“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48)
Words to live by, right? It’s not so easy if you ask me.
A few years ago, a co-worker and I were discussing our spiritual lives when he made this analogy. Your conscience is like a radar scope. When you start out as a Christian, the only sins and imperfections you see are the ones really close to the center. As you grow in faith and knowledge of God, the scope becomes larger and larger, revealing more and more imperfections as it covers a greater area. What a perfect analogy!
Twelve years ago, I worked as a freelance roadie and guitar-tech, and most of my clients had never seen the inside of a church. Most of the people for whom I worked were largely amoral, and though I attended Mass every Sunday, my opinions and treatment of others were largely based on those of the people with whom I worked.
Eventually, I realized my career path led me away from my desire to be a family man. A year later I found myself at a Catholic college taking theology classes, attending daily Mass at a monastery, and having frequent conversations with various monks and sisters. My faith increased and God gave me the grace to begin chiseling away at the stone which didn’t belong, revealing the creation hidden within the marble. Lately it seems my radar scope can see 1,000 miles and I feel as though I can’t go five minutes without two planes crashing, however my wife and I recently made a breakthrough.
Recently, we had a state of the union type conversation about various forms of entertainment and its assumed value and impact on our souls. I only watch about two, maybe three hours of tv a week if I’m lucky and generally only while I’m doing laundry. My shows are Person of Interest, The Mentalist (serious knock-off of USA’s Psych), and New Girl which stars recent Sandra Fluke defender, Zoey Deschanel. My wife likes reality tv, which I abhor. I made a comment about the degree to which I abhor said reality tv and she retorted that my media isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either. So we sat down and had an honest conversation about the value of the media in our home. We outlined the criteria for holy entertainment, and we examined whether it glorified God and built up the Kingdom, or whether it defiled men and detracted from the building of God’s kingdom.
We agreed New Girl had to go. Sure, the characters are hilarious, but the writers use sex as an icebreaker and seem to resort to sex jokes when they’ve run out of steam on the good jokes at the beginning of each show. Also among the shows cut were the following: Scrubs, The Big Bang Theory, Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, American Idol, and COPS.
I know some of you are asking what is wrong with these shows. It took a while to figure out why my soul itched during and after each episode, but I think I figured it out. The characters in Scrubs, and TBBT are awful people, completely amoral, and I would never be friends with any of them in real life. In the Kitchen shows, Chef Ramsey tries to teach chefs and rehabilitate businesses, but he does it in a way which completely defiles the people he’s trying to mold. American Idol is probably a head scratcher for many. It seems rather innocuous, right? I’ve seen several episodes where a socially unfortunate individual auditions and the show makes a complete mockery, making fun of the physical appearance which God created, and made the individuals and their personalities a complete joke for millions of viewers around the world. The devil laughs. Then on one commercial, a girl is dancing while singing and Steven Tyler makes the comment that she must be great in bed. If American Idol were a job interview, and Steven Tyler were a boss interviewing a potential employee, he would be slapped with a sexual harassment suit quicker than he could say “walk this way”. Neither the dancing nor the comment are appropriate for family viewing, yet because it’s classified as entertainment, it’s perfectly okay.
I know I sound like a fuddy-duddy, almost to the degree of George Will cursing America’s love of blue jeans, but if perfection is what we’re called to pursue, shouldn’t we cut out all the things which are hindrances? Certainly we may not be able to cancel immoral tv shows, but must we allow such shows to enter our home? If Jesus were to come knocking, would you respond, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…because I’m watching South Park?” I would hope not. I too am guilty of these same sins. Let us together pray that we may have the strength and self denial to prune those things from our lives which distract us from pursuing perfection.
“Today it is not enough for men and women to be good. Moreover, whoever is content to be nearly good, is not good enough. It is necessary to be “revolutionary”. Faced by hedonism, faced by the pagan and materialistic wares that we are being offered, Christ wants objectors! – rebels of Love!” (Furrow, 128)