What should Christians think about entertainment and technology? Are social media, video games, televised sports, and MP3 players healthy or unhealthy for those of us seeking to follow after Christ? These questions aren't new, and the answers to them aren't simple. If they were, the "theological engagement with popular culture" genre of Christian nonfiction would not be nearly so large.
With his new book, iPod, YouTube, Wii Play: Theological Engagements with Entertainment (Cascade Books), D. Brent Laytham adds a smart and provocative voice to the ongoing discussion of how Christians can understand their relationship to the ever-expansive, oppressively ubiquitous world of entertainment.
Sprawling and diverse in its coverage of the culture industry's many dimensions, Laytham's book proposes that a healthy theological engagement with entertainment will require "a consistent dialectical movement of refusing all that diminishes or denies our true humanity, while affirming all that expresses or enhances it." This is not about steering a middle course between being doomsday prophets or utopian priests of pop culture. The via media is a "dead end," Laytham argues, because in our media-saturated world, where we are all surrounded by and habituated to entertainment, "there is no such thing as a balanced diet of idolatry."
Permission to Waste Time
For Laytham, temperance in the area of entertainment consumption is a futile endeavor. Instead, we should do two things at the same time. One is to recognize entertainment as a seductive "power and principality" and "refuse its quest for primacy in our lives"; the second is to understand entertainment as a ...