Welcome to: The Faithful Word.org -- Titus 1:9

Entertainment -- Amusing the Saints or Recreating the Spirit?
Copyright © 2004 - All rights retained by author
Written by: C. W. Booth

What Did I Just See?

Last night my family and I watched a movie entitled "Pirates of the Caribbean." This movie made me somewhat ill, not in my stomach, but in my spirit. Oh, the movie had its humorous moments and some witty banter, but that is hardly the redeeming value of any piece of entertainment when its theme and primary moral is so blatantly at odds with the values of Scripture.

This experience left me wondering, "what did I just see, and why?" As I have thought about it over the past day, I kept coming back to the concept of entertainment. What is entertainment and is the very concept biblical? How am I spending my free time and my family time? What about other forms of entertainment, like strolling beside a stream, or better yet, fishing from it? What books should I or can I read for entertainment?

Permit me to develop my train of thought over the past few hours with regard to last nightís movie. It seems unfair, somehow, to use this one movie as an archetype for all movies, yet, in detailing out various observations within this one event, a broader understanding of entertainment can be built and then examined from a Scriptural perspective. Then, we can explore other modes of entertainment and dig a bit deeper into the implications that form around those areas of entertainment as well.

Evaluating the Value of a Movie

The movie, "Pirates of the Caribbean," was a fantasy, not unlike "Lord of the Rings" or "Star Wars" in its departure from reality and embracing of supernatural norms and comic book characters. What made this movie so very distasteful was its glorification of evil. Every main character, except two, was an unrepentant pirate from the 1800s. One pirate was particularly comical, and it seems that the authors of the movie imagined this was a sufficiently strong attribute as to outweigh the fact that the pirate was a mass murderer, thief, liar, and heretic who was absorbed by greed.

In the end, the comical pirate is sentenced to death for his uncounted crimes. However, the point of the movie is that executing justice on this criminal would be a wrong so great as to warrant the invocation of treason, violence, and the overthrow of the judicial system itself in an attempt to save him. Amongst all the deaths of the innocents, the massacre of the heroes who carried arms to protect the public, and the destruction of the towns of ordinary people, there is no hint of remorse by the pirates, and worse, the leading lady concludes that, after all, we are all truly pirates ourselves.

In fact, this movie teaches that greed leads to worse greed, that greed is never sated, but since all men are greedy, we should accept this fact about ourselves, give in to greed, and pursue greediness while being mindful that larceny can be forgiven anyone on Earth so long as they are found to be charming enough to other people. This movie made me ill.

It was just entertainment. It was just a movie. Why should it make me ill? It was a slick Hollywood screen play marketed to earn a profit for the investors, not a serious work designed to instruct or enlighten. Why should it bother me whether the moral of the movie was good or bad, right or wrong, biblical or unbiblical?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. (Psalms 101:3)

Very difficult passages to reconcile against time spent watching any movie, much less one with such an anti-God message as "Pirates." So difficult that I will not even try to justify my decision to stay and watch it through to the end. That movie was so far out-of-step with dwelling on truth, honor, righteousness, purity, love, goodness, and excellence that my time spent there is personally indefensible. That movie taught that rebellion against Godís laws was a humorous and even rewarding thing to do.

"For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king." (1 Samuel 15:23)

On the other hand, these passages do not forbid all entertainment. Nor does any other passage in the Scriptures. And what is not explicitly forbidden by the Word is permissible if it is aligned with the rest of Godís Word (Romans 4:15, 1 Timothy 4:5).

These passages do illustrate that what we set before our eyes, even for entertainment, must not be "worthless" (meaning "that which has no value to a righteous person;" in other words, anything sinful). And that on which we "dwell" (to mentally take inventory of) must be pure, honorable, and righteous. Now to be certain, this passage does not mean we cannot think about or hear about the evil things that people do, for how then would we be able to confront the sinner for the error of his ways, or be able to tell to the church the reasons for disciplining an errant brother, or rebuke a man such as Alexander the coppersmith? Paul had to encounter and deal with the sins of many brethren who were led astray. Therefore, he had to hear about them.

No, these passages do not forbid us to hear about sins or to understand the schemes of the devil. These passages warn us against looking with approval on such evil and to avoid putting into our minds any means that would make such evil justifiable or acceptable. Instead we are to take note of those things of which God approves and consider ways to invest them into our own lives as well as into the lives of others (Hebrews 10:24).

