By / May 9

I’m pretty sure my family was the last one in our neighborhood to get a color TV. It was around 1979. My parents shocked my two sisters and me when they brought home a Curtis Mathis color TV one afternoon. It was a 26-inch screen, enshrined in a built-in wooden stand. Gone were the days of tinfoil on the 19-inch black and white. My 9-year-old eyes dazzled with delight when I noticed that our new TV had 13 different channel buttons. 13! This gave me color access to all of the local channels in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. “Diff’rent Strokes” on Friday night, “Gilligan’s Island” reruns after school, and I’m not too proud to admit that I watched a little bit of “Hey! Hey! We’re the Monkees.”

Life was wonderfully simple back then. If you fast-forward to most of our homes today, the scene is a bit different. If you have not “cut the cord” yet, you likely have a minimum of 150 channels on your 70-inch flat screen. It’s also quite easy to see that digital media players and streaming services are quickly winning the day, providing countless options for our viewing pleasure.

And of course, newer shows explore contemporary topics with almost no restraint. The sexual boundaries and standards of our day are different than when I was trying to avoid admiting that I actually liked watching “Little House on the Prairie” with my sisters. Words that used to only appear on certain cable shows are streaming loudly into the bedrooms of teenagers on their phones. This world’s appetite for pornography has become more accommodating since the days of people awkwardly asking a gas station attendant to purchase a covered magazine behind the counter. Disney and other networks see to it that one can rarely watch a show without a positive angle on a LGBTQ character. So, it’s not exactly a hot take to point out that modern media poses a great challenge to followers of Christ.

Christians and media consumption 

So how do we respond?

Years ago, I sat next to a young man on a plane that belonged to a very small, strict sect of Christianity. As we shared our different experiences of the Christian life, he said that no one in his church had a television (“Except for maybe a few people that weren’t truly saved,” he qualified.). While I didn’t share the conviction that true Christians don’t own televisions, I respected the radical measures he took to guard against worldliness. My wife and I actually had long periods early in our marriage where we seldomly consumed any media. It gave us a great foundation for our marriage and spiritual life. Even though we more regularly watch certain programs now, we live imperfectly in the balance of approaching the tricky world of media consumption.

Faithful Christians will have different convictions and land in various places regarding what to watch — or not. The advice is not one-size-fits-all. But we are all called to pursue holiness, and that encompasses every area of our lives. In light of this, I’d like to offer a few suggestions from my personal experience, individually and as a pastor, regarding how to wisely watch what you watch.

Don’t worry about feeling “left out of the loop.” This is not a temptation for all. But sometimes we may tire of being the only person we know that has not seen Game of Thrones or The Sopranos. Maybe you’re not so much jealous of missing the profane content, but you have always prided yourself on keeping up with cultural trends and inferences. That’s when the temptation to just “watch an episode or two to see what it’s all about” comes into play. Soon, the well-written plot and highly developed characters draw you in. Before long, you may be glad you know what everyone is talking about, but find yourself pledging to quit watching the show tomorrow. If that doesn’t work, you vow to never let anyone from church know what you’re watching. Slowly but surely, you are nurturing a genre of entertainment that makes it difficult to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 CSB). We must remember that being left out of the loop is sometimes a great way to stay spiritually alive.

Watch as if you’re watching with your mother or daughter. I remember listening to Pastor Alistair Begg on a panel at a conference years ago. The interviewer asked him a question about television. He was asked that because he was sitting next to John Piper. Piper had just been asked what helped him walk closely with God. He mentioned that not having a TV was beneficial to him. Begg was then asked about his television habits. He simply said, “I do watch it. But I try to watch something that I’d be comfortable with if my daughter or my mother were watching it with me.” I realize that how you apply this has a lot to do with the moral fortitude of one’s mother and daughter. But in general, if you asked yourself, “What would Mom or my baby girl think of this show?” I bet we would practice much wiser media scrutiny.

Be mindful of the softening of biblical convictions. The first gay character on television was a guest star on an episode of All in the Family in 1971. Over the next few decades, more shows boldly included occasional same-sex attraction story lines. Pressure from activist groups, especially since the turn of the century, pushed studios to insist on significant LGBTQ representation on the majority of scripted television. The stated goal of such activists has been to normalize gay relationships in every way possible. In that sense, one would have to credit this effort as a massive success. The result is that it no longer feels unusual to most people to watch two gay characters interact, even on a sexual level. 

