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Is Entertainment A Waste Of Time? Part 3

Being a Christian is not a part time occupation. Consequently, when we’re at work, we are Christians. When we’re in the grocery store, we’re Christians. When we’re in our cars on the freeway, we’re Christians. And when we pick up a book or flip on the TV or log into the Internet, we are still Christians.

As one of the commenters to last week’s post noted, it’s ironic that a fiction writer is contemplating whether or not entertainment is a waste of time. I’ll reiterate, I believe it’s important to develop our own philosophy of entertainment because our society puts so much value on it.

Somehow, despite the tragedy in Japan, the more recent earthquake in Myanmar, the conflict in Libya, the unrest in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria, the media in the U.S. features Lindsey Lohan’s decision to drop her last name, Charlie Sheen’s latest misbehavior, and what TV shows made it into the top ten for the week.

Perhaps so much death, destruction, and oppression is too much to bear, so we are doing what Tolkien was talking about — escaping from something that imprisons our soul. Of course, Tolkien’s idea of escape was losing oneself in a fantasy world that showed truth and nobility and striving against evil.

And there’s always the Final Four

What about losing ourselves in Desperate Housewives or Office, South Part or Glee? Maybe Rango is better or The Battle for L.A.And there’s always the Final Four or the soon approaching NBA play-offs.

The point is, a lot of entertainment does not create the kind of escape Tolkien envisioned.

Should we filter out anything that isn’t Christian or at least consistent with Biblical principles? When we reach overload and want to put our brains in neutral, should we take a walk instead of turning on the TV?

I think the challenge isn’t so much avoidance as it is integration. But let me back up before I explain.

Since my last post, I’ve thought more about entertainment and Scripture, and one thing jumped out at me: the Bible doesn’t set down standards governing entertainment. In addition, throughout the Bible there are examples of people involved in entertainment, some unfavorably so, but none that receives an indictment because it is entertainment.

Samson, for example, entered into a contest of wits with his bride’s friends, with a rather costly pay-off for the loser (Judges 14:10ff). Then there was Esther’s future husband, Ahasuerus, who held a mega-party (Esther 1:1ff). The Jews, of course, incurred Moses and God’s wrath when they combined partying with idol worship (Exodus 32:18-19).

In the New Testament, Paul used the Greek games as an illustration of spiritual truths (I Corinthians 9:26), King Herod’s daughter used the occasion of her pleasing dance performance to request John the Baptist’s head (Matthew 14:6), and Jesus liked the kingdom of God to a feast (Matthew 22:2ff).

Eating, drinking, dancing, competitions, songs, stories — it seems the people in the Bible, noble or ungodly, participated in forms of entertainment and God did not set down any guidelines.

But here’s the thing. He did set down lots of principles for life. We are to love Him and love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before our God (Micah 6:8). We are to be filled with the Spirit and we aren’t to grieve Him.

And we are to do these things, not exclusively on Sunday or when we are with other Christians. Rather, we are to be who God wants us to be 24/7. Being a Christian is not a part time occupation. Consequently, when we’re at work, we are Christians. When we’re in the grocery store, we’re Christians. When we’re in our cars on the freeway, we’re Christians. And when we pick up a book or flip on the TV or log into the Internet, we are still Christians.

Our Christianity should inform our actions, reactions, and interactions, even in the moments when we’re involved in entertainment. That’s what I mean by integration.

For some of us, that means stringently restricting our entertainment. For all of us, it should mean discerning how the values of our entertainment stack up with the values promoted in Scripture. It should also mean we reject I like it as a justification for our involvement.

Not that I’m saying we can only do what we don’t like. 😆 But let’s be honest — dirty jokes are funny and pornography entices. If our justification for what we do is, I like it, then dirty jokes and pornography must be OK.

What is an acceptable justification instead? I like it and … what? Must God like it too?

What are your thoughts on that one?

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
  1. Literaturelady says:

    I’m really enjoying your posts, Becky. Very thought provoking, and I admire your using biblical examples to explain your points!
    Based on what I know of the Bible, my take on entertainment is this:
    (1) the entertainment must not violate biblical principles– a TV show that is designed to incite lust should left unwatched.
    (2) If a particular entertainment trips us up in our spiritual lives, we should not spend time doing it. For example, I read and love fantasy, and God has given me a “fantasy filter”–that is, I can filter out the magical aspects as I read and I never get a desire to write them in my own fantasy. My sister, on the other hand, tends admire any magical elements, especially if they are portrayed as beautiful and encanting, so for her fantasy is off-limits. Does that make sense?
    (3) If you lack self-control in a particular entertainment (watching too much TV, neglecting family in favor of reading, and so on), then we should probably put it away for a while, or do away with that particular entertainment altogether, as the Lord directs us.
    Thanks for asking for everyone’s thoughts. Commenters provide a wide variety of viewpoints on the issues y’all tackle, and considering them helps me to clarify my own viewpoints and challenge my thinking.
    On the subject of viewpoints, I think I turned mine on entertainment into a lecture! Here’s hoping folks won’t mind…

  2. Litlady, I didn’t think your comment was a lecture at all. I appreciate your willingness to take the time to explain your views. I agree that when we exchange thoughts on a subject such as this, we do hone our own understanding.

