December 17, 2017

Fatal Attraction: What Entertainment Is Doing to Our Youth

Mike Ascher

In 1985 author and educator Neil Postman wrote the book Amusing Ourselves to Death. In his opening paragraphs Postman states that “at different times in our history, different cities have been the focal point of a radiating American spirit.” For example, he points out that before the American Revolution “Boston was the center of a political radicalism that ignited a shot heard round the world. . . . In the early twentieth century, Chicago, the city of big shoulders and heavy winds, came to symbolize the industrial energy and dynamism of America. . . . Today, we must look to the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, as a metaphor of our national character and aspiration. . . . For Las Vegas is a city entirely devoted to the idea of entertainment, and as such proclaims the spirit of a culture in which all public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment. Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.”[1]

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land again with other American believers. As our Israeli guide presented information on the lives of Abraham and Lot, he compared the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to what he called “your Las Vegas.” Genesis 18 and 19 reveal that the tour guide was right, but a careful examination of the Scripture also reveals what caused the destruction of that society and the family of a “righteous man dwelling among them” (2 Pet. 2:8).

Attractions over Absolutes

When we read in Genesis 13:10 that “Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah,” we are not told of his spiritual condition. However, 2 Peter 2:7 and 8 describe him as “just Lot . . . that righteous man.” “Just” and “righteous” are the same Greek word and refer to the fact that Lot maintained righteous conduct though he was surrounded by Sodom’s wickedness. The clear implication is that Lot had knowledge of God’s absolutes and was willing to obey them!

The similarities of what happened in Lot’s life and what has taken place in the United States are striking! America was founded by men and women who, like Lot, knew God’s absolutes and were willing to be governed by them. In his book The Vanishing Word: The Veneration of Visual Imagery in the Postmodern World, Arthur W. Hunt III notes that John Adams, our second president, “believed that if American democracy was to work at all, two ingredients were absolutely essential—knowledge and virtue. . . . The ingredient of knowledge carries with it the notion that liberty is dependent on an informed citizenry. . . . When Adams listed his second ingredient of liberty, that of virtue, he no doubt had in mind the concept of Christian virtue.”[2] Hunt goes on to illustrate that knowledge (people reading and reasoning on their own) and virtue are jeopardized when a nation’s thinking becomes “anti-intellectual and amoral.” Hunt correctly states that the result is the “postmodernism” of our day.[3] Let’s consider how an individual or a nation moves from being governed by absolutes to being governed by fleshly attractions.

Reason is placed over reliance on God’s truth. The obvious question is, “When did America turn from knowledge and virtue?” The answer is this: when she placed knowledge (reason) over virtue (reliance on God’s truth). It was the same mistake that Lot made when he reasoned that the “well watered” plain of Jordan would be best for his flocks (Gen. 13:10, 11), though God’s will for his family was to avoid the spiritual threat of Sodom and Gomorrah altogether. In the early twentieth century the United States was influenced by, among other things, German “higher criticism” of Scripture, Darwinism, and Freudianism. This reliance on human reason— called “Modernism”—dramatically altered the American psyche. At the same time our nation was also being blinded by great industrial and technological prosperity. It is likely that Lot also flourished in the plain of Jordan, blinding him further to his wrong thinking and the spiritual dangers that threatened his family.

Romans 1:21 clearly reveals this decline: “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Dr. Jim Berg points out that “the way down” described in this passage begins with “unbelief” (“accepting the reasoning of fallen man . . . over the revelation of God”), which then leads to “discontent” (“a lust for more” that “is the basis for every temptation in the heart”).[4] Since America has chosen to “hold [down] the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18) and because she does not want “to retain God in [her] knowledge” (Rom. 1:28), the discontent in our land has led to the practice of every “reprobate” lust listed in Romans 1. We are no different than Sodom.

God intervened in Lot’s life with a wake-up call! Before He sent angels to remove Lot from Sodom, He allowed the combined armies of several kings to defeat Sodom and Gomorrah and take away everything Lot possessed (Gen. 14:11, 12). The United States received a wake-up call in 1929 with ten years of Great Depression. Many Americans lost everything they owned. At the same time God raised up the Bible Conference Movement, Bible colleges, radio ministries, publishing houses, and sent revivalists with names like Ironside, Sunday, Rice, and Jones to turn hearts back to God’s truth.[5] Did Lot heed the warning? Has our own country turned from the fantasies of human thinking back to the realities of God’s Word? The answer is clearly “no”—but notice how the decline continues.

