Entertained or Devoted?

[ 8 ] Comments

by jendoop

My husband and I went to see the movie, Man of Steel, on opening weekend. He wanted the ultimate viewing, complete with comfy chairs, so he sprang for the 3D experience. From the beginning my senses were bombarded, the sound was so loud that I could feel it and the overwhelming screen was filled with extraordinary images which, honestly, have become increasingly ordinary in our modern age.  As the destructive images piled up in my mind – the cars, buildings and people smashing in the scenes before me – I thought about the destructive prophecies that will be fulfilled in the last days. Is this what it will look like?

destruction

My answer was no. This is Hollywood’s version, highlighted for best visual appeal and accompanied by a dynamic soundtrack and a well-honed script to produce the ultimate in entertainment. The final scenes of this telestial world will not be honed for my enjoyment. These false scenes are before us more and more as technologies improve and we beg to be entertained by pouring our dollars into the industry’s pockets. I wonder if this type of entertainment leads me to believe less in ancient prophecies and their injunction that I need God in my life?

As you probably know, Man of Steel is a modern portrayal of Superman. The basic storyline is the same as the 80’s movie, with a few tweaks to appeal to modern viewers (one of which is a more inspiring Lois Lane). As I watched Superman’s larger than life abilities play out on the screen I thought of who I know that in reality has larger than life abilities – Christ, the Savior of Mankind, and God, our Eternal Father. If the most important person to walk on the earth was compared to the fictional superheros which dominate entertainment, would we give Christ more than a passing glance?

super heroes

quorum-twelve-lds-630892-printOf course we are mature and discerning individuals, we know the difference between reality and entertainment… I think. It is the sheer amount of entertainment that makes me wonder if this is really true. Superheros are in the movies, on TV, video games, comic books, chapter books, websites, music, and more that I probably don’t even know about.  How much of our time and focus is placed on these fictional characters that do nothing for us, but maybe even harm our view of reality if taken in such large doses? I ask this of myself as my children have settled into a more leisurely schedule this summer. Their days include chores, reading, and playing outside but it also includes movies, video games, and computer time. If entertainment becomes a bigger part of their lives than their devotional time, which characters become more real?

It is difficult to worship and remember a being whose physical form is beyond our gaze. There is a part of me who wants to see God before me in ways which would turn faith into knowledge. I don’t want to wonder if that promotion at work was a blessing or a coincidence. I want to see God’s hand touch my fevered child when she miraculously recovers from her illness. When God tells me that faith can move mountains, I want to see the mountain move, and God’s hand, on YouTube.

As a country, are we so desperately hungry for God in our lives that we build golden calves? Superman, Spiderman and Ironman seem to fit the mold as our modern day golden calves. It could even be said that the amount of money spent to create them rivals the worth of the golden calf of Moses’ day – it may be more fitting to say that our calves are platinum.

At one point in Man of Steel, Superman is faced with a great dilemma and seeks counsel in a church. As he briefly talks to the pastor, Superman’s silhouette is outlined by a stained glass window. It was then that the subtlety of the analogy between Christ and Superman fell away. Superman was being raised above me as a modern day interpretation of Christ, by an industry that continually thumbs their noses at his teachings. This and other representations stirred in my mind, as I tried to sort out drastic conclusions (like the entertainment industry being run by evil men) from well-meaning creative endeavors (people with good intentions who write harmless stories). I couldn’t come to a conclusion that anything was all bad, but I also couldn’t see the industry producing a multitude of good fruits either.

In our hearts, I believe we really do want God in our lives, we want to be saved and redeemed. The problem is that we want it to come with popcorn and soda and be done in 3 hours. We want to recline in stadium seating with 3D glasses as redemption comes to us.  I shouldn’t speak for all, I see these tendencies in myself. It would be fabulous if during my time of greatest distress someone showed up to fix everything in a super-human way that I never could.

everyday spidermanIn idolizing these characters I feel like I give something away, a piece of reality is traded for these fantasies. Is it worth my faith to idolize the Avengers? The more I dream of things that will never be, the more I lose my grip on reality and things that matter most. It could be that I’m being overly dramatic, these are only movies. But that question comes to my mind again – has entertainment become a bigger part of my life than my devotion?

At the basic level the difference seems to be that superheros would fix things for me, whereas God wants me to learn and grow by fixing things myself, with his help. It is not a magnificent result that matters so much as our development. The perfect primary lesson, the perfect powerpoint presentation, the perfect FHE (which can only be accomplished with superhuman effort) is not the goal, it never has been for our Heavenly Father. God cannot save me without my action and continued faith when the world grows dark, even if my wispy little candle only slightly pierces the darkness.

In this month’s Ensign there is a excerpt from a 1976 article written by President Kimball. The original article was entitled, “The False Gods We Worship.” In closing he says:

When a person begins to catch a vision of the true work, when he begins to see something of eternity in its true perspective, the blessings begin to far outweigh the cost of leaving ‘the world’ behind. Herein lies the only true happiness.

It is not Superman that will save us, it is Christ when he asks us to give up the platinum calf and follow him. Follow him out of the movie theater to visiting and home teaching appointments, to the temple, to family scripture study, to service in the community. That is where I will see his hand and it will not be gold or platinum, but will look very much like my own.

helping hands

 

Photo credit: Sam Javanrouh via Compfight,  Corey Bond via CompfightEneas De Troya via CompfightJose Téllez via Compfight

About jendoop

Jen writes, reads, paints, walks, prays, eats and sleeps. Paul is her co-conspirator in teaching these skills to 4 children.

