I am so far from telling other Christians what they should do with VidAngel. So far. I don’t want to be a member of the Fraternal Order of Discernment Police. I’m just wary of my own flesh. I hate the feeling of spoiled pleasures; I love the feeling of pure ones.
I’m putting this out there for your thoughts: am I overreacting?
We have never used VidAngel. We have used Fast forward and Click forward – neither of which are even remotely adequate. My wife and I use plugged in online to check out movies before watching them. After reading PIO we almost never actually watch the movie. If these movies do succeed in avoiding nudity or sex – they nearly always abuse the Lords name several times. It seems to be a prerequisite for any movie above a G rating. For us that alone will keep us from watching the movie or TV episode. Whether they bleep them or not, we know they said it. We know they did it. we know they approve of it.
VidAngel may be helpful to those who are determined watch every movie that comes out regardless of content. But I have to agree that ultimately the net good is suspect.
Overall it just seems to be nothing more than a little “conscience soothing” exercise. “Sure I watched that. But used VidAngel. Hey, I did my best.”
Not sure that excuse will stand the test of fire.
The big question is to what degree are we willing to engage in self-deception about how we spend our leisure time and the impact it has on our hearts. I don’t think your objections and concerns are minor. I think you’ve touched upon a heart problem that too many of us try to ignore or to explain away – the fact that we have become habituated to certain types of amusements and entertainments that inconveniently prick our conscience. We solve the dilemma not by walking away from what pricks the conscience but by finding clever ways of skirting around it, like filtering it through VidAngel, for instance. What better definition of addiction is there?
A couple (rather unsorted) additional thoughts:
1) Philosophy: VidAngel doesn’t filter bad philosophy or worldview. In the long run, this could prove to be as damaging. Sure, I know that even Toy Story has it’s problems (“We’re going to have to break a few rules, but if it works it’ll help everybody”), but I think VidAngel makes it much easier to put down your guard. After all, you’re filtering all the bad stuff out, right?
I’ll have to give it more thought, but I wonder if I do agree with the basic premise. After all, even if a scene is unneeded, does it not reflect the director’s worldview that it’s in there in the first place? Unless I’m mistaken, it can’t get in the final cut if the director doesn’t film it. I’m well aware I’m not consistent in my practice in this regard and do watch things that have scenes I skip over. However, something about VidAngel makes it too easy to outsource my worldview analysis of what I watch.
2) Quantity: VidAngel opens up a wealth of material that I frankly don’t need access to. I already have to be very careful not to over-indulge in TV watching and having more to choose from isn’t going to help me in that fight.
3) Ethics: I realize that they’ve updated the way they provide the service, but when VidAngel first came on the scene, I was bothered by how readily Christians were willing to give it a pass even though it was borderline illegal (and unethical). In my judgement, VidAngel’s legal reasoning was just as much sleight of hand as the Obama’s solution to the conception mandate. When you look just beneath the surface, they were still doing something that’s wrong. In my experience, Christians too readily look the other way when intellectual property laws are being violated or at least stretched.
Beyond the things I can clear articulate, there’s just something about filtering that makes me uneasy and does start pricking my conscience. Even though they say it’s the same thing as muting or fast forwarding, it’s not, perhaps because it’s passive instead of active. One thing I’ve noticed is that the crowd behind VidAngel (BYU TV, Studio C, etc.) seems to lack much cultural discernment and I think it spills over into the reasons for this service in the first place. I suppose I could attribute it to their being Mormon, but I’m concerned it goes a bit deeper. I just can’t quite put my finger on it.
This traces back to our understanding of human nature and the flesh. It’s always healthier to suspect oneself than to trust oneself, especially in the realm of entertainment.
Good thoughts and comments. I ran across this quote by Tertullian while preparing for an article I wrote recently:
But if we ought to abominate all that is immodest, on what ground is it right to hear what we must not speak? For all licentiousness of speech, nay, every idle word, is condemned by God. Why, in the same way, is it right to look on what it is disgraceful to do? (On Spectacles, 17.)