Is entertainment necessary?

Over the years of writing a number of my articles have addressed issues that have arisen from within the entertainment industry. My last two articles were about the content of recently released movies, and while the entertainment industry is but one of the many influences Christians are exposed to, there is no denying that influence is both significant and pervasive.

So what should a Christian think about the influence of the entertainment industry?

Paul told Timothy, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content,” 1 Timothy 6:8. Food to nourish us, and the coverings of clothing and shelter to protect us from the elements are all that are necessary to sustain our physical bodies and to be content.

Entertainment then is a luxury and not necessary to maintain life or contentment, at least not from a scriptural perspective. We may not like missing our favorite television program, sporting event, or new movie, but we will not die from it.

While the influence of entertainment can have a positive or negative impact on our lives, it can also rob us of productivity and serve as a distraction from the profitable practice of spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study to name just two. And the things we watch will be a reflection of the society we live in that has all but forsaken any semblance of a Christian culture and a life of faith.

I am not advocating a rejection of all entertainment, but I am saying we as Christians should give careful thought and act deliberately in what we do watch considering its potential influence on our homes and families. If we fail in doing so then Christians risk the culture around us being more of an influence on us than we are on our culture.

Paul in writing to the Romans said “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Romans 12:2. The idea here is the Christian is not to follow the pattern of unbelievers, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

The Greek word for “transformed” here is metamorphoo. We get the English word metamorphosis from it, and in biology it describes those living creatures that during their life cycle undergo a total transformation, such as a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, or a tadpole becoming a frog.

Similarly, we are to renew our mind through the disciplines of Bible study and prayer so that we begin to think like Christ to be transformed into His image.

Ask yourself the question, if I were arrest for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict me? And if the answer is no, then maybe you have seen too many movies or watched too much television.

What about “The Shack”

A couple of people have asked me to write about “The Shack.” It is a bestseller and has now been made into a movie. The author William P. Young is a Canadian and former hotel night clerk. His book is about a man whose daughter is kidnapped and brutally murdered, and later receives a mysterious invitation, presumably from God, to meet at “the shack” to address and resolve his pain.

While the account is purely fictional one cannot ignore the real life parallels in the story line and the godlike character is very compassionate and understanding, hence its popular appeal. But as far as I know Young makes no claims to any theological insights and the god character is a figment of his human imagination.

Ergo, critics have levied attacks on its theological inaccuracies, while supporters praise its humanitarian approach to a horrific tragedy, and the truth that no life is lived without physical and emotional pain and we all have the need to cope with it.

People read and watch movies for all sorts of reasons, but fundamentally we read and watch whatever entertains us. This is why filmmakers produce movies based on bestsellers and not worse-sellers, they think a movie is more marketable when based on a book that has a proven track-record like “The Shack.”

Knowing the secular entertainment industry is motivated to make a profit, and not necessarily bound to biblical truth, anyone would be foolish to seek theological answers in a movie theater. People are entertained, in part, because books and movies give them a respite from the realities of life. For a few brief moments they can escape into a fictional realm that is pleasant and imaginary.

This is why I encourage people to read the Scriptures, because theological truth is not found in a bookstore or movie theater, it is found in the Book of books, the Bible. It is not only dangerous to confuse what is imaginary with what is real; it is deadly.

People are not confused about the truth or truly deceived unless they want to be. They deceive themselves when they prefer a pleasant falsehood to real truth.

God told the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13. We will find the Father when we seek Him and His truth.

I have not read “The Shack,” but I have read some summaries and reviews of the book, and while I have not seen the movie I have watched the theatrical trailer. I do not know if I will watch the movie or not, because I already know there is no such thing as a pain-free life. The Bible teaches us we live in a broken world, and tragedies are real. But real tragedies can only be healed by a real God, not an imaginary one. Only a real God offers help for the present and hope for the future.

The list is too short

Disney’s newest live action movie release of “Beauty and the Beast” is the subject of controversy. This classic tale of the importance of character over appearance has been altered by Disney to introduce a gay character to the story line.

