What Does the Bible Say About Entertainment?

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Bible

The Plugged In team has spent quite a lot of time lately strategizing what Plugged In will look like in the next five to 10 years. We’ve pounded out our mission and vision statements (again). We’ve bantered about the outreaches we currently have, and how they might be even more effective, now and in the future. We’ve looked down the road a decade or so, listing a number of objectives, strategic goals and tactics that align with our mission and vision.

I’m excited about where this process is going, and I think Plugged In will be able to help you in new, exciting ways in the future.

But as important as it is to think about what Plugged In might look like in the future, I see a weighty side benefit from the process, and how it helps us right now. And it’s this: It seems like every time we get together to discuss futuristic goals and objectives, someone on the team reminds each of us that our reviews and radio features, for which we’re primarily known, are secondary to something we all see as central to Plugged In’s purpose: Helping you become more media savvy.

Or put another way: We believe Jesus cares about what we watch, listen to, play, read and consume, and we want you to successfully navigate them and make wise media choices. Yes, we want to tell you what’s in a movie you’re thinking about seeing. But why do we care? Because we want you to be more discerning.

This is not new for us. But admittedly, we know we could be better here. It’s that belief that had us launch our Movie Nights years ago. They’re no longer available (except three recent ones mentioned in a blog a few months back), but we’re trying to figure how best to bring them back. We’re talking about, as a team, updating  my Plugged-In Parenting book (2011). We’re asking ourselves if we should relaunch the Official Plugged In Podcast that was crazy-popular in its day.

In the meantime, it occurred to me that you might benefit from having a list of scriptures we compiled—a list we believe contain biblical principles that can guide media consumption. This list of scriptures helps guide our team in what we do every day, and maybe they’ll help you navigate the world of entertainment and technology, as well.

Now, to clarify, the Bible says nothing specific about how to handle horror films. Nor does Leviticus offer “Thou shalt not” guidelines on risqué R&B or profane video gaming. But the Bible surprisingly has a lot to say, principle-wise, that can help us guard our hearts.

So before I list those scriptures, let me point out in what type of situation you may want to use these:

  • A personal study such as your own devotional time
  • A small group Bible study
  • Youth group discussion
  • A study for a Christian high school or college course such as Bible, Christian Worldview, or apologetics
  • Family devotions
  • Share one scripture per night during dinner time for discussion and meditation

Read the verse and then ask, “How does this Scripture relate to entertainment? How could it help me be more discerning?”

So, here’s that list of “media-related” scriptures:

The War Within Us
John 3:1-21: Jesus talks about flesh and spirit
Romans 7:14-25: Paul admits his own struggles
Romans 8:1-17: Jesus: Cure for the sinful nature
Galatians 5:16-25: Keys to living by the Spirit
Ephesians 2:1-5: The sinful nature brings death
Ephesians 4:17-24: Out with the old, in with the new

Avoid Indecent Exposure
Exodus 20:1-21: God’s original Top-10 list
Psalm 11:4-7: The dangers of loving violence
Psalm 101: David’s pledge of purity
Philippians 4:4-8: Your heart’s best defense
Colossians 2:8: Watch out for deceivers!
Colossians 3:1-10: Trading junk for jewels
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22: Test everything
1 Timothy 4:7-16: A call to young Christians
2 Timothy 4:3-4: Don’t waffle on the truth

Preparing a Defense
Psalm 119:9-16: Armed with God’s resources
Matthew 6:22-23: Protecting the eyes
Romans 12:1-2: Don’t be conformed; be transformed
1 Corinthians 9:23-27: Training to win
2 Corinthians 10:3-5: Taking thoughts prisoner
Ephesians 6:10-8: The full armor of God
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8: Control your passions
1 Peter 1:13-16: Follow the Commander
2 Peter 1:3-11: Everything we need for life and godliness

