A new survey from Pew Research reveals how most Americans have been coping with the pandemic and lockdowns, and it isn’t through faith in God or spiritual practice. In fact, more than any other religious or non-religious population surveyed, 90% of Christians report watching the most TV and movies at home to decompress from COVID-19-related stress. Whereas merely 55% of participants reported praying weekly and only 29% said Scripture reading was part of their weekly routine.
Why does it matter if we watch more TV anyway? Studies show that increased consumption of TV correlates to declining IQ, and the content we consume via entertainment, especially during the developmental years, can directly influence our future actions for better or worse, including increased lewd and violent behavior.
But Christians are called to a higher standard than this: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phillippians 4:8-9, NIV).
As Hollywood and media have continued to push the boundaries of appropriate entertainment, many Christians have given in along the way, becoming desensitized to TV and movie material that would not have been widely accepted by the Church, 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. As so aptly proven in the recent Pew Research survey, the result is a generation of Christians more intent on consuming whatever is immediately entertaining, even if it is not necessarily true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and excellent.
The consequences of Christians being more informed by culture through entertainment than faith-informed is an increasingly malleable worldview swayed by what’s on-screen instead of what’s written in the Word.
Even so, the christian walk is not meant to be marked by a manifesto of do’s and don’ts but rather a life full of love for God and others (Matthew 22.37). Could going to the movies, watching shows with our spouses or even playing video games help us to advance that command? I say, “yes.”
For Americans, entertainment is a catalyst for community. Warm memories and traditions are formed around the television, and TV shows and movies can be meaningful opportunities to gather with family and friends to be inspired and educated as well as entertained. To throw our TVs in the trash instead of seeking moderation and self-control would be missing a big opportunity to connect with others while staying set apart.
It might require censoring what we watch on cable or choosing alternative show subscriptions that offer more edifying content. But the search for uplifting entertainment is a worthwhile one.
It’s not whether we consume entertainment but what we choose to be entertained by. What we watch affects not just our brains and bodies but our souls. The world is watching Christians and what they do. Will we choose to set the example with our entertainment?
Reuben Evans is the executive producer of Faithlife TV, an edifying entertainment subscription service providing uplifting movies and shows for children and adults.