Mad Men Returns

One of television’s most celebrated series returns to the air on Sunday. Mad Men is set in 1960s, revolving around the lives of Madison Avenue advertising executives, their families, their mistresses, and their secrets. Powerful screenwriting and acting has made it a darling of critics, a perennial award-season favorite, and a deeply loved show by its raving fan base.

But it’s a hard show to watch. In the opening episode of the series, we’re introduced to Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), the tall, dark, and handsome creative director at Sterling Cooper, a small but thriving advertising agency. In the episode he’s adored in the office, adored by a beautiful woman in Greenwich Village, and adored by his clients. The shock of the episode comes when he arrives at his beautiful suburban home, where his wife and children await him. Throughout the show, we see that Don is living with secrets, some rooted in a tragic childhood, some rooted in his own weakness and cowardice. Each character in the show, we discover, hides similar secrets, and the glamorous veneer of wealth and prosperity hides a sad and lonesome underbelly of insecurity, lust, and lies.

Why does it work? Why do we tune in to stories with this kind of grim story arc? Here are four possible reasons.

1. All Our Favorite People Are Broken

There’s a song by Over the Rhine called “All My Favorite People.” One verse muses:

Cause all my favorite people are broken
Believe me, my heart should know
As for your tender heart, this world’s going to rip it wide open,
It ain’t gonna be pretty, but you’re not alone

This idea seems resonant with Mad Men—a broken world full of broken people. We don’t know anyone whose lives resemble the stories in sitcoms and Hallmark movies, where the endings are always happy and the loose ends are always tied off. Instead, we live in a world where people we love do stupid things, and their consequences spread like kudzu.

Mad Men‘s genius writers, actors, and producers make depraved people deeply lovable. This is the way the world works. All of our favorite people are broken (including us), and we have a natural sympathy for fellow sinners. We empathize with Don’s weakness. We’re compassionate towards Betty’s fury. When we’re most truthful, we wrestle with what we’d do in their shoes.

2. Money, Power, and Sex Don’t Satisfy

Mad Men sometimes feels like the book of Ecclesiastes. It appears that these people have everything they could ever want, but social status, power, wealth, and glamorous sex lives don’t make any of them happy. Instead, their worlds unravel before our eyes. Each of Don’s conquests with work or women leave him more restless and lonesome. Peggy’s great sin in season one hangs over all of her achievements like a storm cloud. Pete Campbell’s insecurity drives him to attempt to live like Don or Roger Sterling, and each time he lives out those impulses, they break him. Men nearly worship Joan Harris, the redheaded bombshell, but she lives a miserable and isolated life.

Many movies and TV shows climax with some sort of victory. The protagonist works throughout the story towards some golden carrot—a financial score, a war victory, winning a woman’s love, or getting married. Mad Men shows that what we expect to make us ultimately happy lead to a greater sense of hollowness and emptiness.

3. Voyeuristic Phariseeism

The show appeals to our inner Pharisee. We love watching the mighty fall.

Many fan-favorite shows work on a similar principle. The producers of reality television shows know that abrasive and caustic personalities actually make the show more appealing. We love to root against the arrogant blowhard on Survivor, The Great Race, and Top Chef. Shows like Real Housewives and Jersey Shore seem to operate solely on this principle.

For Mad Men, it’s a fine line. There’s a sophisticated critique at work throughout the show, deconstructing the racist and chauvinist attitudes of the 60s, hinting at the ways those attitudes persist today. Only one woman works above the secretarial pool at the office, and there are no African Americans or Jews in the leading cast of characters. Some have suggested that Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, has deliberately structured the cast this way to deconstruct the white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant centers of power in American culture during the 20th century.

Whatever the motivation, the 99 percent tend to take a certain amount of twisted pleasure in watching the 1 percent stumble, struggle, and ultimately fall. Mad Men encourages such judgment, ripping back the veneer and showing us how sad the world is behind the tailored suits and manicured lawns.

