What’s distracting you from Jesus?
For the Ancient Romans, it was bread and circuses. For us, it could be Facebook and video games.
Movies, entertainment, celebrity culture, video games, digital media and social networks are often used to escape from reality. However, for Christians, our goal is to escape to the reality that comes in knowing Jesus.
Panem et circenses
That’s Latin. I’m not pretending to know Latin, but I do know Wikipedia. And according to wiki Panem et circenses is a phrase that means ‘Bread and Circuses’. It comes from Juvenal, a Roman satirist and poet writing around A.D. 100. “Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses”.
Juvenal is saying that people were no longer concerned about politics and civil service and doing good things. All they cared about was food and fun ("bread and circuses"). The free wheat and the impressive entertainment distracted them from reality. They were happy enough, even though they were more or less were living as slaves!
The Hunger Games
What’s the name of the nation in Suzanne Collins’ best selling trilogy The Hunger Games? Panem. Yep, derived from Panem et circenses. The Hunger Games is all about Bread and Circuses. The people of the Capitol are quite clearly distracted from reality through fancy food and extravagant entertainment. Each year, 24 teenagers were chosen by lottery to compete in a gladiator-style fight until there was one person left standing. This reminded the people in the districts of the power in the Capitol. But it was also for the entertainment of the people in the Capitol. Like a reality TV show that captured their attention and distracted them from more important political matters. If The Hunger Games were true, it would be sick, wouldn’t?
The savage reality
Collins has clearly borrowed ideas for The Hunger Games from the Ancient Roman Empire. With chariots and gladiator-style battles. Gladiator with Russell Crowe shows the harshness of entertainment in the Roman Empire. People literally fed each other to the lions. And people found that entertaining. In the 2nd Century, many Christians were actually fed to the lions and thousands of people would fill the stadium to watch and enjoy the festivities!
“Are you not entertained?”
That was the cry of Russell Crowe’s character to the audience feasting upon the brutal entertainment.
It’s not just in Ancient Rome that people were deceived by Bread and Circuses. As residents of Western Society, we have access to all sorts of bread and circuses. There are brutal forms of entertainment that perhaps echo some of the Ancient Roman forms: boxing; kick-boxing; mixed martial arts; video games like Grand Theft Auto complete with running people over, theft, rape and murder; increasingly brutal forms of pornography; R-rated horror and slasher movies
But there are also fairly meaningless forms of entertainment that we fill up our minds and time with. Most sports, if you think about them for a long enough, are pretty pointless: chasing a small white ball around an oval and hitting it with a stick; running from one end of a gym to the other and throwing a ball through a basket; kicking a ball through a goal; tackling someone with a ball; and so on.
Some of the movies we watch are just strange, bizarre, lame or simply time-consuming. Some of the amusements we enjoy are just crazy. I recently went to Luna Park in Sydney and I'm pretty sure part of my brain was smooshed against the headrest on the pirate ship thing!
Escape to reality
It's time to wake up. We are surrounded by bread and circuses. While some of these things are ok in moderation, the problem with such an abundance of food and fun is that we are distracted from reality and happy to live as slaves. Don't use entertainment simply as a means to escape from reality. Instead escape to the reality that comes in Jesus. He sets us free by his blood shed on the cross. He is to be our master. Turn away from slavery to sin, stop being distracted by all the bread and circuses, and instead look to Jesus and seek to live for him alone.
This post originally appeared on davemiers.com.