Movies as Entertainment

Is a movie such as "Lord of the Rings," "Star Wars," or perhaps "Toy Story" acceptable as Christian entertainment? What should we say about watching "Saving Private Ryan," "Schindlerís List," "Chariots of Fire," "A Thief in the Night," "The Hiding Place," or "The Passion of the Christ?" What of "Harry Potter?"

There are no checklists of movies that all Christians will find appropriate. It is up to each Christian to use the Scriptures as a guide to establish rules of personal conduct which will define for each individual whether a certain form of entertainment is godly or ungodly. We are to consider the use of our bodies for anything immoral to be as dead corpses, incapable of participating in those dark sins.

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

In my own situation I attempted some damage control by explaining to my wife and son where the moral of "Pirates" was in opposition to the Scriptures. In short, I used the wasted time watching the movie as a tool for training in righteousness. This does not excuse my poor judgement in selecting the eveningís entertainment, and while that movie time cannot be recaptured, it did permit me to put the rest of that evening to better use by exposing the message of the movie to the light of Godís Word.

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.

For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you." Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:11-16)

One of the most profound aspects of evaluating the propriety of attending any given movie is whether that movie incites you to improper thoughts or conduct. For myself, I find that movies that feature nudity are strictly off my list because such visualizations are an invitation to lust, which the Scriptures point out is the mother of sin (James 1:14,15). For anyone tempted to violent behavior or even drug abuse because they view mobsters or gangs extolling those behaviors in movies, this would be an indication they might want to avoid such graphic portrayals when they select their own entertainment (Romans 1:32).

Some movies, such as "Toy Story" not only entertain but also deliver a reasonable lesson in morality without relying on an abundance of swearing or other improper visual or audio behaviors. "Master and Commander" is, in my own personal opinion, an excellent film from both an entertainment perspective, but also an educational one. Life at sea in the 1800s is depicted in an historically accurate and vivid manner, deflating much of the Hollywood glamour of war at sea while recalling much of the hardship. There is some profanity, but significantly less than what I experience during my normal work day, and the few words used in the course of the film did not incite or entice me to mimic such vocabulary as I heard.

"Harry Potter," on the other hand, is far more problematic. Here is a visually compelling dramatization of a modern make-believe world where the "gifted" children and adults are witches with amazing and fun supernatural abilities while the Christians are merely "normal" with no such control over nature, the spiritual world, or other people. Implicit in all the imagery (goblins, ogres, candle lit rooms, stone chambers, black robes) but missing from the text is that witchcraft is the dark act and practice of worshipping Satan. In short, it is like enticing the reader or the movie watcher to desire all the power and ability that is suggested as coming with Satanism without mentioning the obligation and impact to oneís spirit that comes with dedicating oneself to witchcraft. Personally, I am unable to bring myself to share that message with my son in the name of entertainment; though some of my sincere Christian acquaintances find it has no influence on themselves or their children and embrace Harry Potter enthusiastically.

My wife and myself have had a long-standing literary disagreement on the virtues of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Permit me to hastily add that my objections to these works lie at two levels, doctrinal and literary. On the literary level it is not uncommon to hear me reference the books as "Bored with the Rings," given that I find them tedious and bogged down with superfluous narrative. For this reason my wife, an avid fan of all things Tolkien, questions whether my graduation from primary school did indeed equip me to read the English language. SighÖ

On the second level, I am uncomfortable accepting that there is much difference between the godless world of orcs, Hobbits, and wizards created in The Lord of the Rings and the godless world of Harry Potter, or perhaps various works from the "sword and sorcery" genre which Tolkienís writings spawned. My wife counters that Tolkien only embraced virtues and the highest moral lessons in his writings, while I struggle with the concept that elves make magic swords, dwarves forge rings of power by which to dominate all mankind, wizards utter incantations and efficacious spells, and Christ is nowhere to be found to confront all the evil in the world. Remind me again, what higher values were those? Our debate continues.

Entertainment Defined

Entertainment consists of far more than simply attending movies, watching television, or reading books. When I go for a walk just to shake off the difficulties of the work day, is that not entertainment? When I walk around the banks of my favorite lake and fish for bass in the final rays of the setting sun, is that not entertainment? When I sit at a table and exchange laughter with my competitors during an intensely played game of Risk, is that not entertainment?

Nowhere have I been able to document from the pages of Godís Word that "entertainment" is forbidden. Nor have I been able to find its endorsement.

