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Should Christians switch to alternative social media?

20 Jan

With the banning of President Trump from some social media platforms, the call to move to alternative applications has significantly increased. Platforms such as MeWe, Parler and Gab have attracted those who feel the more traditional options are suppressing free speech, or that they have some sort of hidden agenda.

Should Christians leave the more established platforms and plant themselves in these newer social media options?

To begin with, we should ask ourselves why we’re on social media. What’s the purpose? Should Christians be on social media at all? (And if you haven’t seen it, I highly suggest watching the docudrama, The Social Dilemma.) If you’ve reflected on this question, and feel that you’re using social media in a manner which is appropriate as a follower of Jesus, then it makes sense to ask if some platforms are a better place for you to be.

One of the major concerns with all social media is how they keep us engaged. Social media often becomes an echo chamber, reinforcing conclusions we already support (even if we’re wrong), and then takes us further down the rabbit hole, because frankly, that’s what keeps you and I on their sites. We can somewhat control this by managing our feed, and practicing discernment with what we read or like. But if we’re not thoughtful and intentional, the echo just gets louder and the rabbit hole just gets deeper. If a particular platform leads to this more, we should be especially cautious.

Then there’s the censorship issue. This is currently the biggest reason many people, including Christians, have cited for moving over to the alternative platforms. Certainly, we need to be cautious of censorship. We should be grateful that we live in a country where we can freely share the message of Christ (and hopefully we actively take advantage of this freedom). Censorship can be dangerous as it can be used to impose values on or control people’s thoughts. When it comes to things like religious freedom, censorship should be challenged.

Are Parler and similar platforms better places because they avoid censorship?

Well, not necessarily. Ironically, a site that is an echo chamber attracting a set group of people, even though built on advocating non-censorship, can end up accomplishing the very thing it is saying it’s avoiding. It effectively censors ideas its like-minded members don’t agree with.

I’d also add that sometimes censorship is appropriate. In law, there are essentially nine categories of unprotected speech.1

Paul gives us something that rules these out for the Christian in one sentence: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)

So, should Christians move to alternative social media sites?

It depends.

First, if a social media platform doesn’t ban and censor the kinds of free speech above, the Christian should seriously ask if it is profitable for them to be spending time there.

Second, if social media is causing you to be angry, or act in ways not consistent with Christian character, then perhaps you should consider abandoning it all together.

Finally, go back to your purpose for using social media. Why are you there? Are you there for news? Are you there for your hobby group? Are you there to brag about your lifestyle? Are you there to witness? Are you there to engage thoughtful ideas and have discussion? Are you there to post memes which may drive non-believers away from your witness? Are you just there to see your grandkids pictures? Whatever it is, just make sure that your reasons are consistent with who you want to be in Christ.


1 – While I’ve taken some college courses in law, this is outside my expertise. I can’t recall the origins of this list, so my apologies to the person who shared it with me for not giving credit. If I find it. I’ll share.

Face Masks and the Christian, part 2

3 Jun

For those who haven’t, please be sure to read part 1 of this post before proceeding.

And for a list of all relevant studies on face masks, see here.


Unfortunately, some people, including many Christians, have been spreading incorrect or misleading information about face mask use for COVID-19. Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they’ve been wrapped up in a narrative by a news media source they follow. Or maybe they’re just sharing something without reading it first, because of confirmation bias. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that lives are at stake, and for the Christian, our witness is at stake. (Again, I laid this out in the first post, which is much more important, so please be sure to read that.)

There are a several things people have been sharing on social media lately.

  1. A clip of Dr. Fauci on 60 minutes saying that people shouldn’t be wearing masks.
  2. A Fox News story about the WHO still recommending masks not be worn except by people displaying symptoms.
  3. A study using 4 people that concluded face masks were “ineffective in preventing the dissemination of SARS–CoV-2 from the coughs of patients with COVID-19”.
  4. UPDATE 6/8 – A story about a scientist from the WHO saying that asymptomatic transmission is “very rare” and implying that physical distancing and other efforts including masks may not be necessary.
  5. UPDATE 6/18 – A post circulating on social media supposedly from someone who claims to have OSHA certifications talking about how masks are bad for you.

