Paul suggests three things in this warning to Colossae. First, he indicates that these philosophies by nature are deceptive. That is, they can come to us appearing as or promising one thing while altogether being something else. Additionally, he writes that these are powerful ideas that can capture our thinking—significantly altering our view of the world. Ultimately, Paul is careful to stipulate that he is talking about ideas that are manufactured by the world and are contrary to Christ. All three of these qualities are present in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. This television drama indeed transmits a deceptive philosophy, contrary to Christ with the potential to take its audience captive.
Philosophy that takes us captive.
The most significant transmission of modern philosophy is through the arts. Our modern day philosophers are our musicians, artists, actors and authors. Every song, novel, painting or script transmits with it a particular idea or way of viewing the world—that is the artist’s idea or way of viewing the world. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias observes that this particular deployment of philosophy, “does not feel the constraint of reason or come under the binding structures of argument. It finds its refuge in the imagination and feeling. Ways of thinking at this level may enter one’s consciousness via a play or a novel, or touch the imagination through visual media, making belief-altering impact by capturing the emotions. It is immensely effective, and literature, drama, and music have historically molded the soul of a nation far more than solid reasoning has." (1) That idea, when inserted into melody or narrative— that idea, when packaged with emotion, becomes especially compelling and memorable. Zacharias asserts that it has the power not only to sway the thinking of a person, but an entire generation and culture. Art makes ideas sticky.
These ideas are not only sticky, as Paul warns in his letter, they can also be dangerous. Ideas are especially dangerous when their primary audience is our adolescents. This is an audience that is just beginning to construct its worldview. It is an audience that is just beginning to ponder the purpose and meaning of life, relationship and sexuality. It is an audience whose brain (that is constructing that worldview) is still under development itself.
“Dangerous” is a word that continues to emerge in the reviews of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. In both faith-based and secular circles, critics are writing with grave concern particularly for the series’ treatment of the themes of sexual abuse (rape) and suicide—both of which are graphically portrayed. Some are even calling Netflix to pull the series from its video library for fear that its intense “trigger points” may cause a rash of harm among our teenagers. Dr. Harold Koplewicz said Friday to TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie: “This show should be pulled off the air immediately.” (2)
A philosophy that is hollow and deceptive.
What makes 13 Reasons Why especially dangerous are the voices who are championing it as a vehicle for “awareness” and a platform for “conversation.” The executive producer Selena Gomez boasts that the series is "a beautifully tragic, complicated yet suspenseful story" portraying "a subject that is not easy to talk about." (3)
Teen suicide? "Beautifully tragic"? What a hollow claim! The deception here is that exposure to the violence of the dark is necessary to appreciate the virtue of the light. Even if that were true, there is no light in the story. There is no virtue. There is no redemption. There is no solution. For Hannah Baker, the 11th grade girl who commits suicide, and all the 13 Reasons that remain, there is no hope. It is Godless.
A philosophy that is contrary to Christ.
13 Reasons is undeniably dark. But what we need to understand is why we are attracted to dark things. Jesus says that we—in our sin nature—are lovers of the dark. He said to Nicodemus, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3.19 ESV) The attraction to this artwork is just that—an attraction to dark things. We must come to reckon that artwork such as this satisfies the flesh’s curiosity or craving for what is violent and vile. Ultimately, it isn’t an art problem, a philosophy or culture problem. It is a heart problem. It is an us problem. The flesh desires to subscribe to what is contrary to Christ.
We agree that healthy conversation is needed between parents and teens. Conversation about the artwork we engage (and the ideas they deploy) needs to be fluid and ongoing. But we don’t have to engage dark works and hollow philosophies to have that conversation. God has already started the conversation with us—He has given us His Word. God gives to us His truth, His philosophy—and does so artfully through the melody and narrative, poetry and prose of the Bible.
God’s ideas are wrapped in light, not darkness. He defines what is truly admirable and what we should champion. As Paul writes his final thoughts to Philippi, he commends, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice." (Philippians 4.8) These are the ideas that warrant our attention. These are the philosophies that deserve our affections. These are the things that we should help our teens learn and put into practice.
We at GBYouth are glad to join you in the conversation. Please find additional reviews and feedback below on 13 Reasons Why. Wanna chat? Let’s get together (parents and youth pastor) this Sunday evening at 6PM in David's Place to discuss the 13 series as well as other art and media concerns.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, contact the suicide prevention hotline below.
Suicide prevention hotline.
Call 1-800-273-8255 or chat online at:
Additional reviews and feedback:
Albert Mohler, President of the The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission:
Jason Curry, Student Pastor:
Aimee Jenkins, Mom (warning-detailed review):
Plugged In Media Online:
Common Sense Media:
Family Policy Institute:
13 Reasons Why:
A Parentnar on Media, Content and Connection
Sunday, May 7, 6P
LOCATION: GBC: David's Place, in the Youth Building
1. Zacharias, Ravi. "Living an Apologetic Life." RZIM. Accessed May 02, 2017. http://rzim.org/just-thinking/living-an-apologetic-life/.
2. Pawlowski, A. "Psychiatrist: Netflix should remove '13 Reasons Why' immediately." TODAY.com. April 28, 2017. Accessed May 02, 2017. http://www.today.com/parents/13-reasons-why-psychiatrist-calls-netflix-pull-series-t110934?cid=sm_npd_td_fb_ma.
3. "Selena Gomez responds to '13 Reasons Why' controversy." Fox News. Accessed May 02, 2017. http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/04/30/selena-gomez-responds-to-13-reasons-why-controversy.html.