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Improving Your Observation Skills

Improving Your Observation SkillsWe live in a world of screens that compete for our attention. Though it’s easy to be attracted to the things competing for our attention on our phone, television, or computer screen, it takes a little more work to really notice things that are going on all around us. The same can be said for the way we approach the Bible. We often have a superficial understanding of a given passage because we rarely take the time to really observe what the text is saying.

On this program, Michael Horton discusses this issue with Jim Gilmore, author of Look: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Observation Skills. Join us for this special edition of the White Horse Inn.

Host Quote:

“If we consider reflection, I think at one level, the difference between, let’s say, watching a video and reading a book is you seldom stop the film to say I’m going to think about this scene right now. You’ll do that with a book but there’s even a further step away as to not have anything that’s in between and observing your surroundings. I think we’re losing our sense of reflection.

“We’re losing a sense of quietness. Sometimes you put those ear buds on because it’s noisy, so you’d rather listen to your own music than the street noise, not a bad decision. So part of it is a call not just for more reflection but for more quietness. I think what’s happening with social media particularly is just making the world increasingly noisy, noisy being the lowest form of intelligence that exists. It’s not even data or information. It’s just this random stream of just blah, blah, blah. It all to me sounds like what the adult sounds like to the kids on Peanuts. It’s the getaway from that world.” – Jim Gilmore

Term to Learn:

“Therapeutic Culture”

The move to the therapeutic in society has been induced by several cultural developments. The intense psychologization of men’s attitudes and feelings as the primary subconscious level of “who we are,” the altering definitions of justice as primarily the accommodation of society to remove all barriers from self-expression and empowering fulfillment of the self, and the movement to the individual subject as the arbiter of that freedom to happiness apart from external structures and forces. The good life of justice, freedom, happiness have been internalized to such a degree that boredom and the external forces which upset that interior life are now seen as the greatest of evils. Justice has been re-defined in the last century as the removal of external barriers and the material empowerment of the individual towards the good life perceived to be desirable.

Men’s attitudes and feelings have come to arbitrate justice and goodness in the late modern society. Safety and security have been held out as the primary good of Western culture above what previous generations saw as essential to promoting the good life, namely liberty, self-reliance, and responsibility. Conventional ideals of moral responsibility have gradually become subordinated to state interpreted therapeutic ideals. “Modern culture is unique in having given birth to such elaborately argued anti-religions, all aiming to confirm us in our devastating illusions of individuality and freedom,” writes Philip Rieff in his magisterial, The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Jacques Ellul argued in the mid-century that whenever a culture’s ethical outlook could not keep a pace with its technological developments, propaganda was the fated result – the subconscious alteration of men’s attitudes and feelings through technological means of domination. Modern cultural production has moved into the business and technique of manipulating a sense of well­being under what Jürgen Habermas has called a “therapeutocracy.” (Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Culture,” WHI [blog], October 05, 2015)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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We have talked about Game of Thrones, and nudity in TV and film in this podcast. Today we talk about drama and comedy and PG shows that seem more harmless and less obviously corrupting. It’s a question that comes to us from a listener named Blake. “Hello, Pastor John! My question is, when does humor in media become sinful? I’m a little confused about it, even from some things I have read by you. Is watching secular comedies like Friends and Seinfeld, etc., sinful? I’m rather confused over what is acceptable humor for Christians. If it is wrong to watch these shows, please let me know why.”

Six Questions to Ask Before You Binge on Netflix

The first thing to say here is that I’ve never seen either of those programs —Friends or Seinfeld. I’ve heard of them but never seen one. Which means that my comments, I hope, have the advantage of not being a response to any particular TV show. Rather, they can be seen as an effort to bring biblical reality into view when deciding what we will be entertained by.

What’s Wrong with It?

Six Questions to Ask Before You Binge on NetflixAnother thing I should probably say here is that my whole approach toward what Christians view or listen to or are entertained by is not governed mainly by the question “What’s wrong with it?” That seems, to me, to be a very different approach than the way the New Testament (the way Paul, especially) approaches questions of right and wrong.

I always get the impression that the question “What’s wrong with it?” is rising from a heart that is basically governed by a desire to minimize wrong rather than maximize holiness or faith or spiritual power or worship or zeal for the lost or missions or justice. Basically, what I’m going to do, in answer to this question, is try to simply reorient our minds about what we should think and feel when it comes to entertainment.