I address each individually below.

1. Fauci’s quote
This was on March 8th. That’s more than two and a half months ago, and we’re talking about a disease that just hit the planet a short time before that. We’re still learning all the time. Two and a half months is eons in this thing. Fauci reversed his position weeks ago. How is it remotely representing Christian values to still be spreading this now? Are you really seeking wisdom here? Or are you just trying to confirm your own bias? One of those is honoring to Christ. The other is not.

2. The Fox news story on the WHO recommendation
Here’s just one example of this widely circulated story and the misinformation that’s going along with it. This person says, “more and more information is coming out to say that masks are unnecessary”. This is absolutely NOT true. Quite the opposite, in fact. And sadly, this kind of ignorance will lead to additional deaths that didn’t have to happen.

Screenshot (16)

To begin with, there are two incredible ironies associated with the spread of this on social media. One is that many of the same people sharing this WHO advice were the ones calling for the US withdrawal of funding to the WHO because of it being unreliable (largely based on how the WHO handled the early information of the Chinese outbreak). So, an obvious question is, are people sharing this really assessing the situation (as biblically guided by the Proverbs and 1 Thessalonians 5:21), or are they feeding into their confirmation bias? The second irony is that it doesn’t appear that people sharing the story have even read the whole article. The headline implies that we shouldn’t wear masks, a narrative that much of the Fox news base is supporting, but the body of the article actually links to some good support that masks should be worn. Once again, those sharing seem to be guided more by their confirmation bias than their biblically informed discernment.  As for the WHO’s minority position, Dr. Roger Seheult and others have noted that the WHO may have other motivations, such as protecting mask supplies for healthcare workers in less developed countries. The WHO has admitted to saying things that are not fully accurate regarding COVID, in order to accomplish a different goal, as this article from the AP shows. UPDATE 6/5 – The WHO has changed their position after completing a study and now state masks should be worn in areas where the virus is spreading when social distancing isn’t possible (for example in stores or on public transportation).

The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. – Proverbs 12:22

3. The study that claimed masks didn’t work and had an n=4
Right off the bat, anyone with a scientific background knows that you need to really question the power of any conclusions from of a study with an “n” of 4. Also, this study only measured coughing, not asymptomatic carriers, which is the main reason for wearing a mask. But alas, none of that matters because a couple days ago, on June 1, this paper was retracted because the authors admitted to making a mistake by failing to accurately recognize the limits of the detection in the test they used. So the study is bunk.

4. Statement from Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit that asymptomatic transmission is “very rare”.
If this is true, this will be great news. However, before we jump the gun, we should think about this carefully. This is an opinion by one professional, offered at a press briefing, with no published supporting data. An easy search of google scholar shows a number of studies which say the opposite. She may be right, but we should at least wait for published data and peer review.
UPDATE 6/9: The WHO has backtracked her comments and Van Kerkhove said it was a “misunderstanding.” WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies and epidemiologist Dr. Mike Ryan added about asymptomatic transmission, “That is occurring, I’m absolutely convinced that that is occurring.”

5. “OSHA Certified Individual”
This one has to be one of the worst examples of people just sharing something because it fits their view. For one, there’s no person attached to it. No name. Someone could’ve just made it up, yet people share it like it came from NASA’s top scientists. Second, a simple search and click to OSHA’s website will show you that they actually advocate for public mask usage, stating they support the CDC guidelines. One quote on their website says, “Face coverings are intended to prevent wearers who have Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) without knowing it (i.e., those who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic) from spreading potentially infectious respiratory droplets to others.”

Christians and others alike should really be thinking about giving advice to people to “STOP WEARING A MASK”. People are going to die as a result of your comments. Again, see the first post where I provide links to the actual papers and other sources. The evidence in now abundantly clear.

