Entertainment vs. Hospitality
The entertaining host seeks to elevate herself. And as Martha mentions, it’s a bit selfish. When the guest arrives, the entertainer announces, “Here I am. Come into my beautiful abode and have the honor of partaking of all the wonderful things I’ve spent hours getting done for you. Look at this lavish buffet, the intricate décor, and the wonderful party favors. How fortunate for you to be here and be part of this.” While I embellish on what a hostess might actually say, we’ve all encountered this attitude once or twice, haven’t we? Maybe we’ve even allowed a similar tone to slip ever so subtly into our own hosting. But when you leave the entertaining host’s house, how do you feel? Remember that, and do the opposite.
Hospitality is different. Biblical hospitality offers our best to Him first, understanding that our best to others will then fall into place. It transforms our selfish motives and elevates our guest. When the hospitable hostess swings wide the door, all her attention focuses outward: “You’re here! I’ve been waiting for you. No one is more important today than you, and I’m thrilled you’ve come.” The posture we assume in hospitality is one that bends low, generously offering our heart to another despite whatever interruption to our own plans or comfort. Extending hospitality is about freely giving of ourselves while granting others the freedom to be themselves. Shifting our focus from us to them removes all unnecessary expectations. No need to worry about what to say or how to act. Just come as you are.
Mr. Average Man
In 1965 Billy Graham wrote a bestselling book titled World on Fire. In it, he wrote, “Mr. Average Man is comfortable in his complacency and as unconcerned as a silverfish ensconced in a carton of discarded magazines on world affairs. Man is not asking any questions, because his social benefits from the government give him a false security.
This is his trouble and his tragedy. Modern man has become a spectator of world events, observing on his television screen without becoming involved. He watches the ominous events of our times pass before his eyes, while he sips his beer in a comfortable chair. He does not seem to realize what is happening to him. He does not understand that his world is on fire and that he is about to be burned with it.”
The Parable of the Theater
The Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each show is more fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager comes forward. He apologizes for the interruption, but the theater is on fire, and he begs his patrons to leave in an orderly fashion.
The audience thinks this is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire raced through the whole building and the fun-loving audience with it.
“And so,” concluded Kierkegaard, “will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators.”
Resource, July/August, 1990
Targeting Human Attention
Again, human attention is a zero-sum game. At some point we must close all our screens and fall asleep—which makes sleep the enemy of digital spectacle makers (and sleep was named chief competitor by the CEO of the video-streaming giant Netflix). Entertainment giants win when they can keep us bingeing shows late into the night, which is why digital video giant Hulu teamed up with eye-drop maker Visine to create an ad about how the two work together to help us cram more video into our already eye-abusing addiction to screens all morning, day, and night.
Taken from Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, © 2019, p.57. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.