Monday, March 30, 2015

On the Issue of Pride

Most of us have something of which we're proud.  I'm not talking about being proud of your son or daughter because he/she was valedictorian of his/her high school class; I'm talking about a trait that you yourself hold that everyone who knows you knows about, and is something you feel is worth celebrating.  Maybe you're proud to be an American, or a citizen of whatever country from which you hail.  Maybe you're proud of your religious beliefs, whatever they are.  Maybe you're proud to be an alumni of whatever high school or college from which you graduated.  Maybe you're proud to hold whatever occupation you do: librarian, stay-at-home mom, police officer, etc.  Maybe you're proud of your political affiliation: Republican, Democrat, or whatever else.  Maybe you're proud to be a fan of a certain sports team or figure: the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeff Gordon, the L.A. Lakers, or whoever else.  No doubt you've seen bumper stickers, shirts and other apparel, and especially Facebook posts showing such pride; maybe you are one of those people yourself, and happily show off those traits to the entire world.  I'm not knocking that; in fact, I do the same thing...with entertainment.  Anybody who knows me knows what I like to watch, listen to, and read...and what I don't; most of them also have at least a decent idea of why.  For many of you, the first thing you found out about me was my favorite entertainment, or, at least, my favorite entertainers, aka the celebrity crushes.  Though I'm past those days, I still wear my tastes in entertainment on my sleeve.  If you've been paying attention to my Facebook posts, you probably not only know what shows I currently watch, you also know which ones I used to watch, even if you've never heard of them previously.  You might even also know random details such as who my favorite Super Smash Bros. Melee character was, or the random circumstance that led to me discovering superhero cartoons.  When I've said entertainment is my look at my Facebook history will make it obvious that I wasn't kidding.

Therein lies the problem, though: While it's great that I have something positive to be known's a problem when I start to turn snobbish about my favorite entertainment.  I doubt you know anyone who watches all the various shows I do.  My rule is: As long as it's not morally offensive, it's fair game.  That's why my entertainment diet ranges from decades-old classics (Mork & Mindy, Hart to Hart) to '90's favorites (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Diagnosis Murder) to various Disney Channel sitcoms (ranging from Even Stevens to I Didn't Do It).  Sure, you might know someone who watches some of those shows--or, at least, used to--but such a broad taste in entertainment is rare; at least, in my experience.  The reason I choose to consume such entertainment is because I believe it's the right thing to do; these days, too much immoral filth is coming down the entertainment pipelines these days.  Such trash would have been banned a few decades ago, but is now everywhere you look.  It's hard to walk into a store that sells entertainment--other than a Christian bookstore, such as LifeWay--and refrain from seeing a book, magazine, or DVD cover that objectifies someone--usually a woman--or implies something obscene.  Just like other businesses, entertainment producers are interested in making money; if consumers--such as myself--use their money to support the right kinds of entertainment, that will cause more of it to be made.

While I know what I'm doing entertainment-wise and why I'm doing it, there are plenty of people, including Christians, who don't subscribe to that mentality, and will watch anything short of outright pornography, if they even are that discerning.  A comment on the Plugged In Facebook page called entertainment "one area where the Devil has a serious foothold," and I completely agree; Christians everywhere are watching shows and movies that would make Jesus weep in anguish.  I can't say that I've stayed on the moral path completely entertainment-wise; I have willingly watched some movies that could be classified as trashy, such as Satisfaction and Mean Girls 2...but, I regret doing so to this day.  Still, many people consume such media without another thought...which, to discerning viewers like me, is a problem.

As much as it pains me to admit it, I think my pride in my entertainment has gotten to the point where it bothers others, almost as if they feel that I look down on them because they don't do what I do.  Some years ago, the teacher of my high school Sunday school class was using a CD of stand-up comedy for a lesson; as he was setting it up, I asked him if the performer of the album was Mark Lowry.  He said it wasn't, and the class quickly asked me who that was; when I replied, one of my classmates said, "You shouldn't think you're better than us because you know who that is and we don't!" I quickly countered with, "Did I say I was better than you," to which she immediately retorted, "No...but you implied it!" It wasn't my intent to convey any such message; it was just a simple question.  Still, looking back, I can kind of see what she was saying; I tended to be a bit snobbish with my different entertainment diet...and I still do.

Back in 2000, I once saw a conversation between an older church member and a young guy who was new to the church that broke my heart.  The young guy asked the older guy about some computer/video games, and the older guy huffed and said, "No! I'm a Christian! I don't play those games!" and walked off in disgust; as the older guy walked away, the young guy said, "Well, [another fellow church member] is a Christian, and he plays those games!" It was very unsettling, especially since the older guy was supposed to be acting as a father figure to the younger guy, who essentially had no father.  Looking back, I can kind of understand both sides of the issue.  Gaming may not have been that older guy's thing, and it may have been a point of contention for him...but there was a better way to express such feelings than coming off as snobbish, as if he was "too good" for such an activity.  I don't really have much room to talk, though; I've spent years looking down on those who did things I didn't, especially sports fans.  Yes, my entertainment diet is different from most others'...but that doesn't make me superior!

The one thing I wonder is: How do I discuss what I do and don't do--even outside the realm of entertainment--without coming off like a snob or a jerk? I have my reasons why I don't do the "normal" thing...but, unfortunately, my approach makes it appear that, by doing what I do, I am superior to those who don't do the same thing...which is pretty much everyone! It's a mystery I've never been able to solve.

