Is Religion Compatible with Media Entertainment?

Is Religion Compatible with Media Entertainment?

Guy Marchessault
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5035-0.ch005
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Is it possible to reconcile the spectacular approach of the media with the inner nature of the spiritual? Can one imagine the presence of religions within an ambience of entertainment? There always were tensions between religions and plays and games. Religions feared theatre, play, music, arts, dance, cards, and media, of course. Why are play and entertainment considered to be so dangerous? Would it be a better approach to discern true spiritual openings through play, and through media entertainment? In this chapter, the authors discuss the point of views of an historian, a film director, communication researchers, a philosopher, sociologists, and anthropologists, who offer a refined understanding of the capacity of playing to reveal the human search for meaning and spiritual journey. Play, and certainly media entertainment, can open humans to their own various potentialities, giving significance to their relation with the world and with other humans, and so with the sacredness. However, this can be done only if one respects the typical languages of the media made out of narratives and storytelling, which implies capacity of creativity in arts and rhetoric, combined with respect for ethical and spiritual dimensions of believers.
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2. Many Religions’ Fear Of Play, Games, And Entertainment

Two mainline religions at least, Christianity and Islam, always feared entertainment, play, games, and considered them as potential dangers. In the Western world, in the very first centuries of Christianity, there was apprehension against play. I see three reasons for this. First, play, games and entertainment were immediately related to carnivals, excesses in drinking and sex; while religions would rather promote asceticism, order and respect. Secondly, play, games and entertainment refer immediately to “non-serious” activity, because it relates to the world of children, who can play for hours without any real consequences on life; so, in this respect, play and superficiality can become quite synonymous. Thirdly, play, games and entertainment can dissimulate a much sadder and undesirable situation, as the very well known French writer Blaise Pascal points out under the word “divertissement”: it turns people away from the true questions regarding life and death, God, meaning of life, suffering, and so on; it entertains us and disperses us from reality to help us spend the time. The famous Italian writer Umberto Eco describes in his celebrated novel The Name of the Rose (1983) the religious hate that can arise against play, laugh, pleasure, and entertainment

In Europe, this Christian fear against play and entertainment was transmitted throughout Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, even if the people did not actually stop having fun in real life. It had an important impact on at least two Christian important movements in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Jansenism in Central Europe; and Puritanism in Northern Europe. These two currents will lead to important consequences in North America. I give two examples of this

The first one comes from my own experience, French Québec, which is by far the most French-speaking majority province in Canada (80%). Until 1960, the French Canadians in Québec province were known as being extremely religious: 80% to 90% of the population followed regular Sunday services. They lived in a completely Christian environment. Jansenism had a serious impact on their approach to the faith: drinking, music, dance, carnivals, and so on were forbidden (except for Christmas and New Year’s Day). Sex was seen as one of the most dangerous human behaviours. To be a good Christian and to go to heaven, everyone had to stay away from all those kinds of dangerous entertainment

Consequently, the arrival of cinema, radio, television… was immediately condemned by religious French speaking authorities. The only accepted media was the press, as long as it was under the control of religious leaders. But after the 1960s, people asked for a radical transformation of the society and rejected religion as their ultimate point of reference: that movement was called the “quiet revolution”. Then, French media took their complete autonomy. The approach to moral and social questions changed so rapidly and drastically that, within 50 years, Québec passed from what was once called a “priest-ridden society” to a strong secular world, as it remains to this day. Nowadays, the media play an important role in that society, but religion is generally rejected by the people, and by the media as well.

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