If you hear a high-pitched, murderous scream of rage at any point this evening, you will know it is me and a plot twist on one of my shows is headed in a direction of which I Do Not Approve. =P
But that is still a few hours off (three if you want to be exact) so in the meantime, I am going to address something that caught my attention this afternoon. I’m sure most of you are acquainted with the term “troll.” No, it is not something out of Shrek (that would be an “ogre”) and in our modern day and age, it does not mean a creature hiding under a bridge preparing to eat you if you attempt to cross without paying the fine. (… wait, were trolls employees of the IRS?… o.O). It means a troublemaker, someone who drops in, says something controversial, and enjoys watching chaos unfold as a result. They only do it to cause a stir and almost every time, people fall for it — because there is nothing humans love more than to fight or be intolerant or point fingers at certain “groups.”
This time, it was someone dropping in on fans of The Vampire Diaries and warning them not to let their children watch the show, as it encourages fornication and Satan worship. Being the logic-driven personality that I am, first I found it absurd and then I rolled my eyes and said, “Don’t feed the trolls.” Logic would make you wonder, what parent would permit a kid to watch it? None I know. I think the CW ensured that with their sexy advertising campaign, which has always been controversial and just a little bit naughty, touting itself as more mature than Twilight but fortunately, far less perverse than True Blood. In all honesty, the campaign is more controversial than the actual content, which doesn’t really push the boundaries of good taste too far. But… really? Is that the best the troll could come up with?
Unsurprisingly, the entire debate of whether or not entertainment of this caliber is inappropriate for Christians is not one I am unfamiliar with, since it raged throughout my childhood and well into my adult years. I was around for the Harry Potter debate and have watched the Vampire Debate with interest. I have been around both sides of the issue. I grew up in a fairly conservative household where I was not allowed to watch movies with magic in them, and up until I was sixteen or so, vampires were also out of bounds. (It never even crossed my mind — they were “evil”!) Obviously, that has changed as I have gotten older and been exposed to more things and made up my own mind when it comes to fantasy-based books and films. My attitude has also changed. I am no longer the activist who is eager to point out the moral ambiguities in other Christians — I point them out in my favorite shows instead. My personal belief is that Christians should set standards for themselves according to their beliefs and hold to them, but should not harass other Christians who do not share their views.
While our personal habits are indeed an indicator of the type of person we are, how we have been raised, and the nature of our heart, they do not translate to whether or not we are saved, or indeed, if our very salvation is threatened by our entertainment choices. That, frankly, offends me the most — the notion that our Salvation is so at risk that it can be lost simply by reading Dracula. Does anyone really want to believe in a God as fickle as that? If there is something in your life that is not right, He will convict you. He will not abandon you.
Many considerations come into play when you are dealing with a topic that includes supernatural forces, and I do believe we are not all the same when it comes to dealing with them. God has made us individuals and our sin natures have given us different temptations and weaknesses that we must learn to deal with. What one individual can watch without being put spiritually “ill at ease” might be a stumbling block for another Christian with different weaknesses and compulsions. Our experiences and personality have a lot to do with what could lead us into temptation. Harry Potter is not for everyone and neither is Twilight or Supernatural. I think the best thing we can do is have well-thought out explanations for our decisions, without inferring the other person is less spiritual than we are for their choices. “I choose not to watch this because…” as opposed to, “You should not watch that; it’s evil and will make you a pagan!” That… does not go over well. Trust me, been there, done that, learned my lesson, am more humble now.
I have friends and family on both sides of the isle — more conservative families who stick to PG movies and would never dream of reading a Victorian horror story, and those who unabashedly recommend HBO productions to me without ever considering the content. I have been around people who condemned me for wearing black and listening to Evanescence, and others whose favorite movies involved vampires. I have friends who believe that magic in a movie is not the same thing as tampering with the dark side in real life, and those who believe it is bad and a “gateway” to deeper sins. I am frequently tempted to argue with all of them but often choose not to, because … this is not why we are here. We should attend to our own relationship with Christ first, and let it impact our outlook on everything else — and sometimes that means not trying to prove that you are right on an issue. If the truth needs to be told in love, it will be put upon your heart and if the other person is right with God, they will be open to it. Most times we don’t wait for any indication; we just rush in, eager to point fingers and inform them of what a lousy Christian they actually are. (Which of course makes us morally superior.)
Many believers are passionate in their faith and unabashed in stating their opinion. I am sometimes shocked by it, but I do not wish them ill. They mean well (some of them, not all of them — a few use it to create discord in the Family) and I think God judges us all according to the nature of our heart and what information we have been given. It saddens me that when the entire world is devoted to hating us, we should so frequently make excuses to hate each other. Our faith has been fractured and damaged through division, through some of us thinking we are better than others, and our refusal to give one another the benefit of the doubt. What matters at the end of the day, I think, is not whether or not a Christian spends her Thursday night watching The Vampire Diaries, but in how she is allowing God to work through her in the lives of the people He has placed in her life. Often the greatest impact we can have for good is through simply being as non-judgmental as we can. None of us have it all figured out and we are all sinners. We all make mistakes, we all fail to live up to our Father in Heaven, and we all struggle with deep flaws. None of us are perfect; if we were, we would have no need of Salvation through Christ.
The world sees us as intolerant and judgmental, as hypocritical and pious, when in reality it should see us as a group of people who acknowledge their imperfections and admit they are no better than anyone else. We are called to be different and we should strive to lead by example, but we should also be humble in doing it. Form your opinions. Make your standards — ones you are comfortable with, never shut off your brain when you watch anything (question everything — what is this series promoting? what is its hidden messages or agenda? how does it measure against what I believe, does it encourage me to embrace a secular view of morality?), and hesitate next time before blasting the girl standing ahead of you in the line at the bookstore. The world may never change its mind in how it sees us, but we can change our minds in how we see one another.
God bless all of you, no matter what side of the controversy you fall on.