Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
October 27th, 2021
“…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.” Philippians 4:8
Well, we are in the thick of the time of year again when ghosts, zombies, vampires, and witches dominate the landscape, from big box store aisles to neighbors’ front yards. Some of the decorations are ‘fun’ and ‘cute’, but others are downright gory! A few times before watching perfectly innocent YouTube videos with my kids, I’ve had to shield their eyes, or quickly hit the ‘pic off’ button on the TV remote, as ads for the theme parks’ Halloween special events show. Furthermore, gruesome horror movies are produced & promoted at a disturbing rate. This is the entertainment diet Americans clamor for, and support with their business?
And then, if you follow the news, you heard about the accidental shooting that took place on the set of a western movie shoot in New Mexico last week. While tragic, it’s certainly getting a disproportionate amount of news coverage compared to other unfortunate deaths. This one involves someone famous, though, so it dominates the headlines for days.
But here’s a thought I have: if the thing you’re simulating for the purpose of entertainment actually happens, and it’s a tragedy that needs to be mourned and criminally investigated, doesn’t that mean that something’s awry with the form of entertainment? The news coverage goes on and on about the tragic (likely accidental) death on a movie set, and I ask myself “and what’s the ‘body count’ going to be in that movie?”
So the connecting thought between the Halloween decorations and the movie set death would be: if something in actuality is terrible, tragic, and disturbing, why fantasize and have fun about it?
I think this reveals something about our natures: the fact that we find a form of pleasure in beholding the terrible, the ugly, the horrid, shows me that there’s something about our appetites that’s unhealthy, twisted, and fundamentally corrupted.
Of course, we as Christians don’t find this surprising. The principle has been in the scriptures for millennia: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9.
But the Bible doesn’t only condemn the negative, praise the Lord, it also directs us toward the positive. One of the strongest verses about this is the one quoted at the top of this devotional, from Philippians chapter 4. And that advice could be taken two ways. Admittedly, in my earlier Christian walk I viewed it as limiting and disappointing. “So I can’t enjoy my action movies now?” “Man, now I’m gonna feel guilty while I play my shoot-em-up video game?”. But I now view this verse as entirely positive as it gives us permission to leave by the wayside the negative and ugly in favor of the better and more excellent.
Why listen to filthy lyrics when I can listen to a symphony or a praise song? Why get revved up sexually from gyrating figures on a screen when I could behold works of art or landscapes? The internet makes all of these easily available, but will we choose the good?
I admit, my messed-up heart/nature pull me toward the less than savory frequently: I feel the temptations daily. But I ask myself: what’s the best way I can spend this hour I find myself with? Rather than indulge in the latest gruesome offering from Netflix, I could spend that time learning a language or trying a new recipe!
So I pray we wouldn’t see the Bible’s instructions as trying to ruin our fun, but to instead see it as steering us toward the better: the praiseworthy, the pure, the sublime and beautiful.
I pray that you and your families would be fulfilled by both your work and your free time/recreation time. And may we beam (metaphorical) rays of sunshine, while the rest of the world seems content to wallow in swampy muck.
Pastor Mark Tatum