Entertainment as Idol

"Man's unhappiness," according Blaise Pascal, "springs from one thing alone, his incapacity to stay quietly in one room." We use diversions of all kinds to stave off both unhappiness and, in many cases, being alone. We cannot, it seems, live with ourselves. As a result, we seek to fill our lives with diversions. Diversions are those things we allow to direct our attention away from our standing and calling before God. They distract us from what we should face: who we are before God and what God expects of us, particularly with regard to His love commands (Mark 12:28-31).

Entertainment is the diversion of choice for many people. It includes everything from watching television to drinking alcohol to bungee jumping. Indeed, pretty much anything can be used as entertainment, and entertainment is not necessarily bad. Whatever form it takes, however, entertainment becomes an idol when we use it in a way that hinders our loving and trusting God. We do this, for instance, when we use television, recreation, music, or sporting events in ways that replace worship and service with the people of God. We learn a lot about our priorities when we compare how we use our time and money in entertainment with how we use (or fail to use) our time and money in worship and service of God. Our priorities here reveal the longings of our hearts. When our longings for something detract from our loving and trusting God, we are guilty of idolatry. We are then on the road to bondage and death.

Our idols of entertainment often leave us imprisoned in addiction. Consider, for instance, the widespread use of television as a drug. Many people undergo anxiety, stress, and other withdrawal symptoms when they are unable to get their TV fix. They rely on the numbing familiarity of television to give their lives continuity and stability, however thin and frail. In addition, television offers a means of escape as powerful and harmful as many illegal drugs. Many people replace relating to other people with relating to the characters on their favorite television shows. This is sad indeed, but it remains an enduring fact of modern societies. Avoidance tendencies in personal relationships (toward God as well as other humans) are common to people addicted to television. They end up living much of their emotional lives by proxy, through the characters and story lines on the colorful screen. In addition, given the moral decay institutionalized on television, many people become desensitized to what defames the sacred things of a holy God. Even if watching television is not inherently evil, it is a prime candidate for an idol. It should be approached with the same kind of warning posted on bottles of toxic drugs.

Directly analogous points hold for other forms of entertainment, such as sporting events, musical performances, dining events, reading books, surfing the web, and traveling. They can take on an addictive pull as powerful as that of television. In addition, they can solidify avoidance tendencies toward God and other humans in the same way television can and does. Even if these forms of entertainment are not evil, they are prime candidates for being idols. When we use them in ways that hinder love and trust of God, they are in fact idols and will fail to give us lasting contentment and peace. The various forms of entertainment, then, merit caution.

The Mirror of Silence

I caught a glimpse of my empty heart
in the mirror of silence today.
I turned away, afraid.
Its chasms run deep;
its chambers divide
me from You.

I fill my heart with the noise of the world.
It echoes and bounces off fear hardened walls.
But I'd rather be filled with
illusions and shadows
than see Your face
in the mirror of silence.

I am numbed by the noise as I run to escape.
And I'm trapped.

Would that I linger
just once
in Your sight;
in the silence of me
as You gaze.
Would that I hear that
Your voice calls me Home
my silence is peace

my echoes rejoice
my mirror reflects only You.