Do Bible Principles Govern Your Choice of Entertainment?
EXCITEMENT, conflict, violence, passion and beauty are prominent in the entertainment of modern times. They can grip your attention, fire your imagination, stir you emotionally and make you forget for a time your personal cares of life, but such should not be the sole factors in choosing a type of entertainment. The good principles that govern a Christian’s daily living should be taken into consideration.
In the first century of this Common Era, for example, forms of entertainment that were popular with the Romans conflicted with Bible principles. For that reason Christians did not join the thousands of people that crowded into the amphitheaters. That the entertainment there was bad is revealed by the following description of it in The Historian’s History of the World by Henry Williams:
“The amphitheatre brought the greatest possible number of spectators within easy distance of the dead and dying, and fostered the passion for the sight of blood, which continued for centuries to vie in interest with the harmless excitement of the race. . . . It was when man strove with man . . . that the transport of their sanguinary enthusiasm was at its height. . . . The audience became frantic with excitement; they rose from their seats; they yelled; they shouted their applause, as one blow more ghastly than another was dealt by lance, or sword, or dagger, and the lifeblood spouted forth. ‘Hoc habet’—’he has it, he has it!’—was the cry which burst from ten thousand throats, and was reechoed, not only by a debased and brutalised populace, but by the lips of royalty, by purple-clad senators and knights, by noble matrons, and even by those consecrated maids whose presence elsewhere saved the criminal from his fate, but whose function here it was to consign the suppliant to his doom by reversing the thumb upon his appeal for mercy. . . . And we must remember that these things were not done casually, or under the influence of some strange fit of popular frenzy. They were done purposely, systematically, and calmly; they formed the staple amusement.”
The effect of this frightful entertainment upon the people was morally degrading. It stamped out the noble qualities of human compassion, mercy, kindness and fellow feeling. It destroyed the sympathy for suffering that contributes toward making man superior to brute beasts. How, then, could a person that had embraced the good, uplifting and humane principles of Christianity choose such violent exhibitions for pleasurable entertainment?
THE CHRISTIAN POSITION
Would not a Christian be out of place among the multitudes in a Roman amphitheater? How could he shout along with the others when a gladiator ‘had it’? How could he find murder entertaining when God’s law forbade him to murder? How could he find amusement in human suffering when Christian principles moved him to show love for others? How could he find pleasure in the sight of bloody violence when God’s Word had taught him to be gentle, kind and peaceful? Guided by Bible principles, he would have had to eliminate the Roman arena as one of his sources of entertainment.
Even Roman stage productions were unattractive to Christians because such entertainment violated Bible principles. The shows put on for the amusement of the public dredged up the corruption in the moral sewer of Roman life and displayed it for public amusement. Since Scriptural principles require Christians to live morally clean lives, how could they view those degrading shows as entertaining, as something enjoyable that was worth their time and attention? How could they find pleasure in seeing and hearing what was evil?
Pointing out the Christian’s position toward Roman entertainment, the Christian writer Tertullian of the second century of the Common Era wrote: “Are we not, in like manner, enjoined to put away from us all immodesty? On this ground, again, we are excluded from the theater, which is immodesty’s own peculiar abode, where nothing is in repute but what elsewhere is disreputable. . . . The very harlots, too, victims of the public lust, are brought upon the stage. . . . They are paraded publicly before every age and every rank—their abode, their gains, their praises, are set forth, and that even in the hearing of those who should not hear such things. . . .
“For all licentiousness of speech, nay, every idle word, is condemned by God. Why, in the same way, is it right to look on what it is disgraceful to do? How is it that the things which defile a man in going out of his mouth, are not regarded as doing so when they go in at his eyes and ears—when eyes and ears are the immediate attendants of the spirit—and that can never be pure whose servants-in-waiting are impure? . . . If tragedies and comedies are the bloody and wanton, the impious and licentious inventors of crimes and lusts, it is not good even that there should be any calling to remembrance the atrocious or the vile. What you reject in deed, you are not to bid welcome to in word.”
Why would a person that had escaped from the immoral cesspool of the world and transformed his life by the application of Scriptural principles choose as entertainment that which dramatized the worst aspects of the world—the very things he had rejected on becoming a Christian? Filling one’s mind with such corrupting thoughts would indicate that one did not fully appreciate the importance of being made new in the force actuating the mind in order to put on the new personality that conforms to God’s righteous will. (Eph. 4:22-24) It would not be consistent for a Christian to amuse himself by watching plays that portrayed before his eyes conduct in which Bible principles did not permit him to engage.—1 Pet. 2:1; 4:3, 4.
In the Bible at Psalm 97:10 the command is given: “You lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.” If a Christian hated what is bad, he would not want to watch it as entertainment, would he? If he wholeheartedly turned his back on the moral badness of the world when he became a Christian, he would not crave entertainment that paraded that badness, unveiling it in revolting detail, would he? At Ephesians 5:3 we are told: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every kind or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people.” If such things were not even to be mentioned as a topic of conversation, how could they be taken in through the ear and the eye as entertainment?
The principles that guided Christians in the first century of the Common Era are the same principles that should guide Christians today. Although entertainment today does not include the amphitheater where real life-and-death battles are fought, it does include “sports” in which men brutally beat each other and dramas that depict bloodshed in a very realistic way. There are also dramas that highlight the depravity in twentieth-century life. So a Christian today, because of Bible principles, has to be just as selective about his entertainment as were the early Christians.
Programs presented on TV, for example, have frequently been condemned for their excessive brutality and violence. In the United States the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency stated: “The extent to which violence and crime are currently portrayed on the nation’s television screens is clearly excessive.” On TV and in motion-picture houses viewers get a far closer view of violence than the Romans ever had from their amphitheater seats.
The sordid movies that the motion-picture industry turns out in many countries often center on sexual depravity, which can hardly be regarded as wholesome entertainment as far as a Christian is concerned. In view of Bible principles, what enjoyment can he get from seeing adultery, rape, homosexuality and other immoral themes paraded before his eyes? What pleasure can he find in seeing the brutality of the criminal underworld and the vivid details of how crimes are executed?
When a Christian turns from movies and TV to the field of literature, how can his good principles permit him to find entertainment in stories that drag a reader’s mind into the moral cesspool of the world and make heroes of persons who are immoral, cruel, sadistic and violent? Will he, as if he had no moral standards at all, allow the author for hours at a time to pour corruption into his mind? Not if Bible principles guide him.
Some movies, TV programs, books and magazines are informative and refreshing, but you need to be selective. It is true that, on occasion, you may not be the one who chooses the entertainment; someone else may invite you to go along. But before you accept the invitation, you can always inquire what is planned. You do not have to ignore Bible principles simply because others do.
The types of entertainment available are many. There is much that is wholesome. There are outdoor and indoor games in which the entire family can share. What about playing Bible games with your family, or sharing a song fest together? Or you might enjoy making a trip into the woods or hills together to enjoy the marvels of creation. These are activities that refresh while at the same time drawing you closer to the ones you love.
Wherever you are, whatever you do, if you use Bible principles to govern your course you will be blessed as a result. Though the world around us is filled with influences to corrupt our minds, pay heed to the excellent counsel at Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”