There will come a time, hopefully soon, when we don’t need to anymore, but right now, the vast majority of the medical community, and many of our governing bodies, are telling us this is what we need to do, and it’s based on evidence, not some google degree.

So, as I said previously. Wearing a face covering is simple. It’s loving. It’s Christlike.

Please show some compassion and follow the guidelines.

Face Masks and the Christian

31 May

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This post is not about whether we should remain in some sort of lock down, or whether churches should be open, or if the government has done a good job in handling the US epidemic. All of those things are important and Christians on both sides of the issues have shared some good reasoning. But there’s one thing regarding COVID-19 that Christians should not currently be debating about, and that’s the use of a face mask.

There’s no question that early on there was debate on the issue. Part of that was due to concern for supplies for medical workers. Absolutely that must be our first priority. But as supplies have stabilized, and as new research on cloth masks has become available, the preponderance of evidence shows that wearing a facial covering slows the spread of SARS-CoV-2. 

Since April 3rd, the CDC has advocated for the use of masks in public to reduce the transmission rate. There have been a number of academic papers and articles published in the last couple months on the issue, and almost universally, they support wearing a mask. To see the difference it makes, watch this short video from the New England Journal of Medicine, that shows an actual example, mask verses no mask, using laser light. (You can read the accompanying article at NEJM here.) 

 

The following are a few other recent items worth reviewing if you still have doubts:

  • On May 22nd, an international research team made up of a number of MD’s and other specialists released a report based on the review of the data available on cloth masks and concluded that cloth masks worn by the public will reduce COVID transmission rates, and furthermore, those benefits outweigh any risks that may be brought about by wearing masks (such as improper use).
  • Just a few days ago, a new paper was published from some aerosol chemists and an infectious disease specialist, who reviewed data and argue that masks are necessary.  They analyzed both analytical information about the virus and looked at countries where masks are commonplace. They note “airborne spread from undiagnosed infections will continuously undermine the effectiveness of even the most vigorous testing, tracing and social distancing programs.” 
  • Dr. Jennifer Kasten is a medical doctor and a pathologist, with degrees in infectious disease epidemiology and mathematical modeling of epidemics, and fieldwork in epidemic control. She’s written a good piece looking at several studies.  She writes, “up to 85% of transmission events are from people who feel well and therefore don’t modify their behavior, so infect others…Facemasking is the single most effective strategy to reduce COVID transmission.”
  • UPDATE 6/1: A systematic review and meta-analysis just published in the Lancet concludes, “Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection.” 
  • UPDATE 6/10: Another study led by Cambridge just published calling for “immediate and universal adoption of facemasks by the public.”
  • UPDATE 6/13: All future updates on new studies will be found here.

Unfortunately, some (including Christians with a large social media following) are choosing to tell people to not wear masks, and they are sharing false and misleading information which I’ve detailed here (but please finish reading this post first before linking there).

With the studies we have available now, the evidence is strongly supporting the use of a face covering to slow COVID-19. Still, one of the reasons I’ve heard Christians saying they don’t wear one is because “the science is divided.” This is simply not true. Sure there may be a few people out there still saying don’t wear a mask (some trying to sell books or get social media hits), but you wouldn’t call a 85-1 lead in the ninth inning a “close game.” Again, the evidence from the mounting studies show that masks slow COVID transmission. How significant is still up for discussion. But does it make a difference? The growing body of evidence we have says yes.

But suppose even IF the science were divided, wouldn’t the charitable thing to do still be to wear a mask? A lot of people are scared. Think about the message you’re sending to this group of people, many of whom are non-believers, people we are commanded to reach as part of the Great Commission. A large number of them are deeply concerned. It may be that they have underlying conditions. It may be that they take care of someone who does. It may be that they work in an environment where they are more exposed, but need to work to maintain an income. What should the Christian response be? Should we throw temper tantrums because we have to wear a mask in Home Depot because this is ‘Merica and we got rights? Should we post on social media about how those people are just a bunch of scared sissies? Should we offer excuses like “they can still get it in their eyes”? My heart breaks every time I see a Christian do or say these things. Do we not long for these people to share eternity with us? Why are we alienating them so and teaching them to think we lack compassion?

