Please Don’t Demonize Media

Working in youth ministry, I am confronted daily with concerns from parents and leaders about “media.” Parents desperately want to shield their children from the language, violence, and sexuality of secular media (movies, tv, and tunes).

This is a legitimate concern. There is a lot of garbage out there I don’t want my own son to encounter before he is ready. For parents and youth leaders, it is a tough area of culture and life to navigate effectively.

But there are a few things I know after working with youth that will shape the way I deal with the media for my own son.

1. He will hear it. He will see it. He will hear others talking about it. Regardless of how well I shield him.

So often, parents think they can entirely protect their children from ever encountering “bad” media. This is the wrong approach, in my humble opinion. Why? Because they will eventually see it, hear it, and talk about it — with or without their parents. If we only try to demonize and protect students from the media, how will they ever know how to interpret and assess what they are taking in? They need their parents more than ever to process it with them (granted, there are age restrictions for a reason). They don’t need their parents to simply cast it off as gross and demonic; they need their parents to have a conversation with them about it.

2. Furthermore, the line of what is “acceptable” and what isn’t is incredibly difficult to draw.

I know of some churches who refuse to play any “secular” music in worship. I know of some churches who show video clips from rated R movies. The lines are drawn all over the place.

Here’s what I will say: When drawing the lines, it’s incredibly difficult to figure out what is acceptable and what is not. Can you play a catchy Katy Perry tune if you don’t sing the lyrics? Hmm. We chose not to. Can you play a song by Adele? We said Yes. Can you show a clip from Shrek where Shrek calls Donkey a jackass? We chose to (maybe not the right decision – Shrek is rated PG, however, and jackass is used in the KJV bible). But still, probably not the right decision to show junior high students. (We do make mistakes – often!!).

Time and time again you will get opinion after opinion after opinion of who thinks what is right and what is not. I could give youour “lines,” but I don’t think that’s the concern of this post. The concern of this post is one thing: Whatever you do, don’t DEMONIZE media. We can all learn about life and God and people as much from a profanity-laced tirade as much as we can from a Disney movie (that’s not to say we should show that to junior high students – don’t hear me saying that). Culture is culture, and our job isn’t to throw stones; our job is to converse, wrestle with, and discuss it. Does that mean we should play anything and everything for any ages in church? Absolutely not. But it does mean we need to be very careful how we talk about media.

Students are watching what we do and say. Frankly, they need to hear rational voices who aren’t scared of today’s media.

How do you digest and handle media as a Christian? How does this affect your ministry?