Yep I’m going there.
In this post, I will bring 7 arguments to the table against the golden calf of America – entertainment. When I say entertainment, I loosely include but do not limit this discussion to: movies, video games, music, TV shows, books, and sports. Mostly I am addressing movies and TV.
I am NOT talking about the good stuff – that actually presses you into Jesus. I am talking about the other 99%. I actually encourage people to read, listen, and watch to the things that glorify God. I am not against the use of mediums of the aforementioned categories to bless people and spread the Gospel. I am not against watching an occasional Pixar or Disney movie at the theater (I was there for Cinderella and will be first in line for Finding Dory – kids move out the way :) ). I am specifically speaking to the unfettered indulgence in our society to consume entertainment.
These points are also not perfect so feedback is welcome. Please don’t jump on sides and miss the entire point of this post which is: Growth in holiness, action in holy service, and loving God and people is the ultimate priority and joy in a Christian’s life. Is the entertainment you’re consuming push you to Christ or away from Christ? Is it leading you towards or away from Christ? Ultimately is it glorifying God and edifying the body(first you and then the church)? If no, yay! Go forth. If no – change. :)
1. Entertainment presents a biased presentation of reality.
Movies and TV shows are man’s creation. These scripts are the biased perspective on life of directors, script writers, and a few others.
When I watch a movie or a TV show, I constantly have to remind myself that this is not real. That I should not learn to expect that reality works like television. Real life is so much better than what the TV screen can ever offer me. But real life is only better when you are present and when you are building a better reality.
A good life doesn’t just fall out of the sky. A good life, a good family, a good marriage is built. Fundamentally, for a Christian – the fullness of life is found in Jesus – not on a screen. Everything I ever need and could possibly want is found in Christ. Why indulge in a virtual reality where Christ is nonexistent, mocked, and belittled? None of these TV shows have a biblical God ordaining and orchestrating, personally and intensely involved in lives of humanity. The worldviews of this world and of the Bible are diametrically opposed. Which one will you follow? Which one will you subscribe to? Which one will you be a student of? You can’t reconcile them without diluting their potency which results in a mediocre uselessness.
2. Entertainment is a breeding ground for dissatisfaction with God’s leading in our life.
Building on the first point, as entertainment largely ignores God and builds its reality out of an atheistic worldview, it conditions our expectations. Disappointment and frustration occur when reality does not match up to our expectations. My encouragement here is not to disassociate yourself from entertainment’s vices to enjoy it’s virtues (I strongly disbelieve that this is possible).
My encouragement is to turn away from the sad existence of censoring your life’s enjoyment and robbing yourself of true joy by cheap entertainment that caters to the lowest common denominator that sells – to immersing yourself in God’s character, community, and Word. For those that claim entertainment as art or some creative utopia – you’re setting the bar really low at slapstick humor, formulaic plots, and predictable characters.
David writes “in your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Do you find fullness of joy in God’s presence? Do you find pleasures at God’s right hand? Why don’t we pursue wholeheartedly rather than trifle with movies with language you have to mute, scenes to fast forward, and unrealistic endings?
The world watches and celebrates entertainment as an ideal, a place to escape because their lives will never be as good as that. God has many promises for His children and offers many blessings in this life and the next that Hollywood can’t even begin to touch.
If you want to truly live an audacious, joy filled life – it’s the life found in the Word and Spirit, not in the one dimensional cliche characters Hollywood. Being a man is so much more than a preoccupation with sex, money, and power. Being a woman is so much more than vanity, conceit, and manipulation. There’s another way to live. Another way to act. One that doesn’t destroy everything in the wake of self love. One that doesn’t corrupt innocence. One that doesn’t destroy life. Jesus said “ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
When God does begin to work in our lives, when we are unfamiliar with His word and His character – we freak out because we don’t know what He is doing and why. We are disappointed that our live isn’t going according to a movie. All you ever bothered to find out about God is that He is love. So when He begins to work according to His justice, you freak out because the God you know wouldn’t do that. Because we don’t know or love God and don’t understand Him, we feel betrayed, angry, and confused. We begin to doubt what little we do know about God and instead of seeking God out, we end up walking away, disillusioned at not just the seeming hypocrisy of the church, but of God. I can confidently say that you did not know God and His ways in the first place if this happens.
