What's the Value of Secular Movies, Music, or Literature?

It may seem silly, but we can learn quite a bit about modern movies, TV shows, music, and books from the fourth century—in particular from a great saint of the Church named Basil.  He wrote a small work called Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek LiteratureThere, St. Basil the Great tackled the question: "Is there any value in the pagan Greek philosophers and ancient Greek literature now that Christ has come?" 

To answer that question, St. Basil makes a parallel with the honeybee.[1]  The honeybee, he says, goes from flower to flower; however, it doesn't land on just any flower.  Instead, it chooses carefully which flower to land on and use for making honey.  St. Basil says that Christians should be like the honey bee: embracing the philosophical truths and positive values presented while casting aside portrayals of immoral conduct or pagan gods.

St. Basil's message from the fourth century is still relevant today.  Perhaps we could rephrase that question to read, "Is there any value in today's secular literature, movies and music?" The Church's answer is a resounding "yes!"  There are indeed many positive and healthy messages in movies, music, and the media—many of which reaffirm our Christian faith and values. 

Instructing our children in faith[2] means helping them see those timeless truths, healthy messages, and positive values in popular culture.  At the same time, it means helping our children be critical of the messages that they see and filtering out and avoiding those that are not consistent with their faith or beneficial to their moral and spiritual growth.  Simply put, our children need to think critically about the world around them.

Thus, when it comes to looking at what media sources you have in your home, the focus shouldn't be solely on enabling parental controls to filter content; rather, let us aim to nurture a life-filter in our kids that they can rely on as they grow in wisdom and stature.[3]  True instruction helps our kids live an exemplary life in Christ in the midst of mixed media messages about faith, priorities in life, relationships, human sexuality, and moral values.

[1] Cf. St. Basil the Great, Address to Young Men on the Right Use of Greek Literature. Chapter 4.

[2] Cf. Ephesians 6:4

[3] Cf. Luke 2:52