Entertainment Tonight and Every Night
By Donald James Parker
This might seem like a strange forum for suggesting people should examine the amount of time they spend on entertainment. This column is to help people find worthy outlets for their spare time. Posting this exhortation may be like a restaurant nailing a notice on the door informing patrons they shouldn't eat out often. Writing this article has caused me great anguish. I completed the original in about fifteen minutes. Finalizing those paragraphs has taken about fifteen hours. I'm not sure any of the original words survived the cut. Life could not have been easy for John the Baptist. I'm not eating locusts and wild honey, but I am perhaps crying out in the wilderness to people who don't want to hear a discouraging word. Let him who has ears hear.
First of all, I'm a novelist. It would be in my interest for people to spend their whole lives buying and reading every book they could get their hands on. However, I can't, in all good conscience, advocate that lifestyle. The duties of life call, and it's hard to ignore the incessant ringing. There are consequences for people who fail to march to the beat of the system. The TV, movies, books, and video games cry out to us like the Sirens from the mythological travels of Odysseus to abandon the quest to fulfill our duties. (The sailors who were unable to resist the charms of the Sirens ended up shipwrecked.) Am I saying your life will be shipwrecked if you watch a movie or a TV show? Not even close, but I do suggest that some prudent navigation of shallow, rock-infested waters might be in order. Self-discipline is required. To add to Ecclesiastes, there is a season for entertainment and a season for abstaining from entertainment.
When life is hard, many of us want to escape from it all. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, but others choose the more acceptable route of entertainment. How do I know that? I've been there, done that, and my flesh would love to do it again. We run to the make-believe world provided by the entertainment industry. Amusement becomes an oasis in the desert of despair and a life-raft in an ocean of tribulation. Some of you might say, "Yeah, yeah, so what's your point?"
I'm glad you asked. I've learned many valuable lessons over the years by reading books and watching life on the screen. However, there is a danger of abusing this outlet just like with any other coping mechanism. It is possible to lose touch with reality, causing people to live in that make believe world. More likely, people will only become addicted and just need their fix.
One thing I've observed is that the threshold to obtain amusement keeps rising. People are growing bored with the common fare and want the exciting, thrilling dosage. This has escalated to the point we are at today with the proliferation of violence and blatant sex. What happens when those become blasé? I'm scared to think about it.
As a Christian, in addition to the other vocational and family duties, we have a responsibility to the Lord to minister to our fellow human beings. We are called to be good stewards of our finances, and the same is true of our time. We all need recreation of some type, just like we need nutritional sustenance and sleep. But, to rephrase an old adage, do we live to recreate or recreate to live? Unless I'm sadly mistaken, we need to do the latter. The Bible says that we will be rewarded for our good works here on earth. Reading a Christian novel or watching a Christian movie doesn't qualify as such. However, those vehicles might provide the inspiration and the resolve we need to help motivate us to spend some of those precious moments that God has given us in reaching out to others in spirit, truth, and love. And for that reason, we need to choose our entertainment carefully, so we might feed our spirits at the same time our souls are nourished. If we eat too much junk food, our physical health suffers. Too much junk entertainment will negatively impact our spiritual health. Fighting the good fight requires us to keep up our morale. Watching an inspirational movie can strengthen our resolve to follow Christ wherever He leads. Reading a book where a couple dodges the divorce bullet through prayer might actually help save our own marriage. To reiterate: we, as believers, need to seek diversion that will promote the fruits of the spirit.
To optimize time, try some of these techniques: Get creative in your recreation! Multitask by killing two figurative birds with one time-slot stone. Exercise while you watch television or read a book. Invite unsaved unbelievers to your house to watch a Christian movie with you. Watch uplifting material with the family and discuss them afterward to strengthen the family ties while getting an entertainment fix. Go down to the retirement home and read a book aloud to some people who can't read. And lastly, learn to be entertained by your ministry. It will be like learning to extract water from dry air, preventing any desert experiences.
About the author: Donald James Parker is a novelist and computer programmer who resides in Puyallup, Washington. Check out his website at www.donaldjamesparker.com .