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A Call to End the Christian War on Entertainment

FREEDOM! A Call to End the Christian War on Entertainment


This picture got retweeted a bunch yesterday. The sarcasm of it is clear. People have correlated technology with the advancement of societal ill for a long, long time.

Today’s whipping boy is the smartphone. The point of the tweet above seems to be that people used to look at newspapers the same way people look at their phones today.

You see, we like to romanticize our past as if we were any different than today. When in fact things really haven’t changed very much. We always blame the technology, never addressing the root problem.

The War on Entertainment

I grew up with parents complaining about video games leading me to commit murder. In 1993, 20 years ago, there were congressional hearings about Mortal Combat!

I remember parents debating whether to allow their kids to have a TV in their bedroom or their own phone line. Oh, they might watch MTV or talk to their girlfriend about sex!

My parents grew up hearing about the evils of rock and roll.

My grandparents grew up hearing about the ills of the radio or going to the movies.

On and on through the ages the older generation looks at the younger and their technology and predicts the end of society as they know it.

Take this example from the 1820s.

The Christian and the Theater

by some strange concurrence of circumstances, this evil, sinful and pestiferous as it evidently is, has crept, under a sort of disguise, into the Church of Christ; and has come to be considered by many, as an amusement lawful for Christians! With respect to most other sins which we are in the habit of reproving, they are freely and generally acknowledged to be such; and when any of those who belong to the communion of our churches fall into them, they are dealt with as circumstances require. But we have here the strange phenomenon of a great and crying sin, which some professed Christians not only indulge—but which they openly endeavor to justify; to which they freely introduce their children; and, as if this were not enough, in behalf of which they take serious offence when the ministers of Christ speak of it in the terms which it deserves. Rely upon it, reader, this practice will not stand the test of examination. It is corrupt and indefensible throughout; and the more speedily you become convinced of this, and act accordingly, the better will it be for yourself, and the better for society.

Source: The Christian and the Theater – American Tract Society, 1825

How Long Must We Sing This Song?

Today’s bully-pulpit is social media and the lowly smartphone.

And while most aren’t saying that your iPhone will lead you straight to hell, I’ve heard folks blame both for just about everything.

It’s a new verse to a tired old song long ready to be put to pasture.

It’s Time for Engagement, Not Indictment

The same tract gives the comment I can predict as push back to this post:

Perhaps some will consider this as taking an unnecessarily strict, and even puritanical view of the theater, as an amusement. This is so far from being the case, that the sentiments which have been expressed, are those in which the wise and the virtuous, in all ages, have been entirely unanimous, even from the origin of the practice. (source)

The reason I’ve given up on this line of argument is that I can look at hundreds of years of history and say, with gusto: Jesus doesn’t call us to withdraw from society, he asks us to engage it incarnationally.

Standing on the outside, condemning, preaching against, dropping guilt trips isn’t working now, hasn’t worked in the past, and is just a bad strategy for asking people to follow Christ.

Jesus had the power to capture man with the sword. If he wanted to conquer Rome he would have. Instead he chose to launch an insurrection of the heart.

Consider this, fair reader, from Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.

I chose to engage my friends and neighbors on issues of the heart, engaging in the insurrection instead of battling in and endless war on media we cannot, will not, nor should win.

12 Responses to A Call to End the Christian War on Entertainment

  1. Snarky Brother December 15, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Next Blog, Why You Should Delete SnapChat. LOL Irony.

    • adam mclane December 15, 2013 at 9:25 am #

      I don’t see those as contradictory. But I do see leaving an anonymous comment with the word “brother” in at as such.

      • Kurt J. December 16, 2013 at 7:59 am #

        To be fair, his name is “Snarky Brother”, so you should have seen it coming! :)

        Great post, Adam. I think the tension between being “In the world but not of the world” is always gonna be part of our Jesus Journey.

        For me, it would seem like a mistake to see the Devil in everything…to cocoon myself from influence of media/entertainment/technology.

        For me, it would seem like a mistake to see the Devil in nothing….to fully embrace media/entertainment/technology and scoff at the idea of its potential for negative influence.

        It would be easier to embrace one of those two mentalities, but a mistake.

