Watching certain TV shows: Against our Catholic faith? III of III

…Watching certain TV shows:

Dear Father John, Is watching a show like the “Medium” against our Catholic faith? The show is from what I have heard is calling on spirits who have passed on from this life and supposedly can be reached through a medium.

In our first and second posts in this three part series, we reflected on as humans how we love art and entertainment. What is the power and purpose of entertainment. How to avoid immorality and how to be realistic in the entertainment we choose to enjoy.

Should I Watch “Medium”?

Now, I hope, we are ready to frame the specific question about the show “Medium” (or any show that someone may have a doubt about). Certainly, the show does not present an explicitly Christian view of the afterlife. It never mentions God, angels, devils, sin and salvation; it never shows Allison praying for guidance; it never raises the issue of purgatory, heaven, and hell… (At least, that’s my impression from reading about it.) Rather, it presents the world of ghosts as a kind of extension of this material world. Allison’s capacity to speak with dead people and to witness past and future events in her dreams is presented as a special gift, without any reference to God or the devil. She uses no rituals to call up dead spirits – no appeal to demons or unnamed spiritual forces. It’s just something she does, a capacity she has, through no fault or effort of her own. By getting involved in murder mysteries, this uncanny ability contributes to making dramatic situations that are, without a doubt, entertaining – if they weren’t entertaining, the show wouldn’t have endured seven seasons.

This materialistic view of the spirit world is reminiscent of the ancient pagan afterlife. As a result, repeatedly watching this show could easily, though subtly, make a Christian start thinking of the afterlife in pagan terms. That would be dangerous, because the pagan view of the afterlife obscures the reality of spiritual warfare that our Christian faith makes so clear to us. On the other hand, the show itself doesn’t promote real occult practices (at least, as far as I can tell from reading about it), which would definitely make it objectionable. And so, if the human drama is depicted in a way which promotes authentic virtues (courage, wisdom, prudence, justice, fidelity, purity…) – in other words, if the protagonists succeed because of those virtues – I can see how someone would consider watching “Medium” no less offensive than reading ancient Greek dramas like Medea or Antigone. (Please note: I am NOT saying that “Medium” is of the same literary quality as those plays.)

Drawing the Line

So then the question becomes something like this: When I am honest with myself, do I see my view of the afterlife being “paganized” a little bit by watching this show? If the answer to that question is yes, then I would say you should probably find another favorite show. But then, your reflection can continue: I have a few hours each week that I can spend enjoying some entertainment. I know that the purpose of entertainment is to help me relax, and at the same time to inspire and edify me – if I get some relaxation, inspiration, and edification every week, I am better able to keep “fighting the good fight” of my faith (1 Timothy 6:12). So, does “Medium” provide me with enough relaxation, inspiration, and edification to be worthy of my giving over an hour of my entertainment time to it? Would there be something else that may be a better investment?

I hope this long answer to a short question didn’t cause more confusion for you! But even if it did, I am sure that our other readers will have some valuable thoughts to share on this issue. God bless you!

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Art for this post on whether certain TV shows could be against our Catholic faith: Modified Comedy and Tragedy Mask Icon, Booyabazooka, 5 July 2006, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.

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