Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mothers and Media Bible Study

Today's the day Christie (the lovely lady with me in the picture on the left) was supposed to present the Mothers and Media seminar to about 1500 women, if she could secure transportation. (I haven't heard yet if she did.) Women tend to leave that seminar wide-eyed at the enormous effects that technology can have on their children. They have been coming to Christie asking, "What do we do now?" Which makes me realize that it's not a day too early that I got to work fleshing out the Bible study for families to follow up with the seminar, teaching them to ensure that their children can use the media as a tool for honoring God and can identify and reject the destructive lies it proffers. Here's a sample of what I have so far:

(From chapter 6)

The media is a powerful influence in our lives. Recall what we said in the introduction how technology changes us even as we use it. John Dyer started with the example of a shovel, how even as we use it to change the land, it changes our hands and muscles and even our minds. Later in his book, he points out how different media have changed the way our minds work. For instance, when books become common, people's minds change. We become able to develop more elaborate and complex linear thought, as we began reading longer stories and more elaborate arguments than oral transmission allows for. However, people also start remembering less, because it is not so important to memorize things if we could always look it up again.

Television has also changed the way we think. For instance, research has indicated that people's attention spans have decreased with the decreased time between commercial breaks. In other words, the TV "trains" our minds to pay attention for a certain amount of time, and then the mind expects a break, and we become restless if we don't get it. The Internet, while it has made an unfathomable amount of information available to anyone with access, has decreased people's memories and attention spans even more, because it develops the habits of skimming dozens of articles to find what we want, skimming the short social media posts, going from one e-mail to another quickly. Dyer points out that there is an especial spiritual danger in this, because spiritual growth requires meditation, that is, periods of time focused on the Lord in prayer and thinking on the Scriptures. If our minds are so used to quickly jumping from one page to the other on the Internet, it reduces our capacity to be still and focus like this.

But even more formative than the media we use is the messages we ingest from them. Their influence is not neutral. The messages are always designed to influence you. Dramas are designed to influence your opinion of people and the kind of life you want. Advertisements are designed to make you want things. But surely the news is not manipulative, right? ...

Watch some news broadcasts from whatever stations are available to you, but instead of passively listening, try to discover what they are trying to make you feel. What or whom do they want you to have good feelings for? What or whom do they want you to have bad feelings for? If two stations are trying to make you have the feelings for opposite things, how do they change the stories to support their side?

Television is so enjoyable because it tells stories. God is a storyteller (just think of how many lessons in the Bible are told with stories), and so he has made humans generally enjoy stories and get a lot of benefit from them. Many terrific stories have been told on television that may change a person's thinking, inspire them to be a better person, help people understand those different from them, and even just to help people relax if something is causing anxiety.

It also can keep us aware of the outside world through the news. If we keep up with the news, we can be more responsible citizens and know better how to pray for our world and serve our communities. It also makes us aware of special opportunities and things of interest to us.

It can also be very educational. Some channels, especially on satellite, show all kinds of wonderful things about the universe God made that you may not have learned otherwise. There are also educational documentaries, history shows, etc. There are many educational television programs for children, too.

Many spiritual uplifting things are broadcast via television. Many churches broadcast their services on TV for people who are sick or otherwise physically unable to go to church. Good films presenting Bible stories and Gospel messages, and programmes with worship music, are filmed and shown on television.

However, television also offers many bad things. We do not control what is broadcast and when. We usually have little choice as to which channels are available in our homes. For discerning adults, this is manageable, because we can make a responsible decision about what to watch. But if there is a television in the house, this means that all kinds of things can be accessible to the children's minds who are too young to be discerning.

For all the wholesome and uplifting programs on television, there are countless that are not socially or spiritually healthy. Whether they are storytelling shows or information programs or even advertisements, a lot on television is filled with messages that are contrary to the Bible. Many of them may be full of good qualities, but have certain lies that they also propagate within the overall message. They may promote immoral lifestyles, hurtful stereotypes, or false information to make a point. Watching them can have a powerful, but ever-so-subtle, impact on the mind.

There is an illustration about making frog soup. Yes, it seems that some people do make frog soup, and you cannot do it by throwing a frog in hot water. It will jump out immediately! But if you throw it in cold water, it will stay and swim around. And if you very gradually raise the temperature, he will not notice, and stay in the pot. By the time he realizes he is in danger, he has been too weakened to jump out and will die.

Mental influence works the same way. If we as moral people are exposed to something clearly wrong, of course we will immediately reject it: "Oh, that's terrible!" But if we allow little things that are wrong into our minds here and there, gradually our willingness to tolerate it increases, until people can see horrible things or hear horrible messages without reacting at all. Children are especially impressionable to this. We must constantly evaluate all of the message being communicated in what we watch, listen to, or read, against what the Bible tells us, so that we are ever accepting the good and rejecting the evil.

Even some Christian programmes may not be helpful to us. Many Christian programmes are full of false promises about what God wants to do for you that are very un-biblical. If you watch or listen to preachers through the media, be careful to evaluate if the preacher is really teaching the word of God or just things that sound appealing. Evaluate: does the preacher teach from whole passages in context – talking about the historical period when it was written, what the whole book's message and teaching points are, making clear the message the book was written to convey – or does he just quote a verse here and there to support what he wants to say?

1There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
Isaiah 11, ESV

This is a prophecy about Jesus, who was a descendant of Jesse and his son David. Jesus is the coming King who will judge all the earth. What does verse 3-4 say about how Jesus judges? He does not judge by what ____ _____ ____ or by what ____ _____ _____, but rather he judges with __________________ and ________. God's judgement is not based on how we present or defend ourselves, what the world sees and hears and says and values. Rather, God's judgement is right. It is true and fair. We need to have pure hearts, clear spiritual eyes, so that we do not think according to what the world shows us or tells us, but according to what is true and right. We need to understand the impact of media and how it is used to influence us. Then we can start to see how we can respond.

-- the above is copyright TEN3. Feel free to share any of it that blessed you, but please attribute it.

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