Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mr. Bill Didn’t Intend to Entertain

Is it news? Is it entertainment? Sometimes it can be hard to tell. The Washington Post recently reported that the Newseum, an “interactive museum of news and journalism,” is launching a new exhibit featuring…Walter Cronkite? No. Peter Jennings? No. Amazingly, it is for the comedy, Anchorman, and the adventures of Ron Burgandy. The point of the exhibit is to show that news and entertainment have almost completely merged in society today.

Not all “entertainment” in teaching is wrong or evil. But there is a fine line between teaching truth in entertaining ways, and merely giving the audience a show. Take, for example, Mr. Bill, the clay figure “star” in the 70’s and 80’s. As one of my professors used to say, “Mr. Bill wasn’t looking to entertain, but he was, nevertheless, entertaining.” Mr. Bill thought he was an actual actor, there to teach safety tips, give interviews, etc. The truth, though, was that he was only there to get smashed, cut in half, or in some other way destroyed for the entertainment of the audience.

Unfortunately, news often suffers due to entertainment. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy that the time would come “when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). So what does it say about our society that more people in their 20’s got their news from Jon Stewart than from Matt Lauer? Even major news anchors like Brian Williams are trying to cross-over into entertainment. So is all “entertainment-news” wrong?

The goal of news is to tell the truth, not “give a show” to those who are merely looking to be entertained. Nevertheless, everyone deserves to hear the truth. People are more likely to hear that truth when it is attached to entertaining “hooks” we call illustrations. Christ used illustrations all the time. In fact, Jesus’ greatest teaching moment was using His own crucifixion to teach truth to a crowd of gawkers and rubber-neckers looking to be entertained by His pain. And when His murderers heard truth and witnessed that “illustration,” they said, “truly, this was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).

Perhaps some in the church continue to underestimate the importance of a good hook. Entertainment isn’t the goal; teaching truth is. But surely, if Jesus is our model, we can find better ways to use entertainment for His glory!

Mahomies?

Do you want to be famous? Wealthy? Known and adored by millions? What would you do to achieve your goals? Oscar Wilde once said, “To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.” Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us “resemble that remark.” The problem with achieving goals is rarely that we need more information. Rather, achieving goals takes discipline and years of work. OR DOES IT? Maybe it just takes millions of “mahomies.”

Austin Mahone is the teen pop sensation who went from obscurity to stardom because of the internet. Even though most of us are aware that the internet is incredibly powerful, stories such as Mahone’s still stagger the imagination. Mahone began posting videos of himself singing in mid-2010. He developed a huge following online (dominated by teenage females, called “mahomies”). He has over 2.7 million fans on Facebook, 2.7 million followers on Twitter, 1.5 million followers on Instagram, and his YouTube channel has exceeded over 90 million views and consists of approximately 500,000 subscribers. Now he has officially signed a deal with Chase/Universal Republic Records.

How do you go from obscurity to millions of fans, a record deal, and the ability to set up Skype calls at $50 for 10 minutes? It is a bit of a mystery, isn’t it? Of course, clever marketing plays a part, but lots of people are spending lots of energy trying to become stars with no success. To say the least, Mahone’s story is not the one we grew up with where the country music singer sells everything, hitches a ride to Nashville, and waits tables while looking for that one big chance.

In Luke 16, Jesus said that “the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light” (16:8). Is it possible that we desire to share Jesus with others but that our methods are outdated, our efforts are lackadaisical, and His “fan base” isn’t energized. “Mahomies” boosted an unknown teenager to stardom in a matter of days. What can motivated Christians do to help people learn about the Son of God? Have you posted about Christ today? Have you shared your love of Jesus today? Have you told someone that they can have eternal salvation through His blood? I just did…your turn.

Bad Scientology Makes For Bad Cinema

Have you ever been really disappointed at the ending of a Sci-Fi movie? The movie seems to promise to have new answers to the question of life and meaning for human existence only to come up short at the end? Producers, directors, and good acting can carry things for a while, maybe even through several episodes, sequels, and remakes. But eventually, there is a problem…the movie, show, or series must end. And in endings, people have expectations – big ones. And they are almost always disappointed.

The problem, at its root, is that many Sci-Fi movies are made with a theological agenda that eventually falls short. For example, a recent Bloomberg article (Click to See Article) questioned why Scientology movies drawing on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard flop from the get go, ie., Battlefield Earth and After Earth. Despite major star power like John Travolta, Tom Cruise, or Will Smith, bad theology is just bad theology and doesn’t make for good cinema.

Additionally, consider disappointing endings to series like the Matrix (Buddhist inspired philosophy) that got us no closer to answers than they started. Alien inspired theological/political themes like the X-Files leave us with an empty pit of despair. Why? Because the directors, producers, and writers don’t have the answers! No matter how good the drama is and how juicy the conspiracy theory, at the end of the day, only scripture can tell us how things will end…and even then, there is only just so much information supplied.

Deuteronomy 29:29 reads, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever…” We must be willing to accept that God has given us the information we need to know, and no more. Whether it is how the earth will eventually be burned up (2 Peter 3) or whether it is the exact procedure for Christ’s return and the beginning of the end (1 Thessalonians 4:16), we CAN know truth. Nevertheless, there is enough of the unknown to keep conspiracy theory guesses and Sci-Fi theologians making sad attempts to “fill the gaps” and keep our minds occupied with meaningless, unanswered trivia.

Why not concentrate our time on that which is pleasing to Him who made us and supplies our every need (Matthew 6:8; Philippians 4:19)? You’ll be a lot happier and kick yourself less about the 2 hours and $20 you wasted to watch bad theology at the theater!