Q. Why does the church teach us not to go to many of the typical “amusement parks” and to avoid a lot of the most popular “amusements” in general?
A. First of all, when such points are made by our parents, teachers, or church leaders, it is good to realize that those who care enough about us to stand up and say something on this subject are genuinely concerned for our own best interests. If we as youth are really ascending up the narrow path preparing for life in Heaven, there will be many things which we will not do that “everybody else” seems to be doing. Rather than feeling resentful that our freedom seems to be somehow restricted, it is better to try to understand—with a truly open mind—the reason for the instruction given. We thank the teenager who is honestly asking this question about amusements, wanting to choose what is right in the sight of God.
The root word of the term “amusement” is “muse.” The ancient Greeks believed that a “muse” was responsible for providing a special burst of inspiration or thought whenever a person was being mentally creative. Although the mythology of Greece was pagan in nature, the English language is nevertheless based largely on Greek. Thus, in our language, we express concepts by using words such as “music,” which is the science or art of combining tones into a composition having structure and continuity. Another example is the word “museum,” referring to an institution devoted to the procurement, care and display of objects of lasting interest or value.
Normally, when the prefix “a” comes before a word, it changes its meaning to be “without” that particular quality. Therefore, “a-muse” would literally mean “without any thought” or perhaps “devoid of inspiration.” And indeed, the dictionary definition of “amuse” is “to entertain in a light or playful manner; divert.”
As most of our readers are aware, today we are living in the time of the investigative judgment. Is now really a time for us to be looking for cheap entertainment or shallow diversion? We are warned that “Satan invents unnumbered schemes to occupy our minds, that they may not dwell upon the very work with which we ought to be best acquainted. The archdeceiver hates the great truths that bring to view an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful mediator. He knows that with him everything depends on his diverting minds from Jesus and His truth.”—The Great Controversy, p. 488.
Right now, our lives are being videotaped, so to speak, by the heavenly host. Even our secret thoughts are being recorded, and each one of us is soon to appear individually before the great Judge of all the universe. Soon we will have to give an account for our use of time, thought, and energy. Is now a time to be going to ogle at daredevil acrobats, silly clowns, and joining the thrill-seekers on exciting roller coasters or rides through haunted houses? Is it wise for us to voluntarily roam around in those places where animals “talk” as the serpent did to Eve? Should we really be feeding our minds on that which is unreal—in essence, lying to ourselves through what we go to see and hear?
“The true Christian will not desire to enter any place of amusement or engage in any diversion upon which he cannot ask the blessing of God. He will not be found at the theater, the billiard hall, or the bowling saloon. He will not unite with the gay waltzers, or indulge in any other bewitching pleasure that will banish Christ from the mind.
“To those who plead for these diversions, we answer, We cannot indulge in them in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. The blessing of God would not be invoked upon the hour spent at the theater or in the dance. No Christian would wish to meet death in such a place. No one would wish to be found there when Christ shall come.”—Messages to Young People, p. 398.
“There is no influence in our land more powerful to poison the imagination, to destroy religious impressions, and to blunt the relish for tranquil pleasures and sober realities of life, than theatrical amusements.
“The love for these scenes increases with every indulgence, as the desire for intoxicating drink strengthens with its use. The only safe course is to shun the theater, the circus, and every other questionable place of amusement.”—Ibid., p. 380.
One question then arises: If it is not appropriate for us to go to a movie theater, would it therefore be right for us to transform our homes into one? Although today there is indeed some edifying, educational material available on video, this certainly would not include the average excitement-packed, sentimental fiction idolized by most movie mongers and video buffs.
But young people are different than older ones!
In this degenerate era of the human race, thank the Lord that young people still have some good, solid energy to burn! But “the restless energy that is so often a source of danger to the young might be directed into channels through which it would flow out in streams of blessing. Self would be forgotten in earnest work to do others good.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 640, 641.