Entertainment, as we are discussing it, is a form of thought diversion, amusement (to avoid contemplative musings), or pleasure-seeking. When a person becomes consumed with the need for entertainment he becomes a practicing hedonist. Anything that becomes more important than the furthering of the work to make Christ king in oneís life, and to be in compliance with His righteousness is a misplaced priority (Matthew 6:33). Entertainment must be subordinate to Christ in substance, form, and importance.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17)

Entertainment, laughter, recreation, refreshment, bemusement are rarely contemplated in Scripture. Although for children, God seems to ordain "play" as the ideal condition, as in this promise of a restored paradise for Israel:

'And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.' (Zechariah 8:5)

There are a few snatches of Scripture that indicate that not all humor or lightheartedness is to be foresaken.

Sarah said, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me." (Genesis 21:6)

Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." (Psalms 126:2)

If you hold to the concept that entertainment is a form of renewal for the mind and spirit, and that mental and physical renewal are constantly required, there is some support for this in Scripture, though not necessarily in the aspect of the performing arts. Most often our renewal comes in the form of contemplation on God and His Word.

"Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves." (Exodus 23:12)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8)

"For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes." (Jeremiah 31:25)

"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19)

so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company. (Romans 15:32)

It would also be proper to point out that Saul would sit and be entertained by Davidís harp playing for the very purpose of being refreshed and made well in spirit since this music would cause the evil spirit to depart.

So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him. (1 Samuel 16:23)

Perhaps no one in all history had a better perspective on entertainment than did Solomon. He recorded his learning points about the human condition from two perspectives in the book of Ecclesiastes. When Solomon was discussing things from manís perspective, he would say the phrase "under the sun," for man lives under the sun all his years. When he wanted us to understand the same experiences from Godís unique perspective as Sovereign of history he would say "under heaven," for God resides in heaven and views all things from His throne.

From His eternal perspective, God appoints a time for every possible event under heaven. Among these appointed events are times for laughter and times for dancing.

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--
A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.
What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?
I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-10)

For balance, we also see that Solomon fully evaluated entertainment, and came to realize that life lived in pursuit of pleasure was vanity and futility.

I said to myself, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself." And behold, it too was futility.

I said of laughter, "It is madness," and of pleasure, "What does it accomplish?"

I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives.

All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.

Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:1-3, 10,11)

The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep.
Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one's labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.
Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.
For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)

Just because we do not find entertainment or "recreation" explicitly commended in the Word, we need not immediately assume that all manner of hobbies or "fun" are illicit or counterproductive. When fellowshipping with other Christians, entertainment can be used as a tool to draw the group together (though, as always, it must be cautioned that entertainment is not the goal but the tool). If the entertainment is not temporary and never gives way to fellowshipping around the Word or prayer then you may wish to reevaluate your strategy and your priorities. When taking time away from daily labors and jobs, it can draw the family together if you all go to an amusement park or perhaps go skiing together. Such times can be a great way to renew your relationships with your children. Always you must be aware that entertainment is not the objective, merely a means.

Conclusion

Consider carefully how you approach and select entertainment. What is it teaching? Is it furthering the cause of righteousness and Christís kingdom? Is it fostering fellowship or hindering it? Is entertainment the hedonistic goal or just a means to another objective?

If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:30,31)

 

Appendix

Even before I have been able to post this article on the internet, a movie by Mel Gibson is due out today, entitled, "The Passion of the Christ." This movie is said to be violent and emotional. Recognizing that I will be watching but one manís imagination of what the crucifixion may have been like I do not ascribe to this film any worship value nor consider it to be Scripture. I also do not find the idea that violence depicted on film is necessarily improper, if it has a legitimate moral driving it. Indeed, the Scriptures describe the crucifixion as having left Jesus with no form that we could find attractive--how badly and violently beaten must a man be to warrant such a description (Isaiah 53)? I do intend to watch the film as "entertainment" much as I watched "Schindlerís List" as entertainment. Sometimes, being reminded of our historical past, even through fictional depictions of horrific but real events such as these, is useful and educational recreation. And perhaps, just perhaps, some will be able to use this film to develop a dialogue with the unsaved such that some might come to a saving knowledge of Christ (1 Timothy 2:4).

Perhaps after viewing the film, I will post my own analysis.

For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you." Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:11-16)

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17)

In the final review, it may not be that entertainment itself is wrong, but rather, what it is that we find entertaining.



The Faithful Word.org Icon Return to TheFaithfulWord.org Home Page



Site Contact: sitemanager@thefaithfulword.org
Copyright 2004 - all rights retained
Page Last Revised: February 23, 2004