8 Responses to Entertained or Devoted?

  1. Janet Clawson says:

    Jen, I really identify with your thoughts on this subject. As I have gotten older, I have found that I have drifted away from wanting to spend time being entertained and more toward wanting to spend time on things which are more of an “acquired taste.” These are things like scripture study and meditation and service. I don’t know that it was a conscious decision I made that influenced this switch. It’s not that I concluded that the entertainment industry is wholly bad — just as you said. It’s more that I started to feel like too much of a good thing sort of blurred my vision or rearranged my taste buds in a way that I didn’t like.

    I CAN say that I have made a conscious decision though, not to be buffaloed into thinking that the world’s superheroes (be they living, breathing ones or the comic book variety) can offer me anything more important or useful or happy than what Christ has to give me. Christ’s atonement does not come platinum-coated, and you don’t get many bells and whistles with it. You just get peace and forgiveness. It sounds so ordinary and so un-FX-y, but there’s a quiet sort of magic that happens with it, all the same. It just will never translate well to the big screen. :)

    • jendoop says:

      It is a kind of drifting away for me too. I keep tabs on things enough to have conversations with my kids about what they’re interested in but not much more. Is that only age? Could it be that we learn through the years to enjoy a more uplifting and lasting type of entertainment? Or maybe we’re just old codgers :)

      You are completely right, the atonement is a kind of quiet magic; disguised as this thing people enjoy disparaging – religion. If it came to people through another channel, with another label, would they be more open to it?

  2. templegoer says:

    Not an experience that I want in my life, everyday stuff is sufficient for me. I share your concerns, so I won’t be giving my money to the industry, but I do think there can be another way of seeing this. I think it’s the yearning in our collective souls to be saved and to have a Saviour that is being acted out in these entertainments, and maybe they can make us more aware of that need than we might otherwise be. Whilst that’s not an experience that overwhelms our senses-since our Father seeks to enable us to use our agency freely-it is an experience that moves us to our core. I don’t think an experience like this movie need replace a more spiritual witness, and it may just make some people more aware of the yearning for that experience in their lives. Kind of like superman as a metaphor for the Saviour, rather than the Saviour as a metaphor for superman. I usually try to discuss these movies with my kids, and since they have an experience of the ordinariness of sacred discourse through attending church, and our own struggles as a family, they can then make their own choices. I hope that they see that life isn’t all about high emotion, and that entertainment can often be a distillation of human experience. Too much for me, but when you’re young it’s all about feeling stuff very keenly. Life and death have generally touched them quite lightly and they need to rehearse for what’s to come.

  3. Becca says:

    Very interesting thoughts, Jen.

    I agree with templegoer that there are ways to view and consume entertainment that make it more positive than negative in our lives, but I can’t help but go back and back to these comments that Jen made:

    “If entertainment becomes a bigger part of their lives than their devotional time, which characters become more real?” and “Follow him out of the movie theater to visiting and home teaching appointments, to the temple, to family scripture study, to service in the community.”

    I keep going back to Elder Oaks’ General Conference address several years ago, Good, Better, Best. It’s not about whether or not watching TV shows and movies is good, or even better (and I would argue that some are good, and some are better, and yes, there are even TV shows and movies that might be the “best” in certain situations) – it’s about if there is a “best” thing to do. And I believe that watching a good movie can be the “best” – as long as all the other “best” things have already been done – scripture study, prayer, visiting teaching, home teaching, etc – and as long as they are the best movie we can choose, and as long as we approach it with a gospel-centered attitude, rather than “now I will take a break from the gospel.”

    Like templegoer said, I think it is useful to analyze the need for a Savior that is present in much of our entertainment. It is definitely easy to see when you are looking for it.

  4. jendoop says:

    I agree with you both, templegoer and Becca, there are definitely good things in the entertainment world, not all bad, just we have to watch ourselves as we watch ;)

    And those decisions are so individual – I even tend to let my older children make those decisions themselves.

  5. Christy says:

    “But that question comes to my mind again – has entertainment become a bigger part of my life than my devotion?”

    Thank you for voicing the question I have repeatedly asked myself this week. As I finished another TV series on Netflix yesterday, I asked myself this very question and was frightened by the answer. I can’t quite figure out why yet I enjoy so much the leisurely activity of consuming forms of media, but I do know the ratios of devotional time to entertainment are out of balance in my life.

    It feels good to be entertained and to escape into someone else’s story, but I have felt the comfort and joy that is brought by being near my Savior and I know I need to realign.

  6. I think I’ve said before that one of my favorite BYU speeches is “Your Refined Heavenly Home” by Elder Douglas Callister. I read it at least once a month to remind myself what type of home I am trying to provide for my children. What types of media to allow in my home and what we enjoy is a major part of it.

    I love this quote from Elder Callister, “The nearer we get to God, the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things. If we could part the veil and observe our heavenly home, we would be impressed with the cultivated minds and hearts of those who so happily live there. I imagine that our heavenly parents are exquisitely refined. In this great gospel of emulation, one of the purposes of our earthly probation is to become like them in every conceivable way so that we may be comfortable in the presence of heavenly parentage and, in the language of Enos, see their faces “with pleasure.”

    The first part is a key factor in determining where we are on that journey of ‘entertainment.’ There are so many refined and beautiful things to entertain us much of it old or classic but there are some good things being produced today too. Why waste our entertainment time on trash?

  7. Emily says:

    I loved this: “As a country, are we so desperately hungry for God in our lives that we build golden calves? Superman, Spiderman and Ironman seem to fit the mold as our modern day golden calves. It could even be said that the amount of money spent to create them rivals the worth of the golden calf of Moses’ day – it may be more fitting to say that our calves are platinum.” So good!

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