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  • What did the Early Church teach about entertainment (TV, music, sex & violence)

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    Lately, I have been thumbing through this thick reference work entitled, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. I was intrigued by the idea of comparing what Christians believe today with those of the earliest Christians to see if there was much difference. Truly, it has been enlightening thus far.

    With regards to this topic, I found a section entitled, "Entertainment" and it had a many quotes from various early church fathers (100 - 300 AD). And as I was reading it, I had noticed something of peculiarity, which I have noticed when contrasting the scriptures with beliefs of Christians in modern times.

    For some reason, certain terms found within scripture have been slanted and as a result, the minds of Christians as well. Consider the term fornication. When you hear this term, often you will think of a definion such as "sex before marriage". However, as I have mentioned in many articles, it does not mean this. it means harlotry, sexual sin and idolatry.

    Well, as I stated above, I noticed this same pattern with entertainments as I was reading these quotes from the early church fathers. To give you an example. When someone sees a violent movie, they assume it is sinful, because it has violence. Or, if a person sees a movie with sex in it, they assume it is sinful, because it has sex scenes.

    However, when reading these early fathers, the focus does not seem to be on generalized topics, such as sex or violence, but more contextual sins relating to sex and violence. For instance, consider this quote here:

    "They utter ribaldry in pretentious tones, and they act out indecent movements. Your daughters and your sons watch them giving lessons in adultery on the stage ... Admirable, too, are your lying poets, who beguile their listeners from the truth through their fictions! ... He who is chief among you collects a legion of bloodstained murderers [i.e. ~ gladiators], engaging to maintain them ... And he who misses the murderous exhibition is grieved, for he was not doomed to be a spectator of wicked, impious, and abominable deeds!" - Tatian (c. 160, E)

    Here is something to note. You see this same pattern in scripture, yet it is absent today in conservative circles. The description of the action is not sexuality in general. It is adultery. Further, note, it is not violence that is condemned. It is murder.

    Now, I believe a lot of conservative protestants get their tenants of judging "sex and violence" from such writings as we see above. However, as I just pointed out, it does not say sex and violence are the sin. Rather, it points directly to certain actions that are clearly condemned in scripture, namely: adultery and murder, which are both forbidden even in the 10 Commandments of God.

    Consider the lying poets mentioned above. They are likely telling the false stories of the greek and roman gods. Gods that do not exist. Consider the fairy tales of evolution, that are taught in our schools. Are they are not of the same cloth? They are lies who lead people astray from Christ. Another example would be New Age spirtuality, such as seen with Oprah Winfrey, leading people astray with lies.

    I have noticed this also with scripture. People condemn harlots in general, sex in general, violence in general. Yet, scripture does not do so. Neither does this early father above. They, rather, point out how the harlot is married, or the person doing the sex act is showing how to cheat on one's spouse. So, the sin is in context of violating God's commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery".

    The Conservative Church has taken terms like "fornication" and "adultery" and made them mean everything. Everything is fornication. Seeing a nude woman is fornication. Even touching yourself is adultery. Do you see the error? Further, they neglect the precision of scripture and altogether cut out the offenses of idolatry that are connected to adultery, fornication and many of the sins mentioned in scripture.

    Here is another quote:

    "Neither may we watch the other spectacles [i.e. ~ the theaters], lest our eyes and ears be defiled by participating in the utterances that are sung there. For if one should speak of cannibalism, in these spectacles the children of Thyestes and Tereus are eaten. And as for adultery, both in the case of men and of gods, whomoe they celebrate in elegant language for honors and prizes, this is made the subject of their dramas" - Theophilus (c. 180, E)

    Now, erase all the mention of false gods, idolatry, and what do you have? You have a conservative protestants viewpoint on TV, music, etc.

    Yet, should we cut out the mention of false gods? Or is not the point not to commit idolatry and celebrate sins like adultery? So, really, is the sin "sex and violence" like many claim? Or is the sin more precise? Adultery, cannibalism and idolatry and other such sins.

    This is not something that can be easily dismissed. It is almost like some Christians want to take the precision out of scripture. To take the power out of scripture as well. To Gnosticize the Bible into a war between your physical desire and your spirit. When, in reality, they have minimized the sins of the spirit.

    What are the sins of man's spirit? How about idolatry? And why is there a necessity to make words mean more when it comes to the physical and mean less when it comes to the spiritual? Even men find ways to make miracles in scripture to be natural and say that miracles do not happen today. It is almost like they don't want God to have any power and hate anything spiritual in nature.

    So, am I crazy, or am I making a valid point? I believe it is clear, that these are not generalized quotes. Consider another one below:

    "It will be made clear that the entire apparatus of the shows is based upon idolatry" - Tertullian (c. 197, W)

    Well, it appears I am not crazy after all. The theater in ancient times was 100% based on idolatry. Playing out the roman and greek god's endeavors and wicked acts. However, we have conservative protestants today (I belonged to a church that taught this!) that say that going to a movie theater is a sin and that all "entertainments" are sinful.

    What should be obvious is the utter failure of Protestantism when it comes to seeing the gnostic influence on itself. It is not physical desire or happiness from seeing some entertainment that is the problem. The problem is idolatry, adultery and other clearly defined sins that are partaken of within TV, radio, theater, etc.

    So, it should be utterly clear that adultery is a sin. Does that mean, if you see a woman having sex with a man on a video, they are committing adultery? You do not know if they are married or not. Most likely, they are not cheating, as cheating requires someone to be cheated upon. So, one can not conclude that a pornographic movie is sinful merely because two or more people have sex on it. If no adultery or idolatry occurs or is encouraged, then we can not conclude it as sinful.

    "Now let me address the kind of performances peculiar to the circus exhibitions. In former days, equestrianism was practiced in a simple way on horseback. Certainly, its ordinary use had nothing sinful to it. But when it was dragged into the games, it passed from the service of God into the employment of demons." - Tertullian (c. 197, W)

    All I am doing is going through this book, and about every other quote, writing it here. As you can clearly see, riding a horse is not a sin. It is when the horse is used in some gladiator battle where men and women die horrible deaths, does it become a sin.

    A question for you? Would you not agree with the above statement? Would not every Christian agree with it?

    Does it not even further make my point? Sex is not a sinful act, as God created the act. So, if two people are not commiting adultery and are not teaching others to commit adultery, where is the sin? Is it not like this example above? What is the difference? Put aside your notions from your church and open your mind to scripture and what these great men are saying. Does not the Bible clearly show it is about idolatry (against God) and adultery (against man)? Are not many Christians today ignoring the context of scripture and redefining words to slant towards conservative Catholicism and Protestantism?

    I am providing my interpretation of scripture and the early fathers. As you can see, it is just as good, if not better, than the common interpretations. If anything, I am being more honest with scripture, as I ensure I am more clearly defining terms and seeking harmony within scripture. I believe that my points are not something people can just easily dismiss, even if it has been engrained into our minds that "sex and violence" are sinful.



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