What Does the Bible Say About Media?
Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? Even though you may only hear a few bars of the music—perhaps in a mall or during a restaurant meal—a catchy tune can easily play itself over and over in your mind with annoying persistence. What about visual images? No doubt you can recall at least one disturbing image that wish you could delete from your mind.
Very rarely do the media images we encounter “go in one ear and out the other.” It’s no wonder that marketers do their best to find the perfect slogan or jingle that will wedge itself in our subconscious for the long term, hoping to wear us down until we buy the product or lifestyle they are promoting.
The society we live in is permeated by a media-obsessed culture. Everything from fashion to food is marketed aggressively and made to entice us through elaborate advertising campaigns. As forms of mass media continue to converge and become cheaper and more easily accessible, it seems there is no escaping the barrage of media messages that surround us.
In this cultural reality, born-again believers need to be aware of the dangers and agenda of today’s media. What’s more, we need to cultivate the ability to discern what is right and what is wrong among the media images we face. Without this ability to determine good from evil, we will find our values and morals pulling us further and further away from the Bible’s principles of holy living.
In their book What’s Up with Today’s Entertainment: Raising Media-Wise Teens, Bob Waliszewski and Bob Smithouser discuss their interview of Dr. Richard G. Pellegrino, MD, PhD in neurology and neuroscience. In this interview, Dr. Pellegrino explains the effect that music has on our emotions. As a medical professional who has been studying the brain for twenty-five years, Dr. Pellegrino says nothing he does can affect a person’s state of mind the way one simple song can. According to Pellegrino, listening to music generates chemicals—called endorphins—in our brains; in fact, these natural opioids produce a high chemically similar to a drug high.
It’s no wonder, then, that human beings love music so much! Music affects and guides our emotions. You’ve probably noticed how a single song can bring back a happy (or sad) memory, or how a fast-paced high energy song can bring you right up out of your seat. For hundreds of years, music has been used to set the mood in every imaginable type of atmosphere.
Music’s power can be further harnessed when ideas, emotional expressions, and instructions are conveyed by lyrics added to the music. Suddenly, like learning our ABC’s through memorization of catchy little tunes, concepts are dumped into our minds through the repetition of lyrics set to mood- affecting music. Dr. Pellegrino notes, “You can pour messages in and if you pour the wrong messages in, they take on a particular power more than the listener understands.”
This simple statement shows why we must be careful to evaluate what musical voices we are allowing to guide our behaviour. Lyrics condoning or describing immoral acts are like poison for our minds, candy-coated with cool, catchy tunes and beats. If we aren’t careful we can allow “teachers” into our minds that focus our thinking on sinful, immoral activities.
The Scriptures encourage us to guard our thinking: Philippians 4:8: “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.”
Certainly, our ears are not the only gateway to our minds. It is equally as crucial that we guard our eyes. Jesus taught this importance in Matt 6:22-23 (KJV): “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”
In this Bible passage, Jesus is telling us that where our eyes are directed our body will follow. It is true that what we see has a great effect on us. We literally walk in the direction our eyes are looking. The eye regulates the motion of the body. The same principle is also true in a spiritual sense, and we are affected greatly by what we allow our eyes to see.
Visual forms of media dominate our culture’s conceptual formation. Stores, fashions, beverages, and almost everything is sold to us by beautiful, perfectly airbrushed people. Our concept of beauty is warped by models and magazines. Even moral concepts are eroded through loveable characters we grow attached to through week after week of scripted stories designed to move our emotions. And most of the time, the concepts we are replacing them with run contrary to our Apostolic values.
If you question whether visual media affects society, note the following facts:
• The Harry Potter series has cast a spell worldwide. In Britain, a broom maker reported a spike in sales, explaining, “Children have seen them in the film and ask their parents to buy them one.” The Hexenschule, a European school of witchcraft, credits J.K. Rowling’s boy-wizard with increased enrollment. Elsewhere, American schools have adapted the high-flying game Quiddich for use in gym class, and a young woman in Spain burned her house halfway to the ground while attempting to brew a potion like her Hogwarts heroes.
• A scene in Mission: Impossible 2 of Tom Cruise’s mountaintop experience involving instructions received via his sunglasses caused Oakley sunglass sales to soar to one hundred million dollars in the quarter following the movie’s release—up thirty-nine percent from the same quarter the previous year
• In June 2006, the Journal of Adolescent Health reported that teens who absorbed sexually explicit entertainment the most frequently were up to 2.2 times more likely to have had sexual intercourse by ages fourteen to sixteen than those who had been exposed the least. [medialifemagazine.com, 3/22/06; Journal of Adolescent Health, 3/06; Reuters, 4/3/06]
Our world is being played like a puppet with the media giants pulling the strings. The warning of Jesus to guard our eyes is definitely still relevant in today’s society. The pull and prevalence of visual media all around us requires a dedication on our part to guard what we allow our eyes to see, as the psalmist David writes in Psalm 101:3: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes…”
When Jesus talked about the last days before his return, He described a world obsessed with immorality and compared it to the time of Noah and Lot. In Luke 17:32 Jesus warned us to “Remember Lot’s wife.”
What was the issue with Lot’s wife? What caused her ultimate destruction? It was the direction her eyes were looking. The instructions were not to look back, but her eyes led her to her death.
Each Apostolic student must learn to turn away from the wickedness available to our eyes, because it can easily lead to our spiritual death.
The dangers of today’s media require discernment, filtering, and most times the ability to turn the media source off. We must recognize the enemy’s agenda and his use of media to move the morals of society, and this awareness must motivate us to be vigilant in guarding our eyes, our ears and our hearts.