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Austin PeckPhoto by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Days Of Our lives

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(LifeSiteNews) There are many forms of martial arts and self defense systems, and a variety of reasons why people study them with the hope of becoming proficient. I’d say that for me and many I’ve met, the key reason is the desire to protect loved ones and myself if presented with danger.  

We all measure threats in different ways and, as a parent in our modern times, these ways seemed to have increased exponentially. 

Increased awareness of everyday threats, mostly propagated, inflated, and exaggerated by the media, have led my generation to become the neurotic “helicopter parenting” cohort. But I’ll save that topic for another occasion. For now, I’ll do my best to stay on target.  

Recently, I was asked by a friend and neighbor if one of my daughters would like to go see Doctor Strange with his family. I found myself in a pickle. I’m very aware that to my neighbors I come across as “that religious zealot guy”—kind of like a Catholic Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, only more intense and far less agreeable. I want to be measured, and I definitely don’t want to be the buzzkill, say-no-to-everything-fun parent. However, I strongly believe that the media and all that comes with it—news, livestreaming, video games, movies—are the most dangerous threat humanity has ever faced.  

You may respond, “What? Seriously? More dangerous than pestilence, famine, wars, and holocausts? Gimme a break! I love my shows, my sports, my gaming, my movies, my … ENTERTAINMENT! Don’t you mess with it!”  

Okay, okay. I get it, but unplug for a moment and hear me out. 

I’m an actor by trade. I’ve been acting since I was a little kid, and now I’m 51. I hope that background might lend me a bit of credibility. It’s like witnessing the behind-the-scenes and set-up of a magic act and then sitting in the audience, watching the show. You’re not fooled because you know exactly where to look. You’re not special, just a witness. Through my experience, God has granted me the grace to see behind the curtain.  

Like everyone else, I love good storytelling and a good movie. I also love watching combat sports. I struggle with spending too much time on YouTube, but two questions must be asked.  

What constitutes a threat and who defines that? Ultimately, I’d confidently say God defines it, and anything that would drive a wedge between me and God, and hence my eternal salvation, is a threat.  

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I’m not advocating taking a sledgehammer to your media and electronic devices, isolating your kids from society, and pulling them into a bubble that protects them from all possible dangers. I am proposing that we collectively start practicing a higher level of discernment, one equivalent to martial arts training but for the eyes and the mind. That is where the true battle is, is it not? Being able to see, and therefore avoid, divert, and, if necessary, combat the dangers that we’re presented with. And what can be more dangerous than believing lies that separate us from God’s truth?  

Hollywood knows the power of suggestion, the power of the subliminal. They know what sells, based upon psychology and the workings of the mind. Companies spend billions every year in advertising, and part of that is researching the best ways to convince people that they NEED something. Is there a greater way to sell a product than to connect it to an ideology? An ideology that binds people to a product and manipulates them to think and feel they can’t live without it? Ever hear the expression “Sex sells” or the news industry’s motto, “If it bleeds, it leads”?  

Create a pop culture religion and people become so bound to that fictional world and, more importantly, its characters that the producers know it’s guaranteed to make a certain amount of money. They can just keep releasing spin-offs, offshoots, etc., indefinitely. It’s not called the Marvel Universe for nothing.  

On the surface the fantasy film world is benign. It’s just fun entertainment with characters endowed with great and special powers. Who wouldn’t like to pick up a car and throw it at an assailant, bust out extraordinary martial arts skills, or shoot into the sky and fly through the clouds at will? Imagination is wonderful, and who doesn’t find himself daydreaming about fighting against injustice and evil in the world? Which power would I like to have, and how would I use it?  

Well, I know I have.  

Through that connection, they’ve hooked us. From there it’s easy to introduce new ideas, even an ideology, at will. Most are not overt but subtle. We become aligned with the protagonist and his/her struggle, seeing the world through his/her eyes, and then we meet the antagonist who opposes the protagonist we have come to love. We naturally want to defeat the antagonist and what they stand for. Allegories and metaphors represent social, political, and moral ideologies that exist in the real world. They lull us into accepting and even fighting for ideas that might be contrary to what is good and moral. 

