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10 objections to entertaining videos during church services

10 objections to entertaining videos during church services

Netflix plans to release up to 700 original TV shows and movies in 2018. | REUTERS/Mike Blake

When in the course of religious life, it becomes necessary to protest customs which are likely to preclude spiritual maturity, a reverence for such life requires a declaration of objections to specific practices which exemplify this impediment.

The following are 10 objections to the use of video entertainment during adult church services. I do not mean to suggest that there is no legitimate use of visual media for religious purposes. Rather, these are dissents to practices that blur the distinction between sacredness and amusement. The reader can find examples of this blurring by conducting an internet search on “funny videos for worship and sermons.”

  1. Videos of entertainment profane the sacred. Church services are sacred events; a sense of sacredness should prevail therein. Arguably, the use of pop music during the service has already diminished this sense. Amusing videos further the secularization.
  2. They disdain the intellects of thoughtful congregants. Truth matters; the mind should not be wasted; a fortiori within the walls of the church. As Roger Scruton noted in The Soul of the World, we should never sacrifice truth for the sake of easy communication.[1]
  3. They glorify the image and denigrate the logos, substituting the seen for the essentially unseen. As Neil Postman wrote in Amusing Ourselves to Death, image-based societies generate a peek-a-boo culture of flittering triviality; in contrast, word-based societies cultivate the higher-order thought, logical ability, and understanding requisite for grasping the abstract and unseen.[2] Postman understood that the presence of triviality threatens cultural death. Similarly, the author of Hosea understood that the absence of knowledge threatens destruction. (Hosea 4:6)
  4. They belittle the ultimately serious, making it seem as if something less than one’s soul is at stake. They make the religious life appear as a game or hobby.
  5. They pander to pop culture rather than encouraging growth. As such, they are more likely to repulse than attract the spiritually mature. They might appeal to babes, and perhaps increase church attendance  –  thereby emphasizing quantity over quality. But they do so at the risk of repelling the wise.
  6. To elaborate on (5): they are items of consumption fit for a consumer culture rather than instruments of development appropriate to spiritual maturity. An example of audio media underscores the point. During a recent service after the pastor taught on the Sermon on the Mount, the sound engineers played a recognizable tune. Which tune? It was one used by a well-known television network during its ritualistic broadcasting of American football games. Why was this audio segment used? To be cute, no doubt, and to remind the audience that more entertainment was in the offing: the show business of the Super Bowl was scheduled for later that day. The result of the audio piece? The tune did not encourage reflection on Christ’s teaching. Rather, it prompted simpers and giggles, some post-sermon chatter about consuming the NFL product, and a general mindset of secular amusement.
  7. They are a religious version of kitsch. They operate on templates which are mass-produced for lowbrow entertainment. The result is little more than a few laughs suitable for the sit-com.
  8. Their use falsely presupposes that adult human beings must be entertained into learning. What might be worse is the self-fulfilling consequence of this presupposition: such usage conditions the mind to desire amusement, not unlike the sugary sybarite who is conditioned to want the empty calories of cake and cookies with each meal.  
  9. Their use is tantamount to treating adults like children. Entertainment is common in daycare centers. Adults should be treated like adults. Childish things should be left to children. As St. Paul noted, "Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature." (1 Cor. 14:20)
  10. They communicate as much (or more) about us as they do about God. They reflect the defects of American pop culture. They do not teach us about the attributes of the Deity, the moral demands placed upon us, or anything else concerning the real issues of life.

[1] See The Soul of the World, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 152.

[2] See Chapters 3 – 5 in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, (New York: Penguin Books, 1985).

Elliot Crozat is a professor of philosophy and the humanities at Purdue University Global.  He lives in Sarasota, Florida, and teaches philosophy and theology as a volunteer at his local church.  

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