I don’t know about you, but I find my nightly TV-viewing options rather uninspiring. It seems basic cable offers little more than crude sitcoms, so-called reality TV, and gruesome crime dramas. If an alien race tapped into our video streams to find out what sort of people inhabit Earth, they’d turn their flying saucers around and put a big “Caution! Danger zone!” on their interstellar maps.
I’m a writer with aspirations to publish fiction, so I understand how we got to this point. As entertainment options increase, artists try to stand out by delivering the unexpected, something that irresistibly draws people to the next page or scene. The trouble is, the more we see, the more it takes to shock us and the more desensitized we become to the real—but ultimately less dramatic—presence of evil in everyday life.
Of course, there are bright spots in modern entertainment. And we have the option not to view morally offensive material. We can always change the channel, but boycotting leaves us with limited alternatives.
Corporate executive, author, and syndicated radio personality Dr. Dick Lyles has spent his life training leaders. In recent years he created Origin Entertainment as a way to carve out a place for Christianity in today’s culture. Catholics, he says, are willing to give money to the poor, but they don’t give to the arts as much as they used to. That means Catholics aren’t helping shape our culture through the arts.
Artists of the past like Michelangelo, Palestrina, and da Vinci are revered by the faithful as masters, in part because the Church and its wealthiest members made the arts a priority. Nowadays, people criticize the Church’s vast collections of art. Sometimes local parishes catch flak for commissioning artwork for new worship spaces: Shouldn’t the Church’s wealth be used instead to feed the poorest of the poor?
It’s a tough question, and I don’t pretend to have answers. But it’s worth remembering that the stakes are high: The next generation is at risk of becoming even more desensitized to cultural values that stand utterly opposed to the faith we’re responsible for passing on.
Kathleen M. Basi is a liturgical composer and freelance author from Columbia, MO, who writes about faith, family, and liturgy.