4. Defining Moments

The background of the show includes the great issues of the 1960s: the Cold War, Space Race, Civil Rights Movement, Sexual Revolution, and Vietnam. Just as the lives of the characters are in a boiling upheaval, the world around them undergoes radical change. It makes us feel like we have a front-row seat for history, especially for folks (like me) who weren’t around for the first time. Audiences love the fashion, the jaunts into jazz clubs and beatnik parties, and the tie-ins with landmark moments like the Cuban missile crisis.

Mad Men‘s audience is the 9/11 generation, and it’s difficult not to think of 9/11 during the show’s opening credits, as a silhouette in a suit falls from a skyscraper. It’s been a tumultuous 10 years since that fateful day, with political polarization, two wars, and a changing social landscape. Perhaps we love the show because it allows us a way of thinking about many of our own issues through the lenses of the 1960s.

Perhaps, again, it’s much like Ecclesiastes, reminding us that the turmoil of our days isn’t unique, that there’s nothing new under the sun. Though very little has been leaked about the upcoming season (they are notoriously secretive about the plot lines of the show), we can be assured that as one of television’s most beloved and dark shows returns, people will tune in.

It is occasionally suggested that people don’t believe in sin anymore, that morality is relative in a pluralistic society. It’s remarkable, then, that a society as deeply pluralistic as ours has so completely embraced a show with such a strong moral tone as Mad Men. It doesn’t preach a certain kind of behavior, but it clearly demonstrates the consequences of failure. Maybe that tells us something about the common ground we have with the culture around us. Perhaps if we could all see the ways that we’re sin-sick like Don Draper—a tangled mess of lies, impulses and self-deception—we could more easily see how desperate we are for a Cure.

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  • Ralph

    +1 for the Over the Rhine reference :-)

    • Andy Boyer

      +2 for the OTR reference

      • Brent Iseli

        +3 on the OTR reference.

  • Matthew Rushing

    Thank you for putting into words what I have been trying to explain for years to people about why I like this show. Good Work!

  • Shaun

    It is a really tough show to watch given some of the graphic content/situations, but beyond that the reason I’ve watched is exactly what Cosper has laid out here; it’s a stunning commentary of sin and the hollowness that our yearning for idols (sex, money, success, etc.) eventually brings us. One of the reasons I always watched The Simpsons wasn’t because Bart Simpson spilled a couple expletives (if you can call them that), but because it took the odd, idiosyncratic, ridiculous, humorous and neurotic things that we do in our culture and magnified them x100 to help us realize them. It made light of those silly things. Shows like Mad Men also do this; they magnify our sin and show us that sin ultimately brings nothing but pain and suffering. Ultimately, we can only hope that by viewing a show, we recognize our own sin, and are drawn into repentance. Good thoughts, Cosper.

  • http://thetribulationtimesherald-exhorter.blogspot RN

    So what happens if someone in your congregation is struggling with sexual sin/pornography, and then they see this article written by a pastor, talking about interest in a television show that frequently features sexual situations. Perhaps that man struggling with pornography would think, “Oh, so porn watching is bad, but its ok to watch something like this, as long as I give it some sort of watery parallel with the book of Ecclesiastes”.

    Thanks for offering a constructive and desanctifying way to throw a rotten fish into the wellspring of the soul and the mind (Prov. 4:23)

    • Patrick Peringer

      Ouch! Harsh words, where’s the love? Personal discretion comes from the Holy Spirit, yes some people (particularly people who struggle with porn) should show discretion when viewing shows like this. You argument could also parallel bars. Would I send a recovering alcoholic to a bar? Certainly not! But should I as a discerning Christian try to engage this culture, to understand it, and to pray that through this culture I might learn something of my own depravity? Also, would I want to lay the blanket over all bars and say “they are all evil!” I would hope not.

