Movies, television shows, and music are available at a click of a remote or even now streaming from your computer. Many people click on the TV and watch whatever show or movie meets their fancy. There is even a term for this “channel surfing”. Millions and millions of dollars are spent on TV every year. Every year around $30 million dollars are spent by moviegoers. All of this indicates that we’re a culture that highly values it’s entertainment. Knowing this Mike Cosper wrote The Stories We Tell How TV And Movies Long For And Echo The Truth.
I’ll go ahead and tip my hand at the outset of this review about my thoughts on this book—I loved it! Cosper has a gift for taking cultural references and helping the reader understand them through a gospel-centered prism.
The Stories We Tell has as it’s goal “to trace out the ways stories about TV and movies intersect with the truth. I believe the Bible Story of the Bible—creation, fall redemption, and consummation is so pervasive, so all-encompassing of our world, that we can’t help but echo it (or movements within it) when we’re telling other stories” (13). We live in a world of stories. As I mentioned at the outset of this review people are inundated by a variety of TV shows and movies every single day. Cosper’s book is not only concerned with looking at what we view but also why what we view matters. In other words Cosper wants to help us think through how to be discerning about what we watch.
Cosper doesn’t neglect the fact that we need not only a grid through which to understand the particular issues he addresses, but provides practical guidance to his reader on issues he’s addressing. To this end he looks at, “How far is too far?, the ghosts of Eden, the search for love, violence in movies, heroes and messiahs and much more in this book.
At one point in the book Cosper shares a story of a man he’s ministered to whose struggling with sexual sin. He counsels him and helps provide healthy boundaries for the man. This man though didn’t desire to change at all. As I read this particular story in Cosper’s book I was struck in particular by this story. Do we desire to change truly? Sure, the gospel provides the reason for the change that has occurred when we were transferred from the Kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. The question still remains, “Do we truly desire change in our own lives?” For the Christian the answer should always be yes. We are after all “works in progress” which means we should desire as Luther said ongoing repentance—namely that it is to be ongoing throughout the entirety of our Christian lives. Yet, if we’re honest, through what we watch on a daily basis—we’re training our minds to live anything but Christianly. It’s precisely at this point that I think The Stories We Tell is so important.
First, Cosper is a pastor. He writes with a pastor’s heart to help us worship the Lord, he so clearly loves and wants his readers to love with all of our heart, mind and strength by His grace. There was a time in my own life where I mindless went from TV show to movie without even thinking about what was said or done in the show, or movie. Now knowing were I’ve come from in terms of an addiction to pornography I have to be very careful about what shows, or movies I see. The battle against the world, the flesh and the devil is very real. Don’t be deceived into thinking if you go see that movie with explicit graphics men that you don’t continue to think about those images. The truth is you will! Since I’ve learned that and know my tendencies very well I also know there are certain movies including PG-13 movies I can’t go see. I can’t see them because of the reason I’ve outlined and caution you against going to them as well.
Second, Cosper in this book isn’t legalistic. He knows fully well that providing a list of do’s and don’t won’t help his readers. That isn’t to say he doesn’t seek to provide biblical counsel and seek to exhort his readers to heed his counsel. Cosper knows that only the gospel can transform our lives, and so he seeks to take the gospel and apply it to how we watch movies. Over the past few years I’ve been thinking hard about what I watch and have made adjustments as I mentioned earlier “guardrails” if you will to help me not swerve out of the lane and stay on the straight and narrow. Guardrails aren’t legalistic they help guard our hearts and pursue practical purity—something every Christian is commanded to pursue as they follow God by His grace.
Finally, Cosper’s outstanding book will help readers see what they watch in a new way. Since I’ve thought about this topic quite a bit what I appreciated was the author’s analysis not only from a biblical-theological framework but also from a pastoral and practical perspective.
I believe that every Christian should read The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long For and Echo the Truth. We live in a world as Cosper notes that is fascinated with stories. We are inundated by them. There is a greater story than the story of our world. That story is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the gospel Jesus invaded our world when He was born in a manager in Bethlehem. Jesus lived a sinless life, died a bloody brutal but victorious death which offers sinners the forgiveness of sins, was buried and rose triumphantly on the third day. Our Savior is not silent—He is victorious, triumphant and exalted as our High Priest, Intercessor, and Mediator before the Father. I highly recommend this book and pray it will help you to not only think through what you watch and why it matters but as result of reading this book you will make adjustments in your life about what you watch. Our Lord sees all and knows all we do. We cannot evade His all knowing eye. For this reason and many others, I pray you’ll read this helpful and insightful book that connects the dots between the stories we tell and the one great Story—by helping us better understand the longings of the human heart while thoughtfully engaging with movies and TV shows that capture our imaginations and thus our lives.