It happened to me again. As much as I try to steel myself against it, I still succumb. My emotions fell victim to the manipulation of another television plot. If I were less alert to the cunning process, my emotions would subtly influence my mind, leading me down the path of secular reasoning.
The first time occurred last year while watching the popular new series that parodies high school life, “Glee.” Teacher Will Schuester has resurrected his high school glee club, which played a vital role in his own student career. He is devoted, understanding and inspiring as its sponsor, holding together a highly diverse group of students who would be mutual enemies if they did not share a love for musical performance.
Will’s wife, Terri, epitomizes the self-absorbed, spoiled and aging beauty queen who senses that her former glory as a popular cheerleader is fading as she assumes the responsibilities of an adult housewife. She resists it with a detachment from reality that would qualify most people as psychotic. She is demanding, nagging and conniving. Will, however, patiently and faithfully loves her.
Emma, a school guidance counselor, becomes Will’s primary supporter and confidant at school. She tries to restrain her romantic feelings for him, but they occasionally slip out. Her respect and faith in Will creates an emotional tension for him. His wife never notices, or selfishly ignores, his disappointments and discouragement, while Emma not only notices, but gently applies salve to his wounds.
The show deftly manipulates the audience’s affections. We begin to scoff at Will’s loyalty to his wife, thinking him foolish or naively dense. There is virtual applause when Will discovers Terri’s pretense of pregnancy, which drains all warm feelings for her, leaving him with wounds that appear irreparable. As his students sing Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” to Will, his emotional dam breaks and he rushes to find Emma, who is leaving the school after resigning. In a dramatic scene, with music blaring, Will kisses Emma, to the delight of the audience.
Wait a minute! What just happened? The Christian mind was absorbed by the insidious secular frame of reference. This illustrates the how the Christian mind can be absorbed by crafty secular thinking.
Harry Blamires has written in The Christian Mind, “To think secularly is to think within a frame of reference bounded by the limits of our life on earth; it is to keep one’s calculations rooted in this-worldly criteria. To think Christianly is to accept all things with the mind as related, directly or indirectly, to man’s eternal destiny as the redeemed and chosen child of God.”
According to Blamires, “There is no longer a Christian mind. … as a thinking being, the modern Christian has succumbed to secularization. … he rejects the religious view of life, the view which sets all earthly issues within the context of the eternal, the view which relates all human problems – social, political, cultural – to the doctrinal foundations of the Christian Faith, the view which sees all things here below in terms of God’s supremacy and earth’s transitoriness, in terms of Heaven and Hell.”
The secularist believes truth must be constructed. In our society truth resides in the opinionated self. The individual manufactures the truth that will best serve his needs at the time.
Will constructed a truth about marriage that ultimately grounds itself in the individual’s felt needs and emotions. When love dies for one’s spouse and blossoms for someone else, then marriage is reduced to legal procedures that dissolve one union and create a new one. This strategy is not only acceptable, it is rational.
This same contrivance dominates another hot series, “The Good Wife.” Alicia had discontinued her career as a promising lawyer after marrying Peter to raise two children and support her husband’s career as a Chicago state’s attorney. Peter is indicted on corruption charges and exposed in a sex scandal, forcing Alicia to seek employment as a litigator at a prestigious law firm.
One of the firm’s partners, Will, apparently enjoyed more than a close friendship with Alicia at Georgetown law school. Romantic tension builds in their renewed relationship, until Will declares his love for her. Peter still loves his wife and children and is trying to rebuild his life after being acquitted on the corruption charges.
Alicia quietly wrestles with her emotional ambivalence, while the show steers the audience to root for Will. Although Peter appears repentant at times, Alicia holds him at arm’s length. And he seems more intent on recovering his political career than restoring his marriage. Why shouldn’t Alicia dump him.
How should the Christian think about these scenarios? Jesus made this statement about marriage: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt. 19:4-6)
And what about divorce? Malachi 2:16 says, “’For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord.” When the Pharisees challenged Jesus about His position on marriage, pointing out that Moses legislated divorce, He replied, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matt. 19:8)
“From the beginning,” as it was revealed to us in Scriptures (“Have you not read”), God established marriage as a mysterious one-flesh union, which unites a man and woman with a powerful bond. Human sin can complicate this union, but God did not design it with escape clauses. It grieves the Designer when the union is legally dissolved.
There is a clear dichotomy between the secular and religious views of marriage. Have we as Christians trained our minds to identify the distinction? Or are we fair game to the subtle manipulations of the secular framework?