In today’s world, we are bombarded with opportunities for entertainment everywhere we go. We are surrounded by images, sounds, and flashes of brilliance, but most of us carry on without even a moment of reflection. We've been assured by the industry that what we're really looking for is in the next escape from reality. Thus, we have forgotten the natural vocation of art: to evoke and glorify, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God (CCC 2501). The beauty of artistic expression is meant to lure us toward the good and the true. It is meant to be an icon lifting us to the divine.
To begin to view the entertainment industry through the lens of the Gospel, we must first acknowledge the power of story. It's been said that if you want someone to know the truth, you tell them, but if you want someone to love the truth, you tell them a story. Within the canon of the Bible is contained the greatest story ever told, and it is all about He who is the Truth. The Scriptures speak the universal language of the heart and it is this language we are drawn to in the stories we love.
Along with dedication to the Scriptures is devotion to “the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). It is through these pillars that we become intimate with Jesus Christ and His Church in the places where He is most thinly veiled. This serves to increase our capacity to recognize Him at every time and in every place. We begin to see good art as the consummation of the things of heaven with those of earth, drawing us into the realm of the divine and back to Jesus Christ and His Church. But, we must be aware of that which draws us in competing directions.
Philippians 4:8 states, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." There is a battle for our hearts, minds, and souls raging while on this earth, and the enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour. While we should be careful not to be "masters of suspicion," we know that stories can never be merely for the sake of entertainment.
Thus, there are instances where we contemplate art not just as fans, but as doctors, carefully peeling back the outer layers to pinpoint the true, good, and beautiful. We ask ourselves if the content lifts our souls to the divine. Does it make a spectacle of sin? Does it communicate themes of truth, goodness, and beauty?
A crucial caveat is provided by Pope Saint John Paul II. Do not be afraid, he says, to see within art “the darkest depths of the human soul” and “the most unsettling aspects of evil.” These are often necessary in order to give voice to the universal desire for redemption. If sin manifests in the arts for this reason, it is serving its rightly ordered purpose. It then becomes up to the individual soul to decide if a certain form of entertainment will serve to bring him closer to our Lord or merely arouse his passions and rob him of his innocence.
Our reason for diving into another world must be a pure one. It should not be to simply escape reality or to delay that which we ought to be doing. If it is, there are more important matters at hand. If it’s not, then enjoy the show. Let the narrative be a getaway and also an inspiration. Pay attention to those moments which transcend mere entertainment and truly stir a longing in your chest.
As the curtain closes, allow yourself to be arrested by the divine. Use that natural desire for stillness in those moments to reflect on your experience. Use the ache in your chest as a reminder that you are not yet where you are supposed to be because you are not yet in heaven. Do not ignore the heart screaming within you, begging you to acknowledge its pain and asking you to investigate. Your experience of entertainment shouldn’t stop the second it ends. Art offers us a momentary escape from reality so that we may be thrust back into it with a more keen sense of the greatness for which we were made. So, consider the implications it could have in your life. Pray!
The Lord can reveal Himself to us through media. We are called to divinize the secular world, and evangelization through the entertainment industry (whether as an artist or a fan) is an effective way to do this. Someone may not be willing to go to Church, but may be willing to listen to the truth if shared within the context of a beloved story. The infinite longing to take part in the life of the Trinity is written on the hearts of all humanity, and great stories provoke and agitate this desire. We must simply prompt them to question and encourage them to respond. After all, we were made to be more than entertained.
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