I could, I suppose, go to particular verses (they’re there for a reason) and point out things that are wrong that you might find in TV programs and therefore avoid — like obscene talk inColossians 3:8 or filthiness, foolishness, and crude joking from Ephesians 5:4. The problem with that approach, right now on this podcast, is that it’s going to leave thousands of Christians right where they are in the immaturity and worldliness of their passions, which is the main issue.

I think most Christians are so in the grip of the spirit of the age and in the grip of popular culture and popular entertainments that the kind of radical reorientation I’m talking about is almost unthinkable for them. For me to pitch into that mindset, a few little warnings from Bible verses that disapprove of certain things seems to me almost useless.

Radical Reorientation

Here’s my effort at reorienting our thinking. For this to happen, it would be a great work of God, not me. It would be a miracle if it happened to a few listeners. I certainly need it to happen more deeply in my own life as I try to navigate these cultural waters.

What I want to ask is, What are you longing for most earnestly and with the greatest passion in your life? What are you longing for? Let’s just say in your relation to Christ — in your personal walk and relation to Christ — what are you longing for?

Are you longing for greater intimacy? Are you longing for greater depth? Are you longing for greater power? Are you longing for greater clarity as you see his glory in the Scriptures? Are you longing to hear his voice with greater confidence as you read his word? Are you longing to discern his will more confidently? Are you longing to walk more closely with him in a real living relationship, as a real person? Are you longing for his smile of favor rather than his frowns of discipline?

Do you even think in these terms? Do you go to bed with these longings? Do you wake up with these longings governing your life? Do you devote time, perhaps on the Lord’s Day, to seek his face in intensifying these longings? If not, that’s the issue.

This is ten thousand times more important than what particular shows you click on. This will govern that. But if this is missing — if the growing intensification of these longings in your relationship with Jesus is missing — no answers will make any difference about your entertainment habits.

Questions for the Heart

Let’s just pose the question a little differently.

What are you longing for in your relationship with other people? Do you long to represent Jesus with greater compelling forcefulness? Do you long for a greater love for people and a greater zeal for their salvation? Do you long to have greater boldness and encouragement from God in your own representation of Christ? Do you long to be a means of other people’s holiness and purity and power?

Do you long to bring the word of God from your encounter with the risen Christ into the lives of other people with effectiveness? Do you long for readiness to speak hope-filled words into the face of those who are dying or suffering or coming out of divorces?

Do you have the aroma of Christ about you and do you long for it in your conversation with others so that they say, “There’s an aroma about you that’s different”? Do you long to be able to inspire others by your own example in a life of more consistent and deep and satisfying prayer?

If not, what’s the point of talking about shows being right or wrong? If we don’t have that, we don’t even have in place the mindset that can make those kinds of judgments possible. Now, once those kinds of longings are pursued and you have a new passion and you’ve been moved from being a nominal, minimalist, “get by,” cultural Christian to an authentic, passionate, earnest, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated lover of Jesus, then you will begin to ask questions like, Does this show build up my faith? Does it weaken my faith?

Treasuring God

Or you might ask questions like this: Does this show make Christ more clear and precious to me, or does it make things more cloudy and make biblical realities more unreal? Does the show make the Bible and immersion in Scripture and meditation more desirable to my heart or awkward to find time for? Does this show leave me with a disinclination to pray and seek God’s face and long for his power? Does this show dampen my zeal for missions and my desire to see salvation come to the lives of the people around me — not to mention the people in Hollywood?

Does it leave me with any desire for a great revival in my city — to see people brokenhearted for the sin represented in a lot of these shows? Does this show sweeten my experience of corporate worship with God’s people and make it more authentic?

Does this show heighten my sense of desire to be a risk taker for the cause of justice and the advancement of God’s righteous rule? Does it help me want to get in a boat or a plane and go to some hard place and die for Jesus? Does this show make a better, more natural conversationalist about spiritual realities like heaven and hell and the Holy Spirit and the gospel and faith?

That’s my response to the question of whether a person should watch any particular show or movie or video. My calling in the world is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all people through Jesus Christ. “Spread a passion for the supremacy of God” — that’s what I’m after. I’m after the kind of passion for his supremacy in everything that functions as a radical litmus test on what we find amusing and entertaining in media.

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

(By Desiring God. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

 

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Im Waiting Slider

This week, we are digging in on how to protect our kids from today’s media that tells them that their only value comes from their sexuality. From Rihanna to Flo Rida to Nicki Minaj… sex sells. But what is the motive behind it all?hd antenna

Now, for Merv’s household, they got rid of cable television altogether. He knows this doesn’t mean that his kids won’t encounter this “sales pitch” outside of their home, but it is Merv’s and his wife’s first line of defense when it comes to protecting his kids from this ever prevalent message. He’s aware that he can’t completely seclude his kids from the entertainment industry’s sexual content, but as long as he can take efforts to break up the consistency, then an effective first step is taken.

