Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, expressed concern in recent commentary about a trend in Christian radio that is replacing teaching and issue-oriented programs with programming that is more entertainment oriented.
By Kelly Boggs
Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship,
expressed concern in recent commentary about a trend in Christian radio
that is replacing teaching and issue-oriented programs with programming
that is more entertainment oriented.
“One station canceled my four-minute BreakPoint
commentary,” Colson wrote, “saying that four minutes is the equivalent
of one song.... Besides, the station manager allowed, BreakPoint is too
serious and not contemporary enough.”
It is not only his radio commentaries that Colson is
concerned about. “Several stations recently -– many acting on the
advice of a leading consulting firm –- have dropped serious programming
in favor of all-music formats,” he reported. “For example, a major
station in Baltimore has dropped four talk shows in order to add music.”
American society and even Christians, it seems, are
surrendering to the insatiable desire to be entertained. Our quest for
amusement has become not only a national pastime, it has become an
Entertainment seems to permeate almost all of life.
GameBoys, Walkmans and iPods provide portable diversion.
Cell phones and PDAs now come with games as standard equipment.
Americans pursue electronic pastimes via television
and computer. The Internet, which helped usher in the information age,
is now used primarily for amusement -- much of which is unseemly.
Professional sports have even been affected by
America’s entertainment addiction. Once upon a time, the contest itself
was amusement enough. Not any more. When I attended an NBA game
recently, I encountered non-stop entertainment. During breaks in the
action there were contests, give-a-ways, dancing girls, and video
replays. It was dizzying.
Even politics is dominated by entertainment. A
candidate’s image has become more important than a substantive
platform. I recently heard a political pundit comment that a particular
individual would make a good candidate because he makes the public feel
It seems that even the church is succumbing to the
quest for perpetual entertainment. A local fellowship was once
evaluated by its commitment to biblical truth. No more. Many who file
in and out of houses of worship now expect a service to flow with
flawless musical presentations and engaging messages peppered with
humor. Conviction must now contend with amusement.
There is little in American society that has not
been tainted by entertainment addiction. Perhaps we should consider the
song “Let Me Entertain You” as our new national anthem.
All addictions have consequences. America’s
obsession with entertainment has produced a society that has become
increasingly more passive toward life.
Entertainment is designed to appeal to an audience’s
emotions. Those addicted to amusement lose their desire to think
critically. The entertainment addict reacts to information, and even
life, based on how it makes him or her feel. Emotion, rather than fact,
is the supreme barometer for those enslaved to entertainment.
Addiction is also, by its very nature, an escalating
condition. That is, an addict’s appetite never plateaus. Hence those
obsessed with entertainment desire more and more amusement that is
increasingly more spectacular. The end result is that the sensational
trumps the substantive.
The attention span is the first casualty of all
addiction. The entertainment addict is not only easily bored and
distracted, but also has difficulty retaining relevant information for
a very long period of time. Those obsessed with amusement are unable to
juxtapose contemporary happenings with history. Thus, current events
become nothing more than passing bits of trivia.
A society addicted to entertainment is one where
individuals are obsessed with their own pleasure. Once a people lose
the desire to pursue life and to think critically, once a society fails
to recognize the substantive and cultivate a historical perspective,
once these realities become the rule rather than the exception, a
society is in real danger.
There are many things in life that taken in
moderation are not necessarily negative. Entertainment is one of them.
However, America has crossed the line of moderation and is plunging
headlong into addiction. It seems we are, in the words of New York
University’s Neil Postman, “Amusing ourselves to death.”