We’re Not Living in a Neutral Zone

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Obviously, I spend my days working as one of Plugged In’s editors. We do our best to sift through what’s happening in the entertainment world to give our readers accurate information they can use to make the discerning decisions for their families.

But I have a confession to make: It can still be easy to think that the principles we hope to teach families don’t necessarily apply to me.

That’s a temptation we face as parents, too. We want our kids to make good media decisions. We don’t want them to influenced by the problematic content floating around in popular culture. But when it comes to our own entertainment habits, we can get a bit lax. A bit lazy. We’re careful, deliberate and intentional regarding our kids’ screen time. But ours? Perhaps not so much. We’re adults after all, right?

I think there’s a subtle attraction in the idea that we can live in what Star Trek calls the “Neutral Zone.” That’s an agreed upon, demilitarized area where neither side in a warring conflict is allowed to go.

In our own lives, “neutral zone” thinking shows up when we start to think that there’s an area between right and wrong where we can just kind of hang out. We can start, almost unconsciously, to accept rationalizations like, “Yeah, I know there’s some stuff on that show that’s not great, but it doesn’t really affect me personally.” Friends, that’s neutral-zone thinking.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul rejects that mindset. He says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:15-17, NIV 1984 edition).

It’s easy to think of “evil” as something out there, something terrorists and murderers perpetrate. Paul, however, suggests that evil is far more insidious than that. And more subtle. It’s present in a world system that leaks into our lives in lots of ways—less dramatic ways. Because of that reality, Paul tells us, we need to be alert and realistic about the presence of the world’s influence in our lives, even when we don’t think we’re being influenced. Or, perhaps especially when we don’t think we’re being influenced.

A more literal translation of that first phrase from the verse above is this: “See, then, accurately how you walk around.” And I also like the way the King James Version puts it: “Look circumspectly.”

In other words, as you move through the world, pay attention. Look around. Notice what’s happening. Consider the worldview, narrative and values that are being thrust at you, because it’s not just children who need wisdom and discernment. If we’re not vigilant and intentional—with our own hearts and habits and choices, not just our children’s—we, too, may be quietly but significantly influenced by the world’s value system in ways that we’re not even conscious of.

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

charitysplace 9 months ago
True.

I pay attention to how things make me feel, what they cause me to think about, what attitudes they arise in me. What kind of thinking is this show / movie compounding in me?

It came vividly to life the other day when, watching a costume drama with a friend, she remarked, "Men are pigs. How can you even trust any of them?"

Negative depiction of men = broad generalization.

CONTENT doesn't even necessarily have to be graphic to be problematic -- the suggestion behind the behaviors can be just as insidious.