Can I watch popular secular TV shows as a Christian?

Are we free to do whatever we like or should we be focusing on the things of God rather than the things of this world?

There has been plenty of debate about series like Harry Potter, Love Island and Game of Thrones over the years, without any obvious consensus. Let’s explore both sides of the argument.

Yes, I can watch whatever I like…

We don’t live under the law any more, but under grace, and Jesus came to give us abundant life (see John 10:10). Romans 8:1-2 says: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” That means I’m free to enjoy the shows I like watching. Watching a show about murder, magic or adultery doesn’t mean I’m going around practising those things.

TV is entertainment, and it’s important to understand popular culture so I can relate to the people around me. How can I engage them without any common ground? Sex, violence and bad language are part of life, and shying away from them won’t do anyone any favours. It’s not like I’m sitting around watching porn all day! I’d rather have an open, honest debate, giving a Christian response to these shows, than have no idea what my non-Christian friends and colleagues are talking about.

Romans 14 talks about how one person feels OK about doing something another person might not, but that we shouldn’t judge each other for our personal choices. Verse 22 says: “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” If I feel fine about it, who has the right to judge me? As Christians we should act in love, not judgement.

No, I have to be very careful what I watch…

The Bible tells us to focus on things that are pure and lovely, and there’s nothing pure and lovely about most of these shows (Philippians 4:8). A lot of them are designed to shock us with their graphic content, while others contain subtler but equally dark themes. We’re called to be in the world but not of it (see John 17:14-16), which means we should be discerning about what we read, watch and consume. It’s so easy to become corrupted. We’re told to pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin (see Matthew 5:29)! God takes this stuff seriously. If we keep our eyes healthy they will cause us to be filled with light (see Matthew 6:22), but if not we will be filled with darkness.

We don’t have to watch these shows to talk about life issues; we see enough bad stuff happening around us every day. It’s better to spend time praying and worshipping God if we want to influence those around us. We read in 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” and in Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The more time I spend with him the less I want to do anything that might compromise me or my faith. I’d rather set a positive example than become a stumbling block (see 1 Corinthians 8:9).

Conclusion

These are just a couple of examples of the opinions out there, but it’s up to you to make up your own mind. If you feel as though watching these shows is wrong, listen to your conscience and steer well clear. If you don’t feel they have a negative impact on you, go ahead and watch, but don’t draw in others who might be weaker in their faith. If you’re spending more time watching controversial shows than doing the things of God, it might be worth re-evaluating your priorities. Whatever you choose to watch, remain prayerful and listen to the Holy Spirit. It may be that he has worthier things in store for you.

As 1 Corinthians 6:12 says: “‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me,’ but I will not be mastered by anything.”