What radio station is safe for your kids? What movies are safe? Many Christian parents find these to be easy questions. Christian radio doesn’t have any swearing or sexual content. VeggieTales is not only safe but gives Christian morals, right? I hate to break it to you, but both are frequently not safe. Christian critical thinking has been lulled to sleep by blindly accepting anything with a “Christian” label. When we watch other things on TV, we have our mental filters active, trying to see if its good for our kids or not, but if it’s Christian, or Disney, then we check our filters at the door. This is harmful because it means that the Christianity our children are learning is one of moralism and Christianized American self-fulfillment.
VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer apologized in 2011 for teaching moralism instead of gospel Christianity.
"I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . . And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have." (Source: Patheos).
So, the most popular Christian cartoon teaches the Oprah god. What does this mean? Kids are learning that self-esteem and self-fulfillment are our goals in life and God will help us get them so long as we’re nice.
What about Christian radio? The song “Free To Be Me” by Francesca Battistelli ranked #1 on Hot Christian in 2009 and was nominated for a Dove award in 2010. It was so catchy many of you will recognize its chorus:
'Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
And on my own I'm so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I'm free to be me
Notice what this says. Perfection is my enemy. Really? What’s good about this sentiment is that the song encourages us to not despair in failures and faults, but this song goes further by glorying in these faults. It says that I’m the kind of person who has faults and with God I am free to be that way. That’s what theologians call antinomianism, or cheap grace, an understanding of grace as to be permissive instead of transformative.
“Free to Be Me” is now becoming dated, but the theological atrocities ubiquitous in Christian songs is so pervasive on the radio that I would rather turn it off than listen. When DJs who have no theological training besides Americanized Christian culture come on and try to give advice, it comes out as what Phil Vischer described when he said, “We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore.”
This same problem is present in “Christian” TV, music, movies, social events, spirituality books, novels, and greeting cards. The solution is to not trust the label “Christian” any more than you should trust the label “organic.” After all, the National Review reports that false advertising of organic foods is not uncommon. The profits outweigh the penalties. It shouldn’t surprise us then that popular “Christian” music artists like Jennifer Knapp come out as being homosexual or popular author and pastor Rob Bell comes out as a universalist.
2 Peter 2:1 says, “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.” Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt 7:15).
How do we guard ourselves against false teaching? Cultivate critical thinking instead of censorship. Censorship oversimplifies matters by saying, “This group is good and this is bad.” Life is more complicated. Things generally have a mix of good and evil. Critical thinking takes a detailed look at which elements are good and which are bad. It doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It also doesn’t drink the tea without straining out the leaves. Critical thinking doesn’t blindly accept anything. In censoring children, you don’t allow them to build their own defenses. Instead, watch TV or listen to music with them and show them the good and the bad that are present. This trains them to be critical thinkers always on their guard and not as liable to poor influence.