      Personally, I love Mad Men. Yes there are episodes that I will not watch again due to questionable content, and yes the Spirit convicted me of this. I love it for all these reason Mike to elegantly laid out. I see myself in these characters (which means successful writing/storytelling) and I see how I do the same thing. I worship idols, I strive for carnal perfection, I want the “good life”. It also makes me realize how much I need Jesus, every day, every moment. Is it weird that I pray for these characters knowing that their only hope is in Jesus? Moreover I pray for the writers and hope that through seeing this level of honesty in their program they would turn to Jesus as well.

    • Pam

      Hey RN, it is amazing what lengths some will go to to justify sin.
      I am completely with you on this. And this coming from someone in church leadership. The subjects on this blog lend themselves to some other venue besides something titled “The Gospel Coalition”.

    • Kevin Jamison


      The beautiful and tragic thing about the internet is that it allows anyone who can type to contribute their voice to a discussion. This is beautiful when people decide to discuss and even duke out issues in community in a respectful way. This becomes tragic and ugly when people take pot-shots behind the veil of anonymity.

      If you don’t like Mad Men, no problem, feel free to move along. (Judging by your web address I think Kirk Cameron has made a few films you would like) But to level attacks against the character and integrity of an author and pastor while not even signing your name is nothing short of cowardice.

      Next time, try writing something like this:

      “I understand Mad Men features sexual situations. How have you as a pastor wrestled through watching and talking about this show when there are people who struggle with the sin of lust in your community? How do you use discernment in knowing what is beneficial to watch and what must be avoided? I appreciate that you contribute regularly to this website even though you don’t get paid for it. May God continue to bless you and your ministry.”

      If you were to do that, you might actually be helping to move the conversation forward. As it stands right now, your comment is a rotten fish thrown into the well of this discussion.

      • Ronald McDonald

        boom goes the dynamite. +1 to Kevin Jamison. -1 to RN.

      • JS Park

        Great response. Much secular media is redeemable.

      • Richard

        oh the irony

      • John Boyd


        Do you think your response to RN was any less judgmental than his post? Calling it “tragic” and accusing him of cowardice?

        Is it OK to take pot-shots when you sign your name?

        Just sayin’.

        • Kevin Jamison


          The word tragic connotes deep distress and sorrow. When I see people who present themselves as christians attacking the character of a man of God and pastor behind the veil of anonymity, it stirs in me deep distress and sorrow.

          The dictionary defines a coward as “a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.” Why do people post controversial and accusatory things on the internet and yet refuse to attach their name to their words? Because they lack the courage to endure unpleasant things, such as having either to stand behind their words or repent of them in the presence of real people and maybe even a real church.

          I hope that helps.

          • John Boyd

            No, it doesn’t help very much Kevin.

            He did not “attack the character of a man of God”. He simply expressed his opinion, albeit in a very blunt and sarcastic fashion, about what the man wrote. I don’t agree with the way he said it, but he said nothing about the author’s character, and it is an exaggeration and misrepresentation for you to characterize it as such.

            We could debate the reasons why people use usernames on the internet, other than their own given names. I would suggest that “cowardice” is not the only possible reason.

            I would suggest that the only offensive sentence in his post was the last one – a “pot-shot” that you threw back at him in kind. That was my point.

            Clearly, you don’t agree with him, but to sanctimoniously take him down (to the applause of at least one fan) in the way you did, was unwarranted in my opinion. He did NOT attack the author’s character. But you attacked his.

            • Angela

              I agree with you John. I thought Kevin’s comments were much more harsh and out of line. Thank you for the comment and the way you worded it.

            • Pam

              Just so no one is in the dark about this, Kevin Jamison is the pastor of Sojourn Church.

            • Angela

              Pam, thanks for revealing that important information. I definitely would have expected more from a pastor. Wow…wow.

            • Richard

              Yes, thanks Pam. The irony compounds…

            • Brian

              yes he did attack the author’s character he sarcasticly accused him of “desanctifying people.” I thought his comment was gracious yet seasoned with salt. Your post was fine Jamison.

