“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:17-24).
[Sunday morning’s sermon will find us talking about the poison of a profane tongue. One element of that lesson will focus on the popular media’s influence upon our lives. This blog is a supplement to that sermon.]
There can be no question that media influences our culture. As culture expert Dr. Robert Thompson has stated, “Once prime-time television decides to absorb something, it becomes a stamp of normalcy. It’s no longer controversial. It’s no longer a big deal. It makes it a casual, accepted sort of thing.” (The Blue Tube: Foul Language on Prime Time Network TV). Not only television programs, but movies, music, magazines, the internet, influential newspapers, and the like, are all sources of influence that bear upon the way we view the world. But does the media possess any more power to influence us any more than any other influence in our lives?
There is no doubt that many in the media have an agenda and attempt to shape the way certain segments of society view issues and other segments of society. It has been substantiated by numerous studies that there is a liberal bias in the media (“Media Bias”). But we are human beings, created in the image of God and are, therefore, full of complex mental processes. Our beliefs are also shaped by our families and family relationships, by our religious beliefs, by our politics, by the style of fashion we see another wearing, by the social group in which we move, by our own desires, and by a host of other factors. In short, the media is one influence among many; certainly it is not the only defining one. Because each individual is intellectually, morally, and volitionally free, we are ultimately shaped by our own desires and responses to these stimuli.
This is not to say that there is not a large segment of society that is overly or easily influenced by the media. When one is given a steady dose of a particular, slanted viewpoint embedded in the implication that if you do not believe this then you are out of the mainstream, or are somehow to be marginalized, then it becomes easy for those who desire to be “mainstream” but who do not think critically to be swayed in their thinking. The media is a powerful influence, to be sure, but it’s power and influence is severely assuaged by active, critical analysis (i.e., good ol’ common horse sense).
This is why we are implored to “study to shew ourselves approved unto God” (II Tim. 2:15). This is why God commands us to “prove all things, hold fast that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21). This is why we are to “try the spirits whether they are of God” (I John 4:1). This is why God invites us to “reason” with Him (Is. 1:18). The only influence that should have full sway in our lives is the will of God (Acts 5:29). We should make certain that we recognize the forces of culture that work against living the Christian life and shun them completely (I John 2:15-17).
Eric L. Padgett