But what about breaking news or sports? Merv learned that, even in this age of HD television, you can get a couple handfuls of channels with an over-the-air “rabbit ears” antennae. Couple this with Netflix (with parental supervision filters)

What Merv and his wife have now noticed is that, by breaking up the consistency of sexually provocative messages, when his kids are exposed to today’s rap videos, or other sexually charged shows, they are repulsed by it.

You see, Merv and I view all these sexually explicit shows, commercials, music videos, YouTube videos, etc., as tricks of the enemy. And they aren’t going anywhere. There is too much demand out there, and their producers are simply meeting the demand.

It’s simple economics.

It’s also basic biology.

The pituitary gland sends hormones that, if left unchecked can cause even a man with a beautiful wife and amazing children, a nice house and cool car (basically everything a man could want) to go out and cheat on his wife. Most teenagers today see this behavior and it baffles them. They don’t understand the biology. They aren’t aware of how the man’s pituitary gland sends signals down to his testicles, which release testosterone and sets the whole engine into motion. And it doesn’t take much at all to get things rolling.

Image: Eric Glenn

Image: Eric Glenn

This is what inspired Merv to write “Baby Girl You Are A Dime, But He Cheated On You With A Nickel”. For many guys, even if their wife has more than twice the value as the girl they see in tight pants, the “nickel” in tight pants grabs a hold of his attention and he loses control.

All this to say that infidelity, divorce, and single parenthood will continue to increase so long as men are constantly bombarded with sexually charged messages from entertainment and other women.

Even the basic vocabulary in our love songs doesn’t make sense. “I want to make love to you”. How does this make any sense? No person can create love. It’s simply not logical. And it takes love right out of the equation and turns it into nothing more than animalistic sex.

And that’s how lives get ruined: from the wrong, inappropriate words being whispered or body parts being exposed that lead to raging hormones, causing men and women, boys and girls to go down the wrong path.

It all boils down to value. How valuable do you see yourself? How valuable do you treat the person you love? Where does your value come from?

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Parent Like You Mean It Slider FINAL

Hello and welcome to Parent Like You Mean It – the podcast where we examine healthy ways to stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable or convenient and into what is intentional and purposeful in regards to raising your kids. I’m Jefferson Drexler, and just like you, I want my kids to be accepted and viewed as “normal”, without compromising an inch of their integrity and values.

Which brings me right to this week’s topic: should good Christian parents allow their kids to participate in yoga?
Family_Yoga

I have seen one article after another basically saying, “Absolutely not! It’s the ‘gateway drug’ to all things ungodly. Spiritually speaking, you may as well dance with the devil, himself (or at least Ganesha).”

On the flipside, I have spoken with several others who say, “I know the origins of yoga, but we don’t ‘go there’. We ignore every utterance of “aligning your chakra” or “centering your chi”. We don’t truly ‘empty ourselves’, because there’s simply too much on my todo list to ignore it all.”

So, what’s the right answer? Both? Neither?

I tend to view things like this from a much broader lens. Lately, my wife and I have been much less concerned about the specificities of what we are allowing into our kids’ live, and more concerned about what is being “normalized” in their lives.

In other words, we look at the things what were once outside of their day-to-day lives, or even considered “taboo”, by their understandings of our rules and family culture, that are now being questioned whether or not they should be moved into the “normal” category of life.

We easily see this in American entertainment.

Once upon a time, any “bad words” at all were kept from all television programming airing before the 11:00 news.

Then came Hill Street Blues.

Hill Street Blues

Hill Street broke ground by showing an intense gunfight where an officer was caught saying “Son of a Bitch” by New York news cameras.

Suddenly, it was normal for “bad words” to be aired in the 10:00 time slot.

It didn’t take long at all before you started hearing more and more previously banned swearing in the 9:00 slot, and even earlier. Now, with hundreds more channels available 24 hours a day, you never know what words you’ll hear as you flip from the Disney channel, through Nickelodeon, past Cartoon Network and into Esquire or AMC.

And no one cares.

It’s become normal.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that all channels should be censored. I’m merely pointing out that what was once taboo in American broadcasting has been redefined as normal.