        I wonder if too many Christians fear tension and fear a walk that requires a mentality of what I call “Daily Discernment”. Some stuff is black and white; but most stuff requires daily discernment. For me, the media/entertainment/technology part of my life is one that fits the need for daily discernment perfectly.

        • Jonathan McKee December 16, 2013 at 9:42 am #

          I’ll agree with Kurt here. Adam, I love that you’re encouraging us to “engage” with our kids instead of just sitting around whining about the evils of technology. But you worry me a little bit when you mock the doctors like the ones from the Journal Pediatrics who recommend no TV’s in the bedroom. I don’t think it’s “alarmist” of an “overreaction” for a parent to say, “Hey kids, TV can be fun, but we’ll watch it together in the family room.” BOTTOM LINE: Yes, engage in consistent conversation, interacting instead of overreacting, and teaching our kids values and how to make these decisions themselves… but also help our kids flee evils like “SnapChat” by setting realistic boundaries (like no TV’s in the bedroom, or maybe even a rule of “turning off the smartphone at night”). Fair?

          • adam mclane December 17, 2013 at 9:07 am #

            There’s a big difference between parenting and a systemic “us vs them” mentality we see sometimes in the church. Fostering an unhealthy posture. Sure… and of course… parents should parent their kids.

  2. Ed Aust December 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    I’ve given this matter a lot of thought over the years. Distrust of the new and intriguing isn’t restricted to the church, nor is it necessarily misguided. New technology always carries a “dark side” along with its benefits. People who protested Hollywood movies in the 1920s had some good reasons to do so. There really was a lot of corruption in the culture at the time, and their voices addressed that. Frankly, I’m a little uneasy about drone technology that’s about to break upon us. What will it mean? I’m sure there will be many benefits, but losses and dangers along with it. Christians in particular feel a responsibility to speak out about evils when they see them arise, and are often courageous in doing so. Is this wrong? I don’t think so. Fortunately, our democracy allows for voices of dissent (at least in theory). And doesn’t engagement often require indictment? Otherwise it wouldn’t be engagement at all, just “a conversation.”

  3. Gene December 15, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    “On and on through the ages the older generation looks at the younger and their technology and predicts the end of society as they know it.”

    And guess what? Those predictions have all turned out to be in fact be true. I’m sure both my parents and my grandparents would tell you that society as they knew it no longer exists. Indeed, Facebook alone means that the society my children were born into no longer exists. In many ways that is actually a good thing. Make no mistake, for good or for ill might be debatable, but that technology is changing our society and bringing an end to that which once existed before is most certainly not debatable.

  4. Paul Turner December 16, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    I do my best to leverage media and entertainment to get the heart of bigger issues that face our kids. In my early days I spending an inordinate amount of time preaching against things as it was preached to me, today that kind of fundamentalist approach almost destroyed my sensibility. I stay way from preaching against an ever shifting culture where the witch hunting will never end. Instead, I’d rather preach for something (the gospel) and about someone (Jesus). Our kids live in the culture and receive enough of it. They don’t need a weekly tirade from me. instead, I’d rather give them Jesus, hope, and a navigational tools to interpret the culture from a biblical viewpoint as well as allowing the Holy Spirit to his job of convicting and leading. Thanks for the reminder Adam.

  5. gavoweb December 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    I think Martin Luther was condemning of the organ as an instrument of the beast when it first started to find its way into sanctuaries. Though maybe he wanted the guitar, drum kit, and synthesizer all along and knew people would pitch a fit if they got attached to the pipe organ first.

  6. Sam avramov December 20, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    God used Hollywood to lead me to Christ. Ernest Borgnines character of the centurian in”Jesus of Nazareth to be specific. Hollywood brings good and bad to us. In my Christian freedom I pick what’s good and ignore what’s not. I could say a lot more. But that makes the point.

  7. S. Hill December 31, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    After reading all the comments, I appreciate the balanced approach and participation of every parent. We need to be WITH and FOR our children. After having been part of the education process going on thirty years (k-12 including coaching), helping families is a great honor. Actually it has not been a job but a ministry through private education for my spouse and myself.


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