Entertained to Death

Let’s be honest and forthcoming right upfront. This culture is a mess. In just about every aspect from politics and religion to whatever else, we have some serious issues.
I believe a good barometer to gauge the state of where we find ourselves, is to look at the children of the generation or culture. You can discern a lot about a family, through the children.
With the job that I have, I am able to spend a good amount of time, observing youngsters and their parents interact. In all reality, we hit rock bottom a long time ago, and have been using picks and pneumatic air hammers to reach a new record depth of cultural disintegration.
What has caused this disintegration? Why are the children of today’s families in such a chaotic state? What is the solution? These are some major questions, that many a brilliant mind has spent much time and energy addressing, and I do not claim to have the adequate letters following my name to give much advice on such matters, (as in some peoples minds is the only important thing when ascertaining if a body should be given any credence at all or not). As a matter of opinion, I don’t think more answers to certain questions are what we need at all. Maybe what we need, is more questions, better questions which may point out problems that are deeper rooted. Pointed questions so that we [I am assuming at this point that most of my readers are those who profess a relationship with the God of Heaven and Earth], God’s people, might better understand the thoughts and motivations of our hearts, and why it is we do what we do. I don’t believe there is just one answer to these issues, but a question like this might clear up some areas: if the father eats onions, and the mother chews on garlic, what do you think the child’s breath is going to smell like?
Anyone who has children knows that teaching children and raising them is not an easy task. I have four, and it is a challenge to say the least. This article is by no means an article to teach child rearing, but is written in hopes that we may look at some of the cultural things we take for granted, and maybe rethink some erroneous patterns that have been left to fester and cause problems.
That there exist stages in our journeys as parents, there is no doubt. Most of us, I am sure, in one extent or another could look back and say, “I wish I hadn’t done that.” We continue to grow and learn, as God gives wisdom and discernment. He has not given us everything we will ever need at any one point in time, but progressively and lovingly drives error from our lives. The important thing is to realize when we have been in error, and recognize patterns unbefitting our children, and not continue on the same course without an alteration. What this does first of all, is it makes us accountable for having rejected a known error, but second, if and when change happens, it is all the more difficult.
In my last writing, Listening and Learning, I quoted C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity when he said, “We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” I think this bit of wisdom from Lewis is just as fitting here. When we choose to live a life led by the Spirit of truth, we continue to be set free, as error is driven from our lives.
There have been copious amounts of materials written on child rearing. There have been some Godly men and women, who have used their God given wisdom, to help fathers and mothers who lack experience, and wisdom of their own in certain areas, find principles with which to guide their progeny. But like anything else, I find that many people want to have answers, definitions, manuals and guidebooks handed to them. They want A + B = C, a formula for child training, marriage, courting, dating, dourting, or whatever. Like I said earlier, there are good principles and good guidelines to follow, but when we try to build doctrines for something that should automatically come out of our relationship and walk with the Father, and the direction through His Spirit, we are looking to man instead of to God. Now, true enough, God does work and speak through His servants, as He has done in the past, and will continue to do, but when that is all we hear, and that is all we know, then we have a problem.
Even if you want to try and build a child training manual from the Bible, you are going to have to make some serious judgment calls on what fathers you use. Who would be comfortable taking advice on child rearing from King David? His kid tried to kill him, they killed each other, slept with his concubines on his roof, and raped a sister. How could a man, with such child rearing disabilities, be a man after God’s own heart. (Note, I am using satire, I fully believe that David was a man after God’s heart, because God said he was). How about Jacob, his oldest son, “occupied” (to use the 16th-19th century colloquialism) his wife, kids tried to kill each other, sold their brother to slavery, prostitution, murder? Yet look at Jacob’s standing with God. Would you take dating or courting advice from Joseph who, despite the wisdom with which he was God ordained, marries the daughter of a heathen, idolatrous priest? Or what about Moses, who, four times the Torah says God spoke to him “face to face”, also married the daughter of a pagan priest. Maybe Abraham, the father of the faith, who takes another wife, in spite of God’s promise. Marriage counseling for all the struggling marriages from a man like that?
