November 1, 1994
Susan’s boy, Jason, is always pushing at the rules. If she tells him to stay on the sidewalk, he drags one foot in the gutter. If she says he needs to drink all his milk, he leaves a centimeter in the bottom of the glass. If she tells him to hurry, he dawdles.
When I watch television, I get the impression writers and producers are something like Jason. Society has certain established norms, rules that are generally accepted and required, but for whatever reasons, television shows push the rules.
For instance, it was once a norm that cursing, nudity and direct camera shots of violence or blood-spilling was not seen on prime time TV; it would not be accepted. But these days, almost anything goes.
Responsibility belongs, in part, to viewers. Because of prevailing discontentment, television audiences flick channels unceasingly, looking for new things to watch. Their entertainment must be unusual or they find it “boring.” Few like too many reruns and no one wants to see the same commercials twice in one evening.
Because of boredom, television sitcoms and talk shows are easily able to present as normal what could be called “fringe elements.” Consequently, the bizarre beliefs and behaviors of a small percent of the population become appealing. If viewers are exposed several times a week, week after week, year after year, fringe elements are soon considered normal.
Further, as viewers become accustomed to even the most bizarre, they begin demanding material that is even farther out. The capacity to be easily bored thus expands the market for everyone in the entertainment industry.
Of course this also pertains to advertising. Companies know if they can create an impression that EVERYONE is buying a new car, or EVERYONE takes a drink when they are upset, or EVERYONE looks like a New York model, consumers will want at least the same and usually more. Most of the time, these impressions are myths. Many people are not weird or even outstanding. Many still drive old cars, are able to handle their problems, and have plain faces and bodies.
How should Christian people respond to “fringe element” programming and marketing? Obviously, being a good steward of the resources entrusted to us means ignoring advertising innuendo and not buying the latest products. Certainly we do not need to abandon our “obsolete” beliefs and behaviors simply because someone pushes the myth that everyone else has rejected Christianity.
Avoiding a pull to the fringe means also taking the offense. Instead of trying to fill up with material goods or pushing the norms of our faith, we need to fully grab hold of what Christ offers. He said, “I came to give you life, and that more abundantly.”
Jesus was not talking about a Leer jet, a cottage at the beach, and wide acclaim for being “different.” He meant that following Him is a rich and meaningful way to live, even exciting and “on the edge.” But Christian living is not pushing rules or living on the fringe.
Actually, all-out living for Christ makes the most tantalizing fringe elements boring. While He does challenge us to be content with where we are and what we have, He also calls us to live beyond our visible resources, both personal and material. If we make a radical commitment to follow Him in implicit obedience, He will take us places and ask of us activity that is above and beyond anything we could hope or even imagine. He invented abundant living; we didn’t!