that you can see a more complete picture (but not totally complete by any means) of the messages being taught by twenty-six of the most popular and/or prominent companies in the United States of America:
-Allstate: “You’re in Good Hands with Allstate”
-American Express: “Don’t Leave Home Without It”
-Apple: “Think Different”
-Bayer USA: “Science for a Better Life”
-Best Buy: “Thousands of Possibilities; Get Yours”
-Burger King: “Have It Your Way”
-Canon: “Image is Everything”
-Circuit City: “Just What You Needed”
-Citigroup: “Live Richly”
-DisneyLand: “The Happiest Place on Earth”
-Dow Corning: “We Help You Invent the Future”
-Lexus: “The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection”
-L’Oreal: “Because I’m Worth It”
-Nike: “Just Do It”
-Nintendo: “Born to Play”
-Pepsi: “The Choice of a New Generation”
-Reebok: “Life Is Short. Play Hard”
-Sharp: “Change Your T.V., Change Your Life”
-Spencer Gifts: “Life’s a Party—We’re Makin’ It Fun…”
-Sprint Nextel: “Yes You Can”
-Staples: “That Was Easy”
-Time Warner Cable: “The Power of You”
-T-Mobile: “Get More”
-Toyota: “Oh What a Feeling”
-Wal-Mart: “Pay Less, Live Better”
-Wendy’s: “Do What Tastes Right”
Questions to Consider:
1. Do you see any trends/common themes when looking at the slogans above?
2. What effect do these slogans have on people who consume a lot of media?
3. Look at the slogans individually—are there any that go against Scripture? Are there any that agree with the Bible?
4. Are there any slogans above that you agree with/live by? Are there any that you should? Are there any that you should not? Why or why not?
John 10:1-5 (NLT): “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”
Part II: How To Make Wise Media Choices
Main Point VII. “Stop it already! So what exactly should I be watching and how much?”
That’s up to you to decide—God gave you a great brain, so use it! Remember, the point of this lesson is not to get you to adhere to my opinion of the exact amount of time spent consuming the media or to follow my prescription for which shows, movies, songs, etc. you “should” or “should not” be viewing. It’s between you and God…
But…Here are some (hopefully!) helpful guidelines to begin giving yourself a healthy plan for using the media:
1. How Much Is Too Much?
A. The average American spends as much time or more plugged into the media than he/she does sleeping. Bottom line—this is definitely unwise. I overheard a paramedic say that sleep deprivation causes more car accidents than alcohol—wow! Keep an honest and accurate record of how much time you spend watching t.v. & movies, surfing the web, listening to music, and playing video games. See how much time you actually spend. It may be more or less than you think. If you are at or above the national average of six hours per day (42 hours for the week), definitely lower it some. [Oh yeah, and if you get around six hours of sleep per night or less on average, try real hard to get more. Most people need eight hours, whether you think so or not, and 5th-8th graders need more than that. Try getting eight or nine per night for a month and see if there is any difference in your mood, personality, outlook on life, quality of work, relationships with family and friends, etc.]
B. Once you figure out how much media you’re consuming each week, look at your other daily/weekly responsibilities and see if you are falling short/underachieving/short-changing those important areas. (Students, you’ll need to ask your parents for this diagnosis of yourselves; parents, you’ll need to ask your spouse and children for their diagnosis for yourselves). Time budgeting (aargh—the “b” word!) is similar to financial budgeting—if I’m spending $1,000 per month on great clothes but only have $100 per month left over for food, well I need to bring those two numbers closer together somewhat. Similarly, if I watch sports, am on Facebook, and play my Nintendo Wii for 40 hours per week but can’t manage to get my homework assignments done on time or ever remember to take Fluffy for a walk or have a meaningful conversation with a family member, then I need to balance those amounts as well. Finally, if you’re spending 40 hours a week on media and less than 10% of that each week pursuing God through Bible reading, prayer, journaling, etc., then you definitely have to bring those two numbers a little closer together. Here are other important areas of our lives that often get shortchanged by our time with the media:
-relationship with God via silence, Bible reading, praying, journaling, etc.;
-family relationships (spouse, children, siblings, grandparents, etc.);
-face-to-face friendships (school, work, church, neighborhood, etc.)
-chores around the house to help the family run smoothly;
-athletic activities (Wii doesn’t count! :));
-musical/drama activities—i.e. hobbies;
-reading books (magazines & comic books don’t count, but Kindle does!);
-physical exercise (Wii still doesn’t count! :));
-serving others through prayer, time, money, talents, etc.
