Geeks are people who deeply enjoy many things. What we enjoy, we hold onto very closely, as those things are important to us. It can even seem to become part of who we are. If you’re anything like me, you’ve deeply enjoyed movies, games, and TV shows as long as you can remember. For me, that enjoyment was there before I knew Christ, and it still exists within me today. Now, I don’t have to enlighten you to the fact that in any of those things, content is there we know for a fact—or at least question—whether it’s good for us to witness and consume as Christian believers or not, whether it be violent, sexual, crude, or offensive in nature. It’s a valid concern we at Geeks Under Grace know many of you have.
In fact, if there’s a question we are asked most often, it’s any variation on “Should I (a Christian) play/watch this game/movie/TV show <insert title of choice>?” Having a position on this is really fundamental to who we are as a ministry; expressing an answer to this question is begged in the very beginning of our own mission statement.
The mission of Geeks Under Grace is to:
EDUCATE Christians on how to safely consume pop culture from our worldview.
EVANGELIZE geeks with the message of the Gospel by building bridges between Jesus and the geek community.
EQUIP Christians and churches to reach geeks with the Gospel.
ENCOURAGE Christians as they grow into a deeper relationship with Christ.
We never tire of answering it on an individual basis, and offering assistance to you all right where and when you need it, whether you’re a new believer in Jesus or years into that relationship. Still, regardless of the title or medium in question, the principle at work behind our answer is almost always the same. So, in this article, I hope to offer a stance that is helpful and informative to you as an individual, and also easily shareable as a tool to share with other believers you know in your church or wherever else you may know them.
Pop Culture In The Bible
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NKJV) 19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
The Apostle Paul is an inspiration to all Christians, and rightfully so. He was a man changed greatly from the inside-out; at one-time, he was a driven persecutor of Christians, but after his encounter with the Lord, he became the greatest early advocate for the cause of Christ. He left his old life and devoted himself to missionary journeys that took him through cities that didn’t want him (be they filled with Jews or Gentiles) and, ultimately, it lead him to his beheading in Rome. His journeys led him to speak to people of high position and also to the common man; still, whoever he spoke to, he always found a way to engage his audience with the Good News of Jesus.
How is that? Well, he spoke to them where they were. Whatever their walk in life, he engaged them with understanding. He wanted them to see that wherever they were, they could be saved from their sins and come to know Christ. Whether we see him relaying Old Testament history (Acts 13) to the people who needed to hear that (let’s just call them the “lore geeks”) or using sports analogies to Gentiles (Hebrews 12:1, Philippians 2:16, Galatians 2:2, Galatians 5:7, 1 Corinthians 9:24-26, 2 Timothy 4:7, 2 Timothy 2:5…shall we continue?), he found what people needed to make the connection of truth to their situation. Now, before going any further, let us be reminded of Roman sports; it wasn’t ESPN. It was viewed as debauchery, on and off the field. Contestants competed fully nude, yet still, Paul engaged in bringing these things to mind to make it all “click” with whoever he was speaking to.
As any person with a message to convey will tell you, making it all “click” with everybody, everywhere is hard work. There’s no debating that. In 1 Corinthians 9, I believe Paul is conveying that point. Making a connection with the Gospel requires persistence, creativity, and a genuine love for the hearer, and that’s no different for those who love pop-culture. Paul was all things to all people, because that’s what it takes: Someone who is willing to think outside the box to help others see and understand what they might not see and understand otherwise.
Sometimes, entertainment is all that slows different people down enough to come to a uniform experience. Whether we’re next-door neighbors or all over the world, people have different lives, experiences, attitudes, and outlooks, but we are all alike in one need: We need Jesus and His salvation. Part of that segment of need are geeks, who are so pop-culture savvy that I would venture to say Paul, if given that particular group to reach out to, would have found ways to bridge the gap in them knowing who Christ is and what He is all about.
Pop Culture: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
Looking at billboards at the cineplex or displays at game stores make it very apparent there is content being made for people of all ages and interests. For years now in almost all mediums, ratings systems have let people generally know what to expect in what they are about to consume (we’ll let you decide if the ratings systems are flawed or not). One of our core tenets at Geeks Under Grace is to make those who visit us aware of what they are consuming or are about to consume in pop-culture with a ratings guide. If there is objectionable content, we feel you should know about it.
In addition to content, whatever the medium and no matter how simplistic or complex its message, most any piece of pop-culture is crafted from content creators with some particular message in mind. They may have lofty, philosophical ideals they want to express in and through their work; others may be only concerned with selling us something. Either way, content creators (and their views) show through in their work. As such, we know in looking at this complex world there are many people with helpful & constructive ideas, and there are many who share things that do more harm than good to others, especially when it comes to the growth of Christian believers.
Now, encountering someone’s work that has views different than ours is not an automatic sign it’s “bad” and should be avoided. Oftentimes, challenging our personal views is the best way to know what it is we actually believe, and it helps us develop conviction and resolve in transitioning those into operating principles in our faith. Again, the reality of so many different views out there isn’t inherently bad, but it does mean we need to be aware of what we consume, as we said from a content perspective and from a place of sharing ideas and ways of thinking.
At Geeks Under Grace, we know there’s content out there that is undeniably “bad” for any Christian to consume. No Christian should be viewing pornography for the sake of arousal, and no Christian should be engaged in gaming or anything else for malicious and abusive ends. The reason for stating this is that content such as this was created to cause you and I, as individuals, to engage in sinful behavior. That’s no place for Christians to be. Now, the Bible is clear all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). That’s absolutely an immutable Biblical truth; still, when you look at individual people and the sins they commit, you begin to see they vary oftentimes from person to person, as much as any other thing unique to a person. One may have serious anger issues when dealing with most people, but when it comes to sexual sin, they have a good grasp on avoiding temptations in their life. That person may be related to someone who is just the opposite, frequently consumed by lust, yet with a peaceful disposition to all around them.