It seems Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, is interested in taking their friendship to the next level, or a step down depending on your perspective. Bob Condon, the movie’s director, admits it will contain a “gay moment.”

It is a shameless and unapologetic move on the part of Disney to insinuate the idea that homosexuality is normal under the guise of family entertainment to further support the LGBTQ’s agenda. So it is understandable that within Christian circles there is already a call to boycott the movie, understandable but myopic.

Some lukewarm voices have suggested going to watch the movie to encourage dialogue about the issue of homosexuality. Seriously, do we need to watch a movie to talk about an issue that is being promoted and introduced to every area of the public forum at every possible opportunity?

On the other hand I do not support the call for a boycott, because it is a sheer act of hypocrisy. There are many movie production companies making thousands of movies inundated with gratuitous heterosexual fornication and adultery, introducing audiences to sorcery and witchcraft, filled with senseless violence and gore, and the unbridled use of vulgarity and profanity.

But we are encouraged to boycott one movie, produced by one studio, because of the portrayal of one type of sexual sin. Are we to smugly assume by doing so we are taking a stand for righteousness? I wonder what has happened to the conscience of Christians in America.

I do not need anyone to tell me what I should or should not watch because I have enough of the Holy Spirit in me to know, like David, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes,” Psalm 101:3. No one needs to tell me what to boycott because I do not intend to spend the money I worked so hard for on any movie that assaults my Christian sensibilities and mocks the biblical morality I hold sacred.

It is difficult to believe that I live in a nation where the evangelical vote was enough to sway the outcome of a Presidential campaign, but is not enough to stem the flow of filth from the entertainment industry. We fail to understand that any sexual act outside of one man with one woman within the covenant of marriage is a perversion of the sex act, and is an abomination in the eyes of God.

So I do not support a boycott of one movie, produced by one studio, containing one form of sexual sin. That list is too short for me.

Evangelism and Politics

The Festival of Hope is a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association event scheduled for next week in Vancouver, Canada. Franklin Graham following in the footsteps of his father, Billy Graham, as the heir apparent to his father’s evangelistic association was to share the hope of the Gospel with the city of Vancouver.

A group of church leaders and pastors claiming to represent “over 60% of the Christians in the metro area” have published a letter opposing Franklin Graham coming to Vancouver. Despite assurances that he would “avoid controversial topics while in Vancouver” and preach the “simple Gospel,” these leaders were adamantly opposed to him coming because of statements he has made about the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and his support of Donald Trump’s Presidency.

I would think any man of conscience who believes the Bible is the Word of God should hold convictions on social and political issues that are controversial, especially with those who hold very different views on the same issues.

For me, politics are about issues, not personalities. This is why I never endorse candidates, because when it comes to politics, politicians’ personalities are unpredictable. Franklin’s father learned that when he supported Richard Nixon throughout the Watergate affair until Nixon resigned the Presidency in disgrace.

To the best of my knowledge Franklin never endorsed Trump prior to the election, but in its wake has said his victory was the “hand of God.” Without further clarification I cannot say what Franklin means by that statement, but I too believe it was the hand of God. Not because I prayed for Donald Trump to be the President, but because I prayed for God’s will to be done, and I believe God is in control of human history.

I think these leaders who oppose Franklin Graham coming and sharing the Gospel are allowing politics to interfere with the preaching of the Gospel, and like politics the Gospel should not be about personalities.

Paul wrote, “I have been informed…there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” I Corinthians 1:11-13.

The believers in Corinth had developed preferences for a particular preacher or teacher of the Gospel, and it had reached the point it was causing divisions within the church. Paul was making the point that the Gospel is not about personalities, it is about Christ; it is not about the messenger, it’s about the message.

It is not clear to me why Canadians are so interested in American politics, but it is clear they are making a political statement, not a Gospel statement. Franklin Graham is proving to be as articulate and effective at preaching the Gospel as his father was, and those opposing him in Vancouver would be wise to leave politics out of his coming.