    I’ll be reading these comments with interest as I prepare for next week’s article. I mean, it’s great to have a philosophy of entertainment, but the fact is, a belief is only as good as its practical application. So I’m interested in just the kinds of things you shared. Thanks.

    Becky

  3. Erica says:

    Rebecca,

    I can honestly say you’ve summed up my rambling thoughts. It is all about integration. There are some things I like that others may find offensive and its not bad material. For instance, I like movies dealing with knights in armor, and war movies like Troy or 300. Not particularly harmful, but I knew some Christians who said it was “bad for their spiritual health”. So. Okay.

    My husband and I have this thing we do when we involve ourselves with entertainment. If there is a new book, movie, or song we enjoy, we ask ourselves: What message is being conveyed here? Is this something we should watch again?Would this be regular entertainment for enjoyment? Pleasing to our Lord? Why or why not?

    We try to steer clear of obvious stuff not pleasing to our Lord. I did say try, right? 🙂 Thanks for the post!

  4. Luther says:

    Great series and very inciteful.

    I know when God redeemed me I had to out away many movies that I had previously watched, mostly lust inciting and excessive language. That language, at that time, was not good for my Walk in its infancy since my choice of words was particularly foul. So they had to go. I am now moderated on the issue as the lord has grown me it is not as big an issue in my own life.

    Being a Christian is a full time endeavor and as such our entertainment should reflect biblical values. If it is not intrinsically evil then it is a personal choice IMO.

  5. I loved this post – very thought-provoking.

    I think the key to it all is discernment, as LitLady touched on above. Some things are stumbling blocks for certain Christians and not for others. I try to avoid anything with excessive, harsh language. It’s probably because I had a problem with foul language before I became a Christian (and for a while after!). It’s a habit I would slip back into with a little too much ease, were I exposed to it all the time. However, Erica and I would probably have a good time swapping movie collections. 🙂 I like the types of movies she mentioned above and they don’t present a stumbling block for me.

    And speaking of lacking self-control in a particular type of entertainment… I need to get off this fantastic blog right now. My kids are waiting to do school with me. 😉

    • Erica says:

      Yes we can certainly swap films! 🙂 I just started getting into those kinds of movies but the weird thing is, I read those kinds of books and love them!

  6. Great post. I agree that what we like and what God likes are often not the same thing.

    So I think the justification is, “I like it and I’m not abusing it. I’m using it in moderation. I’m thanking God for it. And it lifts my thoughts to either make me think more clearly about God or to make me understand more clearly how others view God and where they are right and where they are wrong.”

  7. […] Read this article: Speculative Faith: Is Entertainment A Waste Of Time? Part 3 […]

  8. Martin LaBar says:

    Thanks for this series. It has been, er, more than entertaining.

  9. Marion says:

    Becky,

    Thank you for these posts. I believe the fiction angle as escapist entertainment has been covered quite a bit.

    So I will go in a little different direction.

    I live in San Antonio and are huge fan of the San Antonio Spurs. Since there are the only professional team in town…they have quite a following. And that they have 4 NBA Titles in the last 11 years and are always considered a championship contender each year..even though the Tim Duncan era is starting to wind down. 🙁

    I thought about how much I have watch the Spurs over the past few years and realize that it can become an idol…if you are not careful. Wanting to watch every game and the playoffs can easily take your focus away from God, family, and other daily living responsibilities as well.

    It is definitely an escape (outside of reading and writing) and sometimes focusing on a game can really take away from your day-to-day life.

    So I have decided to start scaling back and try to catch the games only and not watch the highlight shows as well. If I’m successful with that…then I will try to cut back on wanting to watch every game (or as many as possible).

    I know it will not be easy…especially with the playoffs coming. LOL!!!

    Wish me luck!

    Marion
    kammbia1.wordpress.com

  10. Marion, there’s a reason I mentioned the Final Four. I’m a huge sports fan, especially basketball. And yes, I prefer the NBA to the college game. And … please don’t hate me … I’m a huge Lakers fan.

    I really am asking these questions of myself because I want to glorify God in all parts of my life, including the time I spend, or the decision not to spend it, on what I find entertaining. We can expand to games — computer, Sudoku, board, you name it. I think any form of entertainment — and we have so many in the Western world — needs to fall under the microscope of discernment.

    You’ve touched on one thing that’s come to the forefront for me — my entertainment should not crowd out other priorities. A perfect example is that the Lakers have been on TV for the last three Christmases, at least. Do I hunker down in front of the TV or interact with my family (if ONLY they were basketball fans 😆 )?

    Becky

  11. Jhulu says:

     
    Pretty good post. I just came across your site and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed
    reading your blog posts. Any way I’ll be coming back and I hope you post again soon.

  12. Thanks, Jhulu, glad you found us. And please do stop by and leave a comment any time.

     

    Becky