Is there a connection between this phenomenon and the growing number of former evangelicals that are now gay affirming? It would be difficult to apply research to such a question, but it is certainly worth thinking about. As Christians who lovingly hold to a biblical understanding of sexuality and marriage, we must be mindful of the dangerous effects modern media saturation can bring about to our belief system. We must be vigilant to never let a show normalize the culture’s worldview and weaken our biblical convictions.

See the good and potentially bad effects of filtered streaming services. Personally, I am a huge fan of streaming services that allow viewers to skip profanity, nudity, and graphic violence. The main reason is that I want to see zero nudity in my media viewing. A cursory reading of Scripture makes it clear that believers are not to have a “hint” of sexual immorality in their life (Eph. 5:3). Streaming filters will greatly sanitize your movie nights. However, I would like to offer three cautions regarding these services: 1) While they can clean up the show, they cannot clean up the plot. Some plots are so vile, that cleaning them will literally wipe out the entire show; 2) A steady diet of inappropriate, filtered shows does not help kids and teens discern the course for their media future; and 3) You can’t filter a person’s heart. Ultimately, we can rightly use filter services all while our hearts remain unchanged. We must prioritize evaluating our hearts, and helping our children understand theirs, by constantly asking if our motivation and desire is to honor God with what we watch. 

Lastly, don’t forget about the joy of reading. This probably depends on how you are wired, but visual media tends to create a desire for more and more screen time. A gripping story or a hilarious character always seems like a great way to end a stressful day. Even if you enjoy reading, heavy media consumption tends to lead one to say, “Eh, I think I’d rather just zone out tonight. I’ll get back to that great book tomorrow.” When you see this habit forming, that’s when it’s time to make yourself read more. You may need to declare, “Tonight is a reading only night!” You also may learn to multitask and read while other things are going on. Regardless, make sure that you don’t push the importance of reading, especially the reading of good Christian books and the Word of God, out of your life. 

There are many more things that could be said. As with everything, we must call out to God for wisdom. We must be determined to watch what we watch with godly discernment, for the sake of pursuing holiness. While we will make different choices regarding our media consumption, we must spur one another on to walk in a manner that is worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27) in the midst of what feels like an anything-goes culture. As we seek to live in the world but not of it, may God make us more like our Savior and use us to point to the better, more satisfying way that he offers. 

By / Mar 25

I enjoy podcasts and find them to be a valuable part of my daily rhythms. During this season of social distancing, I think this flourishing new media can help fill the gap and get us out of our own heads.

Growing up, I remember riding in my dad’s truck to and from school listening to Paul Harvey in the morning and talk radio in the afternoon. What I loved then with radio is what I appreciate now with podcasts. I cherish those memories not for the news and weather reports but because I share them with my dad. I think I felt it intuitively then but I know now, all these years later, that it was the shared experience of a father and son with a radio host we never met, but felt like we knew, that made listening to Paul Harvey a “good day.”

Today I listen to podcasts and feel connected, especially when I talk about them with friends who also listen weekly. I tune in while driving, on the metro back when I had a commute, walking my dog, exercising, cooking dinner, and cleaning our home—something we do more often during the COVID-19 quarantine. I use podcasts to pick up news, relax for entertainment, and dive deep into the political, cultural, and spiritual issues of our day. I enjoy all kinds of shows, from interviews to monologue, investigative journalism to friendly banter good for nothing but laughs.

There are at least 850,000 active podcasts right now with well over 50 million episodes produced. If you haven’t listened to podcasts yet, now could be a great time to join the fun with the 62 million Americans regularly listening to shows each week.

Here are some of my family’s favorite podcasts that I think you might enjoy too. I’ll offer three recommendations in each of the following three categories: podcasts to inform, to encourage, and to entertain.

ERLC’s podcasts

But first, I want to be sure you know of the ERLC’s suite of podcasts, starting with Signposts with Russell Moore. On this podcast, Dr. Moore talks with guests about the latest books, cultural issues, and pressing ethical questions that point us toward the kingdom of Christ. 

Next, check out our weekly show from Washington, D.C., Capitol Conversations, hosted by me, featuring our policy team: Chelsea Patterson Sobolik, Steven Harris, and Travis Wussow. The conversations cover the policy debates and news shaping our world as we aim to foster a new way for Christians to engage in politics. 

Next, tune into the The Way Home with Dan Darling for conversations with key Christian leaders on church, community and culture. 

