Two months ago, Brett McCracken, Senior Editor and Director of Communications at The Gospel Coalition, released his best and favorite films of 2021 list. While there were some benign films that were relatively clean, his top 20 featured a whole bunch that were rated ‘R”, for language, violence, and frequently for scenes of sex and nudity. Then he released his top 20 TV shows and unsurprisingly, they were also full of sex and nudity, including graphic scenes of homosexuality. When we pointed this out on the TGC Arts and Culture Facebook page, they deleted the posts. Not once. Or twice, but on three different occasions.
Now, in an article 5 Questions for Young Christians About Their Media Choices, McCracken put on a masterclass in hypocrisy, endeavoring to teach young believers about what sort of content they should be watching and what sort of grid they should be utilizing when deciding what to expose their hearts, minds, and souls to. He shares his own personal standards.
My evangelical upbringing wasn’t as sheltered or legalistic as some (for which I’m grateful), but in my 20s I relished the opportunity to engage a broader range of media—including lots of R-rated movies I wish I could unsee. I swung the pendulum too far in the other direction—from overly cautious to recklessly uncritical.
Now in my late 30s, however, I’m more settled between these extremes. I still engage a wide array of movies and TV shows in my writing, but I’m more careful in what I choose to watch and (even more so) what I recommend. This is what my book Gray Matters is all about. I try to offer a paradigm for navigating the space between legalism and liberty.
What a a joke! It was only two months ago that he recommended a show containing (warning, graphic description ahead) a graphic sex scene featuring two fully nude men, and one has his face in the back-end of the other, doing very homosexual things to his anus with his mouth.)
It gets better. He says that one question young Christians should ask themselves as they ponder what shows to watch is “Is this media helping you love God and your more?”
If I choose to limit myself to only one movie or show every so often (and I think this is wise!), what considerations should inform my choice? I want to suggest that, biblically, a great way to think through this question is by considering the two most important commandments, as identified by Jesus (Matt. 22:35–40; Mark 12:28–31; Luke 10:25–28): love God and love your neighbor.
I’ve spent years thinking through these issues, and I keep coming back to this simple reminder: most choices in the Christian life should be filtered through the grid of the greatest commandment. Will it help or hinder my worship of God?
Most choices in the Christian life should be filtered through the grid of the greatest commandment. Will it help or hinder me in my worship of God? What does it look like for a piece of media or entertainment to help us love God more?
I don’t know, Brett. Will watching a show that contains tons of filthy language, sex jokes, sex scenes, copious amounts of male nudity, and some female nudity help your worship of God? He concludes that if nothing else, the content he consumes, which we know is super gross, will make him a more effective missionary and better at evangelizing and reaching the lost:
There are many implications for how the “neighbor love” consideration informs our entertainment choices. One is simply the content of the entertainment. Are the humans on a screen in front of me being dignified and treated as humans, or are they being exploited and demeaned merely for my pleasure?… Am I growing in empathy and love for them, or are they merely products for my consumption?
….Finally, “neighbor love” should spark us to view our entertainment habits through the lens of mission. Do our choices compromise our witness and erode our credibility as “set apart” people?
You’re darn right yours do.
“One value of being a thoughtful, critical observer of pop culture as a Christian is you learn a lot about the questions, longings, confusions, and idols of our secular age. This can lead to fruitful dialogue with unbelieving neighbors that might get them thinking about spiritual questions they otherwise ignore. Someone who might not immediately accept an invitation to church might watch a Terrence Malick film or geek out over Lord of the Rings with you- opening doors for theological dialogue that might otherwise be closed.
Given that half the shows he recommends are best watched alone in the dark at 11pm, with no spouses or accountability partners around, we doubt they’ll be doing much good in winning souls for the kingdom.