In like a lion, and out like a lion. On the last day of March, Doctor Who actress Pearl Mackie revealed that the Doctor's next companion will be gay. For those of you Whovians who hear it first on this blog and are disappointed by the news, I am super, super sorry to have to be the one to break the ice.
Up until now, I have been silent about these things on social media. For one, it was because I wanted to weigh my response. Speak in haste, and repent at leisure. For another, I rarely, rarely see the benefit of speaking about divisive issues on the internet. I've been turning over in my mind this morning just exactly how to talk about it. And to be honest, this is a challenging topic. With Beauty and the Beast and the negligible content it contained, there does seem to be an amount of Christian liberty involved as to choose to go to it or not. Doctor Who's content remains yet to be seen.
What is wise during these times? To openly denounce, to talk about Christian liberty, to admonish and warn? I feel like that circuit has been covered. Some of the articles I enjoyed. Some of the articles I honestly didn't. But I feel like there's one angle of it that's not been covered yet, that might be helpful and fruitful for honest, Christian bibliophiles struggling with what to do.
And that's how to talk about it with your friends.
I struggle talking about potentially divisive things with friends. For one, I'm afraid they'll make a decision I don't approve of and that will cause tension, or vice-versa. For another, I'm afraid to hurt them if I speak honestly about how I feel, and they disagree.
But I strongly believe that transparent relationships in the Body of Christ are founded on loving truth.
In other words, please don't feel like you have to be silent. This is a prime example to practice maturity by being willing to face the scarier, more uncomfortable conversations. I hope these few suggestions will equip you with how to do that.
Build One Another Up
1. Start with private messaging or face-to-face conversations.
Facebook posts and Tweets can be helpful, but after a certain amount of people have posted about the issue, they lose their effectiveness. You can never say all you want to say in the tone you want to say it in. However, when you're on the phone and a friend can hear your voice, when you're sitting across a dining room table with cookies and tea, when you're side-by-side in church pews, when you're texting one on one, then you have the ability to share your actual tone of voice and the ability to hear the heart of your friend. It is probably (notice I'm not saying exclusively) more fruitful to discuss how to follow Christ in entertainment choices with those you know and love than sharing on social media. It is easier to spiral into hate, judgment, hasty words, and misunderstanding in public circles.
2. Do not fear man. Fear God alone.
Did you go to Beauty and the Beast? Did you stay home? Then you shouldn't change the way you talk about it based on the friends you're with. The way you most fear God is by being confident before all men in the course of action you have chosen that you think is most pleasing to him. That is all. You don't have to gush if you're with people who didn't watch it, but don't hide the fact, either. If you believe it was right, then you should stand on your belief, unless it would cause your brother to stumble. If you did not go for good reasons, then don't pretend to be excited and like it when your friends talk about it, just so you fit in. If you honestly don't know what to think yet, then it's OK to say you honestly don't know. Be kind, but honest. Assure them that you want them to be honest about how they feel as well. When a culture of honesty is created, then edification (point 4) and accountability (point 5) can be present, drawing both of you closer to Jesus Christ.
(I wish I could live up to these words as consistently as I would like.)
3. Edify one another by seeking the heart of Christ together.
What is the heart of God on these issues? Should Christians watch Doctor Who, when the companion is a proponent of an unbiblical lifestyle? How can I train my mental appetite to love what God loves and hate what he hates? How do I use my dollars wisely in supporting causes that are worthy ones? Am I sacrificing convictions for entertainment?
While I have never watched Doctor Who, these are all questions I wrestled with in Beauty and the Beast. A friend and I talked at great length how to handle it in a Godly way. And while we were doing that, we were having an honest, iron-sharpening-iron conversation that led us both closer to God, regardless of the decisions we ultimately make. When we seek Christ on these cultural issues, in company with a friend who loves the Lord, then we can build one another up and spur one another on toward wise decisions.
4. Try to listen without anger, defensiveness, and disappointment.
These are often our first reactions when we talk about potentially divisive issues, and understandably so. I think the first things that come to our mind are fear that our friends are compromising, fear that we are compromising, or just plain annoyance that they're making an issue over something that we think is overblown. Emotion is often a gut-level response to protect something that we love--whether it's a movie or a friendship. But letting our actions be dictated by these emotions can lead to unhealthy fear, unhealthy arguments, or unhealthy refusal to constructively disagree with one another.
The apostle James commands believers to "be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." Pray that God would guide your words and emotions in this conversation. Be comfortable with thinking silences as you talk with your friend. Let each other process. Ride the initial wave of emotion, and if you can, take time to get over anger or annoyance before you dive into a discussion of the subject. Share your thoughts with a humble and teachable spirit. Try not to talk too much so they can share their thoughts with you. Don't shame them. Don't ever shame them, even if you believe they're wrong. That will never win them to the truth. "How could anyone" "I can't believe anyone would ever" and "Why would you" are never good phrases to use. If the conversation is tense, end it with a gentle reminder that you love them, and they are more important to you than a movie. Then give it time to settle down.
5. Don't try to be the Holy Spirit. Share truth, and then leave the Holy Spirit to work in the other person's life.
Here's where the rubber meets the road. If you have a Christian friend who decides to see something or partake of social media that you have concerns about, then the question arises, what should you do? First of all, continue to be honest about your choices. They may be struggling, and you can be an example to them. Secondly, winsomely and clearly explain to them your concerns with the movie and Christians watching it. Do this once or twice, but no more. Thirdly, if you see that they don't know the heart of God on these issues, or their media choices are not mature, then be earnest in prayer for them--that God would grow them in wisdom and discernment. And lastly, if they are a mature believer, and they are making this decision in the fear of God, and you still disagree, then after you have honestly shared your concerns with them, take your hands off. You are not the Holy Spirit. Be a faithful friend, and then entrust their heart to God and trust him to sanctify them more and more in the image of his Son.
It's hard to navigate these days individually, not to mention corporately as the body of Christ. While we know the behavior itself in these movies is wrong, it leaves us wondering how to navigate conversations with people who fall on opposite sides of whether or not to watch them. I hope these thoughts have offered encouragement to be full of grace, truth, and honesty in our words and actions.
These are not easy days to live in. But I am so glad that someday these choices won't be part of our lives, and all who know Jesus can rest in the perfect, finished story of how God's love and redemption prevailed against sin to bring his people Home.