These are just a few, among many good examples of bad examples. Why so many times do we write off their failures, like they did not exist? They were real people, living in a real time, serving a real God, were they not? They had problems, they had issues. Look at how, in spite of their weaknesses, and miserable shortcomings, God used them, walked with them and communed with them.
It really burdens me to see people supposedly “led of God”, chasing the latest and greatest “child rearing experts”, or “marriage experts”, as if someone finally has an answer to my problem, and a method to systematically fix what is broken. We have all seen the marketing techniques on the books, to make us believe that they alone have the secret to whatever it is that is broken in my life. Some new thing, the easy steps, new psychology or what-not.
I have also had my share of encounters with those who think the answer to all life’s problems is “doing this” or “not doing that.” There are many with pet issues. I will use the example of television, because entertainment is what I am building the foundation to discuss. Many people think that having a TV is wrong. If you use logic, you can see where it comes from. “There is not much good on TV”, true. “It can be a time waster”, also true, but so can a computer. “It can feed me bad thoughts”, true, but so can your flesh. “It is evil”, um, not so much. There is nothing wrong with a TV, any more than there is anything wrong with a explosive device. They can both be used for destructive purposes. A self righteous attitude about things (like TV) can be much more destructive to ourselves and others than a TV or whatever is on it.
Personally, I do not have television. After I was first married, I had an addiction to television. I loved sitcoms. So I would watch a lot of them. I would spend, on Sunday alone, around 6 to 8 hours watching sports, and then finishing off the evening with some late talk show or sitcom. I have no problem with people who watch television, this was my conviction from God, because it was controlling me. It has been one of the best things for me, in my relationship with my God, and my wife. But this is not really about television.
This now brings me to the title of this article. There is a itinerate preacher that I listened to regularly in the not too distant past; Paul Washer. He made a comment that I thought was really good which is paraphrased like this, “on America’s tombstone, it will read, they entertained themselves to death.”
Why do I bring this up? Another good question. Consider this for a moment: what is entertainment? What is education? Are they different, are they the same? Do they share attributes? Do they work together?
Almost everything is educational in one form or another. Taking a walk with my children is a form of education. By them observing and processing what they see, hear, smell (sometimes taste) they learn. Entertainment is by nature first and foremost, a teaching medium. When we indulge in entertainment of any kind, good or bad, we are absorbing information that has already been processed, sorted, and organized in such a way to get a desired outcome. It is pleasurable, because it is spoon-fed information. Just look at the emotional roller coaster some movies are. You become a part of whatever it is the director, producer, screen writer, or whomever wants you to be. That is not inherently bad in of itself. It is a very powerful teaching tool, and can be very effective when utilized properly. Video games and other such media, are the same way. Ultimately, we have to look at it in it’s entirety and ask, so what is the message? Most entertainment has a message of some sort, especially in children’s entertainment, but a lot of the subtle messages being fed to the children are hidden from the adults. The message is very rarely spoken. Children learn from watching other children interact, characters interact, and the attitudes and philosophies of “who the characters are” and “why they are doing what they are doing” built into those characters who are doing the “teaching.” Everything is educational.
There are companies who know this, and they use it to their advantage. Leap Frog, is a brilliant company. They use music, video and games to teach children reading, writing and many other academics subjects. In the case of most children who learn visually, it makes for a very useful resource. This is a good example of how it can be used for much good. Why do you think marketing companies spend millions of dollars not only in advertising, but in research of psychology and children’s trends? They do it because it works. Just today, I was in a conversation with a man, and he made the comment that his five year old child will not pay attention to the regular programming on television (which is another subject in itself, programming?), but when the commercials come on, will shush everyone and pay attention to the commercials. I have done some research in this area, on what the marketing firms, and entertainment companies go for in reaching children, and let me tell you they are ahead of most parents in this.
Entertainment and media, are very powerful teaching/educational forces. Entire nation’s reputations now are at the mercy of our media. Men can rise to fame, or plummet into infamy at the whim of the media. As adults we are susceptible to having our thinking indoctrinated and/or brainwashed if we are not careful.