The same thing applies in movies in regards to language, violence, and partial nudity. I mean, when I was a boy, there wasn’t even a separation of full nudity and partial nudity. If clothing were removed from where they once were, the movie got an R rating. If they kept their underwear on, it got a PG rating. Now, with the advent of PG-13, the lines are blurring and different standards for what is considered “normal” is ever changing.

Combining these two situations, where it was once racy to see married couple Frank Furillo and Joyce Davenport merely talking about their day while in bed (again, Hill Street Blues, after 10:00) – now the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is primetime and promoted like it’s the Super Bowl.

All this to say, there has been a shift in what broadcasting companies and television viewers determine as “normal”.

So, what does this have to do with yoga?

Well, firstly, let’s look at what yoga is “normally” defined as: It’s exercise and core muscle toning through a variety of stretches and poses. Under that normal definition, I see it as totally harmless. Good for you and your kids.

But, wait! There’s more!

It’s really no secret that yoga is derived from an ancient spiritual discipline deeply rooted in Hinduism. It’s traditional poses and origins all point to Hindu gods, rituals, and ideology. One technique that often accompanies the stretching and poses is mentally emptying oneself in order to center and balance oneself.

Very Hindu.

So, as Bible-believing Christians, do you want that to be a part of your weekly fitness diet? Or, if you would forgive yet another metaphor, can your diet consist of fast food, so long as you don’t partake of the fries, shakes and soda? In other words, can your fitness diet consist of yoga, without the “focusing your id”, “cleansing your aura”, or “bowing before Ganesha”?

Most people would answer yes!

However, then there are those who point to yoga’s origins and protest, insisting that its very foundation is steeped in Hinduism, so therefore has no part in a Christian household.

That’s a tough argument, assuming consistency is a priority in your life. Especially since so many of our Christmas and Easter traditions are steeped in paganism and other non-Christian practices.

You’re wondering why I’m on the fence.

Here’s the deal: I believe that the Bible is very clear on having no other gods but the Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, hallowed be Thy name” to. That’s the only God – no exception.

Therefore, if the yoga you are working out to hints to any acceptance (or normalization) of another god – run!

Don’t make even the acceptance that there are other gods “normal” in your workout routines, much less in your household.

Likewise, the Bible tells us that we should fill our lives with the Holy Spirit. How does this look? I believe “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is evidenced by your life showing examples of what the Bible calls the “fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Therefore, anything that instructs us to “empty ourselves”, or “empty your mind” runs against this Biblical teaching. We’re not created to be empty. We are meant to be filled!

So, my bottom line on yoga is this – if you work out at home, at a studio, at the beach, at a park… wherever, and you do it in such a matter that doesn’t “normalize” what the Bible clearly defines as out of bounds – stretch away!

However, if your instructor, or studio, or video, or app brings anything into the mix that God wants us to avoid, not in a harmful way, but in a neutral or even helpful way… run!

And my main point is this – I’ve been using television, movies and yoga as simple illustrations of a larger issue facing parents today.

The major question is: What are you “normalizing” in your house? What are the areas that you know were once considered taboo, but because of a shifting culture outside your home’s walls, are now considered “normal”? These things may or may not be harmful to you and your kids, but I guarantee that once they are accepted as normal, they take residence in your home and change the direction of your home’s moral compass.

It’s inevitable.

Am I saying that all television is bad and only hell-bound families subscribe to HBO? Absolutely not!! I am saying that if you allow your kids to watch certain programming because everyone else is, the next level of “questionable shows” will be queued up much sooner than you think. Therefore, maybe you should even reconsider what you and your spouse view as “normal” things to be watching.

Am I saying that Godly homes never have any alcohol except rubbing alcohol and Nyquil?

Absolutely not!! I am saying that the Bible is very clear on not getting drunk. If you want a beer or two at a backyard barbecue, knock one back! If you enjoy a fine glass of Georges Latour or even two-buck-chuck with your steak, swirl and sip away! But if you’re drinking for the purpose of getting buzzed, much less loaded… run!

(You know, now that I think about it, there seems to be a common thread here… maybe we should all just take up running!)

Anyway, the same thing can be said about medicinal marijuana, recreational pot, trashy entertainment, horror flicks, fifty-shades of whatever books… the list goes on and on. Ask yourself what you consider “normal”, what you consider “out of bounds” and how do these boundaries measure up against what Scripture says?

I’m not saying we should all be monks. I am saying that we need to be perpetually on guard to what is being defined as “normal” in the lives of our family and continually discuss with our kids what the Bible says about filling our minds and our bodies with such things.