Reason and God’s revelation are abandoned for fleshly attraction. It is astonishing that after God uses Abraham’s servant army to deliver Lot (Gen. 14), we find him right back in Sodom, sitting in the very gate of the city (Gen. 19:1)! “In Eastern cities [the city gate] is the market, the seat of justice . . . and amusement, especially a favorite lounge.”[6] Scripture does not tell us exactly why Lot was sitting in the city gate. What we do know is that Sodom must have been an attractive city. When Lot decides to dwell among the cities of the Jordan plain, he chose to pitch his tent closest to Sodom (Gen. 13:12). Most of Lot’s family refused to leave the city, even after being warned of imminent judgment (Gen. 19:14), and Lot’s wife could not resist a final, fatal look (Gen. 19:26). Ezekiel 16:49 tells us that Sodom was an affluent city and lists the other sins for which she was destroyed: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” For many Americans, Sodom’s characteristics are what they look for in a good vacation spot!

Just as Lot abandoned reason and the truths he knew about God to return to the attractions of Sodom, so also our culture has moved from knowledge and Christian virtue to Postmodernism, where truth is whatever a person wants it to be. “The major question is no longer, ‘Is it true?’ but ‘How does it look?’ and ‘How does it feel?’”[7] Those who have abandoned the reality that what God says is true will ultimately choose the visual over what is truly valuable.

The Visual over the Valuable

What Lot saw in Sodom took an awful toll on his value system. Peter says that “day to day” “in seeing and hearing” the “unlawful deeds” of his neighbors in Sodom, Lot “vexed his righteous soul” (2 Pet. 2:8). The word “vexed” is a form of the same word translated “torment” in Matthew 8:29. Lot was miserable because of the Godsent conviction in his own soul, but that wasn’t the worst part. He never could have predicted what daily visual exposure to evil would do to his own life, his wife, and his children. Who would believe that to protect guests in his house, a “just” and “righteous” Lot would offer his virgin daughters to be abused by a wicked mob (Gen. 19:8)? Who would believe that daily visual exposure to the world’s goods would cause Lot’s sons-in-law and their families to stay in Sodom and perish by fire and brimstone (Gen. 19:14)? Who would believe that the daily visual exposure to sensuality that Lot’s virgin daughters had seen would cause them to get their father drunk so they could commit immorality with him (Gen. 19:32–36)?

The visual attractions in Sodom obscured rational thinking and were fatal. America’s obsession with entertainment and materialism is having the same affect. Modernism, though damaging, was dependent upon the printed page, and people had to read, think, and reason. Postmodernism has turned away from reason, and at the same time has almost completely embraced the visual image.[8] When did the shift to postmodernism take place in our society? History may prove that the postmodern era came about at the same time that the television in the living room was considered more useful than the bookshelf. We are an image-driven society that is now believing almost anything if it is aesthetically pleasing and makes us feel good. Romans 1:32 sounds like it is referring directly to television and movies when it explains where the postmodern mind ends up: “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

As in Lot’s family, the greatest tragedy is what these trends are doing spiritually to our Christian youth when careless parents allow them to absorb postmodern media through cable television, DVDs, the Internet, and iPods. Those of us in ministry and Christian education are alarmed by the lack of Biblical knowledge the average Christian young person possesses. His or her ability to reason and apply Scripture to daily problems is severely lacking. Thus our Christian teens are unable to discern the real danger that surrounds them.

As Christian parents and leaders it is time that we help our young people turn off the images and tune out the voices that are tempting them to live by feelings and not faith, by fantasy and not the facts revealed in God’s Word. Above all, we must teach them by example and instruction to “be still, and know . . . God” (Ps. 46:10). Technology allows today’s Christian young people to mentally “download” audiovisual media all day without ever having to be alone with their thoughts and their God. If they learn God’s Word and how to walk dependent on His Spirit, they will not fulfill the lusts of their flesh, regardless of how corrupt our society becomes.

It is very significant that at the same time fire is rising from Sodom and Gomorrah, consuming some of Lot’s family, Scripture reveals that “Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord(Gen. 19:27).

At the time of original publication, Mike Ascher was pastor of Bible Baptist Church ( in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2008. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)

  1. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Viking Penguin, 1985), pp. 3–4. []
  2. Arthur W. Hunt III, The Vanishing Word: The Veneration of Visual Imagery in the Postmodern World (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003), p. 186. []
  3. Ibid. []
  4. Jim Berg, Taking Time to Quiet Your Soul (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2005), p. 8. []
  5. David O. Beale, In Pursuit of Purity (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 1986), pp. 251–56. []
  6. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Power Bible CD, Version 4.0a. []
  7. Postman, p. 187. []
  8. Ibid., pp. 188–89. []

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