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This 1992 article is worth a second look...

The Problems with Playtime
Overcoming the "Everybody Else" Spirit

By Eric Barger

With the passing of each Christmas season, our ministry receives requests for information from concerned adults about the latest toy or game craze that the past year has brought. Rather than try to detail all of this year’s additions, what I want to do here is to address some problem areas and the necessity for Christian families to set their standards about playtime from God’s Word.

Today, there are virtually thousands of playtime products available, as a trip to any variety store or Toys R’ Us will show. There are toys for every personality, age group and gender. Adolescent heroes abound and the marketing of their images is big, big business. Everything from Barbie to Batman, from Scooby-Doo to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, from the Jetsons to Beetlejuice are represented. With so many new products showing up on the shelves almost daily, how does a responsible Christian parent make a valid and Biblical decision about what to buy for the children in their family? Should we just assume that any toy is just that - a toy - and something that our kids will grow out of soon? Or, are we to investigate, exercise discernment and make the toy and game selections allowed in our homes a matter of prayer? After several years of study and research concerning this issue, I conclude that it is of great earthly and eternal significance that we restrain from giving in to every entertainment request that young people present to us. You probably agree. The question really is: by what standard are we making these decisions? The moral standard and decision making process instilled in our children will last a lifetime and will most likely become the value system adopted by our kids in raising their children.

Our dilemma boils down to one of uncompromising loyalty to the Bible. Breaking the status quo and going against the grain is very unsettling to our flesh. This is exactly what will happen both in secular and Christian circles when we make the decision to really sell out to the Lord and His infallible Word. At a very early age, most of us seem to acquire the "everybody else" syndrome without much effort. This Adamic trait, coupled with the spirit of today’s advertising age, is the kind of pressure that often undermines even the best parental intentions. The only hope we have in overcoming the spirit of the age is to keep our hearts and lives tuned to God’s principles in every area. Sane parents, who would never think of allowing their children to go barefoot in deep snow, may be imperiling them in a much greater way. It is vital that we break the "everybody else" spirit, imposing biblical limits for playtime at a very early age. Many times we find that our children’s problems don’t emanate from a lack of love, education or church attendance. The psychological war that is being waged against godly values by the entertainment of the 1990’s is more than sufficient to derail our well-intentioned efforts. We cannot let down our guard. If we don’t instill reverence for God’s Word and a true understanding of right and wrong in our children, we must realize that the entertainment aimed exclusively at them (i.e., toys, TV, etc.) will.

In Colossians 2:8 Paul addresses the "everybody else" spirit. He says; "See to it that no one (or no thing) takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." In this passage Paul is warning of the possibility that Christians can be overcome by the ideals and habits of the culture. Our only antidote, is to be educated and alert concerning deception. We must be willing to shield our hearts and minds from the cesspool of today’s so-called entertainment, leading our families to do the same. Just because "everybody else" is embracing a particular toy, movie or television program doesn’t mean that we should ascribe to it as well. In fact, it may mean just the opposite. Resisting ungodly tradition and worldly whims often takes tough, confrontational decision making. It is always easier to let down our guard and follow the crowd, especially if we have been slowly and consistently desensitized concerning our tolerance to evil. After all, the world’s pressure on us to conform, our feeble human flesh, and the devil himself all cry out for us to compromise. Though making biblical decisions will often isolate us from the culture, our peers, and even some other Christians, obedience to God’s instruction always pays off. We must simply have faith and understand that our eternal reward for submitting to Christ’s Lordship cannot be measured in earthly values.

It is essential that parents gain a deeper understanding that playtime is a main component in the development of the mental, moral, physical and spiritual lives of their children. Considering what is currently being produced by companies and being aimed exclusively at those age 12 and below, the ouija board is beginning to pale in comparison. If parents resist making an organized effort to instruct with biblical principles and police the toybox, television and VCR, I believe the expression "child abuse" takes on a whole new meaning. Someone always pays for abuse. Tragically, I fear that the violence in our streets and in our homes is part and parcel of the devaluation of a national commitment to raise our young with respect, integrity, honor and godliness. Few toys and fewer television programs teach these paramount principles. Instead they usually instill quite the opposite.

