‘The Media’ has become a pretty loaded term these days; right? Are we talking about advertisers, reporters, television producers, actors…who? The media is often the source of oversimplified pointed guilt and accusations when discussing what’s wrong with our society today. Most people can easily point to CNN, Fox News, or any ‘reality’ TV show on today and say, ‘there is your problem!’ But at the same time, where would we be without media today? Which television shows would we discuss the next day at school? What sporting events would be reported on and analyzed? How would we know what was going on with our family members across the country? Suffice it to say, we have a love/hate relationship with said media.
For me, I love TV and movies. Well, I don’t love all TV and movies, but I do love good TV and movies. But what do good TV and movies look like today? Like ‘Ridiculusness’ or ‘Teen Mom’? One movement that has come to the surface these past few years in TV and movies has been the ‘anti-hero’. Have you heard of this phrase before? Well, the idea is actually not a new one. The anti-hero is simply a main character who has characteristics contrary to that of a traditional hero.
Why has this come to be? What is it about the anti-hero that makes them so popular today? Perhaps it’s our own private urges and fantasies to break the rules every now and again? Perhaps it’s a way for us to imagine justice being served even as it goes beyond what we consider culturally approved?
The television executives are pretty smart people, but they are not completely unattainably smarter than any of us in this room today. The fact of the matter is this: the media publishes and produces what people will watch, read, and listen to. So the question for us today is: why are we watching, reading, and listening to so much of what we consider to be the source of our own unhappiness, corruption, and general disapproval?
The larger spiritual conflict I see is that most of what we experience through the media is counter to what Christ calls us to be. We have all heard of the sermon on the mount, but would we watch it on TV if it was on during the same time as the season finale of ‘The Bachelor’? Maybe we could combine the two of them…
Every day we are receiving mixed messages about who to be, and how to act in today’s world:
Make as much money as possible Give your money away
Buy as much as you can Give your possessions away
Look like these models God created you in God’s image
Choose a political party and yell Choose the kingdom of God
Buy guns and use violence Turn the other cheek
The strong survive The meek shall inherit the earth
Take care of yourself first Use compassion for others
Be aggressive Be kind
The loudest and proudest win Be humble
Give me what I want NOW Be patient
So how are we to make sense of these paradoxical tendencies? On one hand we want to follow Jesus in our lives. On the other hand, we have message after message (around 5,000 each day) telling us to live our lives with different values. What values should we be living by?
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
The author (Paul) was first writing about what behaviors we are to ‘shed’ from our clothing.
We then pick up with him at verse 12, where he reminds us of who we are: chosen, holy, and beloved.
He then continues to tell us what to ‘put on’, but why these words?
In a creative way, Paul reminds us that we are not what we literally wear; we are God’s children, and we will be noted by our actions in life.
On top of this, the ‘things’ that we need in life are already within us. Contrary to belief, we don’t need to buy the most fashionable car or truck to live as Christ calls us to live! In fact, nothing we can purchase will be able to ultimately define us as a human being.
Jesus mentions this in one of his most famous teachings called the sermon on the mount, or the Beatitudes. Here we have what I consider to be one of the most radical teachings of the entire Bible…and what also made me fall in love with Jesus. Here we have Jesus turning the old ideas and expectations about how the world works on its head.
In a similar way, Jesus used stories to discuss his views on how the world should be. In one particular situation, Jesus was approached by a lawyer who wanted to know how to live a good life. Jesus replied that we are to love our neighbor. The lawyer, being the detail oriented person that he was, asked Jesus, who, EXACTLY, was his neighbor. And Jesus responded with one of the greatest stories of his ministry known as the ‘Good Samaritan’.
There is something called ‘Emotional Intelligence’ in research these days. Basically, the higher you score, the more able you are to acknowledge other’s emotions, as well as you are. These people are by in large more ‘successful’ than others in the world, even who may be more intelligent (IQ).
One man, Daniel Goleman, who wrote a book on the subject, says that’s it’s about ‘noticing’ the other. We are simply too busy to pay attention to the world around us, even though our natural genetic disposition is to help other people.
Did Jesus just ‘notice’ more people?
I think what Paul was getting at, and what we need to hear today in 2015, is the same thing. We, as children of God, do not find identity in the things that media tells us we need. We find identity in Christ, and instead of learning how to live fulfilling lives from media, all we need to do is to look to Jesus to see how it’s done.
These behaviors create a unique identity apart from the world; one that tells the world that we are not only going to live by pop culture’s terms, we will live by Christ’s terms.
We have heard of the ‘anti-here’ before; this is the anti-anti hero!
When we start living with these behaviors and qualities as our first priorities, we open others and ourselves to experiencing God’s grace in very real ways that may not have been perceived when behaving in the ways of the world. We are walking in the Spirit.
Now, does this mean we are to shun the world and all that is within it? Some Christians believe so. But I think most ultimately come up with a sense of balance on how to experience and reconcile living in the world and living in the Spirit. I think there is a way to embrace both the world and the Spirit, and this is what Jesus did as well. Jesus hung out with the ruffians. He ate with the sinners. He cared for others who no one else would care for. But he also knew that his priority in life was not only in the world, but in his relationship with his Creator.
The Good News is this: God calls us to live by values that ascend, or go beyond, that of popular culture, but offer us the ability to love ourselves, notice the other, and offer grace to all whom we encounter.
We are being called to move from anti-heroes to anti-ANTI-heroes! We are being called to live courageously and compassionately, notice those in need, and walk in the Spirit.