3. Entertainment takes our attention away from real life and funnels away your resources.
We can’t be in two places at once. Time spent in front of the screen is time spent away from anything else. Money spent on entertainment can’t be given to the kingdom of God. Worship given to actors, writers, and athletes robs God of His glory.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
We are prone to forget God. We are prone to wander. Instead of willingly allowing and seeking even for entertainment to lead us down its endless maze of bright lights and endless conflicting doctrines, why don’t we cleave to God and stick closer to Him, knowing that we are prone to prostitute to other idols, like Israel? Shouldn’t our wandering tendencies be a warning for us to stick close to the Shepherd instead of carelessly becoming meals on wheels for an Enemy who seeks to kill and destroy us? Can we be surprised that God feels far off when we’ve willingly sought distraction and wandered?
4. Entertainment leads us to avoid all discomfort and difficulty, thus making us weak.
The Christian life is a life of the cross. It’s a life of embracing difficulty, a life of going to the dark places, and shining the light of God. It’s taking on the hard tasks and shouldering the heaviest loads. Entertainment ultimately is too easy and too comfortable. It promises us a few hours of laughs and happy endings. It promises us rest and happiness. Just curl up on the couch and indulge away on the easy access entertainment. It makes us soft. It makes us weak. It makes us obese junk inhaling couch potatoes instead of hardy and fit missionaries, soldiers, and intercessors who are ready and fit to do difficult things. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small”(Psalm 24:10).
5. Entertainment stunts our spiritual maturity and destroys our innocence towards evil.
Romans 16:19 says “I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” Entertainment informs us on murders, unfaithfulness, cheating, corruption, slander, gossip, and any other evil imaginable. Some why it’s okay to indulge in things that we ourselves would never do.
Why would we open ourselves to that which God hates and the very reason He died on the cross? Instead why don’t we spend our time praying, thinking, and working in the fields that are ripe with harvest? Why don’t we grow wise in how to spread the Gospel, minister to the hurting, and save the dying? Why don’t we become wise in the Word and start maturing in our faith instead of remaining infants who should be teachers by now? Maybe then we wouldn’t feel so awkward and inept in sharing our faith with others. Show me your faith and I will show you my works. Faith without works is dead.
“Concerning this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull and sluggish in your spiritual hearing and disinclined to listen. For though by this time you ought to be teachers because of the time you have had to learn these truths, you actually need someone to teach you again the elementary principles of God’s word from the beginning, and you have come to be continually in need of milk, not solid food. For everyone who lives on milk is doctrinally inexperienced and unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a spiritual infant. But solid food is for the spiritually mature, whose senses are trained by practice to distinguish between what is morally good and what is evil.”(Hebrews 5:11-12)
Rather than growing in our faith – building on foundational doctrine – it’s like we sit down and disassemble and mix everything we know about God. And then we need someone to come back and rebuild a foundation. One step forward, five steps back. Four steps forward, three steps backward. The Christian life is hard enough without having to wander in the desert for 40 years because we are slow to obey and follow God. The Israelites weren’t meant to wander for 40 years. They were meant to come and conquer the Promised land. They were meant to destroy God’s enemies and cleanse the land rather than having having to almost annihilate the tribe of Benjamin with themselves. It’s as if we’re unwilling to close the breaches in the walls that keep letting the enemy in or stop up the holes that drain our strength and vitality.
6. Entertainment occupies a spot in our life that God should occupy.
Do you seek rest?
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. -Mathew 11:28
Do you seek wisdom?
My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgment and discretion,
they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.
Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be at your and will keep your foot from being snared. (Proverbs 3)
Do you seek delight and enjoyment?
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!(Psalm 119)
For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation. (Psalm 149 :4)
The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their walk are His delight. (Proverbs 11:20)
If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life.
