We live in the age of Netflix. We have unprecedented access to media on demand, not just in our living rooms but in our pockets as well.
This is (potentially) a good thing, and it comes with many opportunities. But it also comes with many dangers. So how do we think through our approach to Netflix and other consumption of media?
Because on the one hand, we ought not to simply say, all secular media out there is BAD, so just stick to Veggietales and nothing else.
No. Please no. But at the same time, we can’t just indiscriminately consume media just like everyone else does. So how do we navigate this area with a distinctly Christian perspective? Well, this is not exhaustive by any means, but here are three suggestions.
1. Consume Thoughtfully
As you watch and listen to media, be aware of the powerful shaping influence it has on you. Media influences us not simply by the words that it explicitly says, but subconsciously as well, by the way it makes us feel, and by the cultural narratives that it reinforces.
For example, if you watch Me Before You, it doesn’t sit you down and give you a point-by-point argument for why we should allow euthanasia.
No, it tells you a story. It draws you in emotionally.
And these ways of influencing and conveying a message are far more subtle, and far more powerful as well.
So when it comes to Netflix and other media, consume thoughtfully. Be switched on about what we’re watching and what it’s communicating.
So if – for example – you watch The Danish Girl, engage your mind and ask, what is the message they are trying to convey? How are they trying to convey it? Notice what they emphasise, what they avoid, how they frame the issue and how they’re trying to make you feel about it. Ask, “why is this a message that’s persuasive and powerful in our culture?”
When we’re actively engaged like this, it helps us to avoid simply swallowing whole what they’re trying to feed us, and also helps us to be more informed and aware of our culture’s idols. There’s great benefit to media when we consume thoughtfully.
2. Consume Restfully
You may have caught on to this, but Netflix is intentionally designed to get people addicted and to binge. It’s part of their business model! Just two weeks ago, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, was asked what their biggest competitor was.
His answer? Sleep.
He said, “You know, think about it, when you watch a show from Netflix and you get addicted to it, you stay up late at night. We’re competing with sleep.”
They want people to watch more Netflix, and that means they have to make it addictive enough that people choose ‘just one more episode’ rather than going to sleep.
They want people to binge.
And as Christians, we have to recognise a very real danger here. Netflix is just one symptom of a broader problem. We live in a society that tells us to spend our lives on entertainment, with no bigger purpose. And so many people buy right into it, wasting their lives on the trivial.
But as Christians, we’ve got something SO much bigger and better to live for, don’t we?
God has put you on this earth for ONE lifetime, and he’s put you here with a PURPOSE: to love God, and love people. To make disciples, to help the poor, to spread the love of God in concrete ways that make a difference for eternity.
Isn’t that amazing? But the sad reality is, especially here in the comfortable WEST, SO many Christians get distracted from the GOOD things God has called us to, and they just fritter away years of their lives on Netflix or other entertainment.
So let me plead with you – don’t waste your life!
Now, binging is a real danger. But let’s not swing the pendulum too far in the other direction. Because in moderation, there’s absolutely a place for Christians to enjoy media restfully as a good gift from God (1 Tim 4:4).
God didn’t make us as robots. He made us to need rest.
He gave his people a Sabbath, showing us that it is not only necessary for our sanity but also good for us to stop working sometimes to rest and recharge.
And Netflix can be a GREAT way to do just that. To sit back, to unwind, to RECHARGE for the good works God has called us to. As a friend has put it, to lie down on the couch to the glory of God.
So in summary, be wary of the danger of binging, but also recognise that in moderation, Netflix is a good gift from God to be enjoyed restfully.
3. Stop Avoiding Sin
When it comes to our consumption of media, I think one of the approaches we take is to ask ourselves is, “is this sinful?” Will it be sinful to watch this? Where is the line?
And then we try get as close to that line without crossing it. We ask, how much nudity is okay? It’s not like Game of Thrones is porn, right? Right?
But if we’re asking where the line is, we’ve already missed the boat.
My wife and I will soon be celebrating our 4-year wedding anniversary. Now imagine I went to her and said, “Hey Alex, I’m just curious, what’s the minimum amount of stuff that I have to do to make you feel loved? Like, sure, I’ll get you flowers, but how cheap can they be? Can it just be one flower? Can it be plastic? I want to do the right thing, but… what’s the minimum requirement?”
Now, how do you think Alex is going to feel? Not good, right? I’m essentially asking, how LAZY can I be and still get away with it? Instinctively we know that that whole outlook is wrong.
And yet, so often, that’s exactly how we treat our relationship with God.
God, what’s the minimum amount of time I need to devote to you? What’s the minimum amount of money I have to give to the poor, or to gospel work? The Bible says don’t commit adultery… but there’s no harm in watching movies or shows with nudity, right?
As soon as we even ask those questions, we’re in the wrong place.
Instead of asking, “how far can I go before it’s sinful?”, we should be asking how we can MOST glorify God in everything.
Instead of asking how much we can get away with watching on TV or trying to justify it in some way, what if we asked ourselves, how can I strive for maximum purity?
That is a massive paradigm shift, isn’t it?
Not avoiding sin, but pursuing righteousness.
Practically speaking, next time you sit down on the couch after a long day, and you’re thinking about what to watch, PRAY and ask God, “How can I MOST glorify you in this? Is this going to help me LOVE you more? Is this going to help me grow in godliness, give me GOOD rest, help me to love others better?”
How do we navigate the age of Netflix?
- Consume thoughtfully
- Consume restfully
- Stop avoiding sin
That’s my short primer on how to lie on the couch to the glory of God.