Amusing ourselves to death

Amusing ourselves to deathIn his book, Amusing ourselves to deathNeil Postman argues that our entertainment culture has undermined our ability to reason and gain understanding. We have “smart” televisions and internet connected devices that can deliver movies, video clips and music around the clock.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with entertainment or diversion in moderation, in excess, as Postman argues, it can become an unhealthy addiction.

What brought this to mind is a proverb I read this morning:

“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.” (Proverbs 4:7, ESV)

Knowing facts is valuable, but it is important to understand how those facts work together. We cannot correctly prescribe a solution to the mess we see around us unless we understand how and why it got to be a mess in the first place. Scripture speaks to this and challenges us to participate in God’s reclamation of the world he created. We are called to make disciples. It is through the church that God has reformed cultures and brought personal reformation.

The danger for the church in the 21st Century is that we can substitute “Christian” entertainment and become just as diverted as the surrounding culture. We have immediate and continuous access to sermons, worship music and Christian movies. We are in danger of becoming “Christian” couch potatoes or entertainment junkies. As Postman warns, we can be amusing ourselves to death with clean entertainment.

How then can we tell if entertainment is in excess? I believe the writer of Hebrews gives us a clue:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24, ESV)

For example, I greatly enjoyed the movie Amazing Grace which presents the struggle of William Wilberforce against slavery. But if viewing that movie does not challenge me to be aware of the injustices in my own culture and work toward righting them, then it has become merely a diversion.

We can treat the Bible in the same way. If I do my “devotions” and read the prescribed passage every morning but do not allow Scripture to influence my behavior, then my reading has become merely a diversion and not the life-changing exercise that it should be.

The writer of Proverbs challenges us to think and not merely consume.