In conclusion, I will say this: Celebrity obsession is a big thing these days.  I remember a joke article in the twenty-fifth anniversary issue of CCM titled "Signs You Might Be An Amy Grant Groupie," which had a few ones only Christian music fans would get, and some that were so generic they could apply to anything, i.e., "You’ve been stopped before by people you thought were total strangers, and they say, 'Hey, I know you, you're "The Amy Grant guy"!'" It may have been humorous to the editors of that music magazine, but, some people do take their "love" for famous people to great lengths.  I remember reading a story in Reader's Digest that went like this:
Last Thanksgiving, my niece came home with her school project: a beautiful autumnal leaf with the words "I am thankful for my mommy" printed on it.
Her eyes tearing, my sister said, "This means so much to me."
Her daughter nodded. "I wanted to put ‘Hannah Montana,' but my teacher wouldn't let me."
Whether or not you laughed at that, now that I think about it, I can't find something like that humorous...because, when I was a kid, that was me, and it wasn't the least bit funny to my family members.  Over the years, I seriously hurt various people's feelings, especially my mother's, because I seemed to care more about my technology and my entertainment than I did them.  Even just a few years ago, after an incident my friends know the story of all too well, a former friend lamented, "That's just great! Some actress you're never going to meet gets more respect than a real-life friend! Yes, I'm being sarcastic!" That's one of the reasons I started my Midweek Salute meme: to give respect to people who actually know and care about me, instead of singing the praises of people who have never met me, and likely never will.  It's great that I've found a hobby...but, it shouldn't overtake the things that are truly important, such as family, friends, and God.  I could say that fixating is just a trait of my condition, but, I'm past that now; it's time to let such habits go...for good!


Hannah K said...

"As much as it pains me to admit it, I think my pride in my entertainment has gotten to the point where it bothers others, almost as if they feel that I look down on them because they don't do what I do."

I think you've hit on something there. While it doesn't *bother* me (I never felt it was deliberate, and I'm quite comfortable with my own convictions) I have occasionally felt that from you. I know our tastes and our convictions are very different, and sometimes it does feel like you're looking down on me for it through your implications. Again, I'm not offended, but I have noticed it. Of course, I have to also make sure not to get snobbish about my own entertainment decisions from the other side, so I understand that pull! So let me share some of the tips I've learned (and am still learning!) for dealing with it. This comment may be as long as your blog itself :)

I think an important key in all this is trying to believe the best about others. It's easy to decide that because you believe certain entertainment is not for you, that anyone who does partake in that is not discerning enough or not a holy enough Christian. The truth is, many of the Christians (including myself) who watch/read/listen to things you would not want to subject yourself to, have prayerfully considered this and come to their own standard.

As Paul says, "All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial." For me, I believe this means that we have free reign to watch what we choose, but we need to be very aware of our own limitations and what will negatively influence us. That, however, varies from person to person. For me, sometimes it means I need to turn off Christian movies because poor quality is making me angry at other Christians rather than being something positive. For a few years, it meant that I stopped watching all romantic comedies because they made me discontent with being single. For you, you have mentioned that images and words get stuck in your mind -- so watching or hearing immorality will etch the details onto your brain in a way that DOES negatively influence you, where it doesn't for me. What may be beneficial for you may be harmful for me, and vice versa.

Believing the best in people is easiest to do when you really listen to them. It's why so many of us blog, because we want to explain why we do what we do or like what we like. I read your blogs because even though I often disagree with your conclusions, reading how you get there not only allows me to see you and your opinions in the best possible light, but also helps me empathize with someone who doesn't share my stance on media. (Incidentally, I have written up a few blogs that explain my philosophy of entertainment, so to speak, so if you're ever interested in reading about how I can make certain viewing choices as a Christian, I can certainly pass those on.)

A person can have strong, confident opinions, but they will come across as proud or arrogant less often if they take the time to listen to others (especially those who disagree with them) and try to believe and speak the best of those people.

Arwen Sodan said...

I don't think anyone should define them self by any ONE thing. I also think that what a person does for enjoyment is up to them.

If someone finds entertainment in something you don't agree with, what does it matter? No one should judge you based on what you find entertaining. I truly don't mind your posts on facebook, because it is your facebook and you are welcome to post whatever you want. You also write long, interesting post, and while I may not always agree, I do respect your ability to effectively communicate your opinions, and enjoy reading your posts.

On the same note, regardless if I decide to watch an X rated porn or a G rated disney movie, thats my business, especially if it does not harm or affect anyone in a negative way.(On a side note, there are many porn companies that DO cause harm to others, and degrade women.)

Some people are more comfortable avoiding things that create doubt and stress towards their beliefs, and thats fine. But for me, what I watch does not change what I believe or how strongly I believe those things.

Respect is what it all comes down to. We live in America, a country founded on different beliefs and ideas that were not the norm at the time of its forming(are are still not the norm). Simply put, we live in a country where as long as you respect others beliefs you are welcome and encouraged to have your own.

And honestly, whats is the worst that can happen? For a Christian, it won't affect if you go to heaven or not? It only affects them, and that is their personal responsibility. While expressing opinions is encouraged, the importance of respecting other beliefs can not be overstated.

Whether or not someone has the same morals, ideas, and beliefs as you is up to them. For me, nothing I watch or read will change my spiritual beliefs. My beliefs are strong and when you are secure in your beliefs those things are not that big of a deal.