-weekly church attendance AND participation (serving in some consistent way).
C. Ask close friends and relatives to do this time-calculating exercise with you, and ask them to share with you how much time they spend with media and the above categories. If there are some people who are a bit more balanced than you, ask them for tips on how they achieve that balance. In other words, learn from others.
2. Which Stuff Is Good, Bad, Etc.?
A. There are some shows, songs, websites, books, magazines, movies, etc. that are sinful, that cause a wedge to be driven between us and God. Determining this requires a bit of honest common sense, asking questions of yourself like:
-Would I watch such and such a show/program/website if Jesus were sitting next to me right now? (He actually is, by the way!)
-Would I be embarrassed to watch a certain show with my parents?
-Would I be upset if a list were made public to all my friends and family of all the t.v. shows, movies, songs, and websites etc. that I experience? What would I want left off that list?
Conclusion: 99% of the time, the media items that honestly make the above list should be cut out immediately from your schedule. Personal accountability/self leadership is one of the greatest tools we can use in filling our minds and hearts and bodies with healthy things.
B. Here are some more questions to ask yourself in determining whether a media activity is healthy for you or not:
-Do I agree with the behavior/message of a particular cast of characters/show in general? Would I want to act like them in my real daily life? If not, why am I watching them over and over again?
-Do I agree with the lyrics (in general) of a song? What would happen if I lived my life according to those lyrics? I made the choice to throw out a lot of music after I chose to follow Jesus as a 19 year old because I knew that the particular type of music was unhealthy for my soul and the lifestyle it glamorized was the opposite of the one I wanted to live. It was difficult, but I chose to do it, and I know now even more what a good decision it was. But no one forced me; I chose to do it. You must choose as well.
-How do I feel after watching a particular show? (Ask God to help you be more sensitive to how media affects you). Am I left feeling sad, lonely, depressed, angry, etc.? I made the decision a couple of years ago to stop watching professional & college sporting events for six months because I get too wrapped up in it—I get way to upset/demoralized when my team doesn’t win, and I can be a miserably grumpy person during the game if they’re losing. My family was especially thankful for my decision!
Try It Out: Look up the lyrics to three of your favorite songs. Do these go with or against what God teaches in the Bible? If you lived your life according to the song’s lyrics, would you grow closer to God or away from Him in the long run? Do you think you can listen to songs like this over and over but not let them affect you? Why?
-Am I watching a program to escape from/avoid something (on a regular basis) in my real life that needs to be addressed (e.g. homework, a strained friendship/relationship, God, chores, etc.)? Am I watching just to be cool and popular at school? You’re already popular with Jesus, and His opinion is the only one that matters anyway!
-Am I doing something media wise simply because I’m bored and can’t think of anything better to do? There’s always something better we can be doing for others!!! Don’t just “kill time”—you only get about 500,000 waking hours in your life if you live to be 75 years old and you sleep six hours per night. Use your time to love God and love others, starting with those closest to you—you won’t regret it!
C. Closing Thoughts
-The average American is awake for less than 500,000 hours in their earthly lives (18 hours per day x 365 days per year x 75 years). In other words, if you had a penny for every hour of your life, you wouldn’t even be able to rent a one bedroom apartment for a year in many parts of the United States.
-In light of the finite and non-renewable nature of time, is a particular media program or activity worth it? To be honest, some of them are worth it I believe! A good comedy that makes you laugh, an insightful show that makes you think, an epic movie that puts the humdrum of our lives into the context of a great battle or adventure, these are worth my limited time (though not for six hours per day). But oftentimes, I waste too much of my time watching/listening to the same reworked plots, the same musically expressed angst, the same shallow messages, the same lame jokes. I want to thrive and make a difference, not merely exist and consume. I want to fulfill the mission that God has for me, the reason He made me (and if you don’t know that is, it’s in the Bible. Look it up in Micah 6:8, Mark 12:29-31, and John 17:3, among other passages). How about you? What difference do you want to make in the world? How do you want to be remembered after your earthly life is over? Does that line up with Jesus and the Bible? And what will you start doing today to start making that difference?
Heavenly Father, please help all of us to make wise media choices. Thank you for the gift of technology, for the blessing of creatively expressing talents and gifts through acting, drama, singing, making music, writing, etc. Help us to balance the gift of entertainment with the other gifts of life—family, friends, work, school, service, exercise, and most of all, You. Help us to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things, and help us to use the time you have given us on earth wisely to show the world how great You are, how much You love them, and all that You offer to them…
In the Name of Jesus I Pray…Amen.