SOMETIMES I've gone to the movies simply because a film has received a lot of publicity. Often I've come away disappointed, wondering what all the fuss was about. Of course, people's tastes are individual, and we learn from others' points of view. But I've been reminded not to accept popular opinion simply because it is popular, even in small matters. We're inclined to think something is good if most people believe it's good. A current trend of thinking can be persuasive, whether it relates to the arts or to health or to a style of living -- and even more persuasive if it's touted by the media.
The point is not to put down what's popular but to distinguish between what is and is not of value. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul spoke of our coming ``unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.'' Then, he taught, we would ``be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.''
But how can we learn to distinguish between what's worthy and what's valueless, even detrimental? Prayer can help us. So can a growing obedience to the New Testament counsel not to love worldliness. The need is to decrease our trust in materialistic values and to cultivate greater trust in God -- to worship divine Spirit.
Christ Jesus' teachings indicate the importance of seeking first the kingdom of God, of striving for purity and humility. This heightens our spiritual sense, our inherent ability to understand God and His direction. It helps us sort out the worthy from the useless, so that we don't simply drift along with the popular current of thought. It gives us clearer views of our own and of everyone's true selfhood, which is God's spiritual image.
If all this simply related to our choice of movies, it might seem far too serious a demand. But it relates to the quality of our life, even to working out our salvation. It relates to our ability to benefit humanity morally and spiritually.
Following whatever may be popular at the moment, regardless of its merit, doesn't bless others or bring us true happiness. It doesn't show us the beauty of our spiritual individuality in God's likeness. But striving to purify our thought and to discern God's direction in prayer will show us the happiness that only our creator can give. And it will help support others' desires for something better than the emptiness of materialism.
What's popular may or may not have merit. The important thing is that we begin to look beyond opinions, beyond current fashions, however widespread, to the one God for our direction.
Referring to God as Principle, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, observes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Human opinions are not spiritual. They come from the hearing of the ear, from corporeality instead of from Principle, and from the mortal instead of from the immortal.'' And she says elsewhere in the same book: ``At present mortals progress slowly for fear of being thought ridiculous. They are slaves to fashion, pride, and sense. Sometime we shall learn how Spirit, the great architect, has created men and women in Science. We ought to weary of the fleeting and false and to cherish nothing which hinders our highest selfhood.''
Beyond popular opinion is divine wisdom and its direction. Beyond current fashions is the spiritual reality of man as God's image, the saving reality we can come to know and prove.