Our Amusements Are Dulling Our Minds

Our pastor back home in Texas has spoken before of the "literal definition of amuse".

"a"-- negative/not (as in "athiest"-- not a theist)
"muse" -- to think or consider

Therefore, the literal definition is that to be amused is to not think. [insert congregation laughing with amusement]

Let's admit it: we are a people who love to be amused. We laugh ourselves silly over comedians like Ferrell and Carell (and we includes me!); we watch TV shows to fill our weeks; we rent movies to fill our weekends. Video games have taken over much of the leisure time in boys' bedrooms and on college campuses around the nation. Internet usage has become a requirement for life. Even in the Christian community, we amuse ourselves ad nauseum. There are Christian comedians, Christian romance novels, Christian fiction... and on and on and on.

It would be shocking for the average American to live in the world of just 20 years ago, without the internet, e-mail, GPS, cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, (and blogs...). And I'm not suggesting that we pitch our laptops off the nearest bridge, so stay with me.

But we need to examine how we use these things. We are in danger of being lulled to sleep, mentally, emotionally, culturally, and SPIRITUALLY-- by our amusements. When our days and nights are filled with technology, news, and fantasy games, and our homes, garages, and storage buildings are filled with toys, electronics, appliances, decorations, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff..., our minds are in danger of being overtaken, not only by our stuff (although I would argue that most Americans are indeed fixated on stuff), and not only by our amusements (although I would argue that most Americans are indeed fixated on amusements), but also by a creeping indifference to the dying, the poor, the uneducated, the spiritually dead people around the world.

While we upgrade our video games and buy the latest software and litter our children's rooms with educational toys (and yet, ironically, our children are less educated than any previous generation), and our teenagers drive cars the likes of which our parents would never have dreamed to have driven, even in adulthood, meanwhile, the world around us is in critical need of a Savior. In need of Bibles in their language. In need of people who will physically tell them. In need of more than the spiritually-bankrupt materialism and sexuality our culture is selling them. In need of Christ!

Oh how desperately they need Him. And though His coming hastens closer every day, our culture woos us, working to dull our minds, our hearts, and our desires (as well as the minds, hearts, and desires of every culture around the world desperately trying to be as wealthy and "happy" as America) to the things of God. Even in our Christian culture and in our churches... we are, all too often, fixating on stuff and on amusements rather than on intentional, prudent, judicious use of the resources God has given us to further HIS Kingdom.

Oh, God, have mercy on us. Save us from ourselves and our common drift into comfort and ease and that which entertains. Help us to do whatever it takes to wake up to the spiritual complacency we've developed in our fixation on amusement. Wake us up to the priorities of YOUR Kingdom!


Monica said...

This is so very true! The spiritual state of our country and the church is in danger and this is quite possibly one of the contributors to that danger. In many ways, we have even forsaken worship for entertainment in our services.

Laura said...

Hi Jess,
I've been reading your blog for quite some time but I don't remember how I found it. I find it fascinating how often you are able to articulate things that are floating around in my head but I've been unable to pin down. Especially in areas of subtle effects of culture. I almost always am on the same page as you! I've even read thru hundreds of comments people have left on your posts to learn more.

But this is the first time I'm commenting. I know this was written by your pastor and not you but nonetheless, it has hit the nail on the head. (This from someone who watches tv, movies, plays games, owns too much stuff, etc.) I'm wondering if I have your permission to post it on my blog with a link back to you? If you prefer I not, no problem! I think it is very thought-provoking if we have ears to hear!

Thank you for taking time to minister through your blog! Bless you and your family!

Laura Anderson

Jess said...

Hi Laura,
As with anything here on MH, you can feel free to link.

And actually, only the first little section about the "literal definition" of amuse comes from my pastor.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Laura... I love hearing from readers and fellow-thinkers.

Jaime said...

GREAT post. don't think i'd ever thought of the definition of amusement like that, but oh-so-true.

Candice said...

Amen, Sister! I wonder if the coming changes in our government (and I know you are currently living out of the country) are going to drive us to Christ more...I pray that's the case. I've heard that the persecuted church in China prays for US, the fat and comfortable baby-Christians...You are so right about our comforts/amusements distracting us from what is really REAL. Thanks for the convicting thoughts.

Leah said...

Ooooh yes Amen sister! This is SO true; we don't have video games etc. in our home but TV/Movies are a major player when we want to 'unwind'. This month we've had the big 'switch off' - NO TV, I've put baskets of books/games in the living room so the children can dig in when they want, my hubby and I have talked, talked, read, read and talked some more. I SO don't want mine or my families minds to be 'deadend' by the need for amusement. Let His Kindgom come and His will be done.

Laura said...

