Should your kids watch 13 Reasons Why? When you are asked this question what are you going to say? Questions about watching things or consuming culture that is questionable come up over and over again in life and ministry. I remember when I was first a kids pastor Harry Potter and Pokemon were all the rage. Parents would ask if their kids should participate at that time I looked at everything in the world with two lenses that aren’t horrible just incomplete. I saw everything through a secular/Christian framework. If you lead with only this framework, you tend to create kids who feel they are good based on what they avoid rather than see the world the lens of what they should love. It also tends to create a Christian subculture that the Bible never advocates for. We are to be in the world not separate from but also not defined by the world. This creates for us a paradoxical relationship between us and the world we live in.
In making things about what we avoid we unintentionally do what the Jews did we add to the Law of God many times good prohibitions that end up being a crushing burden the law was never intended to be. The role of the law was to reveal our sin, show us our need for a savior, and then direct us to how life works best. It was never intended to create a crushing burden. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to listen to “secular” music much of which my parents were right to prohibit. The problem is how the line was drawn. Christian music was defined primarily by the personal profession of faith by the lead singer of the band. I could never understand why this didn’t apply to clothing labels, movies or restaurants but I digress.
To distil everything into a good/bad litmus test you end up creating weird rules to determine what is ok and what should be banned. This can work, but it doesn’t give kids the tools they need to analyze culture the turn to cultural experts they trust to give them the thumbs up or thumbs down. This does little to help our kids navigate the complex world we live in. The question we should be asking is not is the good or bad? But is this true, good and beautiful.
Is this true?
The first question we have to ask is “Does this align with the truth of God’s word?” There are many things in this world that are not mentioned in the Bible such as Pokemon but does the story that the cultural good in question tells point us to the truth of God’s word or away from it. All truth is God’s truth, so even people who don’t profess to know Christ can proclaim his truth because of common grace. Does 13 Reasons Why advance God’s truth? No, it doesn’t. It diminishes the understanding that man is made in the image and likeness of God. It attaches our hope to our appetites.
Is it Good?
Is this thing good? We must teach our kids to cultivate goodness. The question for music, books, clothing is not “Did the person who created this ever make a profession of faith in Christ?” The question should be “Is this cultural item good or bad? Music is either good music or bad music. The goodness is defined not by the style but the content message and call to action. Does this song, book, clothing or art piece lead to human flourishing?
Is it Beautiful?
The God we serve is a self-revealing God. Does the cultural item in question point beyond itself and point you toward that which is truly beautiful. The pastor and poet George Herbert does this for me, but he was a Christian. Augustine does this for me. What about pagans? Plato, Aristotle, Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh were atheists all of which produced art that is beautiful because it points beyond itself to the world that created by God. Does 13 Reasons Why point to beauty beyond itself. I would say no as it has inspired many kids to take their lives because of the despair they find themselves in. Rather than point kids to greater hope, it feeds their despair.
Does it Glorify God?
The Last question we ask is, does this glorify God? As those who follow Christ, we are to live for the Glory of God alone. One of the foundational principles of the Protestant Reformation was Soli Deo Gloria for the glory of God alone. We must live, work, create and consume with this question “Will God be glorified by my creation or enjoyment of this thing?” If the answer to this question is no then avoids it if it is yes enjoy it and thank God for it. As Christians, we must be careful that we are not defined primarily by what we avoid, but we must strive to be defined by who we do all things for.
If our kids grow up with a secular sacrad view of the world they live in they will be unable to meet the demands the world creates. They will be ineffective at best and Pharisees at worst. We must teach them to long for the the good, the true, and the beautiful that in their lives Christ would be glorified.
Soli Deo Gloria