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God does not override our free will. But He sometimes gives us black-or-white choices. And these sharp choices seem to be lining up like train cars, forcing Christians to choose between this world and His Kingdom.
The latest example of this black-and-white, heaven-or-earth choice comes from Netflix.
The Netflix Decision #
For the past three years, Netflix has become increasingly leftist in its programming and policies.
Two years ago, Netflix released a series called 13 Reasons, which glamorized teen suicide. People offended by Netflix’s normalization of suicide canceled their subscriptions. Psychologists and doctors complained that Netflix’s ill-advised program made their jobs of counseling suicidal teens more difficult. Statisticians noticed a marked increase in both teen suicides and suicidal thoughts. But Netflix pushed ahead.
In October 2018, Netflix launched a children’s cartoon, Pachamama, that paid homage to a South American demon. (To be fair, the Pope also paid homage to the same demon in St. Peter’s Basilica.) Christians, and Catholics in particular, complained, but Netflix did not relent.
In 2018, Netflix added Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, to its board of directors. Conservatives complained, but Ms. Rice is still on its board.
A few conservatives and Christians canceled their Netflix subscriptions during these controversies but not enough to change Netflix’s direction. Most conservatives complained but refused to deny themselves the pleasures of binge-watching their favorite non-demonic programming.
As we said earlier, though, God has a way of forcing us to choose. The world or Him.
Netflix released a movie last week called Cuties. As we reported earlier, Cuties is child porn as defined by 18 US Code § 2252(a)(2)(A):
the producing of such visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
Cuties shows 11-year-old girls twerking, stripping, and partially nude.
Netflix defends the movie by claiming it’s an indictment of the over-sexualization of 11-year-old girls. That argument is along the lines of saying the producers of Animal House hoped to expose college fraternity life’s excesses. They were perhaps hoping to inspire students to stop partying and start cracking the books a little more challenging.
As details of Cuties spread, Netflix cancelations skyrocketed. *Cuties forced decent people to choose between right and wrong. Choosing the right meant giving up the pleasure of many favorite television shows and movies. Choosing wrong meant giving up God.
As Dilbert creator Scott Adams tweeted today:
It's probably a coincidence that Netflix went full-Satanic. https://t.co/fzCA28nKvE
— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) September 16, 2020
In other words, Cuties eliminated the possibility of justifying Netflix. You can no longer be against the sexual exploitation of children and a Netflix subscriber. Put more harshly, only those who approve of sexual exploitation of children still subscribe to Netflix.
This forced choice is tremendously good news, and it should breed even more good news.
What will people do with their extra time? How will they fill the hours no longer spent binge-watching and eating Doritos?
The Benedict Option #
Canceling Netflix might open the door to a lifestyle change first described by writer Rod Dreher in his book The Benedict Option. The 2017 book was a little ahead of its time. As he wrote in the introduction:
I also came to see churches, including my own, as largely ineffective in combating the forces of cultural decline. Traditional, historic Christianity—whether Catholic, Protestant, or Eastern Orthodox—out to be a powerful counterforce to the radical individualism and secularism of modernity. Even though conservative Christians were said to be fighting a culture war, with the exception of the abortion and gay marriage issues, it was hard to see my people putting up much of a fight.
Dreher explains that Christians in a post-Christian world cannot simply go with the flow of culture. Instead, we must remain or become a subculture, much like the early monastics. Or even early Christians, when Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire.
This neo-monasticism means creating new friendships. It means we will make a little less money, have fewer “must-have” gadgets, live in different neighborhoods, and know far less about the moment’s trends. Our focus will become more on the eternal at the expense of the temporary.
That means giving up Netflix and, possibly, YouTube, Hulu, and other streaming services. It probably means exiting Facebook and Twitter for glitchy Christian alternatives.
You Will Have More Time #
Turning your back on the world, or much of the world, means you’ll have more time for Godly things.
Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix designed their platforms to trigger addictive behaviors. They take advantage of the convenience of smartphones to make their products irresistible. It’s not an accident that people lose hours and even weeks on these platforms. That’s precisely what they’re designed to do. (No, you cannot control how much time you spend on Twitter.)
Cal Newport documented how tech companies hack our brains. In Digital Minimalism, Newport explains that the purpose of phone apps like Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter is to override the parts of your brain that make you productive. The reason: you are their product. They sell your brain to advertisers.
Quoting a tech whistleblower who appeared in a feature on 60 Minutes: “This thing is a slot machine,” referring to smartphone apps. “[E]very time I check my phone, I’m playing the slot machine to see ‘What did I get?’ There’s a whole playbook of techniques that get used [by technology companies] to get you using the product for as long as possible.”
Replacing This World #
The same author wrote John 3:16 wrote 1 John 2:15. Let’s look at these passages.
For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting (John 3:16).
Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).
Many people, including many Catholic priests, believe John 3:16 is a commandment to love this world. But it’s not. It’s merely information, or revelation, about God. God created the world and loves His creation.
The next passage, though, is directive in nature: “Love not the world.”
Don’t be confused, because there is no contradiction here. We are told throughout the New Testament that management of the world has been assigned to another of God’s creatures, Satan. It’s possible that God loves Satan and all the fallen angels, but that doesn’t mean we must. When we love this world (which is managed by the evil one), we necessarily love what God tells us not to love. “Love not the world, nor things which are in the world,” is unmistakable. We are not to love this world, even if God does.
Now, what’s more worldly than smartphones that keep us in 24-hour communication with the world and the things in the world?
Exiting Netflix is a chance to escape our addiction to this world, the one God sent His only Son to rescue us from.
And Cuties has made that choice more of a mandate. We can no longer have one hand in the Holy Water font and the other on the remote. We cannot serve two masters. We thought we could. We created lots of distractions and amusements for ourselves. We told ourselves, “I shouldn’t be watching this, but I’m a good person.” We confused kindness with holiness.
Netflix has opened our eyes by fully exposing its demonic foundations. Now, it’s time to turn our backs on this world.