Earlier this week, our youth minister, David Fraze sent me an interesting survey about families in America. The survey didn’t appear to have a blatant bias against or toward media. But it did ask a lot of poignant questions about the use, or overuse, of home media in American’s homes today.
Did you know that the average kid spends about 9-12 hours a day digesting some form of media? That’s everything from surfing the web to playing video games. The large majority of that time is of course television. That’s up quite a significant number from even five years ago. The stark truth is that we live in a world that is enmeshed in all forms of media, almost constantly.
In fact the only form of media that we aren’t being exposed to more, is print. That is we’re watching to more T.V. and reading less books.
Now I actually like T.V. and my Ipod and I love going to movies. But whether we want to admit it or not, life is a series of competing narratives. We all are living out some kind of story, my question is who’s telling our’s?
When the movie Patch Adams first came out, I was there opening night. I love Robin Williams and I loved the idea of the guy giving medical help with some soul. There was a girl who worked at Burger King who looked just like Monica Potter (the girl in the movie). And I was smitten.
I automatically assumed that she would be slightly socially awkward. She’d have a great sense of humor and be looking for love with a short man.
I was wrong.
Adolf Hitler wrote about a phenomenon in his book, “Mein Kampf” called the Big Lie. (To be clear, I don’t make it a habit to read Hitler). His point was directed toward the Jewish race. Here’s what he said:
“All this was inspired by the principle–which is quite true in itself–that in the big lie
there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation
are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than
consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they
more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often
tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.
It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not
believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
Here’s the only place I agree with Hitler, just not how he applied it. He says that if someone tells a lie, no matter how big it is, if it is repeated often enough, that it will wear someone down. His point was directed against the Jewish people, and ironically he used the Big Lie principle to turn a nation against them. They were responsible for the woes of German society, they cheated, lied, etc.
I have a friend who grew up in Nazi German who said that her father eventually forced them all to stop listening to the radio. He didn’t want them to believe that story.
There’s a story about a guy named Stephen in the book of Acts. Stephen is on trial for his life, the religious leaders of Israel are running a mock trial trying to shut him up as soon as possible. The high priest asks Stephen a question, Are you a blasphemer? And Stephen answers a yes or no question like this.
“Once Upon a Time.”
He spends an entire chapter telling the story of Scripture. Of Israel. To Israel. And then he gets killed. Sometimes we tell a story to change the world, sometimes we tell it so the world doesn’t change us.
I’m not someone who thinks that the television is the Devil, or that movies are bad. What I am concerned about, is how much we listen to alternative stories. I’m concerned that the wrong narratives might become the grid through which we view our own. Because NBC is never going to tell you that in order to live you must lay down your life. Fox is never going to say that the last shall be first.
There’s a reason that the Jewish people every year still celebrate Passover, by having the children ask questions about a story thousands of years old. There’s a reason that God emphasizes parents being intentional about telling their kids this alternative story. In the middle of a world with a thousand stories, they carve out time to tell their own.
Never underestimate the impact of what we imput. Because if you hear a lie enough, you start to believe it’s true. There are a thousand Once upon a Time’s out there.
Which one’s are you listening to?