Ellen White learned this at an early age, when she dedicated her life to God’s service. In the Review and Herald, October 8, 1867, she was personally asked: “Shall we understand by what you have said in your testimonies in favor of recreation, that you approbate [approve of] such vain amusements as chess, checkers, charades, backgammon, hunt-the-whistle, and blind-man’s-buff?”
Her answer: “Since I professed to be a follower of Christ at the age of twelve years, I have never engaged in any such simple plays and amusements as named above. Neither have I at any time given my influence in their favor.”
But life is not only study!
As serious students in school, we have to study hard. Yet, we all know it is possible to become mentally overtaxed. That is why our kind, merciful Creator gave us physical labor and re-creation. How can we tell the difference between recreation and vain amusement? Recreation refreshes and invigorates us. After recreation, we feel rested and eager to return to our work with renewed energy. It does just the opposite of destructive amusement, which degrades the soul and saps a person’s desire for usefulness and unselfish service for others.
Often both young and old assume that recreation must somehow involve games, excitement, and sports. But the warning has been given:
“In the night season I was a witness to the performance that was carried on on the school grounds. The students who engaged in the grotesque mimicry that was seen, acted out the mind of the enemy, some in a very unbecoming manner. A view of things was presented before me in which the students were playing games of tennis and cricket. Then I was given instruction regarding the character of these amusements. They were presented to me as a species of idolatry, like the idols of the nations.”—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 350.
“Between the associations of the followers of Christ for Christian recreation and worldly gatherings for pleasure and amusement will exist a marked contrast. Instead of prayer and the mentioning of Christ and sacred things, will be heard from the lips of worldlings the silly laugh and the trifling conversation.”—Messages to Young People, p. 385.
“Diligent study is essential, and diligent hard work. Play is not essential. The influence has been growing among students in their devotion to amusements, to a fascinating, bewitching power, to the counteracting of the influence of the truth upon the human mind and character. A well-balanced mind is not usually obtained in the devotion of the physical powers to amusements. Physical labor that is combined with mental taxation for usefulness, is a discipline in practical life, sweetened always by the reflection that it is qualifying and educating the mind and body better to perform the work God designs men shall do in various lines. The more perfectly youth understand how to perform the duties of practical life, the more keen and the more healthful will be their enjoyment day by day in being of use to others.”—Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 228.
When faced with a decision as to whether or not to participate in any questionable activity, “every youth should ask himself, What influence will these amusements have on physical, mental, and moral health? Will my mind become so infatuated as to forget God? Shall I cease to have His glory before me?”—Counsels on Health, p. 197.
“When we come to the final hour, and stand face to face with the record of our lives, shall we regret that we have attended so few parties of pleasure? that we have participated in so few scenes of thoughtless mirth? Shall we not, rather, bitterly regret that so many precious hours have been wasted in self-gratification—so many opportunities neglected, which, rightly improved, would have secured for us immortal treasures?”—Messages to Young People, p. 398.
A final word to families
Part of the problem with many outings which tempt young people is that poor choices can be made within the context of the activity. There are a lot of interesting educational places where families can go, and activities that can be done as a family. Parents can build happy memories by doing more together, while the children are still relatively young. Too often, though, the parents neglect the privilege of providing their children with the simple joys of this type of companionship. Eventually the young ones feel deprived and want always to go places alone with other peers as inexperienced as themselves. By then, they may be tempted to behave like caged animals set free, and are not as cautious as they otherwise would be.
“Youth cannot be made as sedate and grave as old age, the child as sober as the sire. While sinful amusements are condemned, as they should be, let parents, teachers, and guardians of youth provide in their stead innocent pleasures, which will not taint or corrupt the morals.”—Ibid., p. 381.
“Parents, watch, watch and pray, and make your children your companions.” —Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 94. Companionship involves not being “policemen,” but rather true friends having pleasant times together. For every young person, there is also a Friend “that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Let us all—both young and old—be sure to always stay close to that Friend, and never go anywhere or do anything to grieve His heart!
“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” 1 John 2:28.
Source: Youth Messenger ® (USPS 765-030)
Published by the Young People’s Department of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement General Conference as an educational service for our youth worldwide.
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