The Value of Wisdom
Genesis 41:15-40: Joseph interprets dreams
1 Kings 3:7-12: Solomon asks for discernment
Proverbs 3:21-26: Benefits of discernment
Ecclesiastes 9:13-18: A tale of wisdom as strength
Matthew 5:13-16: Salt and light of the world
John 10:1-18: Knowing the Shepherd’s voice
Philippians 1:9-11: The apostle’s prayer for you

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

seraph_unsung 27 days ago
This was a good article.  Personally I think entertainment is a matter of personal conscience and that it benefits us as Christians to neither "force ourselves" to enjoy material that we're not comfortable with (whether because of language or some other issue), nor necessarily look down on others because of what they are comfortable with consuming.  I absolutely think that we should all ask ourselves why we enjoy what we enjoy and that we should pray to our Lord that He will be glorified in all that we do and all that we enjoy.  I have noticed some rather awful arguments take place in this community from time to time in the context of certain works that either feature pagan/mystical elements (including one person thinking that "Black Panther" was tempting us to worship its in-universe deity) or that feature sexual elements and content.  Personal maturity is certainly key, no matter the issue or the type of content.  But I've been trying to get better at not assuming that other people necessarily have the same 'weak points' I do.
Skulatikus 29 days ago
An interesting article and list, but I'd like to point something out. Several of the verses in this list can be misleading if taken out of that context. Psalm 11:4-7, which you labeled as "the dangers of loving violence" and classified under "avoid indecent exposure," is a prime example.

Short Version:
Enjoying violence for violence's sake isn't the same as enjoying a fictional battle scene.

Long Version:
Psalm 11:5 says "The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates." In the era in which the Psalms were written, the phrase "one who loves violence" would have referred to one who enjoyed participating in violence or one who enjoyed watching others participate in it. Classic examples would be people who enjoyed beating others up or, in a later era, people who enjoyed watching gladiators kill each other. Essentially, the verse refers to sadists.

Now, there is a great difference between a sadist and someone who simply enjoys a story that involves violence. In many such stories, violence occurs when a good character battles an evil character, usually in order to stop the evil character from hurting good people. Most people enjoy such scenes not because they like seeing people suffer, but because it's inspiring and moving to see someone struggle to overcome evil. It's satisfying to see good prevail and evil be struck down, all the more so since nobody's actually getting hurt.

There are a variety of other, valid reasons to enjoy a battle scene. There are a myriad of different emotions that can be evoked through two or more characters clashing against each other. Seeing two well-meaning characters forced to fight each other can be tragic, but if portrayed well, it can be beautiful seeing them struggle for what they believe in despite their situation. In another vein, one might enjoy the skill and/or strength displayed by fighters in the same way one might enjoy the work of a skilled artist or marvel at the strength of a bodybuilder (this reason is particularly common in video games, where the player has a measure of access to the skills/strength in question).

I, personally, enjoy quite a few books/movies/video games that include violence - sometimes intense violence, provided it's not live-action. However, as I've explained, it's not the fictional pain and suffering that I enjoy - it's the story elements. Additionally, this hasn't desensitized me to real-world violence. I can't go fishing because the thought of piercing a real fish's lip with a real hook is too horrible for me. Deliberately harming another human without a REALLY good reason (i.e. self defense) would be completely out of the question.

Now, all this isn't to say that it's okay to sadistically enjoy the pain and suffering of fictional characters, nor that it's okay to enjoy watching real people kill each other if it's for some reason other than sadism. Additionally, I wholly agree that many people need to be more discerning with their media, and parents certainly need to be careful that their kids can differentiate between a sword fight in a Disney movie and actually hurting someone in real life. I'm just explaining that, contrary to what one might infer from a verse presented misleadingly, enjoying a violent scene in fiction isn't necessarily bad, provided one has the right reasons/mentality.
seraph_unsung 27 days ago
I think this was very well stated.
Anonymous 29 days ago
Great post overall but I’m most excited about the podcast coming back! When the old podcasts disappeared from the site and you stopped making them, I was so disappointed. I love podcasts, especially yours - they’re convenient for me to listen as I work. Please do bring it back! 

-Posted by Chuck