No big deal big deals
I remember watching “The Dick Van Dyke” show on TV Land in junior high and finding it odd and more than surprising that the husband (Rob) and wife (Laura) slept in separate beds. Although I was raised by parents that did their best to protect me from viewing anything inappropriate, as a child of the 80’s and 90’s I knew that this was weird. The Dick Van Dyke show, a popular sitcom of the 50’s would not have allowed the husband and wife character to share the same bed because of tv censorship, and when Rob and Laura did show affection, the show got their fair share of complaints. In today’s culture this sensitivity to strict morality is completely foreign. Today’s sitcoms can’t avoid sexual jokes, people sleeping together, murder, gossip, insults, and everything that makes the “clean” humor of shows from 60 years ago feel so juvenile.
So in light of this the question becomes, has our lack of sensitivity helped us or harmed us? Would it be better to draw us back to a time when what we viewed and listened to was of a more wholesome nature? Before you roll your eyes and dismiss the question because “we can’t control what people take in,” stop and listen. I agree, we can’t control what people watch and listen to, and people will find what they want to find, no matter what censorship does. So what is my point? Its this: as Christians, the responsibility of censorship must be viewed through a desire to be more like Christ, not seen through an unbalanced scale of cultural morality. What I mean is this: Too often we compare our attitude and actions towards the culture around us. In this view, the things we are consuming with our minds often times (hopefully) can look slightly different from the culture around us- we know the harm of pornography, we know we should be honest, helpful, and loving (at least a little more than those around us). With this view the comparison does three dangerous things.
First, it can easily draw us into pharisaical attitudes. A sense of being better than others can foster the same kind of perspective Jesus critiques in Luke 11. “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Clearly, an attitude that moves us to exalting ourselves over others is far from what God wants.
The second problem with this way of thinking is it allows a lot of cultural toxins to seep into our minds. The beauty of the separate beds in the Dick Van Dyke show, is that the conflict and comedy that happened in the bedroom was clearly removed from what has become the whole focus of the bedroom in current tv culture. But this extends beyond the example of on sitcom. Think about the current movie and music culture; since the music many of us listen to is played on the radio, or the things we watch are shown in a typical movie theater, we don’t think twice about them. Yet, so many of the things we take in are only accepted because we’ve become anesthetized to the verbal pornography, idolatry, nudity, hatred, evil, gossip, and negativity that what we watch and listen to. In fact we’ve come to accept these things so much that many of you are probably thinking I’m some uptight 90 year old, waving my cane at the nasty culture we live in. Well I’m not 90, I don’t have a cane, but I do have a desire to help people see some of the things we quickly accept that are quietly killing our souls.
Third, and most important, when we compare ourselves to the culture our aim becomes misplaced because it takes our focus off the true thing we should be aiming towards: Becoming like Christ. Peter quotes the Old Testament calling of God: “For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” Holiness means to be set apart, to allow God to be the difference in your life so that He can do a work in you. Often the cultural toxins are the things that are tethering us to the world and not to God who wants to make you holy. The good news is that Christ’s command to be holy, does happen when you have made yourself clean, but occurs when you allow God to do the work through Christ. This means that we pursue righteous living because holiness has already been granted to us. Our movement away from cultural toxins is not motivated by a desire to be “good,” but by a recognition of what Christ has already given you (forgiveness) and what he calls you to (a full and rich life).
My encouragement is not for us to go back to separate beds for tv shows, but for each of us to evaluate where we have become desensitized to things that are drawing us away from righteous living. Again, not so that we can compare ourselves to the world and stick our noses in the air with a sense of superiority, but so that God can break through the toxins that are holding us back from experiencing more of Him, and so that the world we see that we are different, enjoying a life full of God’s goodness. So everyone can see that a life lived consuming God’s goodness is so much better than the trash we so often devour.