            • John Boyd

              Brian, to confront somebody about their words or actions is NOT the same as attacking their character.

              In one case, a person (however crudely) challenged the author’s viewpoint and ideas. This happens all the time, and, incidentally, is one of the reasons this comment section exists. You have challenged mine, and that’s fine.

              In the other case, a man has accused another of being a coward. This is one of the worst accusations one can make against another’s character. I don’t know how you can defend it.

              The smarmy Kirk Cameron reference didn’t impress me, either.

      • Angela

        Pastor Jamison, just curious…would you still stand by your comment to RN and how you said it? Has anyone else’s comment changed the way you view this issue or has it made you dig in your heels against those who would rob you of your “Christian liberty” in the name of holy living? Now that some time has passed, how would you as a pastor distinguish between those shows or entertainments which can be seen regularly in the name of watching sin so we can better appreciate God’s grace– and those shows or entertainments which we should steer clear of, not as a matter of individual weak consciences, but as a matter of what is pleasing/displeasing to a holy God?

  • Jon Bricker

    Aren’t there scenes in the Bible that feature (adulterous) sexual situations? Shall we steer our congregation away from those parts of the Bible due their desanctifying affect? I’m pretty sure that you have missed Mike’s point here, RN.

    • http://thetribulationtimesherald-exhorter.blogspot RN

      I’ve never seen the show Mad Men, but I did read the reviews on IMDB, with comments such as “Although there is quite a bit of sex and adultery, they don’t show nudity. They find creative ways to hide naked body parts.” I’m curious if Pastor Cosper watches this program with his wife, and if he averts his eyes during those “near-nude” scenes? Or, does he pause the program to pray for that actress in Hollywood who’s life is so degraded that she needs to take off her clothing on television while pastors are watching?

      I’ll say this: if a pastor wants to watch what could justifiably be called softcore, and he feels justified by Scripture (and takes a light reading of the adultery parts of Matt. 5) then he could do so, sure, but he should keep his lustful pursuits private from his congregation, particularly for the sake of men in his congregation that perhaps struggle with porn addiction.

    • Kevin Cowart

      I’m thankful for your heart to protect weak brothers. I pray, though, that no pastor will ever “keep his lustful pursuits private from his congregation” –- or at least all of it.

      Prov 18:1, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”

      In order to protect his people, a pastor may often decide to not share all aspects of his life publically. This can rightly protect weaker brothers from sin (Rom 14), but revealing these same aspects to others will display his blood bought grace and liberty (Rom 14).

      If, however, he keeps sectors of his life private and isolated from ALL members of his congregation, he is no longer protecting his people. Instead he risks his own potential fall, endangering them even more and missing the point of his leadership in the process.

      A pastor is not called to be the next perfect spiritual leader. He is called to stand in grace, all the while pointing to our perfect savior with his own private and public turning from sin to Christ. This is our truest Christian liberty – we are free to return yet again from sin to God, still without fear, welcomed by our Father.

  • Jackie Lopina

    Great thoughts. Mad Men portrays sin very well. So well that sometimes the brokenness and ceaseless striving for what never fulfilles is hard to watch. I think it’s fascinating that our culture has latched on to shows like this and Breaking Bad- another show that portrays the consequences of deep sin. It seems like we know we’re broken and that’s why we often relate to these shows better than trite sitcoms or happy go lucky shows where everything always works out in the end. Like you said, hopefully seeing our brokenness will “make us more desperate for the Cure.”

  • Paul Cummings

    Funny…I saw the article…don’t even watch the show (except for the parodies of it in SNL skits) and I thought…
    “Wonder how long it will be up on GC before someone cranks out the cantankerous judgement of the author and of all who watch the show?”

    • http://thetribulationtimesherald-exhorter.blogspot RN

      Just those who abide by the “cantankerous judgments” of Christ in Matthew 5….

