We face several large obstacles to overcome the fun-ethic…our church cultures simply takes it for granted. It is the way we do things. Therefore, to question it is to disturb the way the machine runs. Object to the fun-machinery of modern ministry and you’re just a troubler of Israel who doesn’t know how to lighten up and have fun.
“Did you have fun?” smiles the parent as the child arrives from the Sunday School class. I wonder if Hebrew parents asked their children that question after watching the slaughter of the Yom Kipper goat on the Day of Atonement.
Fun, fun, fun. Fun is seemingly the unquestioned, undisputed right of children. Learning at school must be fun, and curricula are now judged on how much fun they make the learning process. School vacations must be fun, and a veritable industry of vacation activities and entertainments now exists. Sports must be fun, and it is the supposed inherent fun of beating others at games that I suppose makes sports so central to our culture. Eating breakfast must have fun pictures on the box, fun toys inside and fun sugary food to boot. Observe the mountain of toys in the average Western child’s bedroom. What he or she needs most is fun, and Mom and Dad will buy it. Brushing our teeth must be done with fun-shaped toothbrushes, and fun-tasting toothpaste. Bathing must include toys, so that fun may be had in the act of cleaning oneself. Pajamas must have fun pictures on them, and so must the blankets. And at the top of this fun-list is television and console games. Television producers and game developers have been masters at satisfying and creating the appetite for fun. Immediate, interesting, amusing, startling, comical, rambunctious images keep the fun going. And a child without a steady diet of TV or games has no fun, you see.
Perhaps I am not exaggerating when I say that our culture regards fun as the greatest good when it comes to children. Fun is the supreme goal for children.
I am not sure at what point this supreme value loses its centrality, but at some point, an abrupt course change is made. The bored young humans are heartlessly introduced to the truth, “Life’s not all about fun, you know!” This cynical statement is a rather cruel and violent encounter to reality, since nothing in all the child’s prior existence could have revealed this fact. From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the child is to have fun.
I don’t know all the origins of this fun-as-supreme-value ethic. I suspect much of it began with Romanticism’s idealizing of the child as the paragon of innocence and virtue, and therefore thinking it deserving of a childhood of uncomplicated play. Perhaps it is just the machinery of affluence: too much money, and too much spare time.
As a parent and pastor, I am concerned with how this idea will shape the religious imagination of my children, and the children in my congregation. I’m worried about how teaching our children to love fun above all else will become a major stumbling-block to their worship. Because the fun-ethic has not escaped church life.