You're OK Just the Way You AreHere's something I never thought I'd admit in writing: Occasionally, I watch Saturday morning cartoons. Only after the news, though, which makes it much better! And watch is too strong a word, really, since I'm simultaneously getting ready to dash out the door and savor the weekend. But one morning while I was flat on my back with the flu, I did languish in front of the tube, digesting and pondering what our culture is telling children.
It's not subtle.
You Be You
One cartoon's plotline was centered on the acceptance of others—as many plotlines are. But this wasn't the acceptance of a relatively fixed quality such as body size, body color, body gender, or even intelligence and religious beliefs. This was acceptance of a dog's utter lack of personal hygiene. (It was Saturday morning cartoons, remember?) This terrier was so rank that his canine friends literally couldn't breathe around him. And his stench ruined a pal's birthday party.
But when this putrid pooch decided to shower rather than roll in his favorite rotting fish heads, he was miserable. So his frisky friends promptly started to feel guilty for making him feel guilty. They told him he could—should!—go back to his old ways. In fact, they even brought him new filth to flounder in. After all, they wanted him to be happy, and they loved him just the way he was. If they had to wear clothespins on their noses to hang around with him, then so be it.
Pardon my disgust, but isn't this type of thing called enabling in the adult world?
In any case, it's not taking responsibility for how one is negatively affecting others. I know, I know. You're probably telling me to lighten up already. It's just a silly kids' show. And smelly children need friends too! I might change my tune if you could prove to me that this is an isolated example.
But you can't.
As 2010 was running out of elbow room, I drew the short straw and had to see the big-screen adaptation of Yogi Bear. I concluded my review thusly: "So let me recap for you. Yogi is a destructive, selfish, impulsive, bullheaded manimal who constantly lies and steals. But that's OK because, ultimately, we should be proud of who we are, no matter what."
I could go on. And I think I will.
And Adults Too
Kids aren't the only ones getting dosed with large spoonfuls of this sort of social medicine. As the reigning U.S. television comedy, Two and a Half Men proffers a never-ending stream of perfectly heinous behavior that's not only tolerated but laughed at and looked forward to by millions of fans. Central character Charlie can do virtually any immoral thing he wants—while remaining America's favorite sitcom star.
Because he is who he is. And he's OK with that. So we're OK with that.
If we think watching such content isn't affecting us, we'd be smart to think again. A friend's mother did just that recently. She and my friend were listening to a news story on gay marriage when she blurted out, "Why don't people stop discriminating against them?! They deserve to marry!" My friend, a Christian psychologist, was shocked by her mother's reaction, and the two talked through the older woman's attitudes. The report back to me went something like this: My mom eventually realized how much her reaction was a result of her television habits. She'd seen homosexuality presented as an acceptable and attractive lifestyle for so long now (yes, a decade is a long time in our fast-moving culture) that she'd bought the lie.
Noted 20th-century Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer said, "Whoever controls the media controls the culture." And he certainly wasn't the first to come up with the concept. Playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton is well known for his line, "The pen is mightier than the sword," a sentiment that's a mere reflection of English philosopher and political theorist John Locke's assertion, "Whoever defines the word, defines the world," which, in turn, echoes William Shakespeare's declaration in Hamlet that, "Many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come thither."
Since Hollywood holds the bulk of our modern-day playwrights and philosophers, who reach into our culture and teach us "right" and "wrong," we're in serious trouble. Because rather than questioning their judgment or even their reasoning, we often accept their ideas as innocent entertainment. Maybe even art. Beauty isn't always in the eye of the beholder, though. When we consider that true beauty is that which is superior from God's perspective, it's an unavoidable conclusion that Glee, Desperate Housewives, Two and a Half Men, Grey's Anatomy and virtually everything else that slips into your soul by way of electronic entertainment falls far short.
The Truth and Everything But the Truth
The adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, drunkenness, profane language and violence that comes part and parcel with our entertainment should make us furious. But we're not. Why? Because we've become tolerant of it—just like we've been taught by our kiddie cartoons.
King David had his faults, to be sure. But watching too much TV or spending too much time plugged into his iPod apparently weren't among them, because in Psalm 101:3 he says, "I will not look with approval on anything that is vile." He wasn't very tolerant because he knew how much depraved things offend God—and affected him as a man.
In a world where absolute truth is about as popular as a trip to the dentist, most of us are easily swayed by what's in front of us. Especially when it arrives neatly packaged in a poignant story or funny fable. Media consultant Gordon Pennington, when interviewed for Focus on the Family's Truth Project, said, "We need truth today more than we've ever needed it. No generations have ever been more manipulated than the generation that lives today. … People are responding to an array of stimuli that is simply overwhelming. To filter that out and to protect oneself requires a kind of understanding, awareness, discipline and resistance that's very rare."
He continues: "If part of living in the modern world today means that we're going to be exposed to ideas that we find repugnant, malevolent, dark, wicked, then what do we do to challenge the predominant institutions, the predominant powers that control these images?"
As for Christians, Pennington says, "We should be the great conscientious objectors who always want to return to a place of truth, to a place of vulnerability to that truth. Most people don't really want to know the truth if it means being disappointed along the way, so eat, drink and be merry. Be distracted, entertained and amused to death. The risks of pursuing truth are tremendous, and what could be a greater adventure than to risk everything in pursuit of the one thing that endures? If truth isn't worth all that, then it probably isn't truth at all."
Do we turn off the TV and risk missing a favorite show in order to be a conscientious objector? Do we skip a movie because it teaches an irrational—ungodly—tolerance? Do we delete a track on our iPod because it celebrates some sexual sin?
Do we cherish truth in our entertainment?
The fact is, no one is OK just the way they are. And we know that because God tells us it's so. The problems are more complex than merely rewriting Saturday morning cartoons—but it's easy to start the filtering process. The first step frequently involves the off button. And it involves gaining a better sense of what is true—and therefore perfect just the way it is.
Fundamentalist Source (site is run by Focus on the Family)
My friend found this article while he was looking for an online archive of television cartoons for his daughter to watch, and called me over to have a look at it too, since he was absolutely appalled. I was too. At least in my opinion, the writer of this article COMPLETELY missed the point...