Untouchable Entertainment

In this day and age when the value of entertainment is left unquestioned, nay, unexamined and immune from criticism, when people act as if entertainment is an end in itself, what other than mere time keeps us far from Brave New World? It’s gotten beyond the point where we’ve uncritically accepted entertainment as a general good: now, anything can be justified by someone calling it entertainment and claiming that it cannot be held to the same standards as things that make an explicit claim to truth.

I’m not against the existence of entertainment: without question, many parts of the Bible are entertaining – the trickster schemes in Genesis? the exaltation of Mordecai? – even though we know entertainment isn’t the primary purpose. Same goes for Herodotus, for Zhuangzi, for others. What I do oppose is the fact that we refuse to put entertainment under any scrutiny, either ethical or aesthetic. This removes our own ethical and aesthetic judgements from any higher standard of judgement, which for a follower of Christ is God’s revelation in the Bible. Can we accept an outcome like that?

Plato’s Socrates in The Republic disapproves of art (and entertainment) that misportrays the true nature of things. One must wonder if there is something to it, if we really should be paying much closer attention to our media choices, if it’s not just pornography and those other things in the “bad” bin that we should avoid wasting our time with.

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3 responses to “Untouchable Entertainment

  1. I agree, and I think a much better and more Biblical posture is that of recreation – which has an element of entertainment, but is broader and more meaningful. It is an act wherein we ourselves experience a kind of re-creation, a renewal of our core selves and identities that is missing in that which is merely entertaining. The best entertainment is actually recreative and sabbath-keeping.

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  2. Which one would it be to go to a poetry reading or the opera house or the museum? I see a distinction abstractly, but I don’t know where to draw it so as to determine good use of time. Perhaps entertainment without recreation is that which has relatively little intrinsic potential for real value, i.e., what has no rationally justifiable God-intended use (sounds like the Supreme Court’s working criterion of what offensive material is obscenity).

    All the same, it’s certainly hard to know God’s purpose for all activities – not that we should give up trying, of course. Are there Reformation-era books that expound on the difference and identify ways to improve in this area?

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  3. I am not aware of any books on that, though I would think that recreation is always entertaining, but not the other way round, and thus any activity has the potential to be nothing more than entertainment when stripped of its God-intended recreative purpose. Likewise, any entertainment contains the potential to be restoratively recreative when undertaken as an expression of one’s true humanity.

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