Keep in mind, largely the purpose of wearing masks is not to protect the wearer, but to protect others in case the wearer is an asymptomatic carrier (or is pre-symptomatic). This is an act of compassion. It’s not out of fear. As followers of Christ, can we not live by His serving example? Is the mild inconvenience to our lives too much to ask? I’m not advocating that we need to be militant about it, or that there shouldn’t be exceptions for some for medical reasons. But those that can, let’s follow the CDC guidelines to wear a facial covering “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Wearing a face covering is simple. It’s loving. It’s Christlike. 

I understand that we’re still learning on this. So, if the science changes, certainly we reevaluate, but right now, today, what’s the charitable, loving thing to do? As ambassadors of the King, how should we represent Him? I think the answer is clear. 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:3-5, NIV)

Note: Before commenting about why masks are not needed, please at least review the relevant links above (Proverbs 18:13).

Divine Appointments

8 May

I’m a believer in divine appointments. Too many times in my life I’ve had “chance” meetings with people that could have only been God putting us together. (Like the time I had an urge to change my flight, did, and ended up sitting next to a guy for 5 hours who was struggling mightily dealing with Creation and evolution – this by the way occurred just after I finished teaching my first course on it.)

God sets up appointments to accomplish His will.

Recently I was in San Antonio, TX. While walking down the street, my eyes connected with a man I thought to be homeless. We were walking opposite ways, but something made us both stop and talk to each other. The conversation began like any normal conversation of two people who meet. “Great weather today,” he said. “Sure is.” I replied. “Where are you headed?” He asked. We chatted about trivial stuff for 5 minutes or so. Then we introduced ourselves. I had a new friend, Merv.

I learned that he lived in government assisted housing with his wife, not far from where we were. He was on his way home from some day labor he picked up. He was also looking for some other place to live because the place he was at was supposed to be drug free, but the supervising property manager was into drugs secretly himself.

While we talked, I couldn’t help but noticing that Merv had one eye so badly damaged, that the eyeball looked like it had been through a blender, so I asked about it. He shared with me how he’d been in the first gulf war, and how he watched his best friend step on a land mine, which blew shrapnel everywhere, including into his eyeball. His friend died. Merv was sent home. A few years after arriving home, he was hit by a truck while crossing the street because he didn’t see it coming from his blind side. That left him with some other physical injuries.

Though I expected him to ask me for money at this point, he didn’t. Instead he said, “But you know, Romans 8:28 says ‘all things work together for good to them that love God.‘” He said it with such conviction that I have to admit, I was a bit stunned. What I thought was a sob story that was leading to asking for money, turned out to be him just being genuine with me.  I asked if he was a Christian, and he confidently responded that Jesus Christ was his one and only Savior.

We talked a lot more about our beliefs, our churches and our families. We walked around the city a bit. All the while, Merv kept quoting Scripture after Scripture. I even jokingly asked him if he knew the whole King James Bible by heart.

At one point, Merv teared up. I asked him if something was wrong. But he surprised me again and said, “No man, I just love talking about the word of God.” The passion in him for God’s word was truly admirable.

I was supposed to meet up with some friends, so after about an hour and a half, I told him I had to be off. We hugged, noted that we’d surely talk again in Heaven, if not before, and we parted ways. Before I left, I did give Merv a small amount of assistance, but that night in bed, I realized that what he gave me was much more.

I’ve been praying regularly about the encounter since then, but my prayers haven’t been as much for Merv’s financial status, though I certainly pray that his circumstances improve. I’ve been praying that Merv continues to find strength in the Lord and that he is able to share his testimony with others to glorify God and increase the Kingdom.

I’ve also been praying for myself: that I would have a passion like Merv, that when I contemplate the Word of God, that it will fill me with so much of His Spirit, that I will be brought to tears; and that I would really trust God, no matter my circumstances. I hope that if I face life challenges such as Merv has faced that I would respond with his same conviction.

