Monday, November 03, 2008

You Are What You Watch

I just heard the results of a study done on adolescent and young adult behaviours.
I looked up the study and found that CTV posted something about it on their website.

The report starts like this ...

"Groundbreaking research suggests that pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of TV with sexual dialogue and behavior than among those who have tamer viewing tastes."

So what you fill your mind with and spend your time looking at will influence your behaviour? Say it isn't so! Well actually studies show (like James Potter) that most people (88%) actually believe that what they watch or listen to in the media doesn't affect them. However, most of those same people believe that it does affect other weaker people and that those weaker people ought to avoid certain violent or otherwise offensive programming.

New neuroscience research, however, suggests that what we do in this physical world determines who we become. The model of a spiritual soul that is influenced by one category of our weekly activities – worship, prayer, church attendance, etc. – but not by our more mundane daily activities (like watching tv or playing video games) is becoming more and more ridiculous. This neuroscientific research has shown that:

"By repeatedly performing some behaviors we can change the function of our brain and even reshape it. Furthermore, repeated activities such as observing or reading about the behaviors of other people can change the physical shape of the brain and the strength of the neural impulses that correspond to the observed behaviors. The importation of external knowledge, feelings, morals and attitudes through sensory experience has been shown to change the shape and functioning of the brain."

"As an example, in London England taxicab drivers must spend two years learning every street, boulevard and cul-de-sac before they can begin to drive. When they began their training the hippocampus of these drivers was normal in size and density. This area of the brain is responsible for our sense of direction. After two years of intensive training, the hippocampus of these drivers was larger and denser than it had been, and it was also larger and denser than the hippocampus of comparable non-cabbies (Maguire et al., 2000). Intense memorization and training altered the hippocampus structure of these drivers. Considering this change from a different perspective, we could say that changes in the brain as a result of repetitive behaviors may reshape a person’s soul!"

[Much of this stuff on the function of the brain is from an article written by friends of mine Paul and Cahleen Shrier called Mirror Neurons and Visiting the Sick: A Neuroscientific Exploration of John Wesley’s Means of Grace.]

So we can reshape our brain by learning. The same research shows that our behaviours also reshape our brain. We change our brain by what we habitually do. We used to call that "developing a good habit." Now science proves it.

Actually, almost 300 years ago, John Wesley postulated that we can become sanctified by our repeated practices of spiritual discipline. Wesley’s theology of sanctification, highlights his role for "the means of grace" in sanctification, and his belief that acts of mercy, such as visiting the sick, allow God’s grace to sanctify us.

Some of the outward signs, words or actions that Wesley included in his means of grace were prayer, searching Scriptures, the Lord’s supper, gathering together in worship, and also acts of mercy towards others. Wesley believed that love of God and love of neighbor could not be separated. Therefore, acts of piety such as worship and prayer will increase a person’s love for neighbors, while acts of mercy such as visiting the sick and prisoners, providing others with food and clothing, will increase a person’s love of God.

He wrote that those who neglected acts of mercy “do not receive the grace they otherwise might.” Further, he argued that those who fulfill the acts of piety may still become weak and feeble in their Christian walk, because they have neglected acts of mercy.

Maybe the author of the Book of Hebrews was right when he said in chapter 12:

2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

He started that section off with:

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Fix our eyes on Jesus - great advice (an imperative really) in this media murky societty, and ...
Run your race with perseverence
Get rid of the stuff that tangles you up.

The truth still echos through our culture.

No comments: