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Handling Objectionable Elements in Media

Whether deciding for yourself or making choices for your children, deciding how to handle objectionable elements in the media can be very difficult. This is an area where I have tried diligently to use the whole counsel of the Word of God in making my own decisions. I believe we have to balance key biblical principles such as moderation (Phil. 4:5) and discernment (Phil. 4:8, Phil. 1:9-10). That Christians will differ on this topic is unavoidable, because we each have to honor our own consciences before God, and we each have experiences and knowledge that will affect our judgement and decisions. This information is provided as fodder for thought. If it helps you cement decisions for personal reading and viewing or for your children, then I have accomplished my purpose in providing my thoughts on this page.

Objectionable Elements:

  1. Profanity- objectionable language including: swearing, euphemisms (words intended to replace swear words and used as such), blasphemy
  2. Scatological realism- bodily functions and fluids
  3. Erotic realism- sexual material or situations involving male/female relationships
  4. Sexual perversion- homosexuality, beastiality
  5. Violence- fighting
  6. Religious/philosophical assumptions- broad category ranging from cultic doctrines to non-Christian worldview

Viewpoints for Handling Objectionable Elements:

  1. Absolutist- Declares that no work should be read or viewed that contains any of these elements. The problem with this viewpoint is that the Bible must then be censored. This viewpoint also fails to take into consideration great men of the Bible who were learned in the arts and literature such as Paul.
  2. Permissive- Anything goes as long as there is some compensating aesthetic value in the work, or it contributes in some way to the sense of reality in the work. The problem with this viewpoint is that it violates many biblical principles, and encourages an "ends justifies the means" way of living.
  3. Moderate- This viewpoint takes the biblical concept of moderation and blends it with specific evaluative criteria. Though the age and maturity of the reader/viewer is important and should be considered, the following questions may eliminate certain works from being read or viewed regardless of the age/maturity of the reader/viewer. If a work does not violate these evaluative criteria, that work can then be instructive and the objectionable element analyzed and discussed to strengthen the worldview of the Christian student. For illustrative purposes, only Bible stories and literary works are given as examples. These same principles can be applied to movies.
    • Is the objectionable element gratuitous? Does it serve some greater instructive purpose or is it there for it's own sake, to keep the reader's attention, or for sensational value?
    • Is the objectionable element explicit? The element may be useful to the work and serve an instructive purpose, but it is graphic?
    • What is the moral tone of the work? What is the attitude of the work towards the subject that violates biblical standards?

General Reasons for Reading/Viewing Media:

  1. Educational- This is any reading or viewing intended to be instructive in nature, including matters important to religious faith. This doesn't mean that there is no pleasure gained from reading or viewing works in this category.
  2. Recreation- This is any reading or viewing simply for the purpose of entertainment, relaxation, or pleasure. This doesn't mean that books read or media viewed in this category are without some sort of redeeming value or that the reader gains no instructive value from it.

Examples to Illustrate the Principle of Moderation:

  1. Biblical Stories- these are just a few of the stories in the Bible that illustrate that though the objectionable element is present in the story, the way the story is handled does not violate the three evaluative questions of the moderate viewpoint.
    • II Sam. 16: 7-8
    • II Kings 18:27
    • Song of Solomon
    • Judges 19
    • Genesis 19
    • II Sam. 11
    • John 8:1-11
    • John 18:10
    • Acts 19
  2. Literature- these are only a few examples of stories that illustrate that though the objectionable element is present in the story, the way the story is handled does not violate the three evaluative questions of the moderate viewpoint.
    • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    • Macbeth by Shakespeare
    • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
    • Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record by Duane Gish
    • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
    • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
    • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens


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This page and contents adapted from my college class notes from Advanced Composition and Rhetoric--Spring 1986