Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Tertullian's message today in A Year with the Church Fathers is so timely, it's hard to believe it was written hundreds of years ago.
He warns us against being one way in one part of our lives and another way in other parts. His examples are the theater and the arena. He says that people who would normally act very respectfully and observe good modesty act entirely differently when they go to a play or they watch something in the arena. Violence, bad language, and sexual themes are tolerated in the name of "entertainment" that would not be tolerated in their lives otherwise.
Could his advice be any more relevant today? We do watch extreme violence, depraved acts of all kinds, and listen to terrible language, including taking the Lord's name in vain (which violates one of the ten commandments) when we watch movies. I'm not saying that we should stop watching movies. They do definitely have redeeming qualities. They give us stories, and some of the best lessons we can learn in life are in stories... they reach us far more profoundly than nonfiction lessons ever could.
And there are some great lessons to be learned from movies that have a "salty" element to them. Shawshank Redemption, Schindler's List, Pulp Fiction, and The Matrix all have great stories that teach us profound truths... but they're also full of violence, sexual situations, and strong language. We're not called to be prudes... we're called to use good wisdom in our choice of entertainment. If a movie (or music) has an overwhelming amount of language, violence, and sex in it with little or no redeeming quality... we should probably avoid it. But we should definitely weigh the pros against the cons... and as in all parts of our lives, if our conscience tells us not to do something, we should obey it.
One other area that I find we act differently than in the rest of our lives is when we are driving our vehicles. When I'm in traffic, I have (in the past, for the most part) been a less than charitable person. I still yell at other drivers when they do something stupid, and I still have unloving thoughts about other people while I drive. I'm trying hard to ask myself "what is the demand of love in this situation?" while I'm driving every day... but I win some and lose some. This is an area where I think many people need to learn to be consistent with the rest of their lives.
God, please help us to be ourselves in all aspects of our lives.