Finally, you don’t want to miss our newest show, the relaunched The ERLC podcast, featuring Josh Wester, Lindsay Nicolet, and Brent Leatherwood. The team in Nashville highlight ERLC content from the week and cover insights into the moral, cultural, and ethical issues of our day.

Podcasts to inform

The Daily from The New York Times: This is the standard-bearer for daily news in a podcast format. Michael Barbaro’s podcast is at the top of the charts for a reason. It’s impressive what this team of journalists do every weekday by 6 a.m. to make listening to the news fascinating.

SBC This Week with Amy Whitfield & Jonathan Howe: Whitfield and Howe are some of the top communicators in our convention of churches. Their weekly roundup of news from SBC national entities, state conventions, and local congregations is a great service to all of us.

The Dispatch Podcast from The Dispatch: The Dispatch is a new media venture built to swim against the tide of the tribal clickbait model dominating today’s news scene. This is their flagship podcast. Host Sarah Isgur is joined by Steve Hayes, Jonah Goldberg, and David French for weekly conversations on the news. They are disruptors and deep thinkers, doing real reporting from a conservative outlook.

Podcasts to encourage

This Cultural Moment from Bridgetown Church & Red Church: Few podcasts have spurred as many ah-ha moments for me as this one from pastors John Mark Comer and Mark Sayers. Their insights into ministry in cities in the 21st century are precious and prescient for followers of Christ in this post-Christian world.

Pastor Well with Hershael York: York’s interviews with other pastors and ministry leaders will make you feel like you’re in his living room catching up with friends who came back to town for a visit. The conversations in this podcast renew my love for the local church.

Knowing Faith: Jen Wilkin, J.T. English, and Kyle Worley are excellent teachers linking up around a podcast table to remind Christians that our faith is not mindless or irrational but rooted in sound doctrine found in Scripture. This team in North Texas is bringing rigorous theological education to the local church. 

Bonus recommendation: A lot of churches upload their sermons as a podcast. These weekly sermons will grow increasingly meaningful as most Sunday gatherings are suspended while our country fights the coronavirus. Here are my churches’ podcasts: my home church in Lake Jackson, Texas, Brazos Pointe FellowshipThe Austin StoneCapitol Hill Baptist Church.

Podcasts to entertain

How I Built This from NPR with Guy Raz: Guy Raz is a talented storyteller who takes you on the journey innovators and entrepreneurs took to start companies that would grow to become integral to our daily lives. As America shuts down for a while, our economy reminds us just how fragile businesses really are. Now is a good time to relearn the risks and rewards of starting a business to meet the needs of real people.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey: This is one of the podcasts on my wife's phone that I also enjoy listening to when we’re on road trips. Jamie’s show is meant to feel like you are hanging out with her friends. Chelsea tells me she enjoys The Happy Hour because in it she hears about the Lord’s faithfulness in the lives of so many different women.

Whistlestop: Presidential History and Trivia from Slate with John Dickerson: This would be one of many podcasts on my phone to fall in the category of “shows my wife is not interested in listening to on our road trips.” I love stories of American history and the quirkier the better. John Dickerson is one of America’s finest journalists. His narration in this show brings the stories of the fascinating figures who’ve lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, like Reagan and Ike, Truman and Kennedy, into full color.

By / Jan 24

Based on the 1966 Shusaku Endo novel of the same name, Silence is the story of two Portuguese Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in the 1600’s to find their mentor and spread Christianity. In remaining faithful to its source material, director Martin Scorsese’s film offers no easy answers but begs many great questions.

The plot

The young priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver) have heard a rumor that their beloved Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has undergone torture and as a result, has committed apostasy. It’s also believed that he may still be living in Nagasaki. Unwilling to accept the report as fact, the priests make it their mission to travel to Japan in search of Ferreira.

Upon arrival to China, a man named Kichijiro helps ferry them to Japan and to a village where a small group of underground Japanese believers are hiding. Because of the immense persecution and rampant torture, the fearful villagers must worship in secret, but they are overcome with joy upon meeting the two priests. Having become believers because of the work of Jesuit priests in the past, they have longed for the return of one who can listen to their confessions and administer the sacraments.

