What Goes In…(part 2)

Finally brothers, [sisters] whatever is TRUE, whatever is HONORABLE, whatever is JUST, whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is GRACIOUS,  if there is any EXCELLENCE and if there is anything worthy of PRAISE,  think about these things.  Phil 4:8

2.  Media, Violence and the Profane (the second post in a 3 part series)

“Its effects are measurable and long-lasting.  Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life.  The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values, and behaviors in children.” (1)

Take it from a brain guy.  In 25 years of working with the brain, I still cannot affect a person’s state of mind the way one simple song can.” ~ Neurologist Dr. Richard Pellegrino, Billboard Magazine 1/23/99

“What has our society come to when Prince is the guy you can trust to not sexually offend 120 million Middle Americans?…Has he gotten that clean or have we gotten that dirty?” ~ TV critic James Poniewozik, when Prince was chosen as the “safe,” “more conservative” Super Bowl Half-Time Show choice after the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction.”  (2)

In our last post we talked about the concept of “What goes in, Must come out” as it relates to gossip.  Now I’d like to apply that same concept to media and what can be termed as the “profane” and violent.  There is, has been, and probably always will be a debate that rages among parents about children and viewing violent movies, games, etc.  Conventional wisdom dictates that most parents exercise some caution with their younger children when it comes to viewing violence because they believe that it isn’t good for them.   I agree.  But what about older children?  What about grown – up children?  What about us?  Aren’t we too old for exercising censorship over what we watch?  I mean we’re adults.  It doesn’t affect us.   Or does it?

Yes its true that there is great psychological evidence that says viewing violence does in fact impact the viewer.  This should not be a surprise to us.  Throughout the years various militaries, militias, and even the Nazis of World War II have used desensitization to train their soldiers to be efficient and effective killers.  One method of desensitization is to show violent footage.  To expose those who are to be desensitized to violent images and ideas.   This is effective – how else were men made into Monsters during World War II?

Now I am not attempting to make this a clichéd argument against the tactics of Nazi Germany.  I am asking whether or not is it wise to subject ourselves to such measures as were used by that evil regime.  Am I going too far?

I am not positing that you or I are going to turn into  homicidal maniacs after watching Kill Bill (never seen it, I just read that its pretty gruesome).  What I am saying is that it is very possible for us to desensitize ourselves to seeing human beings as persons.  As women this is our gift – a special ‘genius’ that we have – recognizing the dignity of each and every person.  Watching violence desensitizes us to that.  That, my friends, is not a good thing.

Profanity, violence, true ugliness (as in intentionally warped beauty) all these can dull the edge of our ‘feminine genius.’  The above scripture verse compels us to think on those things that are good and beautiful – things that are worthy of praise.  It is no accident that this directive appears in scripture.  The Divine Author thought it important enough to instruct us on what we should spend our leisure time contemplating.  This leads me to believe that we should carefully reflect on our media consumption.  Are we spending our free time dulling the edge of our genius or are we sharpening it?  Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son [daughter] give me your heart, and let your eyes keep to my ways” and verse 29 says to “Be not emulous of evil men.”  Earlier in chapter 22:17 we are admonished to “Incline your ear and hear My words, and apply your heart to my doctrine; for it will be well if you keep them in your bosom, if they are ready on your lips.”  This brings me to another form of media consumption – listening to music.

You may think that music is benign, but the above quote speaks whole paragraphs about the effect of music on people.  (“Take it from a brain guy.  In 25 years of working with the brain, I still cannot affect a person’s state of mind the way one simple song can.” ~ Neurologist Dr. Richard Pellegrino, Billboard Magazine 1/23/99).  On my computer I have a playlist named “Happy Songs.”  It is a mish-mash of songs that, quite literally, make me happy when I listen to them.  Do you have a song like that?  When you hear it you perk up – it can change your attitude, your frown into a smile, your outlook from cloudy to sunny.  Now, think about it in reverse.  If a song can have this great of a positive affect on you and me, can’t it also effect us in reverse – negatively?  I would say common sense (and the book of Proverbs) would say ‘yes.’  Again, are you going to become the next uni-bomber if you listen to a little Eminem?  Probably not.  But what we are talking about here is how we need to guard ourselves from dulling our feminine ability to be sensitive.   Exposing ourselves regularly to hate, violence, negativity, profanity etc makes us less able to have “The moral and spiritual strength…that  is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way” (3)

This Advent, perhaps we can strive to surround ourselves with those things that are good, and beautiful, and worthy of praise, as St. Paul wrote.  Things such as these are ‘of God’ because God is the author of all that is Good and all that is Beautiful.  If we turn ourselves to these then we are turning ourselves towards God – inviting Him more into our lives and into our hearts.  If it is He Who is in our hearts, in our minds, rather than a profane song, or a violent video, we will be more able to speak His Truth and truly live out that Feminine Genius with which we have been endowed; and at Christmastime, we will be better able to welcome Him.

Another way in which consumption of secular media that is laced with profanity, violence, and true ugliness can harm us, and our relationship with Our Heavenly Father is that it can distract us from Trusting in Him.

George Gerbner and Larry Gross working at the Annenberg School of Communications in the 1970s found that heavy TV viewers live in a scary world. “We have found that people who watch a lot of TV see the real world as more dangerous and frightening than those who watch very little. Heavy viewers are less trustful of their fellow citizens, and more fearful of the real world.”  So heavy viewers were less trustful and more fearful than the average citizen. But what constitutes a heavy viewer. Gerber and Gross defined heavy viewers as those adults who watch an average of four or more hours of television a day. Approximately one-third of all American adults fit that category.  They found that violence on prime-time TV exaggerated heavy viewers’ fears about the threat of danger in the real world. Heavy viewers, for example, were less likely to trust someone than light viewers. Heavy viewers also tended to overestimate their likelihood of being involved in a violent crime. (4)

These are frightening findings, but they tell us something very important: that if we are not careful, we can actually skew our perceptions of reality just by watching too much TV!  If we have unrealistic perceptions of reality how are we able to truly understand God, and what He wills for us?  How will we be able to Trust that He takes care of us, and that nothing is beyond the reaches of His Divine Providence?  The short answer is that we will not.  We will not be able to Trust Him the way He desires.  We will not be able to trust Him the way we need to.  Exorcising responsible and Faithful censorship over what we consume not only gives us a healthier and more realistic outlook on life, it preserves our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

The next time you are confronted with a choice in what media you are to consume, ask yourself whether you are dong as St. Paul instructed.

Finally brothers, [sisters] whatever is TRUE, whatever is HONORABLE, whatever is JUST, whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is GRACIOUS,  if there is any EXCELLENCE and if there is anything worthy of PRAISE,  think about these things.  Phil 4:8

Works Consulted:

1)  2000 joint Statement from the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Behavior, qtd in: Plugged In Online, 20th Anniversary Magazine pg 8, Courtesy of Focus on the Family and Thriving Family Magazine, November/December 2010

2) time.blogs.com 12/12/06

3) Mulieris Dignitatem, sec. 30, written by Pope John Paul II Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 15 August, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the year 1988, the tenth of my Pontificate.

4) Violence in Society. Kirby Anderson.  Probe Ministries. 1995. http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/violence.html

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One thought on “What Goes In…(part 2)

  1. Pingback: The Moral Liberal

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