I thank God for the divine appointment he set for Merv and I in San Antonio. Glory to Him.

 

Christmas: A Time of Worship

11 Dec

Worshipreverence offered a divine being or supernatural power

My favorite time of year for worship at church is Christmas. More than any other Sundays throughout the year, we direct our corporate worship to Him. I don’t mean to suggest that we don’t do real worship other times of the year. We certainly do. But Christmastime is special. Almost every song we sing is, as Merriam Webster defines it, “reverence offered a divine being.” We as a corporate body sing to Him and about Him.

So many of today’s worship songs speak about our state of mind and how God makes us feel. They’re full of the words “I”, “me” and “my”. Theologian N.T. Wright describes much of today’s praise music as being “like teenage love songs…about me and Jesus falling in love“.

Now I’m not saying that there’s not some great modern worship songs. Nor am I saying that songs with “I”, “me” and “my” are bad songs. Just look at some of the Psalms. And personally, one of my favorite songs of all time is the hymn “Jesus paid it all”, which is about what He did for “me”. I love many of these songs. Yet, I prefer to sing them when I’m alone with God, like in my car, on a run, with headphones on a plane, etc. Sometimes I identify so much with the lyrics that its like I wrote them myself. It’s me talking with God. I feel His presence and I worship.

But when I’m in church I prefer to be singing about God, giving Him an offering. I don’t want to sing about me, or really even how He makes me feel. I just want to praise and worship Him with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I think of the picture described in Revelation 7, of the multitudes in Heaven praising God. How awesome!

That’s why I like Christmastime Worship. Almost all of the songs we sing are about Him. Silent Night; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Joy to the World; O, Holy night; Angels We Have Heard on High; O Come All Ye Faithful, and many, many more.

So this Sunday, even though you may have heard these songs a thousand times, remember they are words of worship. Worship to Him and about Him. Offer them up to God, and I promise, your heart will be blessed. Merry Christmas.

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Good Friday is hard for me

6 Apr

“Good” Friday. Yes, good because what Jesus did for us. But for me, for many years it has seemed like “bad” Friday. Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for the wonderful gift Jesus gave us with His sacrifice, but when I contemplate the depth of His suffering, it just thrashes me. I was in tears at least 5 times today.

It hurts not just because I’m again reminded of what He did, but also because I’m reminded of what I am. I am the one placing the crown of thorns on Jesus, I am the one spitting on Him, I am the one mocking Him, the one striking Him with a staff, the one piercing His side and the one casting lots for His clothes. I am guilty.

And Good Friday more than any other day reminds me of that fact.

Sunday, come quickly. Thank you Jesus.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

– Elvina M. Hall

Church Building Campaigns

31 Mar
Over the years, I’ve been through a number of church building campaigns. Invariably, I find myself concluding that I should offer some special sacrifice to God. Yet, at the same time, I have found myself with the thought and feeling that the sacrifice would be better for the Kingdom if I were to place the money elsewhere. As an example, in the past I chose to make a contribution to Samaritan’s Purse over contributing to our church’s building campaign. There’s certainly a lot more to it, but in simple terms, it has just been my thought that producing Bibles and building churches for third world areas, or feeding hungry people, or spreading the Word through evangelical ministries, would be more beneficial than contributing to the construction of a fancy building with expensive comfortable seating and high tech lighting and sound equipment. On the other hand, it has occurred to me that if we have more Christians in America, then sort of like network marketing, there would be more people giving, (and in some cases to get people in we need our churches to have this stuff and look this way) so perhaps that would be a reason to give to the local building fund, but I just haven’t been able to see that surpassing what could be done with the funds if they went to some other uses.
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So recently I went through another building campaign where I came to a similar conclusion, but then I read a comment by Kevin DeYoung “The importance of the local church cannot be overstated. Good churches–the kind with good preaching, membership, discipline, thoughtful worship, capable leadership, strong elders, robust doctrine, warm fellowship, gospel-centered passion–are needed everywhere. And possible everywhere. Wherever Christians are doing ministry they should put the church at the center of their strategy and energy.” This describes the church I presently attend. So, it struck me that maybe I’ve been thinking about this wrong, and perhaps I should be more focused on my local church, especially since it fits these descriptions and there are so many others around that don’t.
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I just don’t know.