The priests are most impressed with the quiet, beautiful faith of the villagers, but all that is interrupted when the authorities get wind of the hidden Christians. Rodrigues and Garrpe are given the chance to flee, yet they remain close enough to witness the interrogations. Inquisitor Inoue (Issei Ogata), a feeble yet cruel man, oversees these interactions with the Christian peasants, and his rules are simple. If a person steps on the fumie (a small, carved image of Christ) they are assumed non-Christians and can therefore go free. If they don’t trample the image of Christ, they’re subjected to torture until they either recant their faith or die. The priests weep as they witness the cruelty from afar, yet their own personal safety is short-lived.

Soon after this event, Rodrigues, as well as several other believers, are betrayed by a Judas-like character and handed over to the authorities. Rodrigues is brought before the Inquisitor. Instead of torturing Rodrigues, the Christian villagers are made to suffer unless the priest is willing to recant his faith by trampling the fumie. Denying his faith and his God would be the only way to end the suffering of the faithful few he has dedicated his life to serve.

The imprisoned Rodrigues is, for the most part, treated quite well. There is a certain civility among his captors. On several occasions, he is brought before the Inquisitor and fascinating conversations ensue between the two men. How can he possibly recant when he has lived his whole life to serve the God he loves? But at the same time, with suffering and death all around, why won’t God speak? Why won’t he intervene? The Inquisitor is adamant that Christianity is not able to take root in a place like Japan. Rodrigues argues that gospel truth can flourish in Japan just like it does in Portugal and elsewhere. What the priest sees as a loving gift to impart on the country, the Inquisitor sees as an arrogant, imperialist attempt to exert power and destroy Japanese culture and customs.

The personal challenge

I won’t spoil any of what happens next, but I will say that this is a meaningful film for thoughtful believers. Some have criticized the slow pace of the film, and indeed it is slow. There are also scenes that are difficult to watch. But for the patient viewer who doesn’t mind being challenged to wrestle with long-held beliefs, the rewards are great.

I was a high school senior when the Columbine massacre happened. I remember hearing stories of students who, when asked by the gunmen if they were Christians, boldly proclaimed their faith. I hoped I would have done the same thing. But the truth is, unless I’m faced with the prospect of death or intense suffering, I have no idea how I would react. Does faith always have to be public to be true faith? What if someone in that situation denied Christ to spare his life, or perhaps the life of another? Would his soul be lost forever? These are just a few of the questions with which we must wrestle as we watch the story unfold.

I’ve also pondered this idea: When I share the gospel with another person, how much of it is truly centered solely on Christ, and how much of it is me bringing in my ideas of Western Evangelical Christianity? This thought has troubled me recently because I don’t want to bring an ounce of myself into the situation. I want to go into all the world and make disciples, not of myself, but of Christ.

Silence is an incredibly well made film, from the directing and acting down to the set design and costumes. It’s a bold film that dares us to put voice to what we may have wondered and possibly doubted about the goodness of God. The characters cry out much like the biblical Job did in the midst of suffering. And yet, we’re reminded from scripture that when we are faithless, he is faithful.

We know that Christ understands our human suffering because he suffered as well. He also felt the sting of God’s “silence” on the cross. And yet, ”for the joy that lay before him, he endured a cross, despising its shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Heb. 12:2). So in the midst of trials, we need not lose heart when we don’t suffer well, because the victory is not won through us; it was won long ago by a silent sufferer who stands victorious and intercedes on our behalf.

By / Jun 3

Memorial Day weekend indicated one thing (among others): The summer movie season is here.

Summer has meant blockbuster movies ever since Steven Spielberg sent a man-eating shark into the water and George Lucas sent the Death Star plans to a desert planet. School is out, vacations are on, and Hollywood studios that have saved their most crowd-pleasing efforts until now.

The chances are that you’ll be visiting at least a couple of these summer movies. Here are four questions you can take with you into the cinema that will help you contemplate and savor what you see:

1. Is this movie well-made?

The summer blockbuster is often an action-packed, thrill-a-minute crowd pleaser with plenty to keep your attention. But many times, it will also be a quickly made, unimaginatively written spectacle. Because major movie studios know that people are looking for some quick entertainment from summer movies, it’s common to see an entire season’s worth of predictable “formula films” (let’s face it: The Lone Ranger was basically Pirates of the Caribbean 5) or tired, umpteenth sequels.

While it’s easy to be content with something that merely keeps our attention for two hours, there are deeper joys to be had at the movies. As Francis Schaeffer reminds us, Christians should care about the excellence of art. We should care whether a film script shows creativity and intelligence or is too busy blowing things up to say anything. We should care whether a story is compelling or is something we’ve seen a hundred times before. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask a movie to be well-made. 

