Entertainment is alive at our fingertips, and it’s seeping into all aspects of our lives. You can stream your favorite movie from the comfort of your home, listen to your favorite music artist while you’re working out, or follow your favorite celebrity on social media. We are bombarded by content 24-7, and with the progression of virtual reality it seems entertainment is charging forward to influence every generation—and we’re getting a culture whiplash.
One of my favorite downtime habits is to binge-watch a streaming series or catch up on the latest movies that I’ve missed. I enjoy getting lost in the story and characters, and as an author, I’m guilty of constantly trying to guess what the next twist in the story will be. If I’ve been working hard and need a break from the stresses of life, losing myself in an entertaining story is an easy distraction. An epic adventure makes my adrenaline surge. A major plot twist leaves me on the edge of my seat and roots my emotions deeper into the characters. If it’s a series or film I’ve been waiting to watch, I come with an expectation for it to deliver.
Most of us remember when Rings of Power dropped on Amazon. Everyone questioned whether the series would live up to the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. Fans were ready to dive in, wanting to escape their daily lives by allowing their emotions to reconnect with Tolkien’s world, and millions streamed the series with massive expectations. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the series lived up to the hype—that’s entertainment.
From film to television, music, streaming, and social platforms, two cornerstones of entertainment stand out as influences on my faith: escapism and emotions. Understanding the impact of these guides me in my faith in the midst of a society where the latest blockbuster or chart topper dramatically influences the culture around us.
First, escapism searches for a break from the realities of life.
We lose ourselves in a story or are consumed with characters who pique our interest as a temporary relief from the challenges of our own lives. We believe the story and the characters are what real life should be, not our own obstacles that seem insurmountable. And if we find ourselves scrolling through the highlight reel of social media, then escapism becomes even more addicting.
We believe everyone else is living a better life than we are—and that is the danger of culture whiplash. Instead of pursuing our dreams and conquering our challenges by walking in the footprints of Christ, we are envious of another’s story, whether they be fictional or flesh and bone.
Escapism will never be enough—and it leaves us searching elsewhere to fill the void.
We read these words in John 14:5-6 (NIV): “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
Those who have walked in their faith might recognize this Scripture, but it’s Phillip’s response that struck me in the context of entertainment influencing generations: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8, NIV).
Escapism is not absolute reality, but truth rooted in Christ is reality absolute. We must always strive to keep our eyes on the Father—because when our eyes are focused on Christ, then we’re not turning our heads and our hearts to the latest culture whiplash.
A second cornerstone of entertainment is emotions.
When watching a film, you may have noticed that around the thirty-minute mark, a scene occurs that pushes the characters to make a choice that will take them deeper into the story. As viewers, by this time we’re emotionally engaged. Whether we feel anger, anxiety, empathy, excitement, fear, horror, or nostalgia—a good story strikes our emotional chords and leaves us on the edge of our seats.
Oftentimes, after watching a film, viewing a streaming series, or attending a concert, we are left with the emotional aftermath. An epic adventure leaves us exhausted as we wish we had the courage of the characters. A gut-wrenching series ends with the death of a character we’ve invested in emotionally, and we’re surprised we feel drained and saddened by the outcome. We attend a concert where the music artist leaves us in a certain state of emotion—both positive and negative.
Instead of allowing our emotions to be controlled by the culture around us or by the entertainment we enjoy, we must face a challenge on a daily basis to surrender our emotions and ourselves to the Holy Spirit.
“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:9, NIV). When I read these words, I’m reminded that allowing myself to be controlled by my emotions will always leave me searching for more. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the world of entertainment; it just means my emotions are not to be controlled by what I watch or listen to.
While these two cornerstones are not the only ones, they have been valuable to help me understand how entertainment affects my faith. I can consume media understanding that a film, streaming series, or song is not the game changer—rather, going deeper in my faith in Christ is the life changer.Lastly, as Christ followers, we can avoid culture whiplash while enjoying our favorite entertainment by embracing Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
D.J. Williams was born and raised in Hong Kong, igniting an adventurous spirit as he ventured into the jungles of the Amazon, the bush of Africa, and the ancient cities of the Far East. His global travels submerged him in a myriad of cultures, providing a unique perspective that fuels his creativity.
As an executive producer and director, Williams has produced and directed over 500 episodes of broadcast television syndicated worldwide. Residing in Los Angeles, he continues to develop new projects for television, film, and print which are being pitched to major studios, streaming companies, and publishing houses. Hunt for Eden’s Star, the first book in D.J.’s Beacon Hill series, will publish on April 4, 2023.