Good or Bad Media? 5 Ways to Tell

I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.

Russell Brand (comedian/actor/Katy Perry’s ex-husband) showed up on my newsfeed — speaking against porn.

I don’t know what exactly drove him to it, but this guy nailed the deficiencies in our culture on so many levels. Here’s just one zinger:

“This powerful primal resource – whenever it’s plugged in – is jarring and distracting…if you’re constantly bombarded by great waves of filth, it’s really hard to stay connected to truth.”

It really struck me how true this is with our media in general, not just porn.

We are a culture so overloaded with information and entertainment that the great danger is distraction from our own self-awareness. We even forget to process the information and what it means to us.

Most people don’t think very much when they watch movies or listen to music. Hey, maybe even when they read blogs. We become accustomed to, or even partial to, passive receptivity.

In reality, what we take in shapes who we are becoming. We like to think we keep a healthy distance from the bad out there, but it’s everywhere. There are messages that subliminally feed our souls, and there isn’t much escape. Eventually, we can become desensitized to what’s in our media.

There’s very little shock value when it comes to media these days — that is, the evil we hear or see doesn’t bother us the way it should. And the mediocre quality of most media is just something we’ve become okay with.

Brand nailed it when he said that it makes it hard to stay connected to the truth.

Truth, beauty, and goodness – that’s what we should be looking for when it comes to the things we take in. God wants us to enjoy things, and He wants us to enjoy things that are worth our while. That means good quality. And good messages.

And so much out there is good, too, and can influence our thinking and shape our hearts. Media, especially music and film, since they’re some of the most powerful art mediums, have the power to influence us for good or ill.

There are such things as false and true Beauty.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “Beauty is a terrible thing. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.”

War is waged in our hearts against the truth of beauty every day. It can turn us inward toward selfishness, or it can guide us beyond ourselves. But how do we discern true from false? Whether it’s worthy of our time?

Here are some tips:

  1. Philippians 4:8 – “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” 
    Plain and simple. If there is truth, beauty, and goodness in something the reflection of God therein makes it worthy of a watch or a listen. This doesn’t mean it has to be explicitly about God. Take Les Misérables, for example: it’s not explicitly about Catholicism or God himself, but speaks to the truth of sacrificial love and the beauty of redemptive suffering.
  2. Is sin being glorified? We shouldn’t always write music or movies off when they portray the negative experiences or actions of life. One good rule of thumb in making that decision: is the sin depicted being glorified? Is it being celebrated and depicted as enduringly good and fun? Or is it portrayed as sin really is: ugly? That’s truth, and truth is good.
  3. If there is sin, is it redeemed? There should always be good coming from the bad. If there’s sin depicted, there should be some hope or redemption or lesson learned for it to be worthwhile.
  4. How much is it showing? Sometimes when a song or movie shows sin, showing just enough to get the truth across is okay. For example, Fantine’s fall in Les Mis. It’s not being glorified, and you get what’s going on. It’s not explicitly expressed onscreen.
  5. Does it lead you away from God? Some media is neutral: neither good nor bad for us. But when it comes down to it, some music and movies straight up go against what’s good for us and throw a wrench in our relationship with God.

Ultimately, if you love Jesus, let the things you enjoy reflect your love for Him. Don’t get over scrupulous about it, but do take some time to think about what you’re watching or listening to.

Let your love for Him decide for you.

Therese Bussen
Therese Bussen
Therese lives in glorious Denver, Colorado and grew up in the high desert area of Southern California (and knows what the Israelites felt like waiting in the desert to get to the Promised Land). She graduated from Benedictine College with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Art. When she's not hanging out with friends, Therese enjoys reading, writing, painting, drawing, designing (basically any kind of art), and dancing awkwardly on purpose. She also loves surprising people with her love of shotgun shooting and cigars. Also, a glass of wine is her favorite thing.

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