Some thoughts about money / possesions

26 Feb

This is a repost from several years ago, and I may have more to say, but again money has been on my mind alot lately.

I’ve been reading alot about Christians and money lately, and struggling with issues about how we should handle our possessions. Alot of this was stirred by a comment another Christian made to me that he deserved the money he made because God was blessing him because he tithed 10% and most people don’t. So, he saw it as God rewarding him with a giant salary because he was loyal. In fact, I’ve heard pastors teach this too, but is that really what God wants? I asked this person “Do you believe that God would rather you have money to buy toys like an off road vehicle and a motor home, while he leaves children starving in Africa, because he’s rewarding the fact that you’ll give 10%?” His answer was an immediate yes. Wow. What are we thinking?

In our western Christian culture today, we often say that “its all God’s” referring to our possessions, but do we really act it out that way? Do we even really believe it? Let me explain what I mean. We say it all, all 100% of our money that it is, is God’s but is that just a cliché? I think for many who tithe, they really see the 10%, or whatever they give regularly, as money for God, but do we really see the remaining portion as God’s? I suspect there may be alot of those people who waste “God’s” money on things like renting a porn movie, sneaking a Playboy, and alcohol to the point of drunkenness. These are obvious abuses. But what about things like plastic surgery to look good and buying excessive brand name clothes, things which really are for the most part related to vanity, or making us feel good (with the exception of someone in need of cosmetic surgery from disfiguration, or perhaps someone in a witnessing roll attempting to “fit in” with the group they are witnessing to). Then even further, what about things that we often think we need, like high end electronics? Does the Creator really want us to buy the latest BluRay player because ours only plays 720i resolution and we need the clearer picture on our 55 inch television that someone might notice if they had 20/20 vision and were sitting between 4 and 6 feet away? I think most of us say its 100% his, but really, what we don’t put in the offering, deep, maybe even somewhat hidden from our surface thoughts, we believe its ours.

I don’t think we realize the true significance of it. God really has put us in charge of the things he has given us, and he’s given us alot of information on how to use it. This is a big thing. God has given us possessions, but we often rationalize improper spending of it, by fooling ourselves that there is some reason for the spending. “If I spend the extra $200 on the plane ticket, I’ll get home to my family 1 hour earlier, and God wants me to be with my family.” Well, how many kids in Africa would be vaccinated against disease for that $200? A lot. Does that cross our mind? No. I think we keep it out. Do we really follow God’s instruction to the best of our ability, or do we rationalize our spending, get caught in the moment, or even worse, think we know better?

Train up a child in the way of the world and from it he will not depart

29 Oct

I’m very concerned about what goes into my kids heads, and I try to limit the amount of filth that they are exposed to. They remind me of it every day. “But Dad, so and so get’s to watch R rated movies!” or “You’re so strict!” or “I’m the only one of my friends who doesn’t get to play M games!” The fact is that most of their friends parents hear the same thing.

If you’re a concerned parent and you identify with the last paragraph, then this post is for you, especially the links toward the bottom. If this doesn’t concern you as much, I ask that you please read this short list of facts and the links that they come from first. Then think about how you want to follow Proverbs 22:6 and “Train up a child in the way he should go”, or not.

Some frightening facts:

  • The typical 11-year-old has seen nearly 8,000 murders on TV
  • Today’s television programming averages over 800 violent acts per hour – all which is easily available especially to the more than 50% of children who have a television in their bedroom
  • One study showed that 15% of music videos now show interpersonal violence
  • More than 12% of children aged 10 to 14 watch R-rated movies regularly
  • The average kid today spends 50% more time in front of media than in school

Why is this a big deal?

