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Region: England, Wales and Northern Ireland

RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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Issues: The Media

What's the Christian view?

 

Is it possible to imagine a world without the media? Think about your typical day. You might listen to the radio while in the car. You may walk everywhere but listen to a podcast or music streamed via the internet. You will inevitably pass billboards featuring large adverts wherever you go. Newspapers and magazines await you at the checkout of the local shops. A typical evening at home might involve checking Instagram on your phone while sitting in front of the TV. The media is everywhere, and it's usually very loud.

TV, radio, the internet, newspapers and magazines give us information at our fingertips. But not just information. It shapes our values and our culture through the messages it promotes. Newspapers have famously taken credit for influencing national elections.

Films and TV programmes are regularly blamed for poor behaviour amongst young people. And increasingly, comments thoughtlessly written on social networking sites have led to tragedy. The media is a powerful force in the 21st century.

As such, many Christians have questioned how they ought to respond to it. Is it an enemy, promoting values that are anti-Christian and mock the faith? Or does it provide an opportunity to speak to millions across the country, and even the world? Can it be an instrument for change and a force that can bring a lot of good?

How do Christians respond to the media?

In summary, there are three responses that Christians have made to the issue of the media.

Some Christians protest against aspects of mainstream media. They see it as part of their Christian duty to stand up for what they consider good and true. High-profile examples might include the criticism of 'Jerry Springer - the Opera', considered blasphemous in its depiction of Jesus, Mary and God. In its day, Monty Python’s 'The Life of Brian' was boycotted by Christians who felt it mocked the person of Jesus, his teachings and death on the cross. They may choose to avoid certain newspapers that contain material considered unsuitable (e.g. topless models).

Some Christians may choose to create their own media channels, which contain more ‘wholesome’ material. Companies such as United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) and Premier Radio operate digital channels that provide programmes offering worship, discussion, and Bible teaching. There are a range of Christian magazines, for example, Christianity magazine, which offers stories and articles related to the Christian life.

Others, however, consider it important to contribute to mainstream media outlets and join in the debate and discussion they offer. The current Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, writes a regular column in The Sun newspaper. The BBC is bound to provide 155 hours of religious broadcasting as part of the license agreement. Many programmes that inform people about aspects of the Christian faith are produced by Christians themselves. These are often shown at Christmas or Easter times. Programmes here would probably draw a wider audience than those shown on exclusively Christian channels.

Reflect Imagine you are a Christian who wanted a career in the media. How would you respond to these ethical dilemmas? The Bible says that we have all been fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Would you work for a magazine that created impossible and unhelpful standards for female beauty? Jesus taught that it is impossible to worship God and money (Matthew 6:24). Would you work on a game show that traded on the dream of getting rich? The Bible says that Christians should avoid sexual immorality and coarse language (Ephesians 5:3-4). Would you swear or take your clothes off to get ahead in an acting career? The Ten Commandments say that people shouldn't bear false testimony against people - i.e. lie (Exodus 20:16). As a journalist, would you publish a story you didn't know was entirely true, or work with people who did this? Would you work for a paper that traded in gossip?