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Calling Filth by Name

You remember the classic fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Against overwhelming social pressure, a young boy alone has the courage and good sense to state what everyone else was denying — that the king was parading around in his underwear!

Well, we now have another young truth-teller pointing out the obvious. Not about an emperor’s wardrobe or lack thereof, but about a popular TV sitcom that has made millions for the entertainment industry even while, to borrow a well-worn phrase from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, it has defined deviancy down.

“If you watch ‘Two and a Half Men,’” this young TV critic says, "Please stop watching. ... Please stop filling your head with filth.” It’s the kind of verbal — if you’ll pardon the pun — dressing-down of Hollywood decadence we don’t often hear these days.

What makes it all the more striking is its source. The critic of “Two and a Half Men” is also one of its stars — 19-year old Angus T. Jones, the proverbial “half a man” in the show’s title.

Unlike a lot of people on TV and in the movies, Jones doesn’t gloss over the fact that what we watch can be harmful to our souls. “If I am doing any harm,” he said, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be contributing to the enemy’s plan.” Wow!

Even more amazing, this young man is starting to see the personal implications for his role on the program. “You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that,” Jones said. “I’m not okay with what I’m learning, what the Bible says, and being on that television show.”

Now Jones, who, according to WORLD magazine, is a convert to Seventh Day Adventism, has since apologized for his remarks — apologized, that is, if his remarks showed any disrespect to the people he has worked with on the show over the years.

But his point about “filling your head with filth” remains.

Jones, of course, is not the first star to question the appropriateness of Hollywood fare. Just earlier this year, actress Julia Roberts told People magazine she doesn’t allow her children to watch her movies. “We’re more book people in our house,” she told the magazine, adding that her family enjoys “stories and poetry and talking, sharing ideas.”

What Jones and Roberts are saying is something we Christians should know already: What we put into our heads affects us, for good or for ill. The steady drip-drip-drip of sexual humor showcased on “Two and a Half Men” and other shows conditions us to accept ideas that are antithetical to what God says about sexuality and the good life. It conforms us to the world.

There’s a reason Scripture exhorts us: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

But there’s another lesson here: As Christians, we have to reach the culture — which is the air most people breathe. Shockingly, except for a few shining examples, we’ve all but ceded the culture to the secular left. Our story — about Christ, grace, redemption and hope — is almost never represented in the public square outside of the narrow realms of politics or theology.

If we want to turn back the tide of unbelief, we cannot neglect the culture. We need to be creating sitcoms and movies and plant Christ’s flag in that world. After all, He owns it all.

It’s good to tell the truth about the darkness that is so prevalent in Hollywood. But it’s even better to light a candle.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: December 4, 2012

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