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How can we think critically about entertainment?

I finished off 2018 by discussing a recent talk I gave to a high school youth group about how entertainment can brainwash us. However, I wasn’t able to finish my thoughts in that episode and get to the part about how we can think critically about entertainment. This is the aspect that many of us need to focus on. We sometimes either don’t think about entertainment at all and are led astray by it, or we boycott it completely. We draw a hard line in the sand between good and bad and say away from any songs, movies, or TV shows that have “bad” things in them.

I want to present another option. I want to suggest continuing to watch movies and listen to music, within reason, but do so while thinking deeply about the information entering our minds. We should watch movies as a family and discuss them with our students. Some questions you should ask when watching movies or TV are:

  • What worldview is the movie communicating?
  • What do they want me to do/think?
  • Who are the good guys? Who are the villains?
  • What is the good life according to the movie?

These questions, and others, can keep you from falling captive to false ideas. Check out this week’s episode to hear how I thought about a recent movie and other ways that we can think critically about entertainment.

Do you take a break from technology or think critically about movies? Comment below with steps you take or questions you ask in order to think critically about entertainment.

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Vengeance: A Lesson From Captain America Civil War

I’m usually not the first one to a theater to see a new movie. In fact, I might be the last person. It is for this reason that spoilers don’t really bother me. By the time I see a movie, it will have been talked about for a while. All that to say, I finally got around to seeing Captain America: Civil War. For the most part, I thought it was entertaining. I don’t follow all the plot stories like most people who really love Marvel movies. Instead, I usually walk away from movies being entertained and in thought with a quote or something that stood out, and this movie was no different.

Towards the end of the movie there was an interaction between the villain and one of the superheroes, Black Panther. The villain, who’s wife and son were accidentally killed by the Avengers, talk about how he knew he couldn’t kill the Avengers to get revenge. Instead, he would plan a way to get them to turn against each other and do the job for him. And therein lies the title, Captain America: Civil War. The Black Panther, whose father was killed by the villain, responded by saying, “Vengeance has consumed you. It’s consuming them, but I’m done letting it consume me. Justice will come soon enough.”

I couldn’t help but dwell on this line. And as I though about it, I thought about how many people either don’t believe justice is coming or believe that vengeance is their. They think that it is their responsibility to seek justice and get even. However, this is not the view that is taught by Scripture and Christians should be different.

But some may say, “How am I supposed to forget about what they have done to me?” “How am I supposed to forgive them?” I think these thoughts come to mind because we have an incorrect view of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not condone or diminish behavior. It isn’t saying that what they did is okay. Forgiveness does not eliminate consequences. We can forgive people and there can still be consequences. And last, forgiveness does not depend on whether or not the offender is truly sorry. We don’t have to wait around for the person to say “sorry” before we can forgive them. Instead, as Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Christ forgave us and so we need to forgive. And then, we trust that justice will come.

In the book, Desperate Hope, Rose Pauly explains this concept in a very personal and beautiful way. The book describes an event where a man came into her house and assaulted her at knifepoint. By the grace of God she escaped without harm, but she still had to process what happened. Should she seek revenge? Was she supposed to forgive this man? If so, how is that possible after what he had done? Here is how she explained that process.

As I worked through unpredictable emotions and wrestled with new realities, I started to realize what forgiveness did mean. It meant I was choosing to release Matt from any debt to me. I didn’t have to use up valuable energy and time to make sure he paid his dues and received his just penalty. I didn’t have to be consumed with his punishment, tied up with desire for revenge, fretful that the authorities would handle things poorly, anxious that he would get let off the hook, or worried that he would work the system. I could place all of this—and Matt himself—into the hands of God. God, who is a God of justice, would do what was right. Didn’t the Bible confirm this when it says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil,” and, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” If there was avenging that needed to be done, then God was very capable to take care of it. And I had to admit, being avenged by God was not something any sane person would choose. I found my own heart again filled with compassion for Matt. Down deep I wanted him to be dealt with mercifully, and continued to pray that God would intervene in his life.

