Most music and other media is mere “product” that we consume, disposable and serving no function except to entertain us. There is a place for entertainment because God does give us all kinds of good things to enjoy, but entertainment is primarily an escape from reality that gives us no real benefits or insights. Most novels, virtually all television shows and movies, and music as well, present us with non-reality, absurdly idealized versions of life.
In the little worlds created by these art forms, life is rarely dull. Violence is engagingly brutal, romance—or at least sex–is abundant, and virtually no one is seen actually working a real job, changing a child’s diapers, or doing the other myriad and mundane tasks that are part of reality.
Such an overload of unreality can distort our thinking. A lot of us aren’t beautiful like the people on the big screen. We don’t all live in big houses and drive cool cars. Love doesn’t always feel the way it is portrayed in a song. Life simply doesn’t resolve like television episodes.
Worst of all, most of what we see and hear is godless. By this, I don’t mean it’s necessarily immoral or heathenish or overtly gross, but the microcosms we enter in popular media do not acknowledge the existence of God. He is simply not part of that world.
I can remember sitting in my parent’s house as a young man, terribly challenged by the example of the young, zealous Christians I was meeting, and as I watched a sitcom, I had a distinct thought: “These people aren’t fanatical about God, and they’re normal.” I was no dummy. I knew I was watching TV, and the people were actors spouting lines by writers, yet I considered this God-vacant representation as “normal.”
Christians have reacted to all this godlessness by producing their own media, and the world therein is not exactly real, either. Often, it is just as escapist as anything produced in Hollywood, a distortion of reality where there is no ambiguity or mystery and everything fits neatly within our theologies. Highly speculative dramas about the end of the world, quaint little neighborhood narratives where parishioners seek the wise clergyman’s advise, prairie epics where settlers are monolithically brave and pure and virtuous—the unrealistic scenarios go on and on.
Even worse than being escapist, some cross another line and are unvarnished propaganda that seeks to persuade an audience that their rather skewed and simplified views of God and man and religion are the truth. But they aren’t.