Alexander the Great (great is debatable), conquered with his Greek forces what remained of the Persian empire. His real objective was not so much to rule the world, as it was to change the world, or indoctrinate it with Hellenism. This all happened before Yeshua even ever came on the scene (which is another very interesting subject, which I will not go into right now). Hellenism is a philosophy that we as humans are the centers of reality, and pleasure is the goal of life. It is pagan and idolatrous to the core, and glorifies humans and human sexuality, and all that which God despises. Foundational pillars in Hellenism are: sports, politics, religion, education and media. Alexander believed that, if he could have these elements, he could change the world. And he did.
From my observation, and direct experience, we (as parents), have been asleep in regards to what the media and entertainment cartels have done and are doing in the minds of our children. From movies and music, to video games and sports. The hearts of our children are being taken right out from under us. I have seen behavior attitudes in my children in relation to what they consume through entertainment (certain movies, and video games).
We are a nation that has become addicted to pleasure and entertainment. We live, breathe and sleep entertainment. From the moment most of us wake in the morning, we have some sort of media occupying our attention and stealing us away. I will state it a different way: I am by no means opposed to technology and media/entertainment. I have been blessed, and my relationship with my Father in Heaven has been assisted with the use of an iPod. Because of the amount of time I spend traveling, I am able to redeem time, and read through my ears that would have otherwise been lost. I am able to minister to others, through the use of cell phones, computers, etc.
My main concern is what is happening to our families. Kids are growing up, and we wonder why most have no interest in the things of God? Is it possible, at least in part, because from the time they have been little, most have been pumped full of Hellenism? “God” in our culture, through the help of Marxism, and other forces that have captured our educational institutions and have indoctrinated our children, is painted as a fraud, and a crutch for the weak. They are taught (not necessarily in word), that “we [they] are the center of the universe.”
We are responsible for “guarding the hearts” of our children. And if that comes off as being legalistic, well then so be it. I would rather be guilty of overprotecting, than to let anything go, and choose to ignore the fact that there are forces that are trying to reach my children with a message in stark contrast to that of our Father. They are trying to sell their chaos to our children as shalom, and the kids are buying it.
My job as a father is to point my children the best way I know how at being a little Yeshua, and loving the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength. I cannot force my children to walk with God, nor can I change their hearts, but I can prepare good soil for those things to grow, and I (by God’s grace) know a weed when I see one. And I confess to you that sometimes I don’t recognize it as soon as I should, and it causes more problems the longer it grows. But like we saw earlier, it is when we do nothing, and ignore the weed that we run into the most trouble. I need to show them what real shalom looks like. That is a lot tougher, if I am using the wrong brand, and have bought into the world system of my day.
The proverb “train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”, is probably the most used verse in child rearing, but probably the most misunderstood an misinterpreted. Train up, is the Hebrew hanakh, which means “to dedicate” or “consecrate.”
“In the way he should go” is quite literally “in accordance with his/her way”, or “in his/her own way.”
We tend to want to make this about stuffing them full of “God” so that maybe, probably they will stick with it and then go to “heaven.” That is not what this is saying. What it is saying is, each child has his or her own “way” or manner. They have God given characteristics. We need to help them in that area, push them in the direction that we as parents see God taking them. We are sculptures in some senses, helping mold these malleable lumps of clay into vessels of honor, fit for service of the Most High. We don’t help them by pouring in the Hellenism that our cultural predecessors attempted, and still attempt to use, to control them.
Children are not robots, there is not a one size fits all guidebook that tells you A+B=C, you are going to have to study each one and find their way. Children are smart. They can spot a hypocrite a mile away. They know if we are the real deal or not. There is a rabbinical saying, “the key to disciple making is not to proclaim the message, but to be the message…” We need to teach our children verbally, instruct them in the ways of the Lord, but if we are not being what we are saying, we are speaking louder with our actions than with our words, and they are the first ones to pick it up. There is no doubt, the biggest teaching happens non verbally, with what we do, and more importantly who we are.
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Your enemy, the Adversary, stalks about like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour...
1 Peter 5