We loved to be entertained. I suppose it’s part of human nature to desire to be amused and not be bored. People have been finding ways to entertain themselves for most of human history in some way, shape, or form, but our world today is more influenced by our entertainment choices than ever before. Movies, music, books, and even the internet have become the dominant forms of both amusement and knowledge. With more options than ever available to our immediately access, it can be difficult to discern what we should entertain ourselves with, and the things we should avoid. If we are trying to live our lives in light of eternity, then how does our entertainment choices fit into the equation?
I believe we have freedom to choose. God gave all of us free will, Christians and non-Christians alike. But with the privilege of this freedom comes great responsibility, a responsibility that we are made aware of as Christians. Just as Scripture points out: “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Cor. 6:12a NIV84) A lot of our entertainment options are simply not to our benefit, but my responsible to be sure that everything that I watch, read, or listen does three things: honors God, challenges me, and proclaims truth. These are the three main principles I’m going to explore.
1) Entertainment That Honors God
Unfortunately, we are living in the world that as a whole is not usually in the business of honoring its Creator. In fact, many will do anything and everything they can to discredit Him. Perhaps the greatest culprits are those in Hollywood. Songs with an excessive usage of the Lord’s name in vain, movies that glorify things that the Bible is blatantly against, and books that intend to indoctrinate their audience with their beliefs are the realities we face when we are trying to select wholesome entertainment. This does not mean that we can’t watch, read, or listen to any of these things, but it means that we have to use extreme caution and be aware of what we are doing. These are some questions to consider:
- Does this story honor God?
Anything from continually using the Lord’s name in vain to discrediting God by claiming He didn't create the world, these sort of things should be red flags to a Christian. Now, some media, even Christian media, will use characters that discredit God to illustrate a point. And there is a lot of media that falls neutral in this category (neither crediting nor discrediting God). You should learn how to tell these apart. But in the end, another way to think about this point is to ask this: if God was watching, listening, or reading with you, would He be honored, or would He be embarrassed and upset by what is (or isn't) being said about Him? If it obvious that it is not honoring to the Lord, then you should probably reconsider it.
- Does the writer honor God?
Screenplay writers, directors, producers, music artists, and authors all have personal beliefs that affect their work. They all have messages they want to convey through their medium. If these people aren't Christians, we have to use extra caution when discerning what we agree and disagree with in the messages they send. If they don’t believe in God, you should disagree with many of their personal beliefs, the same beliefs that permeates through the media you are consuming. Whether or not you realize it, you are allowing these messages into your minds, and often doing nothing to filter them. Really think about if the messages they are trying to convey are true and noble. If you can tell it doesn't honor the Lord, then you should probably reconsider it.
2) Entertainment that Challenges Me
This is the point where my views on this matter receive resistance. The main reason is that most people don’t like to process their entertainment. Many people use entertainment as a way to escape from reality. They want to be pacified (like a baby with a pacifier) by their entertainment, and not have to think about watch they are putting things into their minds. However, that is when we open ourselves up for deception by corrupt views. Pretty soon, the line between what is right to watch and what is wrong to watch becomes blurred, and by the time we realize it, we are so hooked on the story that we don’t want to give it up.
As Christians, we should not be that passive about anything. We need to be aware of the messages these entertainment choices are portraying and if we know they are wrong, we need to tell others that do not know the truth.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV84)
As far as entertainment is concerned, I believe that when we watch a movie that tries to convince us that something is OK that isn't, we need to look at it and say “This isn't right! This is what’s wrong and this is what’s right.” We can’t make that judgment if we are being passive about it, only judging it by how much it amused us.
I will never forget one of the classes I took my senior year of high school. The class was called “Worldviews” and was based off of David Noebel’s “Understanding the Times” curriculum from Summit Ministries. I learned so much in that class about maintaining a biblical worldview, things that I will possibly share in other posts. But the point I want to share today was from a video lecture about entertainment. The lecturer, named John Stonestreet, told us so many things about discerning our entertainment choices that I still use today. One quote stood out from all the rest:
I believe this idea is a good gauge for this category. If the themes and storyline of your entertainment makes you think about something from a new perspective or challenges you to make a change, then it a good source of entertainment. However, if the themes and storylines influence you with deceitful views that aren’t biblical or become a means to escape or reject reality, then it is bad entertainment and should be avoided.
What makes this interesting is that sometimes, the conviction of what is good or bad can fall in different places for different people. Something that is challenging to me may be a distraction to someone else and vice versa. However, this is where we do have to remember the responsibilities we have with our freedom of our free will. Although we do have freedom in Christ, we also must remember not to allow our freedom to become a stumbling block to those who are weak (1 Cor. 8:9). If conviction of what is good or bad falls in different places for different people, especially in the case that they struggle with drawing the line, don’t contradict them. Respect their conviction as your brother or sister in Christ.
3) Entertainment that Proclaims Truth
This view also receives resistance, but it cannot be understated. The things that we choose to entertain ourselves with should proclaim the truth, especially the truth affirmed in God’s word. But maybe more important in a world that doesn’t know the Lord is making sure that the things we entertain ourselves with do not contradict the truth affirmed in God’s word. Let me give an example.
1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us to flee from sexual immorality. If we are supposed to flee from sexual immorality, why should we entertain ourselves with media that portrays or glorifies sexually immoral behavior, especially if it shows or describes more than we should see or imagine? When we do see it, we should at least be thinking That’s not God’s plan for our sexuality!
Now there are times when a contradiction to truth is presented in such a way that it challenges us positively, but we have to learn to discern the difference between what challenges us and what merely pacifies us. We must take every thought the media gives us, examine it against Scripture, discern if it’s right or wrong, and make our choices based on these examinations.
I believe that when the message and the purpose of a movie are in question that it is wise to do research. Look up what the writers, director, and producers are saying about their movies. Read into the backstory behind the album you love. Learn about the biography of your favorite author to see what events in their life may be affecting their message. If what they say contradicts truth, then you may want to reconsider your entertainment choices.
Why Does This Matter?
Why Does This Matter?
What does this have to do with eternity? A lot! The things we put into our minds influence our thoughts and our actions. The primary thing we should be putting into our minds is the truth of God’s word. If the other things we put into our minds contradict that truth, it can influence us in negative ways, whether we realize it or not. Although movies and other media won’t be with us in heaven, we will be held accountable for not using discernment in this life. Since we only have one life on this earth, I want to spend my entertainment choices on media that takes me deeper into life not distracts me from the life and person God wants me to be.
This has become a subject too many Christian are passive about, usually going to one extreme or the other: embracing all entertainment or completely rejecting what isn’t “Christian.” I don’t think either path is a wise one. What we should be doing is engaging the culture by searching for the truth and then proclaiming it to those that need to hear it. Part of my desire for this blog is to do this by writing media reviews. I want to review movies, music, books, and even some Broadways musicals. My hope is to make you aware of the presence both the truth and the deception that is prevalent in the media today. If you are interested in learning more, stay tuned!