Don’t Smoke, Drink, Dance, and Chew or Date Girls Who Do

Well, I had a “Duh” moment the other day when someone mentioned ads that were showing up on this blog.  Why should I have been surprised since they show up on the blogs of others and endlessly on Facebook?  My wife confirmed that she, too, had seen them on my blog.  I was most bothered by the fact that sometimes it showed, I was told, movie ads that contained murders and violence.

Now, before anyone thinks I am going to tell them what to do or attempt to infringe upon their God given right to watch anything they want, let me assure you that I am not.  I decided, however, to pay the small fee necessary to make my blog ad-free, at least until I can have more control over the content of the ads.  So, hopefully no more murders, violent movies, etc. on this blog.

Growing up many years ago in the “old Texas,” ethical choices were simple.  In case you don’t know, the “old Texas” was before there was a Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex and before the sacred boundaries of the Rio Grande and Red River had been totally breached.  In particular, the Red River was breached by “undocumented Yankees.”  In any case, in those days it was hard to improve on the moral  compass expressed in the words of the summum bonum, “Don’t Smoke, Drink, Dance, and Chew or Date Girls Who Do.”  Since it was the “old Texas” most folk were pleased if you kept three of the four, and they didn’t really care which three you kept.

Since those young days I have tried to add some more specifically Christian contours to my values, even to the point of thinking about entertainment and the like, such as movies, movie ads, and song lyrics.  Consequently, I have found it helpful to ask myself, “What is there about this particular movie or current song that entertains me?”  We do, after all, call it entertainment, or the entertainment industry, or the popular show Entertainment Tonight.  Please, do NOT worry! I am not envisioning external judges, censors wagging their finger at you in criticism, or even a Bible-thumper hurling verses at you; no, just a question for reflection.  If you have chosen to step across the line in the sand and take your place where Christ stands, why and how does a particular piece of Hollywood or New York entertain you?  It’s just a question.  For a maturing follower of Christ there is hardly a better guide than the Scripture informed conscience “also bearing witness, thoughts now accusing, now even defending” (Rom. 2:15b) our actions and entertainment choices.

Interestingly, a Roman Stoic philosopher named Seneca, living during the reign of Nero, was candid enough to discuss the impact on his own life of exposure to excessive violence.  Here is a summary of this much discussed text from one of Seneca’s epistles to a friend,

Mosaic of unarmed man attacked by animal, from El Djem, Tunisa.  Perhaps this victim was a criminal or a Christian.
Mosaic of unarmed man attacked by animal, from El Djem, Tunisa. Perhaps this victim was a criminal or a Christian.

I turned in to the games one mid-day hoping for a little wit and humor there. I was bitterly disappointed. It was really mere butchery. The morning’s show was merciful compared to it. Then men were thrown to lions and to bears: but at midday to the audience. There was no escape for them. The slayer was kept fighting until he could be slain. “Kill him! flog him! burn him alive” was the cry: “Why is he such a coward? Why won’t he rush on the steel? Why does he fall so meekly? Why won’t he die willingly?”

Relief of Roman gladiator,  located in the Antalya Museum in Turkey.  @ copyright holder of this image is Richard E. Oster, Jr.
Relief of Roman gladiator, located in the Antalya Museum in Turkey. @ copyright holder of this image is Richard E. Oster, Jr.

Unhappy that I am, how have I deserved that I must look on such a scene as this? Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away. (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/seneca-letters7.asp)

Relief showing mortal combat between gladiators.  This relief is located in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin, Germany.  @ copyright holder of this image is Richard E. Oster, Jr.
Relief showing mortal combat between gladiators. This relief is located in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin, Germany. @ copyright holder of this image is Richard E. Oster, Jr.
Detail of Gladiator mosaic, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach, Germany.copyright photo, attribution @www.flickr.com:photos:carolemage:8196070427 copyright holder carole madge.
Detail of Gladiator mosaic, Römerhalle, Bad Kreuznach, Germany.
copyright photo, attribution @www.flickr.com:photos:carolemage:8196070427 copyright holder carole madge.

This pagan Roman philosopher seems to have had more introspection and ethical integrity in this regard than some followers of Christ I have known (FYI, Seneca was the brother of the Roman politician Gallio, proconsul of Achaia, and defender of Paul, Acts 18:12-17).

Marred and scarred though it be, the image of God residing in all humans seems to have still been working, at least on this one point, in the conscience of Seneca.

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