I recently wrote a couple posts on video games looking at how Christians can play them in a healthy and even encouraging ways as well how video games (and perhaps more pointedly the industry) lend themselves to certain temptations that Christians should be aware of.
One of my points in the second article about the weaknesses of video games, I mentioned that morality is often being approached in a rather muddy, gray-scale sort of way. More and more video games are presenting gamers with difficult moral choices that don’t necessarily have clear answers. Let me be clear, I do not necessarily think this is a danger for the mature Christian (though it could certainly be a danger for the brother with a weak conscience). In fact, I think this development makes video games a unique medium that challenges us to think about moral choices–which, overall, I believe to be a healthy exercise.
On further reflection, the criticism I leveled at postmodern ethics should more pointedly be leveled at relativism and not postmodernism directly–which to be fair is a little harder to nail down than out and out relativism. Also upon further reflection, I realized that its not so much the painting of our world in moral grays that bothers much so much as the theme of hopelessness (in which muddled morality plays a part). I think the theme of hopelessness is pervasive in pop culture today–just take two of the biggest winners at last year’s Oscars–There Will be Blood and No Country for Old Men for example–these two critically acclaimed movies have dark characters, protagonists that possess few redeeming qualities, and end with with very little character growth and injustice winning the day.
How should a Christian respond to such movies (or games or books)? Should we boycott them? Should we go see them and then criticize them in our blogs? Should we see them so that we will be able to talk to the folks around the water cooler? What is the appropriate response? For the Christian, what is the biblical response?
Is there danger in mindlessly consuming such movies? Is it possible to check our Christianity at the door when we experience art? In other words aren’t movies, games, and books entertainment? Can’t we just be entertained without being engaged? Is there value in carefully and thoughtfully engaging such movies from a biblical worldview?
In short, I will say that we live in a dark world–this shouldn’t surprise anyone (John 1:5, 12:46; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Cor. 4:6). Christians are those who once walked in darkness but now walk in the light of Christ and thus are to be those who “walk in the light of Christ” (Eph. 5:8). We don’t take part in the works of darkness but instead “expose them” (Eph. 5:11). We do not belong to this world (1 Peter 2:11), we are not of the world but we live in it and are to be the lights of the world (Matt. 5:14). So in short, I think we as believers need to be like Martin Luther and get out of the “cloister and into the world.” We must learn how to live productively in this world and not continually look for ways to escape it out of fear of what the world might do to us. The world is a dangerous place but a place in which we must learn to live faithfully for the sake of Christ. We cannot let fear of the world paralyze us from living boldly in it, engaging it an exposing the darkness of it (2 Tim. 1:7; Heb. 13:6; Phil. 1:14).
I think we should be careful to honor man’s conscience–everyone’s conscience is sensitive in different areas. And certainly we need to be patient with the weaker brothers and be careful not to flaunt our freedom in front of them and sear their conscience (Rom. 13; 1 Cor. 10).
So in short, I think that the arts provide a tremendous ground for cultural engagement–and though the primary way that Christians are to engage the culture is by making disciples of individuals in the culture, part of that process is speaking truth to those in the culture, examining the messages and themes of the art in the culture for the sake of Christ. Being a light of the world means “always being ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” especially in the face of so much hopelessness (1 Peter 3:15).
This is really just an introductory piece. I will post at least two more articles on these issues of cultural engagement and particularly on hopelessness in art and how Christians interact with such art and respond to it.