Friday, December 14, 2012

Defining "Entertainment"

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:8-9

Whenever discussions surrounding media consumption among Christians takes place, this has always been a go-to verse. I love this verse, and when it comes to entertainment, as with any area of our lives, I think we should take heed to it.

I read an article titled "Separating the Treasure and the Trash". The motive was good; the Christian author emphasized the importance of filtering what you see before you see it. That's the whole point of Christian sites, like Plugged In, that list out all of the details within a movie so that families can decide what to watch and what not to watch. (interesting that in order to write a thorough review, the reviewer will actually have to watch those movies).

I think sites like Plugged In are good, because of its objective offering, but it still leaves a very subjective look at what we view as entertainment. And I think that the way we define entertainment has warped our way of receiving it.

Taken right from the mouth of Wikipedia, the word "entertainment" is:
an action, event or activity that aims to amuse and interest an audienceIt is the audience that turns a private recreation or leisure activity into entertainment. The audience may have a passive role, as in the case of persons watching a play, opera, television show or film; or the audience role may be active, as in the case of games. Entertainment can be public or private, involving formal, scripted performance, as in the case of theatre or converts; or unscripted and spontaneous, as in the case of children's games. Most forms of entertainment have persisted over many centuries, evolving as a result of changes in culture, technology and fashion. Films and video games, for example, although they use newer media, continue to tell stories, present drama and play music. Festivals devoted to music, film or dance allow audiences to be entertained over a number of consecutive days.

I think that what we need to do is make a shift from seeing entertainment as a "distraction" - something you do when you're bored - to seeing it as "engagement". When we put on a movie, our bodies are passive but our brains certainly are not. This dichotomy I write about and subscribe to is credited to James Harleman, a pastor in Seattle, and author of this book (that I ordered and can't wait to read!).

Entertainment as Distraction
This can be doing something anything we find as mindless. Bored? Listen to music, watch a movie, turn on the TV, play videogames. It seems that whatever we choose to do is a way of escape. But is it really? Our brains don't shut off the way we want them to, we can't simply not absorb information that we confront ourselves to. The moment we watch a movie and think "I'm going to turn my brain off" I believe we are fooling ourselves.

Entertainment as Engagement
What if we actually paid attention to the stuff we watched/listened to/played? When we flip the channel to a sit-com, are we mentally exposing the lies and exalting the truth? Are we engaging in discussion with others, noticing the little significant things that stand out? This is something that can be done privately or publicly, formal or off the cuff.

I have written before that when it comes to love stories, Hollywood has borrowed on what love looks like. When it comes to story telling there is only One great story, and that's a story worth repeating. In essence that is what Christian fellowship is, engaging with fellow believers about God and his glory.

"Take your entertainment seriously while simultaneously having more fun with it than ever before. Learn how to watch to glorify, to be edified, and possibly to evangelize. Even better, create to magnify." 

That is entertainment.

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