I just recently read a paraphrase of something Pascal said -- basically it was an acknowledgment that leisure and amusement can be gifts from God in a difficult and fallen world where our work often works against us. Are we as a culture amused to an absurd extent? Surely. But that doesn't necessarily mean that all amusements are bad.

As a Latin teacher, I have some issues with the linguistic and etymological stuff going on here, but I'll leave that alone. ;)

Jess said...

Oh Laura, I think I and my pastor would agree with you... his "etymological stuff" was entirely a joke. A joke with a point, yes... but a joke nonetheless. Perhaps I didn't make that clear enough, but it's so vivid in my mind that I felt certain everyone here would giggle and move on with the post... perhaps I should put something in there that makes it clear?


Ruth said...

Amen! Oh how very true.

WendyLou said...

Your pastor back in Texas?? Could that have been Tom Nelson?? I've heard him use the same definition in sermons before. Just wondering ...

Catherine R. said...

"For with much wisdom comes much sorrow" Ecclesiastes 1:18

The linguistic thing might have been a joke but I can't think of any more accurate definition of amusement.

It seems that people are so dependent on amusement because when they have a moment to actually think, reality is just too depressing. It really is. Our own sin and everyone else's makes this world an truly ugly place. People are weak and prefer to twiddle themselves into oblivion with video games or DVDs or whatever than to consider the depth of depravity all around our God starved world.

I read a book by a Christian counselor who basically said that wanting to kill one's self is a normal desire when one truly considers our world around us(he did provide a hopeful response to that though).

It's the same thing with food/ overeating. We all just want to be comfortable, distracted and non-committed to things that actually matter. We all do it.

I know I sound heavy but it's true...OK I'm off to play wii now! J/K I don't have a wii.

Laura said...

I totally got the tongue-in-cheek nature of it, which is why I left it alone (despite my natural tendency towards being totally pedantic, lol)! But I think there are some folks who might not get such a chuckle and would go around telling people that the definition of amuse is to be without thought! Ah well...

Jess said...

No, not Tom Nelson... I doubt if anyone but the people who know me in real life would know who my old pastor is. :)

Britt said...

Jess you've done it again! A relative and I got into a discussion about "entertainment" this weekend. I tend to be "extreme" and take the Bible "literally" whereas, this person believes the Bible has a lot of symbolism and is not to be meant to be taken literally...I forwarded this link to them.

Anonymous said...

Hi, My name is Joan.

Yes, it's true that our culture has been distracted by amusement. Recently, however, with the shift in the economy, I've noticed a trend back toward simplicity.

I've noticed people staying in, hanging out with family and neighbors more than they used to, buying less, and being less focused on stuff.

It's kind of nice!

Jnette said...

A few months ago I felt convicted about how much tv we were watching. Now that we don't watch it regularly I think American entertainment is no longer subtle. We've gotten alot closer as a family because we've had more time reading the Word together and talking with each other.

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

I've already added this to my Delicious links!

Jess, I don't even KNOW what to say. I have been thinking and pondering, and praying along these lines for weeks now. Trying to get rid of some of the stuff in here that is consuming my time and being held off by objections from the family. Regretting that I didn't have the wisdom to know then what I know now so that I wouldn't have to be fighting these battles to begin with. Looking around at all the stuff bought with money that could have been saved or given to someone in need;

Making a more conscious effort to teach my children to be concerned with someone other than themselves. I can't tell you the strange looks I have been getting from CHRISTIAN parents as I have mentioned stripping away the unneeded things so that my children understand that life is not about THEIR amusement, THEIR schedule, THEIR agenda. That their life should not revolve around doing all the things the guidance counselors say they need to "get into college" or "get a good job". For what? so they can buy a house full of junk?

Sorry for the ramble. It's just that you really hit on something that needs to be dealt with. And Christians are as bad as the world in this regard.

Heaven help us, and thank you for articulating it so well.

Z' Hodges said...

Amen. Praise God for your words.


Thandi said...

LOL.I understood the amusement thing with no problems! Thanks for your edifying blog

Bethany Hudson said...

So true! As you said, none of these things (cars, video games, the internet) are bad per se, but we need to be careful about WHY and HOW we use them. Are we idolizing them or "vegging out", or are we use them for some more noble purpose (service, education, fellowship, etc). It's so much easier to say "That THING is bad, so I'm not going to use it." Your challenge is, I believe, better but also more difficult: Be wary HOW you use the THING.


Gina@Chats With An "Old Lady" said...

