The Goal of Entertainment

There have been so many times in my life where I presumed certain truths went without saying. There has never been a time in my life where I’ve seen that more greatly disproven than in the last 5 years.

Something about having children awakened me to the reality of the “spiritual forces of wickedness” at work in this world. Having a helpless little child completely dependent upon me for every aspect of his survival was surreal; how in the world did God entrust such a task to ME!?!? I believe that is a large reason many mothers in my peer group are currently on antidepressant or antianxiety medications. We were plunged into the task of raising children– caring for and nurturing tiny, helpless people 24/7– with no prior training, no support system, and no understanding of the biblical standard for the task at hand.

But something within the last two or three years has been especially disturbing to me as a mother of small children, and that is the world of entertainment.

To understand just how disturbing it is, I’d like to begin with the etymology of the word “Entertainment”. It’s fairly simply broken down into 3 root words:

“Enter,” to go into; “tain,” to hold, occupy; “ment,” mind. The goal of, nay, the very definition of entertainment therefore is to enter the mind, hold it captive, and to impart a certain frame of mind or message.

With this break down, it becomes clear what the objective is of those creating the programming (which I’ll get to in a moment).

To understand the weight of words and the power in them, we have to go all the way back to the Creation in Genesis.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.

Genesis 1:1-4, HCSB

We see that not only is God established as the eternally existent, all-powerful, infinite Creator of the earth, but that He did so with speech.

You see a refrain over and over in Genesis’ creation account “Then God said.” I AM spoke, and life, order, goodness happened; something, from nothing. First and only time in history has that ever happened.

Now some may think this is arbitrary, that Genesis is poetic, that it means something other than what it says… I’ve read and heard a lot of theories. So for argument’s sake, let’s just let the whole of Scripture support itself.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.

John 1:1‭-‬5 HCSB

Jesus Christ is the Living Word; the Word made Flesh. God gave us the Bible, also referred to as The Word of God. In Scripture, we are told that we will stand to account for every idle word spoken (Matthew 12:36). We are also told that the Word of God- the Law and the Prophets, would never pass away, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35) Jesus said, “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17‭-‬18).

Clearly, not only the spoken, but the written word is powerful. In tempting Eve to sin, what tactic did the serpent employ? Word-smithing. “Did God really say…?” Did He mean what He said?

Because what Satan understood but mankind did not was the power of spoken language. Words carry energy. Next time you receive a compliment, consider the positive emotional/mental/physiological response it elicits. Or the next time you receive undue criticism or insult, note the same. We are primarily Spiritual beings. Consider John’s words, “Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men.” That spiritual energy was to be our modus operandi. Consider our physical bodies as mere clothing to the spiritual body. Because that’s how God created us, that is why there was nakedness without shame; when sin entered the world, the spiritual life of unity with God was killed, severed. Mankind went from being Spirit-focused beings clothed in flesh to Flesh-focused beings who were naked, exposed, and ashamed. A covering, or atonement was required to remove the guilt and shame that came with severing our relationship with our Holy God. That is why spiritual life through faith in Christ Jesus by the grace of God is called being “born again.”

“I once was lost, but now I’m found” is poetically beautiful, but to say “I once was dead, but now I live!” is far more accurate.

So we know that salvation comes through 1) Admission of sin and our need for a Savior, 2) Belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the atoning sacrifice for sin 3) confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. See the emphasis on words? What is the chief sin modern Christians are accused of committing? Hypocrisy. What is hypocrisy? Saying one thing, and doing another; professing faith in Christ, yet living in the sins of the flesh. Essentially, it is failing to live up to one’s word. Do people make mistakes? Yes. Are people constantly watching and waiting for Christians to mess up? Absolutely. Does a mistake indicate hypocrisy? Not necessarily. Hypocrisy is a lifestyle of sin. That means preaching the importance of things like purity, tithing, forgiveness, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, the fruit of the Spirit, and then when not in a church setting, deliberately and willfully choosing things contrary to the faith professed- idolatry, drunkenness, infidelity, adultery, deceit, slander, malice, gossip, sexual immorality, fraud, etc. The Hallmarks of a life of hypocrisy are the lack of shame and accountability over sin.

All of that to say, words mean things. What words are finding their way into your homes via the television? That is why the “powers that be” are so intent on the redefinition of words, changing their meanings, and the “evolution of language” or the “fluidity of language.” Why, I found out that just this week the CDC redefined some words.

[The Gospel Coalition is a chief offender when it comes to the hypocrisy of “word-smithing.” I’ll have to share an experience with that as it related to a discussion my husband and I had once; it is a post for another time. Suffice it to say, I am eternally thankful for my Husband’s spiritual insight and leadership– it is invaluable to me.]

