While tracking down a short piece by A. W. Tozer to use for the faculty in a future meeting, I came across his piece titled “The Great God Entertainment.” The piece, written in the 1950s, feels utterly appropriate for our current moment. How the piece begins:
A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.
Tozer would be appalled out our modern industrial entertainment complex. And he would find too many Christians (myself included) enmeshed in it.
This doesn’t mean that Tozer didn’t understand the good role entertainment of a kind could play in the life of the believer as
No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things, if used with discretion, may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing. The all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again.
What’s the church to do about it, one might wonder. Even more than a handle of decades ago, Tozer saw the writing on the wall:
For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was– a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has gotten over the struggle. She appearts to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers.
Tozer points out that stories, the method of entertainment, is something significant to childhood that has negative, debilitating effects on mature faith. Written in the years following World War II, he asserts:
Is it not a strange thing and a wonder that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near, the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusement? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood and clamor for religious toys?
A sobering thing to reflect on when your life is surrounded by stories (the movies, the television shows, the novels, the comics). Everything is “story-fied” these days, too. Everything is distraction, some would argue. And that’s a dangerous place to be.
You can read more of “The Great God Distraction” in Tozer’s The Root of the Righteous.