I need to be the first to admit that I absolutely love getting lost in a good book. I thoroughly enjoy following the complexities of a well-written plot. I relish at the chance to make predictions during a movie and proudly proclaim, “called it” to my wife’s astonishment.
I like to enjoy creativity, and I love a good story.
But I cringe at escapism.
Escapism is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.
Escapism is dangerous. Escapism unchecked is disastrous.
I certainly understand the appeal of it though. When we go through stressful, unpleasant, even terrible times, our default, as humans, would be to simply shut out the real world and jump into our fantasy world. It’s a coping mechanism. It is understandable. But it still is trouble, and we still need to run from it.
While jumping head first into fantasy may be appealing, we need to understand that God has placed us firmly in reality. We worship a real God who created an incredible world for us to live in and proclaim the reality of His love for people. We believe in a real Jesus who actually died and truly rose again.
One biblical concept that shows itself time and time again is the reality of God and the reality of His creation. Genesis chapters 1 and 2 tell all about how God created the heavens, and earth, and everything contained in them. John 1:3 says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” There is a reality to God’s creation.
God does not just simply conceptualize things, He actually chooses to create birds that have physical feathers, water that is truly wet, and men and women who have actual physical flesh and blood.
That same chapter in John tells us that Jesus Himself chose to “become flesh and dwell among” mankind. Actual physical components of God’s creation seem to be very important throughout the Bible. Moses did not pretend to talk to Pharaoh, Daniel did not spend time with imaginary lions, and Jesus did not just simply conceptualize dying on the cross. All of those things happened physically and are grounded in reality.
With all of that being said, I do think that it is important that believers in Christ use their imagination in order to produce creative works of art that appear of the page, the screen, the canvas, and so on. The truth of the matter is, we serve and follow the ultimate creator who is unequal in His creativity. It would seem that His followers should be using their minds and talents to also be creative.
However, all of our creativity should be expressed with the intention of reflecting the true message of the reality of the Gospel.
As believers in Jesus Christ, our chief goal should be to share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in everything that we say and do. We can only share this real message if we ourselves are firmly grounded in reality.
Escapism moves against reality. This does not mean that we need to give up all forms of entertainment, by no means. Books, film, music, art, all of these things can actually be invaluable aids to us as believers. The best stories are ones that creatively remind the audience of the present reality and have a realistic call-to-action.
Our stories should teach us something, not just waste our time.
Some might respond by saying something along the lines of, “but life gets hard, like really really hard…escapism helps me to cope with all my stresses and then I can forget about my problems.”
That certainly seems understandable, however, when life gets hard and complicated God actually desires that we turn to Him. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that we need to be “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Instead of turning to fantasy in order to help us through, we should be turning to the God of the Universe. God cares for us more than we can imagine. We, not only can but should talk with Him anytime and anywhere. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Let’s stop escaping and, instead, run into the real God who truly loves us.