  • Rosemary Komotey-Ahulu

    I am puzzled by this apparent, recommendation of The Mad Men. How does this fit with what the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, If there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me -practise these things……..Philippians 4: 8. Do you think he would have recommended the Mad Men TV programme?

    • nhe

      This is a misapplication of Phil 4:8, and I see it quite often on this site in response to many of Mike’s well written articles and reviews.

      This verse is referring to what we “think on”, not what we “look at”.

      It is quite possible for many believers to watch a show like Mad Men and “think” on depravity and the consequences of sin and how correspondingly grateful we are to have a Savior. Some believers may not be able to do this while watching Mad Men – so they should abstain – if their thoughts go to a bad place.

      However, to tell the rest of us that we are somehow misguided because we watch the show is unfair, and I believe, unbiblical.

      Please consider a new interpretation/application of this verse/passage.

      • A.G

        So what you are saying is that it is perfectly acceptable for a christian man/woman, husband/wife…. to watch explicit scenes depicting lust, fornication and adultery….. with no qualms… under the guise of “christian liberty”?? SO all of those lustful depraved images go into your eyes, and you never “think on them”?? Just honestly curious… Since I see so many christian men attempting justify viewing this smut.

        • nhe

          No, I’m not sure how you’re getting that.

          Lustful depraved images? Can you be more specific? I struggle to find where Mad Men is any different in its visual content than any of the PG-13 level content that most of us here watch weekly in some format.

          However, if you struggle with the visuals on this show, by all means abstain. I just am not seeing the correlation between Mad Men and disobedience to Phil 4:8.

          • A.G
            • AC

              Well Played A.G.

              I think that article is enough to convince me to never watch the show. And for those people that say only people “struggling” with such issues should refrain from watching, I suppose that would mean every man that I’ve ever met.

              Sure there is redeemable value in knowing the culture…but supporting it is another issue. Reading a 3 minute article about a TV show is all you need to know to use it in a sermon on total depravity or only true joy is in Jesus.

              In fact I’ve never even watched this show, and I think I could have pulled out all 4 points just from seeing advertisements!

  • Angela Davidson

    I agree with Rosemary. I was recommended Mad Men by a Christian friend and I watched it…and was hooked. I really liked it for the reasons listed in the article. On the other hand, I also realize that this is NOT what the Lord would prefer me spending my time indulging in. It is an area I need to put away in order to think on things that are of higher importance in the kingdom of God. Does it entertain me? Yes. Would I like to see the next season? Absolutely. But is that true because it appeals to my flesh? No doubt. The article was good but probably needed to address whether or not Christians should be taking in this kind of “entertainment” and how it affects our spirit, not just how it CAN be used to illustrate the sinfulness of man–don’t just about all shows do that?

  • Joe

    The Gospel in Mad Men. The Gospel in Harry Potter. The Gospel in U2… Um, I try to read the Bible, but I fall asleep. The hipster evangelical church, with its Art Pastors, amusing ourselves to death. Francis Schaeffer, what have you wrought?

  • Aaron

    Never seen the show. Not missing a thing. Nothing here to see. Those who are ultimately grieving the Spirit and watching a show they know is harmful are missing the treasure of Christ and those who are able to watch the show get to celebrate their freedom in Christ.

  • Angela Davidson

    Many of the comments here illustrate what I believe Paul Washer has taught–that we’re trying to get as close as possible to the fire of sin without getting burned when in fact we need to be trying to stay away from the fire altogether. I am not saying to stay out of the world in a way that involves removing Christian evangelism. (I can just hear that rejoinder coming). I’m all for going into the world of the ungodly and unveiling to them the beautiful gospel. That is NOT what I’m talking about. Watching Mad Men or any other show like it is precisely what Philippians 4:8 can be applied to. Watching it in isolated bits to make a cultural commentary, fine. Watching it for entertainment without expecting to be influenced or conjured into the same fleshly desires as those of the characters…unrealistic. I will make a point of not watching the next season (Lord, help me to be honest and consistent!), simply because I hear my own voice in the voices above and I hear what God hears when I make those same excuses…it now sounds so pathetic and hurtful that I will choose to stop and not watch.

