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Can There be Such a Thing as 'Christian' Entertainment?

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This paper asks the above question in the following way:

"Can there be something called 'Christian' entertainment or, should it be called Christians in entertainment, if it should exist at all?"

The writer wishes to ask the question as a matter for discussion, but does so with this paper acting as an indication of his own present, but tentative, views - some of which could be termed 'opinions'. With this proviso in place, let us barely explore the issue...

Why Word the Question in That Way?

I was myself involved in 'show business' and I come from a stage family. So, I have first-hand experience in the matter before us now. That is why I worded the question in a very careful way: the difference made by inserting the small word 'in' between 'Christian' and 'entertainment' is significant, as we will see. That small word introduces the idea that there can (possibly) be two kinds of Christian involvement in 'entertainment'.

So as not to confuse the points being made, we will tackle them under two headings. First, let us define the word 'entertainment'. Basically, it means to provide a diversion, or to amuse, or to offer a public performance. That is what 'entertainment' means when related to the stage, etc. The word can also mean to show hospitality, to cherish or to show favour to someone. Which of these definitions applies to what is loosely called 'Christian entertainment'?

Christian Entertainment

I propose that 'Christian entertainment' (and by implication, ‘Christian entertainers’) is an anomaly; that it should not really exist. The reason for saying this is that whatever is 'Christian' must always be Biblical. That is, it takes its root and fruit from Biblical text, God's word. Personally, I cannot find anything in scripture to warrant calling entertainment 'Christian'. Why? Because, to my mind, to be 'Christian' it would have to be a vehicle of witness to God's truth. Performers and those who follow them may say that this is exactly what Christian entertainers are doing. But my objection is as follows:

The main and only method used by God to spread the gospel is preaching - straight talk. Preaching is not singing, or acting, or miming, or a film, etc. It is telling folk what God says, in words. Ah, say some, that is what we do! But wait, there is yet another definition: those who preach must be called of God (not by stage lights) to do so; they will receive spiritual gifts (not to be confused with natural talents) to aid them in the task. The work of the preacher is not to amuse or to entertain. Some speak with fire and vivid language, but if that is manufactured just to entertain, it is not true preaching.

To me, there cannot be something called 'Christian entertainment'. When a Christian entertainer gives a word of testimony between his songs, that is not preaching. It does not matter if his songs all have a 'Christian' slant to them. Neither are such songs 'preaching', for 'Christian' songs should be expressions of truth in a musical way, but not cleverly devised for musical or performing impact.

The definition 'to divert or to amuse in a public performance' means what it says - the person is providing amusement or a diversion from real life. It is merely a public performance, a trick of stage or screen. That is exactly why those on the stage refer to their profession as being 'not real; make-believe'. Is that what Christians want in their performances? Do they really think they become 'preachers' simply by saying a few words between performances or in their songs? Do they really believe that their play or mime is a substitute for actual preaching?

Christians in Entertainment

Am I therefore saying that Christians should not be in entertainment? No, I am not. On the other hand, I am not too sure about it, so I cannot come to a final conclusion yet.

What I am saying, though, is that we should carefully state our business. Just as a man must be very careful not to call himself, say, a pastor or a preacher, unless he knows assuredly that God has called and gifted him for that purpose, so he must not say he is a ‘Christian entertainer’, for the two words appear to be mutually incompatible.

The word 'Christian' speaks of truth without any kind of gloss, but the word 'entertainment' speaks of amusement or a diversion. Strictly, then, there can be no such thing as 'Christian' entertainment. However, there can be Christians IN entertainment (as there are Christians IN sport, business, etc.). Putting it that way, we make no claims for the Biblical status of what we do on a stage or in a film, etc. Rather, we are just saying (hopefully!) that as an actor, singer and so on, we apply Christian principles and our work is characterised by those principles.

I propose that if we use the above arguments as definitions, then we will not be trapped into saying our work is 'preaching' or 'Biblical'. To entertain is not the task of a preacher! The only question to be asked now, is: "Can entertainment be a valid profession for Christians?"

© April 1994

Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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