A substitute title for this article might be How My Christianity Informs My Entertainment Decisions.
I appreciate the feedback from last week’s article, especially those who shared their thoughts about their justification for their choices in entertainment.
I posed the question, Must God like whatever entertainment I want to enjoy? That’s a more complex question than it might seem at first. If we say, yes the only entertainment we can enjoy is free of sin, then we’re out of luck, because the chances of finding sin-free entertainment are just as high as finding sin-free churches. We happen to live in a fallen world, and we can expect to find sin all around, even in Christian fiction.
But should we ignore God’s holy standard?
Interestingly, many of the stories Jesus told had sinful characters, some doing sinful things. There was the prodigal son, for example, and his equally sinful brother. Or think about the unrighteous judge who the widow kept pestering to give her justice. There was also the rich man who ended up in hell and the unrighteous servant who didn’t invest the money his master entrusted to him.
Clearly, Jesus did not take a hear no evil, see no evil approach to sin in His stories. Well, someone may rebut, Jesus was teaching; He wasn’t trying to entertain.
No? I suspect He chose to tell stories, not because He couldn’t figure out how to state truth in a didactic way, but because He knew the power of story and He wanted people to remember what He said.
So here are my first two principles in choosing entertainment. 1) Entertainment can depict sinful activity. 2) Entertainment can be instructive.
Instructive entertainment can present a negative example (Edmund or Eustace) or a positive (Frodo or Samwise Gamgee). It can show someone’s choice that fails (Macbeth or Scarlet O’Hara) or one that requires sacrifice (Jody in The Yearling or Travis in Old Yeller). It can have a happy, bow-tied ending or finish in a snarled mess. The how isn’t the important thing. One way or another, entertainment that instructs shows Biblical principles.
Entertainment can also instruct in other areas. As a coach, I would often go to basketball games to learn more about the game and the latest trends. As a writer, I read books and learn more about writing techniques from the stories I’m enjoying.
Another type of instruction shines light on the false thinking of our culture. Call it cultural awareness entertainment. I’d put The Lion King in that category or The Golden Compass. This too, is valid, perhaps even necessary, as long as it doesn’t lead into sin. That’s a big qualifier. I as a believer have to make my decisions based on my knowledge of my own weaknesses.
Notice, I’m still talking about entertainment. These are things we can enjoy, but they also serve another purpose — to show me truth, to teach me a skill, or to help me recognize and understand error.
I rarely (if ever) categorize my entertainment before hand. I didn’t go to see Avatar with the idea that I would learn more about our culture. I went to be entertained. I went to enjoy a fantasy. And I did. But I also had my eyes opened to our culture.
So, can entertainment ever be just entertainment? That’s like asking, Can food ever be for enjoyment and not also for nutrition? Or can sex ever be for pleasure and not also for procreation?
And yet, in our eating, in our sex, are we not still to be Christians? In other words, can we gorge ourselves without thought of consequence? Can we be selfish? Can we be greedy? Can we be sinful?
Clearly not. There is a Christ-like way to enjoy what God has given us to enjoy. Consequently I think I need to employ Christ-like enjoyment of whatever entertainment I give myself to.
Since I’m a sports fan, let me use that particular form of entertainment to illustrate what I mean. I love the Lakers, as I admitted in the comments section last week. But I need to love what God loves, more. Consequently, if I am to have a Christ-like enjoyment of basketball, I must not put watching the Lakers over going to church. I must not put them over my friends or family or work.
In short, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are times when it’s just fine to be involved in entertainment, even to the point of giving my mind a rest — just so long as I’m not giving my Christianity a rest at the same time.