Fending off near occasions of sin

Fending off near occasions of sin October 8, 2012

Late last week, Xanthate asked:

I got to ask, as a Christian, how do you feel comfortable watching media which frequently glamorises violence, non-married sex, and other sins? I’m a recent convert, and I’ve chosen not to watch/read this sort of stuff, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

I don’t watch much TV, just The Thick of It (for the vigorous and inventive invective) and Switched at Birth (for the ASL practise).  So I don’t run into much sex on either show.  (Plenty of wrath-as-humor on The Thick of It, though).  Since I’m a pretty unromantic person, this isn’t the kind of temptation I spend much time worrying about.

People’s mileage may vary, but here’s the kind of bad media consumption that I try to curb (and haven’t really done enough): reading people who annoy me and who I don’t expect to learn anything from.  I’ve made some attempts to purge Google Reader of feeds (religion-related or political) that just tick me off.

I don’t think these authors have something interesting or worthwhile to rebut, and they haven’t made critiques I find thought provoking.  Sometimes I justify their inclusion on the grounds that it’s defensive reading — maybe they’ll slam one of my posts and I’ll want to know, but this isn’t a sufficient reason.  After all, I can rely on Google Analytics to tell me if I’m suddenly getting a lot of incoming visits from a takedown piece (or just count on one of you to notice I haven’t replied and comment).  And anything sufficiently interesting will probably get picked up by one of the bloggers I like and respect.

Reading dumb stuff I disagree with is practicing contempt and complacency.  It doesn’t spur me on to curiosity; it just gives me an opportunity to tsk tsk boring arguments and feel superior.  And keeping them around to rebut is just puffing myself up — the world will keep spinning whether or not I reply to everyone wrong on the internet.  Better to focus on questions where I have some weird/helpful reframing than wasting time answering dull questions posed in bad faith.

The other category of reading I tend to avoid is writeups of people’s problems that I have no business knowing.  Anything related to Charlie Sheen falls into this category.  Basically anything where I’m not going to do something practical with the information, the information isn’t inherently beautiful (like smallpox trivia is), and the subject of the information is in pain that I’m not acting to mitigate.


(Oh, and one of the big reasons I wanted to reply to Xanthate’s question is that I haven’t done as well I should in cutting myself off.  Writing this post shamed me into dropping five bad feeds from Google Reader).

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