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Review: Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture

If you had to defeat an enemy nation, one of the most effective ways would be to make friends with enough of their citizens that they would welcome you with open arms. Of course, few nations in history have ever allowed this to happen; it seems too unreal to even consider.

But guess what? It is happening, right now. We are the ones spending much precious time with the enemy rather than heeding our own callings! What’s more, we enable our children to do so as well.

Yes, we and our children are Captivated, and often by the very things God tells us to beware of: ‘philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition.’ These things get our precious time, form our ideas and actions, interfere with our relationships with God and people, and according to one pastor I recently spoke to, reduce our Christian witness to the world.

Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture, directed by Phillip Telfer and Colin Gunn, is a Christian documentary about the effects of media on us, our society, and the church.

Beginning with the telegraph—the first time humans could connect across distance instantaneously, simultaneously—and quickly mentioning telephone, radio, and television, Captivated focuses on screens and the internet.

It discusses our unbalanced media consumption (all ages) and the effect of screens on the brain development of children. Video games give a sense of accomplishment even though nothing was accomplished, and this is one explanation for the increasing passivity of young men. Students try to study while using their screens, something our brains are not wired to do; in fact, multitasking makes us lose speed, efficiency, and accuracy (and has even been implicated in the Titanic disaster). Screens also dumb our youth down by enhancing peer pressure and encouraging them to focus primarily on themselves. Social networks change relationships, often taking time from our real life relationships with people and with God. Excessive screen use affects our physical, mental, and spiritual health, and trains us to live in a virtual world instead of in real life.

Captivated also discusses media content. We all know there is a lot of bad stuff out there. This documentary shows just how desensitized our society has become to evil. Although people say that ungodly entertainment (movies, music, video games) doesn’t affect them, that is obviously untrue.

Perhaps most important of all is media captivity. Much media aims to cause addiction and to change people’s worldview; in other words, the goal is to take people’s thoughts and attitudes captive. We, who have been warned not to be taken captive by ‘philosophy and empty deceit’, often do not even believe there is a battle.  In fact, we find ourselves fighting without the armor of God because we have been too busy with the distractions of the enemy to put it on. Without spiritual armor, without being careful to ‘prepare our minds for action’ we may not even see the enemy and can easily become his slaves.

It is as simple as this: media’s music and thoughts replace what our thoughts could have been. We are too busy with mindless emptiness (or even active evil) to have time for Bible study or prayer.

How can we as Christians learn to fight this battle well? Captivated talks about a month long media fast—God has used such a fast to show people Who and what they have been missing and what they have become addicted to. Without constant media consumption, we can learn to ‘take our thoughts captive for God’, to base our thoughts on the Bible, and to let God’s story shape our lives and help us reach others.

How do we develop such media freedom? If we plan a media fast with our family, we must remember to be intentional about replacing screens with enjoyable family activities as well as with Bible reading and prayer. We need discernment and wisdom to understand how to show our kids that God’s reality is much more real and exciting than screen-based life. We all need to be freed from the enslaving power of our devices and learn to live for Jesus, using our screens for him rather than replacing him with them.

One of the documentary presenters, Dr. David Murray, sums it up well, “We want people captivated…by Christ, and the physical, spiritual, emotional, vocational, and social blessings that will flow are immeasurable.”

Even though Captivated is several years old, its message is more relevant than ever. As C. S. Lewis outlined many years ago in The Abolition of Man, it is possible for our minds and the minds of our children to be taken over without us even realizing it. Captivated shows how this is currently happening and what we can do about it.

On a personal level, this documentary gives me confidence, clarity, and courage to keep on pushing for wiser screen use, both in my family and to you, my dear readers. It has given me confidence that my concern about screens is not just because I am uptight, a spoilsport, or a fanatic. It has given me the clarity that there is indeed a behind-the-scenes battle going on, and that we need to fight for freedom from the empty captivity of screens. Captivated is giving me much-needed courage to persevere in the daily struggle, also as a mom.

Has media affected me personally? Yes. As a blogger I have, in the past, spent too much time online–although even then it was much less than average. Over the last few years, however, I have learned to be more and more intentional about managing my screen time and about prioritizing the things that matter.  If you watch this documentary, you will see how important this shift can be.

The other day I ‘happened’ to read this:

…serve the LORD with all your heart.  Do not turn away after useless idols.  They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. (1 Samuel 12:20-21)

Let us be careful to avoid idolizing our devices and let us instead depend on the Lord, using our devices to serve him, not to replace him. Amen.

If you have not yet watched Captivated, I encourage you to do so.  It will help.

(If you choose to buy more than one copy, there is a significant discount at the Captivated website.

Related articles I have written:

Glow Kids, Screens, and Education.”  It turns out that screens may cause more educational problems than we suspected.

“Screens and our Kids’ Mental Health, with Tips for Parents.”

Review of Glow Kids:  How Screen Addiction is Hijacking our Kids—and How to Break the Trance by Nicholas Kardaras.

52 Ways to Connect with your Smartphone Obsessed Kid by Jonathan McKee. Practical ways to connect or reconnect.

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane.  “Is it possible for children to learn about relationships and responsibilities when the vast majority of their time is spent absorbed in a screen?”

If you enjoyed this review, you might want to connect with me on GoodReads where I eventually share what I read or friend me on Facebook where I occasionally show up

Disclosure: I borrowed this DVD from the public library.

This may be linked to Inspire Me Monday, Raising Homemakers, Friendship Friday.


  1. Gabe Braden says:

    This is a must watch. It’s at the OPL and on iTunes. Thanks for reviewing this important film.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Thanks for suggesting it!

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