By Ben Konuch
When was the last time you watched something you completely disagreed with? Was it a movie or series that said something about a value that you inherently stand against, or perhaps a character that showcased behavior that you fundamentally can’t agree with? People are faced with concepts and themes in media that they disagree with all the time, and it often causes them to pull back and withdraw to a piece of media that’s seen as more comfortable ground.
But what if it’s not only acceptable to watch films we disagree with but worthwhile to seek out and consume media that present views that we differ from?
The way people experience media can both positively and negatively shape the worldviews that they hold. Christian philosophy professor Dr. Andy Giessman, a Christian philosophy professor at University of Scranton and the director of Addison’s Walk Institute, said “Our worldviews are like the lenses through which we perceive reality.” They are inherently a mental structure built up by the views and morals that people feed their minds and hold onto.
Christians’ worldviews should be built upon the Bible and its view of morality, but that input is only half the picture. Knowing what the Bible says about a topic and holding fast to it does not always equate to knowing exactly how one would interact with others and live it out
A worldview is partly the values that one holds to and partly what the approach is for how those values interact with the world. Therefore, testing what a worldview is through fire to see if it crumbles under pressure is absolutely vital. If you believe a certain thing to be true and this value changes, unfortunately the odds are strong that you’d seldom think about the reasons why you believe what you do until you’ve interacted with those people holding the opposing viewpoint.
Oftentimes worldviews are formed subconsciously. When faced with resistance to the way someone sees the world, they’re forced to stop and take a deeper look into why they hold to what they do. For example, a Christian student who rightly believes what the Bible says about homosexuality may have a very strong view about those who struggle with it and how he thinks he should treat them, but it may not be until his first job with a gay coworker that he would have to face whether the application through his behavior is Biblically right.
This is why media is so important, especially to students at Cedarville who live in an environment that holds to mostly the same worldview. One way to strengthen a worldview is through the encouragement and guidance of others. However, it may not be possible to test those views as often as one would want within the Cedarville bubble. Consuming media that provides a different perspective on the world is a way that someone can gently test their beliefs and values to the Bible while still being in a safe environment surrounded by peers and mentors who can guide them.
As Dr. Giessman said, “The cinema serves as the stained-glass window of the 21st century.” In other words, media serves as the way of passing on ideas in an easier-to-swallow form like stained glass windows were for the illiterate churchgoers of early Christianity. There are many aspects and elements of non-Christian worldviews that are unbiblical, but according to Giessman, there are three prevailing actively counter-Christian worldviews that can be detected in key pieces of media – the worldviews of Darwin, Nietzsche and Marx.
The Darwinian worldview of natural selection, “survival of the fittest”, and the animal nature of humanity is easier to detect and is prevalent in films such as “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.” This is evident when Vera Farmiga’s character gives a chilling speech about how the earth doesn’t belong to us and humans are the virus.
Christians are also familiar with Karl Marx and his views of radical resistance to democratic systems and human morality, which even recent shows like “Andor” represent elements of. One of its characters writes a manifesto outlining how they are in the right and the enemy is in the wrong, even while a majority of the series the characters are only “good” because they resist “oppression.” “Andor” depicts a struggle between characters with very blurred lines between heroes and villains is Marxist ideas can be glimpsed.
The worldview of Nietzsche is more nuanced, as Nietzsche didn’t believe at all in the metaphysical or the Christian view of morality but praised only power and overcoming obstacles. Films with the classic trope of “hero struggles against all odds” without a focus on rooted morality and power cycles continuing can contain echoes of his ideals, which can be seen in films like “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” or even “Arrival.”
So are these pieces of media inherently bad? No, and this is where consuming media through a worldview lens comes in.
One of the easiest yet most effective ways to test our worldviews is by analyzing the views presented in media. It isn’t just about watching things that we agree with or only testing things that we don’t, it’s about learning how to consume media and analyze what is good and what is bad regardless of the preconceptions we have going in.
If we watch movies that we think are good and that present values that we agree with, can we look at the themes and concepts shown and pick apart the reasons why we agree based on our worldviews? Similarly, if there’s a TV show that presents a value or a lesson that we consider immoral or false, are we able to analyze it to understand how it clashes with our worldview and why?
Looking at media in a less black and white sense is important to be able to search for the good and the bad. Most importantly, we need to look for the backbone reasons of why we think of them as good and bad. I do recommend this within boundaries, as each Christian must discern for themselves what kind of visual content they’re comfortable with viewing in more dangerous areas like violent or sexual content. That being said, in terms of concepts and ideas we should push our comfort zones in order to put what we believe to the test. We must learn not just what we believe, but why we believe what we do.
For Christians, learning the skill of discerning content – to be able to pick apart the good and the bad, to separate the worth from the garbage – is vital to the survival and strengthening of our faith in a world that seeks to tear it down.
Ben Konuch is a sophomore Strategic Communication student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and hanging out with crazy MuKappa friends.