Sin is sin is sin, no doubt, but the particular sins you battle most often may be far different than anyone else around you. Many longtime Christians look at others consumed in porn, drug addiction, or sitting in jail for any number of offenses with some level of disdain, yet they don’t see that when they are embittered to others and loose-lipped with gossip, they are equally displeasing to God (Matthew 7:15, James 2:10-11). Whatever it is we consume, we need to know ourselves as individuals, and particularly, we need to know what makes us tick and is going to tempt us to engage in sinful behavior.
So, when it comes to games, movies, and TV shows, the truth of the matter is content in whatever is being consumed may be a trigger for you, but it may not be to others. To get particular about this, some Christians say they can play Grand Theft Auto or watch Game of Thrones, both entertainment properties known for their mature content (violence, language, and sexuality), and in doing so, they genuinely feel they are not fazed by the content or led astray.
With many controversial titles, I, too, have found myself in that camp, so to speak. While I do not agree with the severity of some of the content, I have seen Grand Theft Auto as an adult commentary on our modern times, set in a world that can offer engaging storylines or just allow me as a player the opportunity to cruise around and listen to the radio. Game of Thrones is without a doubt one of the most carefully crafted shows on the air with a narrative richness that is rare in television. Others could see things on screen in both their cases, and it set them back greatly in their walk with God. We’ve probably read of many cases where Grand Theft Auto was blamed as reason for violence or Game of Thrones was only glorified pornography. Those positions are defended by several, so we won’t condemn their reasoning, but we offer them as alternative views to these controversial properties.
Pop Culture Isn’t All Bad
Now, we’ve established pop-culture can be potentially bad for us, but don’t let that be the only thing that shapes our perspective on this topic. As many of our authors will attest, as Christian geeks, much of the deepest and most enjoyable aspects of our growth in our relationship with Jesus have come from seeing Biblical principles illustrated within the things we enjoy. Movies, games, and TV shows are often shunned in the church, but we have seen clearly the Gospel, even in things that weren’t intended to be “Christian.” In sharing these things with others, we have witnessed them benefit from what has been shared. As was stated earlier, pop-culture existed in Biblical times, and Paul, the premiere evangelist, utilized the context of who he spoke to and where they were at as people, interests and all.
There is “good” and “bad” content and aspects in most everything we see out there, pop culture or not, and we could go mad trying to keep out all of the “bad things.” Many believers have attempted asceticism, which is defined as “severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons.” If God calls you to stay away from certain things, do it, but if you think that you in your own power can keep sin at bay by removing all influences, it’s a fruitless endeavor. Christ alone has the power to save. We are all sinners in a sinful world, and if we are trying to tiptoe through life, detached from all worldly influences, it’s impossible. Set your mind on the things of God (Philippians 4:8), and pursue them. It’s amazing what set our mind on His ways will allow us to see and experience all around us.
We at Geeks Under Grace have never tried to police everything you watch and play (an impossible task that was never ours in the first place), but we do want everyone to know what they are getting into, if they choose to engage in something we cover. We feel that using our content guides alongside the convictions that come from reading the Bible and prayer time will lead us all to where we need to be. This is where the rubber meets the road. God will lead you in what you need, if you seek it. Don’t just say you’ll pray about it; do it. Don’t run into content blindly; be prepared for what is there, and be intentional in your decision-making. When it comes to weighing the conviction God gives us versus us just consuming whatever we want only because we want it, it’s our recommendation that God’s way should win out. If He convicts you to put the controller down or turn the TV off, you should do it, and do it right then. Is it because I said it? No, it’s because Jesus said it.
Matthew 5:29-30 (NKJV) 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
You may have loved a movie or game in the past, but if the Lord leads you to move on from engaging in watching/playing/listening/etc., do it. It will only cause you discouragement to war against His direction, and it will likely cause collateral damage with others around you in their spiritual walk.
Another aspect in need of discernment is the area of addiction. Personally, I’ve counseled many who have suffered from various addictions, and when it comes to gaming and entertainment, many go all in, committing time, money, and energy they don’t have available to give. The result is lives left devastated because people became consumed by things that were never supposed to rule their lives. Gaming, especially, takes heavy time-commitment, especially if we are going to see some games through to completion, achieve the highest rank possible with our characters, or collect every collectible in the game. It appeals to our completionist sensibilities, and I get it. Still, we must always keep sight of our lives as a whole. If our entertainment is taking away from the betterment of relationships with other people (which is where ministry starts and thrives), then we must practice moderation.
I, personally, have a very busy schedule, but gaming is in my blood, so to speak. I find it difficult finding time to play even a little in most cases, but when there is a game that releases, I have to really watch that my playing doesn’t negatively affect other areas of my life. I say all of this to stress vigilance in watching our time and the depth of our immersion into our hobbies is key. Christian believers have a responsibility, a Great Commission, given to us by Jesus to reach the world (Matthew 28:19-20); we mustn’t lose sight of it or allow other things to take its place.
Hopefully, this has been a helpful answer to the question of whether you should or shouldn’t engage in some form of entertainment. Here is a quick checklist of things to ask yourself about whether you should or shouldn’t:
Will what I’m playing/reading/watching/listening to discourage my walk with God?
Will what I see/experience lead me to sin in my own life after it?
Will it harm my relationships with my family/spouse/friends/church body?
Will I have a clear “conscience” about engaging in this activity with everyone I know?