    • nhe

      At the end of the day, Mad Men (like most everything else Mike writes about) is secular art. Secular art is often going to depict sinful people doing sinful things. Observing them doing these things can be voyeuristic and induce lustful and impure thoughts, no question.

      However, that doesn’t happen automatically. Good secular art (even that which depicts sinful people doing sinful things) can be redemptive if it points to the futility of depravity and the longing for God in the image bearer.

      Re: Phil 4:8, “Let your mind dwell on these things” refers to what I think about, not what I observe or see. Different minds go to different places.

      Several of the above folks who have unbiblically invoked Phil 4:8 are assuming that certain audio/visual stimuli automatically make us think on things that are not true, right, lovely, praiseworthy. That’s not what the verse is talking about at all. These folks would be better served to invoke “be careful little eyes what you see” – not in the Bible, but certainly biblical, and far closer to what I think they’re trying to say.

      Phil 4:8 refers to what we THINK about. Thinking involves (in part) understanding what the triggers are for us individually that take our thought lives to unhealthy places. Those triggers are just flat not the same for everyone.

      I tend to find it a lot more sinful to turn my brain off and watch something vapid and shallow and void of anything that encourages me to ponder sin, redemption, and common grace….and as we know, there is plenty of visual art out there (ranging from G to NC-17 in content) that fits that description.

  • Hal Dixon

    To watch a 60 minute program is to let your mind dwell there, as is to follow a series for an entire season. Let’s not kid ourselves.

    • nhe

      Dwell where? This is what I don’t understand. How can you suggest that all minds go to the same place when experiencing the same stimuli?

  • A.G

    So when you watch Mad Men you just do not even ponder the sin portrayed? You just say to yourself ” oh that poor, sinful, wretched man…. If only he had Christ he wouldn’t feel the need to have rampant adulterous sex with multiple women”…. Seriously? That is your argument? That watching anything we want is perfectly fine as long as it –

    ” points to the futility of depravity and the longing for God in the image bearer.”

    Well I am quite sure there are some Porn flicks that would qualify under that statement, maybe we should watch those as well?
    Though I have never seen the show Mad Men, I did some research, and let me just say, if my husband watched this show I would be a very sad and insecure wife!
    My point is this, If you watch it and have found a way to justify it in your mind against the Lord’s command to “be ye holy as I am holy”…. then that is your business. But don’t write blog posts about this disgusting show and it’s supposed “redeeming” qualities. It just sickens me to see this on a wonderful site like the Gospel Coalition.

    Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20

    • nhe

      I’ve never seen the show, but I plan to, because Christian friends (whose opinions I respect) have recommended it.

      A.G., I’m still missing your point, I’m sorry. If your husband watches Mad Men and observes John Hamm committing adultery (in a PG-13 scene) and thinks, “wow, I wish I could be him”, then he should turn the channel. But if he observes the same scene and thinks “the consequences of this are going to be tragic for his family, I wonder if he will be contrite, I wonder how his wife will respond, etc.”, then he’s contemplating truth, and he’s working it into his soul – that’s a good thing.

      My point again is simply that just as not everyone can walk into a bar and have a beer, because some perhaps are predisposed to excess in that setting… also not everyone can sit and watch Mad Men, because some perhaps may be predisposed to unhealthy thoughts.

      In both cases, not everyone is the same. To say that Mad Men is trash and no one should watch it just comes off as a noisy gong/clanging symbol to me.

      There are certain shows I shouldn’t watch, and I don’t watch them. You may actually find some shows/movies/art redemptive that I find vapid and soul eroding….isn’t that possible?

  • John B.

    I remember when some people would say that they used to buy Playboy magazine to read the articles. Maybe they did.