Over the 20 years of marriage and family I have experienced, we have handled this differently at different times...we had no TV for awhile, then we got one, watched limited videos, then watched a few tv shows...the tv is in the living room for awhile, then it is put away when it is taking over. First no computer games, then a few...then more...always a limit of time allowed to play each day. It is a constant balancing of how these things are used. It is different as the children get older, more privileges...different privileges. It is fun to have them old enough to watch more "grown up" movies. But it all comes down to making sure that these amusements do not take over...that they stay in their place...for our enjoyment. My husband grew up without a TV...what we learned from that was that he never learned how to choose. He never learned discernment. He was never taught because it just wasn't there. Unfortunately, in our culture, TV and movies are everywhere. When he would go somewhere, as a kid and as a teen, and there would be a movie or tv show...he was so curious about it, that he lacked discernment. So, we finally chose to get certain things, and have walked our kids through how to choose. Now, as teens, we no longer have to tell them to turn the channel or turn it off when it is not appropriate, because they have learned how to choose. Since we do live in the day and age we live in, we must learn to deal with those things surrounding us and not let them take over our lives.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

"We are in danger of being lulled to sleep, mentally, emotionally, culturally, and SPIRITUALLY-- by our amusements."

Wow, what a great point. Thank you for sharing!

(Also, I didn't realize that you're a fellow Texan! How cool!)

Linda said...

Hi, Jess. I agree wholeheartedly with your post. It should agitate our mind and heart when we are so being amused that our heart goes into a state of not examing ourselves.
When, amusement has taken over our thoughts and set God on the side.
I thank God when I feel that uneasiness, because God is calling me, tugging at my heart. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with amusement in the proper time and place, but I think many times it has become an idol in people's hearts. Drawing them away from God.
Feeding the flesh and leaving us thirsty, yet not drinking from the living water. Hope I make sense.


Lady M said...

Perhaps it is not as much of a joke as you think when you look at #3 or the Middle English definition....


tr.v., a·mused, a·mus·ing, a·mus·es.

1. To occupy in an agreeable, pleasing, or entertaining fashion.
2. To cause to laugh or smile by giving pleasure: I was not amused by his jokes.
3. Archaic. To delude or deceive.

[Middle English, from Old French amuser, to stupefy : a-, to (from Latin ad-; see ad–) + muser, to stare stupidly; see muse.]

Anonymous said...

Wow Jess,
I've been thinking on this a lot lately. I've just started reading through Jeremiah and you write what I've been feeling about myself and the world around me since I opened the book. I do not want to be one that has 'walked after things that do not profit' in years to come!
"For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water." Jer.2:13

So convicting. So humbling.

Anonymous said...

Throughout human history, popular amusements have been used to distract people from injustice and overwhelming societal problems.

Not long after Jesus lived, a Roman poet mocked people for selling out their freedom to leaders who gave them "bread and circuses."

Today's Americans do own a ridiculous amount of consumer goods and have access to more forms of entertainment than previous generations.

However, the tendency for popular culture to reinforce misplaced priorities is a very old problem.

Laurie B

Anonymous said...

I hope it won't offend people too much if I note that many of the most successful "megachurches" in the U.S. have sanctuaries that resemble movie theaters, with giant video screens and beverage holders in the armrests next to each seat.

I'm not against contemporary worship with accessible rock or folk music, etc., but let's be honest: these services boost attendance by making religion more entertaining for the public.

Laurie B

Tim and Richelle said...

Amen! Appreciated your post.

Victoria said...

Very well said Jess! You have put into words what many of us have held true in our hearts.

You write in such a way that helps us further examine ourselves in light of Truth and ponder what we're going to do about it.

Thanks for the post. I plan to link to it as well! :)

Marci said...

God must be stirring hearts in this area. This week, I've been blogging on busyness, clutter and stuff getting in the way of what God wants to do with our lives. As I have been talking to people these past few days, this subject keeps coming up - without me bringing it up. And now today, I stumble upon your blog and you have this great post. God is calling us closer to Him.

Amy said...

Neil Postman (not a Christian) wrote a book in the early 80's (Regan era) called "Amusing Ourselves to Death." I highly recommend it. You can get it from Amazon. In the book he draws a parallel between Orwell's "1984" and Huxley's "Brave New World." In "1984" "Big Brother" controlled people by removing all enjoyable stimulus from their lives. However, in "Brave New World" the powers that be encouraged amusment and foolish fun to control people. The author points out that our society is very much more controlled by enjoyment and AMUSMENT than by the lack there of. You just never know which "soma" may be being used to numb you to truth and reality......(for those who have read the books you will understand that). Anyway, people do thrive on being amused and "not thinking too much." I have a friend who was sent to watch a movie that celebrated fornication both heterosexually and homosexually. This Christian woman remarked to my Christian friend: "Just go and enjoy it and don't over-think it!"

Hmmm......"we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." 1 Cor. 10:5

Enjoyment of life is certainly a part of the Christian life. Jesus himself promised "abundant life" and one of the Fruits of the Spirit is indeed joy. So we don't have to "Puritanesque" in our approach to living. We should, however, be very sober about what we take pleasure in.

Excellent post. Thanks for letting us share our 2 cents:-)

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Peace in Christ,