The Fun Cult (or the Cult of Fun)

 Along with money, nature, sex, religion, youth, politics, and self, one common American idol is fun or entertainment.  Everything is advertised as being fun – from fun learning programs in schools, to fun office environments, to fun doctor’s offices, fun rules the day.  This is such a major idol in America that some people can even make a living playing games (or acting), and others will spend their living to watch others play games (or act a part).  Worse yet, we’ll hail those who make a living playing games as heroes and stars – despite the fact that many of them have no idea what the “real world” is like.  Entertainment is a huge American idol.  Q/A #1 of the American catechism is this: “The chief end of man is to glorify fun and enjoy it forever.” 

I like how Carl Trueman puts this in “Boring Ourselves to Life.”  He cites Pascal’s Pensees and notes that entertainment is distraction: “Distraction is the production of entertainment for the purpose of taking one’s mind off the deeper realities of life.”  Or, in other words, “how we fill our lives with rubbish instead of reflecting upon real truths.”  Of course, moderated entertainment is fine provided it is not sinful, but when it becomes the “means of keeping us from facing up to the truths of our creaturely existence,” it is profoundly bad for us.

Speaking of this idol of entertainment, it is important for us to see how this has crept into the church.  Churches play music videos, movie clips, top-40 songs, crack frequent jokes, and go to all sorts of extremes to make church a bit more fun (which has everything to do with the cult of youth).  Kent Hughes said it well, “Even worship is not exempt from hedonism as people go where worship is most pleasurable, imagining that the worship of God exists to make them feel good.”  If you’re not convinced that the idol of entertainment has been erected in many churches, read Mike Horton’s Christless Christianity or C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters (I & XII) or Gary Gilley’s This Little Church Went to Market (just to name three of many).

This is tough for Christians in an entertainment driven culture to understand: entertainment is an idol that the church must not bow down to but instead expose and break.  We are distracted all week by entertainment (radio, sports, TV, Fox News, etc.) but public Lord’s Day worship should be the place where these trivial distractions end.  When we try to blend entertainment and worship, we create a sort of schizophrenic Christian atmosphere of trivialness and depth at the same time (sort of like a comedian trying to share the gospel or talk about mortification on stage).  Worship isn’t entertaining, but that’s not a bad thing.  It is much better than ‘fun’ because it has to do with the Triune God speaking to us about the deepest realities of our human life: guilt, grace, and gratitude.  A biblical liturgy structured along the main lines of Christian theology (adoration, law, confession, forgiveness, biblical songs, prayer, sermon, sacraments) is not fun, but it is a faith strengthening blessing that requires the mind and patience (things entertainment destroys).  Entertainment in moderation is OK, but we have got to learn to leave it at the door of our churches instead of bringing it in.  I’ll sign off with a great quote from the Trueman piece I mentioned above.

“Let us spend less time trying to appropriate culture for Christianity and more time deconstructing culture in the light of Christ’s claims on us and the world around us.  Only then, I think, will we truly grasp the urgency of the human predicament.”

shane lems

sunnyside wa

3 thoughts on “The Fun Cult (or the Cult of Fun)”

  1. Biblical worship isn’t fun but it does lead to great joy. There’s a lot of “happy” in our entertainment-driven American culture, but not a lot of joy.

    Excellent post!

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    1. Stephen- that’s an interesting contrast between fun and joy. It’s possible to experience joy in the the extreme absence of fun (as Paul did while chained up in prison), and while fun can lead to joy, it usually doesn’t.

      However, our culture has made fun equivalent to joy (as evidenced by every light beer commercial ever produced). Fun is cheaper and easier to synthetically produce than joy, and after all, cheaper and easier are the American way.

      As a side note, has anyone else noticed how often the Hallelujah Chorus is used in commercials to announce the most banal news? On one hand we have the American Church watering down the true joy it has to offer by trying to make it fun, and on the other hand we have the market using an false expression of pure joy (when properly sung) to make its product look fun. Ironic.

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