It never ceases to amaze me to what depths we are willing to plunge for the cause of a little entertainment. I do not watch much TV. I like entertainment as much as anyone, but most of what is on television anymore is an insult to intelligence and an assault on virtue. But today I was listening to radio commentary about a new reality TV show in which people are submitted to lie detector tests. The point is to revel in the strange and perverse. Although I suspect that it attempts to portray itself as a bastion of truth. I've never seen the show, nor do I intend to. In the small portion I heard of the show, a woman was found to be an adulteress to the chagrin of her husband who was obviously in agony over the revelation.
I began to think about things I had read in the Fathers of the Church. In their day a popular form of entertainment was to go to the arena and watch condemned criminals fight for their lives against other men or even animals. The theater was also popular in their day and the moral standard seems to have been similar to our own. The plays dwelt on the themes of fornication, adultery, and various other perversions with some profanity thrown in for good measure. In both cases Christians were urged to refrain from such forms of entertainment because they vicariously enlisted one in the same sins being portrayed before them. It seems to me a similar call is in order in our own day.
Do we really need to watch Jerry Springer, or even Dr. Phil? Is it our business to revel in the pain and perversion of others? Obviously not! Rather we are called to a much higher standard. St. Paul writes, "Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things," (Phil. 4:8). Although he wasn't directing his comments to entertainment, these words form a good criteria for what should be considered such by the Christian. Perhaps it would be good for some of us to copy this verse in large letters and paste it near our TV. Then we would have before our eyes the standard of God. I'll bet the end result would be a dramatic change in what we allow into our homes and into our hearts via this medium.
I am reminded of what St. James wrote in his short, but powerful letter: "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God," (Jms. 4:4). There is our choice. We can indulge in the latest round of decadence, or we can have the friendship of God. It really is that simple.
Oh God, forgive me for the many times when I have gone along with the crowd to satisfy my banal lusts. Grant me mercy for my sins and the Grace to overcome them and to live on the higher plane of holiness. Grant this same Grace to my brothers and sisters who struggle along with me. Amen!