Notice a few things. First, revenge uses up our energy! Unforgiveness only hurts us and planning revenge uses up our energy. We don’t have time for that. We cannot let it consume our lives. Second, it isn’t our job to punish or get revenge. This only makes us anxious and consumes our thoughts. Forgiveness places the person in the hands of God. God commands us to not take revenge because it is His job. Justice will come and it will come from the perfect judge who always does what is right. So, follow the example of the Black Panther and more importantly Scripture and say, “I’m done letting vengeance consume me.” Live a life of freedom in Christ!

Doctor Strange and the Clash of Worldviews

If you haven’t heard, the newest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, released this weekend. I had a group of guys from work that wanted to go see it and so I joined them on Friday night. Now, I’m not much of a Marvel guy, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I have seen most of the Marvel movies, but I wouldn’t really say I’m a huge fan which is why I didn’t know anything about this movie going into it.

What amazed me the most about this movie is the clash between worldviews. This year in my high school class, I’m teaching comparative worldviews and religions. I have spent weeks with my students teaching different worldviews like Secularism, Marxism, Postmodernism, New Spirituality, Islam, and Christianity. When some of my students came to class today, I was excited to hear that they did some worldview analysis on the movie. It feels good to know that they have been listening and saw the clash between Secularism and New Spirituality while enjoying a movie over the weekend.

Back to the point, today in class, I showed them this clip from the movie and asked them two questions. I asked, “How does Stephen Strange’s Worldview determine how he interprets reality? Explain. Do you think we should be open to having our Worldview changed? Why or why not?” I want you to watch the clip and evaluate it for yourself. Hint: Stephen Strange is a naturalistic materialist (physicalist). This means that he believes that only the physical world exists (matter) and that there is a natural explanation for everything.

Don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this clip.

Notice a few things from this clip.

Only the physical world exists.

After hearing that his understanding of reality can grow in ways he never imagined, he rejects it not because of good evidence, but because he doesn’t believe in fairy tales, energy, or the power of belief. There is no such thing as spirit and the only thing that exists is matter. It’s interesting that there are no reasons given as to why these things don’t exist. Now, you may be thinking that I’m analyzing this too much, and that’s possible, but it is interesting to think about. This is what many Secularists do. When presented with reasons to believe in the supernatural, they respond with something like, “Those things don’t exist.” My response is, how did you come to that conclusion? Responding with an unsupported statement doesn’t answer the original question. Reasons need to be given to support statements like that.

What’s in that tea?

Notice how after his soul is pushed out of his body he returns and ask, “What’s in that tea?” This is the naturalism coming out. Naturalism is the belief that everything can be explained by natural causes. The soul can’t exist, that’s immaterial, so there must be a natural cause to explain what just happened to him. His first thought is that he was drugged and something was in the tea. I see this relating in many ways to conversations I have with atheists. They ask me for evidence, and when presented with evidence, they come up with some way to explain it away. If we are not open to the supernatural, then we will always find an alternative.

Do you think we should be open to having our worldview changed?

This leads me to my final point with my class. It seemed like Doctor Strange was so convinced of his worldview that even seeing his own soul didn’t convince him that he was wrong. I have heard some atheists admit that even if God spoke to them, they would think it was a dream or hallucination. I think this shows that no amount of evidence would change some people’s minds. Instead, as one student said, “Not being open-minded may cause us to miss certain truths.” I think he was right on! Open minded doesn’t mean that we change our worldview with every argument. It simply means that we are willing to objectively evaluate all the evidence. It also takes a humble attitude to admit that it’s possible that our views may be wrong. I realize that I don’t know everything, and it’s possible that I’m wrong, so that is why I spend the time I do researching. I want to be confident that I am following the truth.

Do you think it’s important to be open to having our worldview changed? Can being close-minded cause us to miss truth at times?

Remember that you can comment below or send in your questions on FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number only for questions).

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