2. Does this story resonate with truth? 

Sometimes Christians will exhort one another to test a movie’s worldview and examine it in light of revealed truth. This can be a helpful and often revealing exercise. But the problem is that art, such as film, is not created to be subjected to a rigorous intellectual exercise. Film, like music, is meant to be experienced in an emotional and spiritual sense. It is, as James K.A. Smith says, a “pedagogy of desire,” rather than a purely propositional lesson in worldview.

Instead of plotting a movie on a purely theological grid, a better approach is to ask: “Does this film resonate with truth? Do the arc of the story and the moral journeys of the characters awaken a sense of, ‘Yes, the Scriptures say this,’ or a sense of confusion and doubt?” This kind of questioning requires a well-formed moral imagination and is usually not as black and white as simple worldview tests. But it is exactly the kind of imaginative reflection that art demands.

3. Does this film offer humor or flippancy?

To be honest, I find most new comedy films fairly worthless. Bawdy and off-color humor is one reason, of course; many comedies seem to imagine that raunch is its own reward. But there’s a deeper reason as well: Many comedy movies don’t offer humor; they offer flippancy.

In The Screwtape Letters, the senior demon advises his junior, Wormwood, on the difference between humor and flippancy. Jokes, Screwtape writes, are a species of joy, and joy resides in the orbit of God, not of Satan. Humor is part of the life that humans are given by God, and thus, not in itself useful to the demons. 

Flippancy, on the other hand, is precisely where Screwtape tells Wormwood to keep his patient:

Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it . . . It is a thousand miles away from joy. It deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

Flippancy is, in other words, a prideful dismissal of life as meaningless, a latent assumption that whatever happens to us should be laughed at for no reason at all, because there is no reason to it in the first place. I’ve seen many “comedies” that make no interesting or warm observations about life but merely guffaw at people and truth because there’s nothing better to do. These are not films that inspire the kind of laughter that leads to joy. 

4. Is this film something you want to exult in with others? 

Whenever we see a great piece of art, our first instinct is to invite others to share our joy. A couple weeks ago, my wife and I saw the latest Captain America film, which I found to be a thrilling and profound summer flick. As we left the cinema, I couldn’t wait to tell my friends to go see it. There’s something about the joy we take in things that isn’t completed until we’ve opened it up to others to exult in.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen movies that I didn’t want to share with others. Perhaps I was surprised by something in the film and was embarrassed to recommend it. There have been times when I’ve thought about what I would tell a friend about a movie, and have realized that I would have so many warnings and caveats that I couldn’t actually recommend it at all. This isn’t a foolproof test, of course; you may have different tastes and expectations than those around you. But it is a useful exercise to ask yourself, “Is this film a pleasure I can share with joy, or is it something I’d rather not talk about with people that I love and trust?” 

Summer is a wonderful season for movie lovers. Make time to catch a flick or two (or 3!) this season, and use these questions to help you not just passively experience a film, but take it captive to the mind of Christ. 

By / Jun 9

Recently, my son (and pastor) Jedidiah asked me to preach on “ the Christian and entertainment” as part of a series touching on our work, money, politics, relationships, and more as Christians. I had a week to prepare, and I thought it was doable, but like the fellow who reported on a curious new fish he’d landed and cooked, the more he chewed it, the bigger it got. There were some anxious moments as I negotiated the range of pertinent Scripture in the evenings of a week filled with teaching. Time ran out on Saturday, and I emailed these 10 points (with no poem) to the PowerPoint man for the Sunday service. Here are the points, which are a start for what I take to be a work in progress.

1. Unstring the bow (Exod. 20:8-11): As Melville wrote in Moby Dick, the harpooner did a better job when he arrived at the whale when he hadn’t had to suffer the strain of rowing along with the others. We can’t endure endless striving. We need a break with refreshments. Still, given the Commandment’s weekday prescription, we rest to work rather than work to rest.

2. Gravitate toward light (Phil. 4:8): Paul urges us to dwell on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, morally excellent, and praiseworthy. But, of course, he doesn’t say we should focus only on these things. He himself didn’t. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to talk about the unlovely snit involving Euodia and Syntyche. As for pure, the purest of books, the Bible, presents truthfully a lot of murky stuff. So we don’t need to limit ourselves to “sweetness and light,” refusing to watch replays of a cheap shot in football or covering our ears when the Sheriff of Nottingham starts to speak. But, as Paul says, edifying fare is our special love.