  • When kids are exposed to media violence, they can become desensitized to it and become more violent and aggressive
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says that “playing violent video games leads to adolescent violence like smoking leads to lung cancer.”
  • Research from Yale, the NIT, and more indicates all of the following children’s health concerns are strongly associated with exposure to media: obesity, tobacco use, sexual behavior, drug use and low academic achievement

These above facts come from the following excellent sources, which you should at least skim through:

As Christians, we should know this stuff. The Bible has been telling its readers for years. Here’s just a few verses we should be aware of.

“Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV). We should not be worldly for we are not worldly. Focus on what is good.

“Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Cor 15:33 ESV). When we’re around a bad influence, it impacts the way we behave and even think. That bad influence doesn’t have to be a real person. It can just as well be a fictional person on television that we “get to know” or identify with. That will influence us as well. Think about how movies or shows have inspired or impacted you, or watch your kids playing after they’ve just watched something and see how it impacts their thinking.

What we watch influences how we think and what we do. The saying “garbage in, garbage out” is not from the Bible, but the principle is certainly found there. Proverbs 15:14 (NLT) says that “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash.” Don’t feed on the trash. (Even a spec of dog poop ruins a batch of brownies).

You might say that “it’s just entertainment and it wont affect me”, but that’s not what the Bible says. When Paul was wrapping up his letter to the Romans, he wrote to them “I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” Romans 16:19b (ESV). While he was talking about doctrine, certainly the principle applies beyond that. We should avoid what is evil and what is trash and instead regard what Paul writes to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” That is where God wants our minds to be.

As parents, it’s difficult to search our way through all the media that our kids watch or games that they play. So to help navigate the waters, the following websites are very useful, especially the first two.

Commonsense media – Provides reviews of movies and video games with age recommendations. Also allows for parents and kids to comment on their reviews and make their own. The comments can be extremely valuable.

Plugged in – A resource of Focus on the Family that provides in depth reviews of movies and games. Unlike most secular parenting reviews, this site also includes in its reviews all references in the movie to spiritual content or spiritual issues making it very valuable to the Christian parent. Perhaps the only thing some may find lacking is age recommendations. UPDATE 2013: They have added a rating called “Content Caution” which greatly helps.

Movie Mom – an interfaith website with short movie reviews and some age range recommendations.

IMDb – scroll down on the movie page to Parents Guide (just below the ratings info). Offers information on movies in categories of: Sex & Nudity, Violence & Gore, Profanity, Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking and Frightening/Intense Scenes.

Netflix has similar reviews to IMBd and offers age recommendations if you view the movies through their website, but as of this post there is still no way I know of to review that information from your television.

(This post by C. Michael Patton offers a good guide for making your decision after you’ve read about a movie, though I’m not convinced that watching movies about sorcery doesn’t attract more people to it. I think he may be mistaken on that one. Why would everything else people watch (violence, sex, etc.) show a statistical correlation to their behavior but not sorcery? Actual sorcery may not be accessible, but Wicca certainly is. Also, sometimes the attraction is that something is not accessible so it keeps people attracted to it and longing for it, so be mindful of that as well. Still, a nice acronym for making wise decisions about media.)

There are also other options if there’s really some movies that you want to see, and yet avoid all the negative content. Technology has advanced and now you actually have the ability to take offensive content out of DVDs or television. If you’re interested, here are a couple devices that can filter movies and television for you.

Plugged in online’s website also offers a section called “Movie Nights” with pdf’s that you can download to help guide you and your family through discussions about movies with your children. The list of movies is much more limited than their reviews, but there are quite a few. These tools help you teach Biblical principles to your family using secular movies.

One final note that I think may be helpful. Often even if you do your best to keep your kids filtered, they can get exposed to objectionable content at a friends house. Focus on the Family offers some insight on how to handle this kind of situation.

Someday our kids will have to deal with media’s impact on this darkening world. Let’s train them up to be the lights.