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As an American, I'm extremely grateful to live in a democracy. We get to vote. Our input matters! And regardless of the outcome, the mere fact that we have a say in the process excites me. Did you know the same is true of entertainment? Entertainment is a great democracy because, for better or worse, we get more of what we support.

It's true. That's why media power brokers fall all over themselves scrambling to imitate the latest hit. Remember when American Idol debuted to huge ratings? Every network exec with a finger in the wind threw together a reality talent show with a panel of judges anchored by a cranky British guy. When the Guitar Hero video games made a splash, imitators came out of the woodwork. And back in 2000, approximately nine months after The Sixth Sense shocked the box office, so many studios gave birth to twisty supernatural thrillers that Hollywood ran out of "It's a Shyamalan!" cigars. They may call it show business, but the emphasis is most definitely on the business end.

Believe it or not, the entertainment industry is not primarily out to create great art. It's out to make money. Profitability keeps careers afloat and earns people an artistic platform. It fuels creative choices, not to mention sequels, which is why moviegoers got Harry Potter VII and Saw 8 this year. And don't get me started on the post-Avatar 3D gold rush.

This is why it's so important that God's people be good stewards and use His money to support content the Lord would applaud. It was great to see The Passion of the Christ give Tinseltown a wake-up call, and to watch an unassuming little movie like Fireproof earn more than $33 million in theaters for its efforts to honor Christ and strengthen marriages.

Unfortunately, many Christians I meet are just as quick to support junk. They'll argue that a sadistic horror film or raunchy sex comedy won't affect them personally, unaware that buying a ticket is like throwing logs on the fire culturally. Each time we invest in a DVD, video game or iTunes single, we vote with our dollars. We stake the media brass, asking them to create more of the same. And we're not just buying products; we're endorsing messages, some of which may contradict or seek to undermine the eternal truths outlined in God's Word.

A few years ago, a youth leader gave his teens some perspective on this issue. Eminem's R-rated film 8 Mile was in theaters, and his rap soundtrack for it (with its parental advisory label) sold 700,000 copies in one week. The youth leader asked his teens how many of them had seen the movie or bought Eminem's music. Lots of hands went up. So they estimated how much money they had spent subsidizing the rapper's messages. The total came to about $400. They read some of Eminem's vile, hateful lyrics together, then brainstormed ways their $400 could have been used to glorify God and bless needy people in their community rather than cast votes for an antisocial entertainer. The leader ended with this challenge: "Do not say that you support the light, then turn around and make choices that finance the darkness."

Ephesians 5:8 and 11 states, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. … Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them."

Have your children ever been disappointed that they weren't old enough to vote in an election? Help them see that they've been casting ballots most of their lives without realizing it. For singers. For actors. For ideas. It happens whenever we consume entertainment. Let's vote smart this Christmas season, from the movies we attend to the gifts we buy. Together we can send a message!

Published December 2010

If you found this helpful, you may also benefit from the article Are Your Teens Financing the Darkness?