3. Don't overdo it (Prov. 23:20-21): Gluttony isn’t limited to food. Don’t “pig out” on diversions, whether playing endless rounds of golf or movie binging, such as the sort comedian Patton Oswalt chronicles in Silver Screen Fiend.

4. Don't be a mope (Eccl. 3:1-4): Some default proudly and frostily to the royal, “We are not amused.” But as “the preacher” tells us, there is a “time to laugh”—not the defiant laugh of bravado or the cruel laugh of Schadenfreude, but the tickled laugh of delight.

5. Love the entertainer (Gen. 9:20-23): When Noah claimed his “Miller Time,” rendering himself drunk and naked, his son Ham got a kick out of the spectacle and invited his brothers to have a look. They refused to join in the fun, but rather backed into the tent and laid a garment on their father, showing him love and respect. Similarly, we should not delight in performances requiring the performers to debauch or otherwise injure themselves. (Maybe we should have a special Humane Association disclaimer on movies, “No humans were harmed, physically or morally, in the making of this film.”) This was the impetus for the newspaperman suspending ads for late-19th-century prizefights in the Charles Sheldon book, In His Steps (cf., WWJD).

6. Neither a nitpicker nor a nitpickee Be (Luke 6:41-42; Gal. 2:1-5): Jesus warns against the hypercritical search for specks in others’ eyes while ignoring planks in one’s own eyes. And Paul bristled at legalists who made a stink over Titus’s non-circumcision. Go easy on judging others’ playlists and letting them judge yours, even if it includes a Johnny Cash song celebrating workplace theft, as in One Piece at a Time.

7. Mind the gap (Rom. 12:1-2; Acts 17:22-34; 2 Cor. 10:5; John 17:15): The Bible tells us to be “untransformed transformers,” to “take every thought captive” while we are “in the world.” We hold our own on Mars Hill, drawing on both consecration and cultural information. When the gap is too small, we’re compromised. When it’s too big, we’re ineffectual. Consider Weird Al Yankovic’s parody of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues video. We delight in the play of palindromes, but also in the way it makes light of dark forces, including 60s rebellion, beat poets, and rock videos in general. Some knowledge of background culture makes the lampoon richer.

8. Grow up (2 Tim. 2:22; 2 Pet. 1:3-8): You don’t have to convince kids to act impulsively on whatever they feel like doing, no matter how dumb. What a shame it would be to stay stuck in this frame of mindlessness. So we need to “flee youthful passions,” adding “goodness . . . knowledge . . . [and] self-control” to our faith. If you see a business labeled “modern,” it ain’t. The same goes for “adult” entertainment.

9. Love your neighbor (1 Corinthians 8): It’s one thing to have One Piece at a Time on your iPod and quite another to play it over the sound system at a church fellowship when a new believer, a “weaker brother” fresh from prison for running a chop shop, is present. (Note: Loving a weaker brother is not the same as indulging the Pharisaical agenda of a “stronger” brother.)

10. Love God's reputation (1 Cor. 10:31): When I worked in the SBC Executive Committee PR office, a colleague in the world of Baptist journalism mentioned the “New York Times test,” whereby one asked the question, “How would you like this deed to appear on the front page of the Times?” It’s a good question for our entertainment choices. If published and if people knew we were professing believers, would our picks “embarrass” God?

In the 1990s, Old Milwaukee beer ran a series of ads wherein sportsmen would kick back with a brew and some fresh caught fare (Louisiana bass; Alaskan king crab) and exult, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Sometimes I’d observe for my kids that, for the lost, it pretty much tops out at alcohol and fish. I think the same thing when I read Woody Allen’s recent reflection on life and art in an interview at the Cannes Film Festival: “We live in a random universe and you’re living a meaningless life, and everything you create in your life or do is going to vanish, and the Earth will vanish and the sun will burn out and the universe will be gone.” In this context, you might find relief “if you turn on a baseball game or you watch a Fred Astaire movie or you do something that distracts you.”This is a sad instance of “dead man talking.”

But for the living in Christ, a baseball game and a Fred Astaire movie can be a “lovely” refreshment, a time of recouping one’s strength for the good work ahead according to one’s divine calling. And watching Steph Curry entertain us with his artistry on the basketball court can provide us with a glimpse of the goodness of God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17).