Where Exactly is ‘The Line’ Nowadays?

At what point is it better to be regarded as “out of it” than to keep pace with the latest TV shows, music, and magazines? When is it obviously better to be sanctified and pursuing holiness than to be able to quip along with everyone else at the fashionable cocktail party?

These are not rhetorical questions. They are not a set-up for my delivering to ESI readers anything approaching an authoritative answer. They are honest, as-yet-unanswered questions that are very much troubling me in the here-and-now of April 2013. Perhaps a few bullet points will serve to make the point.

  1. My wife and I absolutely love the TV series “Parks and Recreation.” Many a night we will sneak off to watch an episode or two after our little one is asleep. The series is funny, well-written, and (most importantly) a source of bonding with our older kids. However, Shelly and I had one of those awkward, “Oh, crap…” moments as we were watching an episode entitled “Jerry’s Painting.” The Dreaded Oh Crap Moment (DOCM) came during an interview sequence wherein an “adult film actress” from Pawnee, Indiana, was being asked to provide her opinion on when a film obviously crosses the line into the category of pornography. Her response, which I will not reprint here, brought about a stunned silence among all of the fictional characters on the set of the fictional morning talk show, “Ya Heard? With Perd!” I found this reaction very fitting, as it was matched by a stunned silence among the viewers in our home. Much to my annoyance, I heard a small voice within asking me the questions, “Um…can you keep watching this in good conscience? Granted this show makes you laugh a lot, but is this truly helpful?”
  2. A little more than a week ago I awoke in the middle of the night, very much in need of a drink of water. Not wanting to awaken anyone else, I chose to walk through the living room in the dark as I long ago committed the footprint of that space to memory. However, one of the less-exciting attributes of having a six-year-old running amok is his pronounced tendency to move furniture around to suit the imaginary situations and characters he feverishly creates in his mind. It is embarrassing to admit this, but when my shin connected with the harder edge of our ottoman, the first word that came out of my mouth began with the letter F. While my personal use of profanity has – at least according to my wife – noticeably declined in recent years, the harder edge of my soul still harbors a sinful desire to go to that particular word whenever emotions run too high or circumstances are unpleasantly surprising. Clearly, there is still much work to be done cleaning out my soul after more than two decades of godlessness and offensive speech.
  3. My wife enjoys the writings of Paul David Tripp immensely. And so do I. Paul Tripp has been a guest speaker at The Crossing on two different occasions. We all admire him, we all read him, we all enjoy his ability to explain Scripture and how we can apply it to our everyday lives. Bottom Line: When Paul Tripp speaks, he has amassed enough credibility with Christians that we should probably pay attention. Following close on the heels of the uncomfortable “Ya Heard? With Perd!” interview, I received a weekly e-mail very simply entitled “Insanity.” It is not often that a respected Christian author sends out an e-mail with the words penis and vagina incorporated into the text, and so this sort of thing tends to command one’s attention. Written as a promo piece of sorts for his upcoming book, Sex and Money, the entire post is very much worthy of your added reading time.

So I end this blog as I began, completely unclear as to when Christian freedom allows us to watch racey TV shows, read unhelpful magazine articles or blogs, or otherwise casually expose our hearts and minds to the filth and godlessness which pervades our culture. Yes, I am free in Christ to watch whatever I want as long as I can do so without sinning, and I want to live into that freedom as much as anyone else, avoiding if at all possible the cultural epithets “separatist,” “killjoy,” and/or “pious jerk.” But as my pitch-black walk across our living room floor so clearly reveals, there is still a lot of garbage piled up in my soul. Do I really want or need to add a few more bags to the pile?

I look forward to reading more of Tripp’s thinking on the topic of “pleasures that leave you empty and grace that satisfies,” and I very much hope to continue bonding with our kids over the wacky characters and snappy dialogue that characterizes much of “Parks and Recreation.” While acknowledging that there is much about the show that I enjoy, and that it often causes me to lapse into fits of hysterical laughter, Scripture has something to say about us “weaker brothers,” those whose souls are not yet sanctified enough to repel the advances of ungodly thoughts, speech and actions into our hearts. At this point, my plan is to keep watching the show, but not at all costs. At some point, you read the Bible, you examine your own heart, and every so often you are compelled to render a verdict: “Not helpful.”

1 Corinthians 10:23 (NASB)
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

1 Peter 1:16 (ESV)
In the Scriptures God says, “Be holy, because I am holy.”

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