Culture will tell us that the people and culture contribute to shifts in language. One of my biggest pet peeves is the creation of new words to describe something for which there is already a word, e.g., “selfie” is just a “self portrait,” “yolo” is just “hedonism,” and “fomo” is just the love child of greedy self-indulgence and jealous anxiety.

So when we see that the creators and curators of the content of the entertainment industry utilize media specifically to target children, we begin to see some things that should disturb us.

  1. They do not portray biblical family values
  2. They dehumanize individuals, teach collectivism, and utilize anthropomorphism to relay agendas that would otherwise be found risque if overtly portrayed by human beings.
  3. They denigrate historically virtuous men, and elevate to idol worship those who prioritize celebrity lifestyle, money, fame, grandiosity.
  4. They exclude European heritage from advertisement while preaching inclusivity, diversity, and unity, yet people still do not see the irony in their myopic and unbalanced portrayals of society.
  5. Those who stand in opposition to the “mainstream narrative” are villianized while those who bow to the wills of the “powers that be” are celebrated and granted hero status
  6. They call good evil, and evil good.
  7. They preach worship of self and moral relativism
  8. They hyper-sexualize children, over sexualize teens, and pervert desire through sexual fantasy, unrealistic body standards, and instant gratification.
  9. They utilize colors, symbols, and hidden meanings to covertly convey messages
  10. They do all of this to our children in plain sight, with parental consent, assent, and permission, as parents allow their children to view this “programming.”

Now…why do they refer to television shows as “programs”?

Typically a television show is referred to as a program if it does not follow a narrative pattern or story arc. For example, Sesame Street, reality tv shows, cooking shows, PBS specials or documentaries, even nightly news would technically classify as programs.

For those of you who haven’t read Plato’s Republic, I recommend you do, though I assume those of you who’ve read this far are more likely than most to give it a go if you haven’t already. Very enlightening. But the concept of programming the masses through visual media was grasped even in Plato’s time. One contributor to Quora said it succinctly when he wrote,

“The concept of using television to “program” people was understood as far back as Plato. He discussed this idea in his Republic. It is called “Plato’s Cave” or “the allegory of the cave”.

In it he describes how men are chained down and forced to stare at a wall in a cave. There is a flame behind a low wall behind them, and “puppeteers” put shapes in front of the flame to cast images on the wall in front of the men while making sounds.The puppeteers themselves can’t be seen by the men.

These dancing images on the cave’s wall were the men’s only reality they knew. When one of the men escaped the cave and tried to come back in and get the other’s to leave, they attacked him and called him insane. Because he questioned their reality.

This is our society today. The purpose of the television, from its very beginning, was to program the masses.”

So the question that remains is not, “are they intending to harm or control my children?” But rather, “Am I going to allow the entertainment industry access to the minds of my children?”

For my family, the answer to the latter question is a resounding “No.” Each parent has to make that decision for their own family. Lots of mothers I know use TV as a break, a means to accomplish housework without interruption, or to go to the bathroom without an audience. I get it. I’ve been there. But what I eventually came to ask myself was, “Is this helping me to form and train my children to the glory of God? Or is it fulfilling selfish ambition?” And most times, (aside from the day I had a migraine, couldn’t walk without falling down, and vomited with every step, so Winnie the Pooh stepped in until my husband could get home to help) the answer was “selfish ambition.”

I had to come to a place of taking responsibility for shaping and forming my children without always succumbing to what was easy (screen time) and to get creative with the activities and pursuits of my day. I had to learn how to incorporate the children and train them to complete household chores. I had to grow patience for little hands doing jobs messily. I had to think of crafts or art projects for them to complete that required little input from me. I had to stop outsourcing the noble task of mothering to a television screen or daycare. Hardest of all, I had to let go of the notion that TV was benevolent, or beneficial to my children.

Because at best, it’s mind-numbing, literally dulling the brain’s ability to create new neurological pathways due to passivity. And at worst, it’s worldly indoctrination and exposure to vices and ideologies contrary to the Christian faith and worldview.

The caveat of the day is that there are a few wholesome shows or educational videos I do allow on rare occasion. But emphasis on “rare.” Meaning in a 2 week period of time, my children get less than 1 hour of screen time, most of which occurs at church as part of their Sunday school lesson. I encourage parents to wrestle with this post. Consider your own screen habits, and exercise discernment in what you allow into your home, into your minds, into your children’s minds.

It is my fervent opinion that the rewards of limiting screen time far outweigh the risks of allowing the world into your homes, minds, and hearts via television.

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