Within the last few weeks there has been a new wave of social media videos that many people are talking about. In a day and age when smart phones are more abundant than smart decisions it seems it is easy to take a video in hopes of trying to get your 15 minutes of fame. Recently, these videos have turned from simply surprising someone on their birthday, to torturing a mentally handicap person or live-feeding your own suicide. What often perpetuates these videos is the fact that even news stations pick up because of their popularity and show these horrific videos. After this they are spread all over social media. It is a horrible cycle. One might think that Christians might be immune from such clickbait, but it seems that many Christians are watching these videos as well. My questions are: to what end does it bring us as Christians? Should we be entertained by such graphic scenes? Should we willfully subject ourselves to watch one of our brothers in Christ have their head decapitated? Should we be watching the latest high school fight video and laugh with glee when some kid is slammed to the ground whether they deserved it or not? What should our response be to these videos? I believe there are a few things to consider before you decide to click on that next graphic video.
Should We Thirst for Violence?
One might say that there is violence in the Bible. Just look at Samson, or even David who was a man after God’s own heart, after all. They were men of violence. There is no doubt that there are violent scenes in scripture. The Bible clearly says that there is a “Time for war” as Solomon wrote, but let us not forget that the Lord told David that he would not be the one who built God’s temple, because of so much violence (1 Chronicles 28:3). What was one of the reasons God destroyed the world? “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth,” said the Lord in Genesis 6. Finally, Jesus told Peter, “he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.” It is obvious that violence (even if that is violence to one’s own body), is not a Christian virtue. There are times when it is necessary, but it is never something that we should watch with joy. Violence should make us long for our conquering King to come and put an end to it all, not get our kicks from it.
How is this Keeping the Second Greatest Commandment?
In Matthew 22 Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. He responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is indeed a great commandment. However, he didn’t stop there. With the same breath he said, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The question is, when we click on that “Warning! Graphic Video” link, how are we keeping this commandment of God? By watching a despicable video of some kid getting punched, or someone walking out in front of a train . . . how is that showing love for your neighbor? These are people who bear the image of our Maker. Even if we are just watching this video so we can talk to others about it, in a way we are being entertained by it. You may not laugh, or even feel good about what you are seeing, but we are putting our desire to see the latest news (gossip) first over the dignity of our neighbor. How is this loving? We can still be informed about events, and not partake in a worldly way. Loving our neighbor is a command, and watching their demise is not a good way to show that love.
Is What You are Seeking Pure?
Paul told the people of Philippi, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things,” (Philippians 4:8). Most of these clickbait “graphic videos” do not fall into the category of true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praise worthy, do they? One of the best ways that I have found to help me discern if I should watch something like this is to ask, “Would I watch this with Jesus?” If the answer is no, then it is clear that it is not something you should be watching either. If these videos are not helping you to conform to the image of Christ, it may be that they are helping you conform to the patterns of this world. That is a step in the wrong direction. Many of these self-exploiting videos have no purity to them at all, and if this is the case, then we should be very careful not to fill our minds and hearts with images that ultimately were the cause of Jesus’ death upon the cross. We have enough sin in our own lives that we need forgiveness for. Do we really need to watch others’?
Violence and graphic content either to oneself or to someone else is not something we should glorify. In the movie Gladiator (I understand the irony), after swiftly dispatching his opponents, Maximus asks the crowd, “Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?” This is the question that we need to think through today. Are we entertained by the things that orthodox Christians have been ashamed of for centuries? Are we entertained by watching things that Jesus had to die for? The next time you are enticed to keep up with your friends by watching the latest explicit video, please ask yourself these questions. Be informed yes, but be not conformed to this world. Remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” It is not just those in these videos that will be judged, but also those getting some type of pleasure from watching them. Be a good neighbor. Be diligent. Be on guard, Christian, as the writer of Proverbs reminds us, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell