Richard Winter’s book Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment is a great book that asks and answers this question from an intelligent, biblical point of view: Why are so many Americans bored when there are a billion things for us to do? Another way to think about this topic is that Americans are “distracted from distraction by distraction.” In this book Winter examines the social, biological, historical, spiritual, and philosophical aspects of boredom. I was fascinated to learn how boredom, postmodernity, anxiety, and even addiction (among other things) are related. This book is worth studying if you want a readable account of boredom in Western culture.
One section I found helpful was how Winter showed the way out of boredom. Passion, wonder, leisure, ordinary pleasures, delight in the good, and a longing for the new creation are some examples of combating boredom and all the emotions and attitudes that go with it. To be sure, this isn’t a biblical survey of boredom, but Winter does apply the general aspects of Christianity to boredom.
Here’s another angle of the book that is worth quoting and discussing.
“When stimulation comes at us from every side, we reach a point where we cannot respond with much depth to anything. Bombarded with so much that is exciting and demands our attention, we tend to become unable to discriminate and choose from among the many options. The result is that we shut down our attention to everything. The boredom that we feel today is probably more likely to come from overload than underload. When we are surrounded by so much information, we find it hard to sort out what is relevant and important and to find meaning in anything” (p. 37).
How does this relate to Christian worship? Indeed, there is such a think as dry, lifeless, legalistic worship in churches where there is little love and laughter. “At the end of the spectrum, others have found churches with plenty of excitement, entertainment, and emotion where there is little good teaching but everyone has a great time” (p. 133). Winters even pointed out that he noticed one church called “Exciting First Baptist.”
“Of course our emotions should be involved in worship, but too often we want peace and happiness like an emotional fix. We want instant pain relief and entertainment. When God does not come through like that, we manufacture techniques and teaching to give us the excitement and experience we crave. Worship has to be ever more entertaining and thrilling. At first everything is wonderful, but after a time there is an ever-increasing desire for something more – another gift of the Spirit, another healing miracle, more dramatic experiences in worship” (ibid.).
Winters then says that the Bible doesn’t promise health, wealth, and unending excitement in this life. There is such a thing as sin and brokenness; we’re called to be patient pilgrims longing for the new creation. “God does indeed offer something deeper and more fulfilling now and in the future, but these are not often associated with the instant thrills and excitement promised by the culture of advertising and entertainment. Sensation seekers and the instant-fix generation often have a hard time with that, and they may end up disappointed and bored with God” (p. 134).
This is something worth thinking about. If our view of Christianity and our worship services have everything do with a band, positive CCM lite-Christian music, and uplifting atmosphere, what happens when these things no longer excite us or make us feel good? What about our kids? If children grow up in this entertaining church atmosphere, what do they do when it bores them? What comes after Veggie Tales? It’s pretty easy in our culture to push the delete button or download a new app.
I suppose this has to do with Andrew’s post yesterday. Winters certainly helps us cut through this addiction to entertainment and its resulting boredom. Get the book, study it, pray through it, and think about it from a mature Christian perspective. By doing so, you’ll be able to avoid boredom and enjoy the life God has given us in an intelligent, mature, and enjoyable Christian way.