When to Question Your Entertainment Choices
Entertainment isn’t inherently shallow, but we can be shallow in our response to it sometimes. One such way is viewing and treating entertainment as nothing more than a simple tool for proselytizing. This belief has led to a plethora of shallow faith-based movies that are just thinly-veiled sermons.
Another shallow way to respond to entertainment, as Trevin Wax once pointed out, is to subscribe to the idea that “all sorts of entertainment choices are validated in the name of cultural engagement.” Wax then rightly asks, “What’s the point in decrying the exploitation of women in strip clubs and mourning the enslavement of men to pornography when we unashamedly watch films that exploit and enslave?”
These are excellent questions, and after mulling them over for quite a while (the above-linked article was published over five years ago), I have attempted at least a partial answer in my newest article for Reformed Perspective:
There is a line that shouldn’t be crossed, somewhere between the questions, “How does watching Chariots of Fire show us the gospel?” and “How does watching Girls Gone Wild show us the gospel?” Where is that line? What does it look like?
We can’t answer these questions with the depth they deserve in a single article. What we can do, however, is pose a few additional questions to help us evaluate our own hearts more clearly.
I have developed three such questions, followed by two commands and one biblical test—all of which will hopefully challenge and clarify the ways in which Christians should engage with popular culture. To whet your appetite, here is my third question:
QUESTION #3: AM I PLACING TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON BEING RELEVANT?
There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be effective in communicating with a particular demographic, including your own culture. The problem with focusing too much on being relevant, however, is that we can become so fixated on what is current and popular and fresh that we lose sight of what is lastingly valuable.
What is relevant today will be irrelevant tomorrow. This is true in any setting, but when we are immersed in the very culture we attempt to minister in, we can be especially distracted by numerous fads, crazes, and trends.
When the Pharisees debated with Jesus about divorce in Mark 10, they were consumed with current interpretations of the Mosaic law, whereas Jesus focused on ancient realities found the book of Genesis. In the words of commentator David Guzik,
It’s striking that Jesus took us back to the beginning to learn about marriage. Today many want to say, “We live in different times” or “The rules are different today” or “We need a modern understanding.” Yet Jesus knew that the answers were in going back to the beginning.
Relevance is a tragic endgame. It’s a horrible target to set your sights on. With such a focus, the temporal can gain more importance than the eternal, and suddenly we’re majoring on minors and minoring on majors. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, if we aim at eternal truth, we’ll get temporal relevance thrown in. If we aim simply at relevance, we’ll get neither.
Chasing after the moving target of “relevance” can lead one to speak and act and live in a way that is nearly indistinguishable from those in the world. To a large degree, this has happened within our western Christian subculture: our entertainment choices rarely differ from those who claim no affinity for God and His word. And if our salt loses its saltiness in the name of relevance, we become pathetically irrelevant.
Go to How then shall we watch? to read the article in its entirety.