Living in Wonderland
In the television show 24, Kiefer Sutherland plays Jack Bauer, a federal agent for the United States Government’s fictional Counter Terrorism Unit. In the show, Bauer is portrayed as a man of action who always comes out on top, against all odds. Unfortunately, Jack Bauer also makes many questionable moral decisions. One such decision is the execution of a former colleague because of a personal vendetta. Considering that many of these story lines are often written to appeal to a younger audience that enjoys the action genre with its attendant cliff hangers, what message does this send to our youth?
This television series is just one example among a variety of programs, including comedy, ‘reality,’ and drama shows that portray an unreal picture of everyday life.
Television is not the only medium used in creating fantasy concepts about life. There is also online gaming. Games like Counter Strike depict a world where someone can be killed and then, of all things, come back to life or ‘respawn’ 10 seconds later.
Fashion, presented in magazines, on television, or in the stores at the mall is another category representing a world of expensive and elaborate clothing that most people are persuaded to want, but can never own. For many, this results in additional frustrations because of those wants that are never obtained due to the constant demand of meeting the needs of life.
Music videos are notorious for showing average people driving expensive cars, wearing lots of “bling bling,” and living in ten-thousand square foot mansions: something that is not the norm for most people.
Due to the emphasis on materialism and the spotlight put upon satisfying the cravings of the physical, there is a challenge presented to young and old Christians in today’s secular culture. That challenge is to understand the balance between the real and unreal; the practical and the impractical.
For instance, you can enjoy some of this entertainment, but you must not let it preoccupy you to the point you allow it to control or pattern your life. When we lose our perspective on what is real and what is fantasy we are setting ourselves up for future problems. We need to guard what we allow to influence our ideas, emotions and of course the goals we set for ourselves that define our lives. The reason for this is simple. If we’re not careful, subtly, incrementally, before you know it, we’re distracted by this “world of fantasy,” wasting our time chasing after things that really don’t matter.
The fundamental problem of a media created “world of fantasy” is its ability to distract us from our main goal in life—which should be to serve God. The Bible advises us, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV) and also, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14, NIV). We cannot serve two masters. The Bible says: “no one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24, NIV).
Getting caught up in this fantasy world will only lead us down a path that is not God’s way. The makers of the surreal would have us shut God out of the equation. No one dies and then lives again within 10 seconds. Yet it’s portrayed as reality! Don’t kid yourself into thinking this doesn’t have influence on, specifically and especially, our young people. Also, some will go as far as to satirize God, and even tell lies about Him. Consider the portrayal of Ned Flanders as the not-so-cool churchgoer in The Simpson’s. All designed to portray God as some out-of-sync character who has no relativity to the modern 21st century man. Many people are now accepting these portrayals as normal and conceptually healthy characterizations.
Unfortunately, when God is removed or at best marginalized, we as a society and/or culture begin running the risk of redefining social norms. That is what’s happening today. Much of what used to be considered the absolutes are now being challenged and changed. What was formally considered abnormal is now beginning to be considered normal. This is the natural result, when allowing the fantasy world of pop culture define for us what is right and wrong. The Bible says,
… turn away from Godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in doing so have wandered from the faith.” (1 Tim 6:20-21, NIV)
Another problem associated with chasing after this world of fantasy is that it sets up false expectations which, when and if we fail to fulfill, can lead us to additional psychological or relationship problems. This can lead us into additional complications that often result in making bad situations worse.
Consider the following. If you compare yourself to the rich and famous, but you are not so blessed, yet you insist on attempting to live like them and over extend yourself by purchasing items you can’t afford, you just may find yourself with a broken marriage and in bankruptcy.
In no way is this an endorsement of giving up on everything, throwing out the television, cancelling all your fashion magazine subscription and heading for the hills to hide in some remote cave. Jesus said, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). So it’s not about “dropping out,” but rather minimizing and/or eliminating the negative, anti-God influences on our outlook toward life and our personal relationships from this “agenda driven” fantasy world of pop culture. The fact is, there are some very good and enjoyable things in this world. The challenge is making choices that include God’s preferences in our lives.
This fantasy world is all around us and is only one of the many issues that confront the young and old alike. Facing the modern changes that are normalizing the abnormal is not an easy task. Like a snowball going down a hill, once we allow certain compromises to occur in our lives, it becomes more difficult to recover.
So consider the times we are living in (2 Tim 3:1-5). Don’t underestimate the potential influences this “fantasy world” of video games and superheroes may have on you. It can subtly be very influential on all of us, especially at this time of the season. So be vigilant! It reminds me of what a current pop singer once said, “Space may be the final frontier,” but on the other-hand, the real battleground is the frontier right here on Earth, dealing with conflicts intended to push God from your life and to direct your mind and emotions toward a more secular, hedonistic lifestyle.