    Maybe you can watch “Mad Men” for the intriguing social commentary you see in it. Maybe, for you, spending hours with your eyes glued to a prime-time soap opera is “redeeming the time”. Maybe for you, it’s not “loving the world”. Maybe, for you, watching “Mad Men” glorifies God.

    Not for me.

  • A.G

    Sure…. I was waiting for the “gong/clanging CYMBAL” line to be thrown out there…. It’s the pet line used for anyone seeming to hold too tightly to Biblical standards for holiness…..
    Someone watching and wishing to “be” the character isn’t really the point…. you seem to be using that as you excuse.. “well I don’t want to be like him, I feel so badly for him”…. NO… what about viewing women who are barely clothed being thrown around like toys? That doesn’t bring about lustful thoughts? So is there nothing that we should avoid watching then? I really am interested in this line of reasoning. I don’t know any christian men who watch this show… if they did they certainly wouldn’t admit to it, and attempt to justify it biblically. This seems to be the new thing among evangelicals. Blend in with the culture. Partake in it’s indulgences. As long as you know YOU are redeemed and they are not. SCARY!

    • nhe

      A.G., somc Christians have reduced pornography to “nip slips” and “butt cracks”……things that, when we look at them, may or may not erode our souls.

      What consistently erodes my soul is the prideful, haughty, prosperity seeking nationalism that is daily being espoused by Fox News – that’s Christian pornography.

      I try hard to abstain from things with R-rated sexually explicit content for obvious biblical reasons. I try harder to abstain from Fox News and Extreme Makeover Home Edition – which gives merited favor only to those who deserve it – the antithesis of the gospel.

      • John Boyd


        Why in the world are you watching Fox News, if it has that effect on you?

        • nhe

          I’m not, thanks John, I edited my comment to make that more clear.

    • nhe

      AG said:

      “what about viewing women who are barely clothed being thrown around like toys? That doesn’t bring about lustful thoughts?”

      ….AG, I assume we’re talking about PG-13 level versions of this, as seen in Mad Men. I certainly don’t endorse seeking out R-rated versions of it.

      So, with that assumption in place, my answer is no, it doesn’t bring about lustful thoughts. Maybe it would have when I was 25, but I’m 49, I think differently now than I did back then. My worldview is different, the way I define holiness is different.

      Interestingly, my wife thinks differently too, she has seen me mature and knows that when I watch a show like Mad Men now, that I’m in a good place…..she isn’t fraught with insecurity about it anymore than I am when she watches “The Bachelor” – we watch those shows together, and we discuss them and we lay them against the backdrop of scripture and talk about how our culture is influenced by them……it’s pretty fun. The last thing we do is is turn our minds off and watch things in isolation.

  • Spencer

    Pastor Cosper,
    Could you comment on this situation?
    Parents at Sojourn don’t want their teenagers to watch this show. But the teenagers come back with, “Yeah but Pastor Cosper recommends it.”

  • Mike Cosper

    Hi Spencer – fair question, for sure.

    First off… In the article itself, I haven’t recommended the show. Instead, I’ve tried to identify the reasons people love it, what’s resonant with our culture, and what’s resonant with a Biblical worldview. I would be hesitant to recommend this show, just as I’d be hesitant to recommend a lot of content. If a conscience is bothered by it, they most certainly shouldn’t watch it. If a teenager, under parental authority, is being told not to watch it, they shouldn’t watch it.

    Content in films, music, and literature that portrays sinful activity is an area that requires sensitivity to our consciences, the conscience of those with us, and a willingness to listen to wise counsel around us. I may think something doesn’t affect me, and my friends or pastors might see that it does and warn me away from it. Wisdom listens to such counsel, just as it listens to the warnings of a conscience or the objections of a friend.

    We’re quick to send up alarms about Mad Men for its lust and adultery, but we’re much more hesitant to react to the idolatry present in shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (which I wrote about here – )

    Food TV can be a celebration of creation, provision, and creativity, or it can be “food porn” – lust of the eyes and gluttony. A movie like Tinkerbell can be a sweet story of self-discovery, or could be seen as a polemic for socialism that objectifies women. It takes a bit of a stretch to get there, but a sensitive conscience could be deeply offended by it.