I am yours; save me,
for I have sought your precepts.
My lips will pour forth praise,
for you teach me your statutes.
My tongue will sing of your word,
for all your commandments are right.
Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.
Let my soul live and praise you,
and let your rules help me.
-Excerpts from Psalm 119
7. Entertainment douses the flame of the Holy Spirit. It quenches the fire of zeal for holy and good works.
It is heartbreaking to see someone who wanted to radically serve Christ transform into a lukewarm Christian. Something doesn’t work out or difficulty arises, and suddenly the God who they claim can do anything doesn’t want them to do anything. It’s like God changed his mind or suddenly ran out of power. I strongly believe, out of experience and seeing others, that entertainment satiates our hunger to be of use for God. It distracts us from pursuing God radically. Simply because following Jesus radically demands all of you. And again we come back to the exclusive or of our finiteness. It’s either this entertainment or that pursuit. There’s room for only one master.
Gradually prayer nights sound crazy and movie nights are the norm. We no longer sound as crazy and sold out for Jesus as we did the day after we graduated Bible college. We become normal instead living, breathing, and shouting Christ. Other loves and aims take over our life and we explain away the resulting mediocrity of our life. Oh let us despise such half-hearted existences for we will do no good for the kingdom of God being neither here or there and you will get no enjoyment of such an existence. “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelations 3:15-17)
We get engrossed in the titillating plot-lines and seductive characters. Our thoughts turn to them, our imaginations breathe more life into them. Our creative resources are spent here rather than figuring out how to engage a broken world with the Gospel. No longer are we channels for God’s love and truth in this world but we begin to speak movie quotes. Our conversations are no longer life giving but shallow and meaningless. Basically entertainment is like the fat that clogs veins and obstructs blood-flow to the heart. Also I think entertainment confuses the witnesses of Christ. When I find out a Christian loves Game of Thrones for example, I am really confused. Because that show is explicitly foul and vulgar. Doesn’t the Christian lifestyle center around purity? Just keep that in mind when you’re sharing the Gospel to a nonbeliever. (Game of Thrones is an extreme – other less extreme shows still show compromise.) Don’t worry about being able to relate to the world. It is the stark difference between life and death, dark and light, that open people’s eyes to reality. Running the risk of sounding trite – Christians are supposed to be different from the world.
Living in light of eternity -in light of the fact that there is a heaven and hell, a good and just God, a Savior who died on the cross, and the Great commission – leads to a completely different life. Our good works no longer are debt payments, but gifts and celebrations of a great love. Our goals are not happy comfortable lives but saved souls growing into the fullness of Christ.
I know this post sounds radical. I know it sounds crazy. No I’m not telling anyone to cancel their Netflix subscription. (Though I’d unashamedly applaud if you did.)
I know. It’s a similar feeling to bleak internal yucky struggly feeling when you get when you start a diet with no junk food. The first steps of a cleanse. The prospects sound utterly miserable.
But in all the times I read the New Testament, Paul pleads with me to take off the old man, to leave the world behind, to flee from sexual immorality, to walk worthy of our calling, to not grieve the Holy Spirit. No where do I see Paul pleading with Christians to not to be too radical.
Let me you ask you instead : Why is a life without entertainment unthinkable for a Christian? Why are we so dependent on it? Why are we so scared to be different?
This post is in no way a judgement on those who do watch entertainment or a call to legalism. There’s grace and mercy, and I ain’t trying to be anybody’s Holy Spirit. But there is also a clear trajectory in a life either towards the things of God or away from the things of God. Where does entertainment lead you? Personally, I have found that entertainment leads me away from God, away from seeking out His Word, and serving the Body. This post is coming out of a personal season where entertainment has become far too prevalent in my own life. It’s an effort to understand the dryness and weary disorientation I have been reaping as a result. It’s an effort to set up a remembrance to remind myself of what waits down the road of entertainment.
“When obedience to God contradicts what I think will give me pleasure, let me ask myself if I love Him.”