Several years ago, I became acquainted with Christian child advocate Phil Phillips. Phil’s books, Turmoil in the Toybox and Saturday Morning Mind Control, (Starburst Publishers) are widely recognized as the benchmark studies concerning the issue of children’s playtime. Phil states that as they play children bestow four qualities on their toys. Those qualities are life, character, abilities and talents. Once upon a time a child’s natural imagination was perked and enhanced during playtime. Yesterday’s toys and television shows instilled values and encouraged the freedom to create. (Remember Mr. Wizard and the Erector set?) Young minds were allowed to dream, develop and truly "play." Now, with the advent of each new toy or toy series our children are largely being pre-programmed with detailed information outlining the perceived or desired actions of the toy designer alone. Playtime has been stripped of all honestly creative, healthy fantasy. This dilutes, perverts or totally stunts the natural imagination processes of a developing mind, the results of which are now being seen in our culture. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, but to a child, playtime is his or her occupation. Just as an adult is occupied as a lawyer, doctor, housewife, etc., our children are professionals at their playtime. So, ask yourself: "Who is my child learning about and ‘working’ for?" When one considers that at least 40% of the toys on the store shelf are occultic and possibly a higher number are based on either real or vicarious violence, we must investigate.

The Cartoon Connection...

Any discussion of today’s toy industry must also include a thorough evaluation of the array of cartoons available on television each day. Anyone over 35 years of age remembers that cartoons were a Saturday morning event in the 1950’s and 60’s - not a daily habit. Thirty years ago, society had not condescended to the place that a Sunday morning selection of cartoons - competing with church attendance - was acceptable. Now, we are faced with not only the existence of many cartoons, including a 24 hour cable channel dedicated to cartoon programming, but a multi-million dollar advertising business aimed at young minds - and mom’s purse - garnering well over 25% of total television ad time. There can be no doubt that cartoons and the advertising that’s interspersed during them make millions of dollars. My concern is the impact that they make on young minds, many of which cannot yet make total delineation between fantasy and reality. Each of the toy characters I cited earlier in this article are also cartoons. This became the concern of a Federal investigation into alleged anti-trust law violations some time ago. I personally believe that there should indeed be more stringent guidelines concerning what products are advertised during which programs. In essence, television cartoons have become half hour advertisements for toys, while the toys have become an advertising tool for the cartoons.

Again, space does not allow me to detail the vast array of occultic, sexual, violent and nihilistic toys and cartoons being aimed at our young. (For a complete study, I recommend the book Turmoil in the Toybox and the video tape Not Just Fun and Games, both available from Omega-Letter Communications International.) Let it suffice to say that America and Canada have become hooked on the supernatural - but not God’s pure supernatural. Instead, today’s entertainment world seems bent on a constant and growing incorporation of a bizarre mix of occultism, violence and perversion. One prime example is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The popularity of the Turtles (T.M.N.T.) speaks volumes about the current spiritual and moral climate of our culture. They are THE heroes to an entire generation. The T.M.N.T’s are four half-man, half-turtle characters named after Renaissance era artists. In between stops for pizza (their favorite food), the Turtles patrol the local sewer system, knocking heads with any criminals they encounter. Their mentor is an overgrown sewer rat named Master Splinter. Splinter teaches Eastern mystic philosophies and the "art" of Ninja, the cruel techniques of a notorious ancient death cult, to his students. It’s a package of slapstick, violence and occultism. It’s also unquestionably the most popular child phenomenon since Donald and Goofy! The T.M.N.T.’s empire includes a hit cartoon series, two feature motion pictures, an unbelievable marketing plan for almost every kind of toy, book, game and clothing item imaginable and even a hit concert tour. The concert show consists of four grown men in T.M.N.T. costumes, lip-synching to mediocre heavy metal music. If you’re wondering just how popular the Turtles really are, in 1991 the T.M.N.T. concert tour sold out Toronto’s Sky Dome (seating approximately 60,000) five nights in a row!

The dilemma may seem enormous, but the solution is within our reach. It is simply a matter of coming to grips with the importance and the perils of playtime. First, we need to make a foundational decision that no matter what pressure or situation we face, we and our families are going to serve the Lord. It will take a total sell-out to Christ to keep our hearts and families holy in the days ahead. Only our total reliance on Jesus’ cleansing blood and the power of the Holy Ghost will see us through. Second, the only certain way that our children will weather these strange and trying times will be to constantly pray for and lead them in pure and true holiness. Certainly, we must protect young minds from ungodly fascinations. Moreover, we must instill through training, prayer and love that true fulfillment does not come from a fictional being or object created by man, but from a Savior who’s coming again soon. What and whom our children spend hour after hour with, soaking in concepts from, and being educated by must become a priority to every adult responsible for a child’s well-being. I guarantee that Satan understands the relevancy of training young minds. He wants to pervert the Scripture that commands us to "train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). It is the devil’s nature to take this Scripture and our children for himself that he could do the training - instead of godly parents or grandparents! Thus far he has done much to commandeer and script countless toys and fictional characters. Millions of young lives have been captivated, while many adults have been paralyzed with a spirit of false security and spiritual complacency. Now, it is our responsibility to rise up, break his strangle hold and take back a generation for God!

copyright 1992, 2004, Eric Barger

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