I suppose those of us who are sufficiently advanced in years can all remember going through the phase of life where horror movies held a certain appeal. Perhaps still today older teens feel some kind of thrill, like agreeing to ride on a terrifying roller-coaster (e.g. the Tower of Terror at Gold Reef City!), displaying the necessary bravado required in order to submit to watching the latest hardcore horror movie on the circuit.
Thankfully I soon realised as a young adult that such adrenalin-releasing audiovisual exposure was not good for me, and that experiencing even imaginary horror (such movies are not factual, but merely dramatised) left its destructive mark on my psyche. I remember being challenged by Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8 to think on things that are pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent.
Today, even secular social commentators are beginning to express alarm at the reality of dystopia, which is defined simply as the opposite of utopia. Even rank pagans today are beginning to notice the cultural reality of pessimism and darkness in art, drama and entertainment. Take a moment to think of storylines in recent movies and television drama that you have sat through and enjoyed. Identify the reality, maybe even in your own ability to be entertained by (derive pleasure from) the thought, that there is something cheering about a nuclear strike; something delightful in aliens, zombies, and apocalyptic revolution; and something enthralling in the suggestion of the end of civilisation.
Perhaps the explanation lies in the reverse psychology of realising that things could be worse. Shows have grown a lot more gloomy and dark, possibly because people have given up on the dream of a perfect world. It must be said that such realism is not necessarily bad: Utopia in a fallen world is simply not to be found! But surely, we ought not to fall over into delightful dystopia!
As believers, we surely should notice and be concerned about the preoccupation with evil that seems to be a growing part of our culture and entertainment. As parents, we should be engaging in analytical dialogue with our children about what entertains them and precisely why it does so. Perhaps we need to help one another to realise that we make ourselves feel better by watching things that are even worse than reality, scaring ourselves into believing that things are not as bad as they seem.
In such discussion we need to conclude that we have a desperate need for biblical correctives. We need regularly to reset our biblical worldview by contemplating God’s self-revelation in the Word, both in the law and the gospel. One of the fruits of the Spirit is goodness, and so our appetites should be toward righteousness and light rather than darkness and its myriad expressions. Every proclamation of the gospel, and its outworking in the gracious power of God, helps us with this.
Thank God for Sundays, and our God-given heritage of singing God’s praises and benefitting from His means of grace!