Garbage In, Garbage Out

condemnation

As a teenager my youth pastor and mentor often taught us about what he called the GIGO principal: if you put garbage in your ears then garbage will be what comes out of your mouth. In short, garbage in – garbage out (or GIGO). We even had a CD burning party (this seems so old at this point) where we gathered our music that did not honor God and burned it in order to symbolize our commitment to putting wholesome material in our minds so that it would build us up rather than tear us down. Even after all of these years I can still vividly see my friends and I gathered around that bonfire and praying that God would be honored in the things we see and hear in our lives.

Lately, I’ve become part of many conversations concerning some of the recent media releases that have caused a stir in the Christian community. The two most notable are Disney’s live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast as well as film adaptation of William P. Young’s novel The Shack. Both of these films are cause for concern in the Christian community because they offer views that are contrary to what the Bible teaches. While I haven’t seen the film yet, I am told that The Shack is not near as bad as the book yet still contains some hidden heresies that many unwitting Christians will pass over unawares.

The point of this blog entry isn’t to debate these films; many other writers have done so and I encourage you to do a Google search to hunt those out. What I want to look at is the more common question I have heard from many serious, sold out, followers of Christ. The common reply I hear from those I have chatted with is, “So what? It didn’t seem that bad to me. What’s the big deal?” This set of questions brought me back to very similar arguments we had as teenagers concerning our CDs which, keep in mind, were not very cheap for teenagers back in the 90’s.

The main concern with asking what harm can come from just listening to or watching something that may not be God focused or God honoring is that it betrays a major flaw in our own perspective. When we are concerned with how much we can get away with when it comes to these kinds of things it is similar to what Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden; the serpent twisted God’s words trying to get them realize that they wouldn’t die. The truth was that they didn’t die immediately but they experienced spiritual death and eventual physical death. Their real sin was that they did not trust in God’s plan for their lives and sought their own path instead.

Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote concerning this idea in 1 Corinthians 6:

[18] Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. [19] Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, [20] for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Cor. 6:18-20 NLT)

Notice Paul’s direction to the reader; he doesn’t say that we need to get as close to sin as we can. Instead, he commands us to run! When I was a youth pastor we went to a conference where the speaker taught on this passage and, to emphasize his point, he had the cameraman follow him as he took off running off the stage and all around the conference center. His point was that we shouldn’t try to snuggle up next to sin and see how close we can get to it without actually doing it. Instead, we should run away from it like it was radioactive toxic waste.

This is exactly how so many Christians (including myself) have treated our digital, physical, and audio media whereby we receive information. We watch television, stream movies, download music, and read books all day long without considering whether or not they honor God. Remember that our brains are part of our bodies and we are commanded to honor God with them because our body is the temple of God’s Holy Spirit. Because it is where God lives we must treat it with the highest respect and honor.

I double-dog-dare you to go back to the Old Testament and study the care with which God commanded Moses and Solomon in how to create both the Tabernacle and the Temple. The measurements were exact, the materials were select, and the treatment was with great care because this was where God would dwell to be among His people. You couldn’t just walk into the Tabernacle or Temple without proper preparation and cleansing; if you did you would die. Why? Because this is where God’s presence rested and it was holy.

Yet, we fail to treat our bodies with the same care. God crafted our bodies with exponentially more care than Moses or Solomon built the Tabernacle and Temple. God has designed our bodies to be the crowning glory of His creation and yet we are so naïve as to cram tons of junk into our brains through the things we see, watch, read, and do. We fail to realize that these things impact our minds and eventually our hearts. We have become so apathetic to the media we consume that we don’t bat an eyelash at a profane word or a naked body; much less so at sinful acts that happen on our screens in tons and tons of shows, songs, and programs.

Let’s put this into the setting of our current day: there is a rumor that there will be a homosexual in an upcoming Disney movie. People freak out, lash out on social media and in conversations with others, boycott the movie, and they make such a big deal about it that it is almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t know about it. We don’t ever stop to think about how the people who live a homosexual lifestyle might feel about our faith and Jesus as a result of our behavior. We feel like we are standing up for what is right and making our faith public and that we are honoring God in the process.

Yet, let me give you a personal example from my own life. I love superheroes and really enjoyed comic books as a kid. As a result, I geek out over the multi-million dollar blockbuster films that come out every year bringing these heroes to life. Years ago, I had a college student bring to my attention all of the ungodly things in the 1st Iron Man movie. Consider all of these negative aspects:

  • Tony Stark is a selfish, narcissistic, billionaire who uses his wealth to live a life of luxury and debauchery.
  • Throughout the movie Iron Man uses his technology to kill people and blow up buildings with little to no regard for cost or collateral damage.
  • There are numerous scenes that portray Tony Stark’s womanizing as acceptable and even praise-worthy as he sleeps with a reporter and convinces his airline stewardesses to turn the plane lounge into a strip club.
  • There is a smattering (though low by many movie standards) of profanity and taking God’s name in vain.
  • Numerous characters smoke and drink like it’s going out of style.
  • Characters gamble and portray it as a positive thing.
  • We also see the result of Tony Stark and other characters being tortured by terrorists and this is glorified as the impetus of Stark’s becoming Iron Man.
  • The major spiritual problem is that the Bible teaches us to not take our own revenge (cf. Romans 12:19) yet the entire crux of the movie plot is Tony Stark doing just that.

I could go on but these are just the first few that popped into my mind thinking back on a movie that I first watched 8 years ago (2008). Yet, I walked out of this film excited and energized to see one of my childhood heroes glorified on the big screen. I never once thought about how this was not at all a movie that glorifies God and taught its viewers Christian values. Sure, you can stretch it to find heroism but even that is a bit of a stretch when compared to God’s heroism in saving us from our sins.

I put this into my brain without any thought to how it might create apathy in my life in regards to profanity, sexuality, and death. Now, when these things come up in real life my heart is not going to be as likely to view such sins as bad since I have become more desensitized to it. You may be sitting back thinking, ‘Well, how do we live in this culture without viewing such things? What entertainment is out there that doesn’t portray non-Christian values in some shape, form or fashion?” The answer to that is complicated. Yet, how can we get angry at a non-Christian movie company making a non-Christian movie that contains non-Christian values?

Here we can go back to the teaching of Jesus when he said:

[3] “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? [4] How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? [5] Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5 NLT)

Jesus is telling his followers to get their own lives right before they work on condemning the lives of others. How can we condemn what is in a movie, song, or other form of media when we consume things that are just as unwholesome? What right do we have to stand in condemnation of a film that includes something sinful when we consume material that glorifies other sins? Is one sin better or worse than other? They may have different social consequences but they all separate us from God. Whether it be lying, greed, cheating, gluttony, adultery, idolatry, witchcraft, or murder we regularly consume media that is full of things that are in direct disobedience to God’s commands. We need to get the log out of our own lives before we condemn those who have a speck in theirs.

What does this mean? For me, it means guarding my mind from the things I consume regularly in the media. It means adhering to the GIGO principle I learned so many years ago. It means examining the movies I watch, the songs I listen to, and the books I read. It means saying ‘no’ to what is popular and ‘yes’ to obedience to God. It means living counter to the culture and seeking God’s Kingdom first.

It also means getting past my selfish condemnation of the sins others commit when I have my own struggles. It means spending less time criticizing and more time serving. It means bringing the truth in love knowing that I am just one beggar telling another where to find the bread. Most importantly, it means bringing the Kingdom to those in need in a real and meaningful way because they are valuable and deserve it too.

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