That is how my wife and I Parent Like We Mean It!

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An-Examined-Life-Horizontal-Ad

One of my favorite comedians, Brad Stine, joins the show this week fresh off the heels of being featured in the movie Persecuted with stars James Remar, Bruce Davison, and Dean Stockwell – just one more contribution to 2014’s “Year of Bible Movies”, including Noah, Son of God, Heaven Is For Real, and many others.  One of Brad’s highlights of making the film was picking the brain of Producer Gray Frederickson of Godfather and Apocalypse Now fame.  But even more importantly, Brad sees a huge need for Christians to create compelling and well done God-centered and God-inspired movies if for nothing else to bring glory to Him through the arts.

Now, as for me, I can take dark colors, what some may consider questionable material, and salty language, so long as it’s within context and not gratuitous.  A perfect example was when my wife and I watched the season premiere of Sons of Anarchy recently and had to turn it off, as we felt that the violence, language, and overall tone of the show was simply too much and beyond what was needed to set the context of the story.  On the other hand, I remember seeing a faith-based film with a scene involving some gang-bangers that were practically hanging around saying “gosh, golly, gee-whiz”.  Basically, I feel like Hollywood has lost touch with what makes us human.  Personally, I go back to when I saw the Bourne Identity and I remember when Matt Damon’s character was betrayed and his story arc changed… and I simply didn’t care.  I remember sitting there thinking, “C’mon guys… even if it’s something bad, make me care!  Make me, the viewer, feel something!”

It’s in response to this, that I feel that the faith-based community has an opportunity to create the types of dramas that can make audiences feel something that they long to feel:  sympathy and empathy for characters, redeeming story lines, and true heroes.

Or, as Brad puts it, we need to get back to the classic goal of the arts:  to drive artists to transcendence.  Art was supposed to show us that there is something greater than just us and uplift us.  We see this in classic architecture, music, design, and the visual arts.  Yet, somewhere along the road, art changed.  “Artists” now seem like they’re just pretending to create art as they dehumanize and degrade what once was beautiful and admirable.  And what’s worse is that they’ve convinced themselves that their efforts actually make us better people.

But, what Brad finds most interesting and ironic in regards to entertainment and American Christianity is the fact that we’ve never been oppressed (until now); we’ve never had anything at stake for our faith (until now); we’ve never been maligned or attacked (until now); so, as a reaction, we became soft, safe, compromising cowards.  You see, Jesus didn’t die so that we can be happy when we’re happy.  Real life is messy.  And God wants to show us what we can be when things straight up suck.

Imagine Brad pitching this as a “faith-based” film:  A guy voyeuristically watches his neighbor’s wife shower, then he has sex with her, and then he kills her husband.  It’s a phenomenal faith-based story!!  Brad would get laughed out of Hollywood! (or Toronto, or Vancouver, or wherever Christian studios are making their movies these days).  I mean, how do are he even suggest that something that evil could be faith-based and God-inspired.  That is, until you realize that Brad just summarized act two of King David’s life.

What Brad really wants to know is why is it that so many Christian film makers today are afraid of telling certain stories because they might be “inappropriate”, when God Himself chose so many incredibly “inappropriate” stories to share with us throughout His Word!  Aren’t we headed in a bad direction when we become more stringent censors that God?

Brad boils it down to the point that in America, we have trained ourselves to judge content over context, and that is where we have lost proper perspective.  God says that He judges our hearts.  Therefore, what is it that we are trying to accomplish with this mode of conversation?  Is it redeeming?  Does it talk about evil properly and show that light will conquer over darkness?  Does it relate God’s truth or does it merely glorify man?

Now, I believe that if you look at a show like Game of Thrones, you can see God in its stories by looking at His absence.  You can clearly see what life was like for a group of people in a time and culture when darkness ruled in the hearts of the people and instead of choosing to seek out God, they only served themselves and wound up in ever darker and darker situations to the point where human life meant nothing.

I mean art – all art – should feed something in your soul.  Whether it’s rap music, violent movies, feel-good comedies, or Christian-fiction novels, it should feed you in some way.

Now, in addition to stand up comedy and movie acting, Brad has also been busy developing a curriculum based on a Christian worldview.  Basically, life is very simple:  you either believe in God or you don’t.  But, how you answer the question of whether or not you believe in Him will effect every answer you will have for the rest of your life.  Brad has tackled this and other deep and consequential questions throughout his comedy career, but recently, he has begun work on an honest to goodness Bible Study / DVD series.