    There’s nothing wrong with being offended. But we have to be careful not to universalize our consciences.

    Storytelling, if it’s truthful, is going to deal with sin. It might be lust, it might be greed, it might be gluttony, or it could be any one of a thousand other sins. The book of Esther is a great example of this. It’s the story of a compromised girl who enters a beauty pageant ala “The Bachelor”, assimilates into a godless culture, and has sex with an evil King. She performs her “duties” so well he marries her, and her sin puts her in the position to act when a conspiracy to kill all the Jews in the kingdom unfolds. It’s a dark, dark story with a redemptive ending. A sanitized version of it would obscure how miraculous God’s intervention was.

    Mad Men most certainly covers some dark territory, and given that it’s a Hollywood show, it tantalizes. I know quite a few folks who don’t watch it for that very reason – wisely; they are obeying their consciences. Others I know watch it on a DVR with the fast-forward button nearby. You can draw lines all over the place, and the point is not the lines – it’s the sensitivity to conscience and the wisdom to discern the impact anything we’re watching has on our souls. This is as true for Mad Men as it is for HGTV, Fox News, and Disney movies.

    • Spencer

      Thank you for the thoughtful and helpful reply.

    • nhe

      Thanks Mike…..I had commented earlier on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, not realizing you had posted on it. Great stuff. Is there anything Sojourn like here in Atlanta?

      • Amanda

        All Souls is in Atlanta. Good church.

  • Bea

    In Titus the Apostle says….Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

    While we do condemn the “man-made” rules and regulations that deny a believer’s freedom in Christ, it also needs to be clearly stated that “Christian liberty” is never be used as an excuse for sinful behavior which is clearly taught in the Word of God..

    This is outrageous…

    It is the Lord’s day as well..You know full well that show is promoting promiscuity and they are constanly showing blatent sex scenes done right on the office table.. The sex, lies and adultery is what has made this show popular..Lets get real here..

    We serve a HOLY God and were are called to be Holy people..This is very disturbing for a pastor to be promoting soft porn..The Lord tells us we are to delight in His day ( because of “Him” not MAD MEN) and we are to keep His day HOLY..The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1-3

  • Lynne Croft

    This world has turned into MAD MEN..Here are some good thoughts from some old faithful pastors ..Charles H Spurgeon and Richard Baxter..!

    O brethren, watch therefore over your own hearts, keep out lusts and passions and worldly inclinations. Keep up the life of faith and love and zeal. Be much at home and be much with God. Take heed to yourselves lest your example contradict your doctrine, lest you unsay with your lives what you say with your tongues. And be the greatest hinderers of the success of your own labors. One proud surly lordly word, one needless contention, one covetous action may cut the throat of many a sermon and blast the fruit of all that you have been doing. Let your lives condemn sin and persuade men to duty.” Richard Baxter…

    Whatever “call” a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.”CHS

    • http://thetribulationtimesherald-exhorter.blogspot RN

      Spurgeon was right on with that.

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  • Marie

    Sorry but your review was very male chauvinistic. For example:

    “The background of the show includes the great issues of the 1960s: the Cold War, Space Race, Civil Rights Movement, Sexual Revolution, and Vietnam.”

    Whoah! The background also includes the feminist movement. I’m offended that you left it out.

    “Many movies and TV shows climax with some sort of victory. The protagonist works throughout the story towards some golden carrot—a financial score, a war victory, winning a woman’s love, or getting married.”

    You assumed that the protagonist is always a male, especially when you said, “winning a woman’s love.”

    “For Mad Men, it’s a fine line. There’s a sophisticated critique at work throughout the show, deconstructing the racist and chauvinist attitudes of the 60s, hinting at the ways those attitudes persist today.”

    Don’t just say chauvinist. Say male chauvinist or misogynistic.