Fictional Depictions of Sin Part 3 – Popular Media and Conclusions

Read Part 2 First!

Popular Media

Thus, dealing with sin in popular media comes down to seeing both its use and intent. We should not avoid seeing it altogether – after all, sin just remains part of human experience, and to ignore it makes for a very big problem – but we also should not revel in it. Much of this comes down to the intent of the writer and creators of said media. What purpose does X or Y serve in their particular product? Does it exist for its own sake, for the purpose of story, to enhance game mechanics, or just for aesthetic design? Any number of factors could come into play.

On the other hand, another person’s intent does not mean that such a product will resonate in the same way from a personal level. Let’s take video games for example. There are things I don’t like in some video games, and the entire Review section of this very site should give you a taste. Rarely do I ever use those reviews to talk about anything but the game, only mentioning content that offends me if it’s worth the mention. The same goes for The List. I know many people can’t play Bayonetta due to either a lack of video game dexterity or simply because the hyper-sexual weirdness of the game totally turns them off. While I know Hideki Kamiya designed it this way due to the humor, some might see it as titillation or exploitation. Both of those seem like perfectly acceptable explanations for those people personally, and that makes plenty of sense.

How does one judge intent, though? Really, we can only know our own motivations and thoughts to a degree. We know our own shortcomings and failings; that should make the process of discerning what’s right and wrong for ourselves quite easy. Some people can watch gruesome serial killer television like The Killing; others just wouldn’t like it purely due to subject matter (translation: my mother). Some movies might incite you to lust – therefore, do not watch them. That does not mean the intent of the creator was to bring those feelings up. They cannot design it for everyone, and to demand for such a change is quite selfish. Rather, you must monitor yourself. A hard and fast rule doesn’t exist in our new media culture.

As for me, I just like playing games; if the story’s good, then I’m fine with it. It’s not my place to say what content, sin or otherwise, should exist in the story – rather, I should be trying to understand why it’s there and what it does to the whole. Does it benefit the game systems and rules? If there’s a notable improvement due to the placement of context, then I approve. If it adds nothing, then I will certainly point it out; if it does, I’ll be sure to point that out too. To condemn the use of sin in media outright, though, make it nearly impossible to create what we’d call good literature, or good video games. We need conflict, inciting actions, and progressions of characters. There’s literally no way to make an exciting story otherwise, but there’s also a need to craft the tale without shock value…unless you’re Quentin Tarantino, I guess!

Conclusions

As per usual, there’s no hard and fast rules to how Christians should either create popular media with sin in it or how much is even necessary to absorb. If there were, I imagine nearly two thousands words wouldn’t be needed to parse out the subject. Some Christians will have problems with it, and will want to avoid it. Others will add it, knowing that it will enhance the effect in the end.

I tend to see the Bible and Christianity in the latter sense. The Bible’s full of bad stories, and so is the history of Christianity. Bad things happen a whole darn lot, and God’s there to either point this out or punish. And yet, in the end, grace does indeed cover all. We could not know this grace without the weight of sin bearing down upon us, and the concept still literally makes no sense to me, But, without sin in the picture, we’ve got nothing to contrast and see. We must deal with realities, not empty dreams and wishes; the Bible confronts sin directly, and we should follow that same example in our own creative pursuits.

Way to go, Zach, you just gave a definitive judgment when you said you weren’t going to! Oh well, good essays have strong conclusions with little wiggle room, so there…

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.