To find out more about what Brad’s up to, check out www.BradStine.com.

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One of my favorite comedians, Brad Stine, joins the show this week fresh off the heels of being featured in the movie Persecuted with stars James Remar, Bruce Davison, and Dean Stockwell – just one more contribution to 2014’s “Year of Bible Movies”, including Noah, Son of God, Heaven Is For Real, and many others yet to be released.  One of Brad’s highlights of making the film was picking the brain of Producer Gray Frederickson of Godfather and Apocalypse Now fame.  But even more importantly, Brad sees a huge need for Christians to create compelling and well done God-centered and God-inspired movies if for nothing else to bring glory to Him through the arts.

Now, as for me, I can take dark colors, what some may consider questionable material, and salty language, so long as it’s within context and not gratuitous.  A perfect example was when my wife and I watched the season premiere of Sons of Anarchy recently and had to turn it off, as we felt that the violence, language, and overall tone of the show was simply too much and beyond what was needed to set the context of the story.  On the other hand, I remember seeing a faith-based film with a scene involving some gang-bangers that were practically hanging around saying “gosh, golly, gee-whiz”.  Basically, I feel like Hollywood has lost touch with what makes us human.  Personally, I go back to when I saw the Bourne Identity and I remember when Matt Damon’s character was betrayed and his story arc changed… and I simply didn’t care.  I remember sitting there thinking, “C’mon guys… even if it’s something bad, make me care!  Make me, the viewer, feel something!”

It’s in response to this, that I feel that the faith-based community has an opportunity to create the types of dramas that can make audiences feel something that they long to feel:  sympathy and empathy for characters, redeeming story lines, and true heroes.

Or, as Brad puts it, we need to get back to the classic goal of the arts:  to drive artists to transcendence.  Art was supposed to show us that there is something greater than just us and uplift us.  We see this in classic architecture, music, design, and the visual arts.  Yet, somewhere along the road, art changed.  “Artists” now seem like they’re just pretending to create art as they dehumanize and degrade what once was beautiful and admirable.  And what’s worse is that they’ve convinced themselves that their efforts actually make us better people.

But, what Brad finds most interesting and ironic in regards to entertainment and American Christianity is the fact that we’ve never been oppressed (until now); we’ve never had anything at stake for our faith (until now); we’ve never been maligned or attacked (until now); so, as a reaction, we became soft, safe, compromising cowards.  You see, Jesus didn’t die so that we can be happy when we’re happy.  Real life is messy.  And God wants to show us what we can be when things straight up suck.

Imagine Brad pitching this as a “faith-based” film:  A guy voyeuristically watches his neighbor’s wife shower, then he has sex with her, and then he kills her husband.  It’s a phenomenal faith-based story!!  Brad would get laughed out of Hollywood! (or Toronto, or Vancouver, or wherever Christian studios are making their movies these days).  I mean, how do are he even suggest that something that evil could be faith-based and God-inspired.  That is, until you realize that Brad just summarized act two of King David’s life.

What Brad really wants to know is why is it that so many Christian film makers today are afraid of telling certain stories because they might be “inappropriate”, when God Himself chose so many incredibly “inappropriate” stories to share with us throughout His Word!  Aren’t we headed in a bad direction when we become more stringent censors that God?

Brad boils it down to the point that in America, we have trained ourselves to judge content over context, and that is where we have lost proper perspective.  God says that He judges our hearts.  Therefore, what is it that we are trying to accomplish with this mode of conversation?  Is it redeeming?  Does it talk about evil properly and show that light will conquer over darkness?  Does it relate God’s truth or does it merely glorify man?

Now, I believe that if you look at a show like Game of Thrones, you can see God in its stories by looking at His absence.  You can clearly see what life was like for a group of people in a time and culture when darkness ruled in the hearts of the people and instead of choosing to seek out God, they only served themselves and wound up in ever darker and darker situations to the point where human life meant nothing.

I mean art – all art – should feed something in your soul.  Whether it’s rap music, violent movies, feel-good comedies, or Christian-fiction novels, it should feed you in some way.

Now, in addition to stand up comedy and movie acting, Brad has also been busy developing a curriculum based on a Christian worldview.  Basically, life is very simple:  you either believe in God or you don’t.  But, how you answer the question of whether or not you believe in Him will effect every answer you will have for the rest of your life.  Brad has tackled this and other deep and consequential questions throughout his comedy career, but recently, he has begun work on an honest to goodness Bible Study / DVD series.

To find out more about what Brad’s up to, check out www.BradStine.com.

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