For example, in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan Kenobi confronts Anakin Skywalker after the younger man has turned to the dark side. Anakin says, “You’re either for me or against me,” and Obi-Wan responds, “Only the Sith believe in absolutes.” Hmm. Is that true? 

And wait a minute. What does that sound like? In Matthew 12:30, Our Lord states “He who is not with me, is against me.” In Revelation 3:16, Our Lord says, “Since you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Our Lord is scary about reality. In His words  and actions, He makes it very clear that there are two eternal destinations, Heaven and Hell. He goes as far as describing what the roads to each is like.  

To those who deny this fact, and hence are actively on the road to Hell, this message is too hard to face, so it must be suppressed. The kingdom of Hell guides and empower the media to that end.  

And so, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is in theaters. What do I do? Again, let me make a pre-emptive strike and say that I definitely have enjoyed the Marvel movies, I grew up on Star Wars, and the kid in me is quite active. I love the Hulk, and I crack up every time he throws a temper tantrum. “STAIRS!! I HATE STAIRS!!” (This means something only if you’ve seen it!)  

I’m not telling anyone what to do (not that anyone would listen to me in the first place). We’re all adults here. I am merely pointing out inescapable truths. Let’s look at what the world of Doctor Strange is about.  

To be Captain Obvious: witchcraft. To be more specific: Gnosticism combined with eastern mysticism, alternate realities, and the ability to control them using witchcraft and esoteric knowledge. If one can tap into what’s “unseen” and “unknown”, then one has the power to manipulate realities. The story sells the idea that witchcraft is nothing more than an ability and if you are “good”, then you could and would use this power for good.  

And what is the Marvel Universe about as a whole? 

Trans-humanism. If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s a melding of human beings to technology to enhance our ability and decrease our limitations. It is often called the Singularity. It sounds a lot like superhero stuff, doesn’t it? The more you know about this ideology and its terminology, the more you will begin to hear its message everywhere. It’s literally hiding in plain sight. It’s about achieving immortality by infusing humans with technology. 

Wait, where have we heard this before? Oh yeah. In Genesis, right before the fall, the serpent tells Adam and Eve, “You will not die, you will become like God”!  

This battle against media and its influence is very real to me. I have teenagers and grade school children, and my wife and I have chosen to home school because of the ideological war that’s raging in our society. The hearts, minds, and souls of our children are the battlegrounds. There are times I feel incredibly overwhelmed by the reality of this struggle and the insurmountable mountain that it presents itself to be. These malevolent forces know the value of the future generation. The children are their target. 

So, what can we do about it? 

First, we have to choose awareness and look through the lens of our faith, so we may discern with more prudence what’s presented to us. 

Second, we have to choose to sacrifice our wants, needs, and desires for media content that overtly offends Our Lord and Our Lady through blasphemy, impurities, and other content that conflicts with our faith and morals. 

Third, we have to know our faith and hence the Truth in order to take advantage of valuable opportunities given to us by the media to show and teach our children the reality of our world.  

For example, when my girls were watching shows aimed their age group, I noticed the absence of adults, parents, and especially fathers. Often the adults who did appear were dolts: immature and trivial. If fathers were present, they were the worst offenders. These programs also promote “dating” culture. I used the opportunity to point out and explain what I saw, referring to our Faith and exposing the shows’ opposition to our morals. 

My wife and I dramatically limit and monitor their viewing, but I admit that I get anxious about navigating these waters. How much freedom should I give them? I can’t be everywhere, and if I could, would that work out well in the end? I don’t want to be a “helicopter parent.”   

I can’t compete with the world’s bells and whistles, but as a Catholic I can love, sacrifice, pray the Rosary and use the most incredible weapon forged by God: the Blessed Mother, Our Lady, the Terror of Demons. In consecrating my children to her Immaculate Heart, I put my trust in the power Our Lord gave her. I trust in her loving guidance protection, and in that there are no worries.  

Austin Peck is an American actor and martial artist. He is well-known for his long-term association with Days of Our Lives.