Study Guide: Stoicheion

Sunday April 1, 2012 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Entertainment is a big part of our culture, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a good thing. In this sermon, Greg talks about the effects entertainment has on us, and how it might be a deeper spiritual activity than we first thought.

Extended Summary:

In Colossians, Paul warns us about deceptive philosophies that can take us captive, but these philosophies are more than just schools of thought. A philosophy is any system of thought, worldview, or package of ideas through which people see the world. And if we’re honest with ourselves, there are a lot of philosophies in this world that we follow. In this passage, Paul is talking about the stoicheion which are generally understood to be part of the fallen angel world, and they are actively pulling us away from God.

We are smack dab in the middle of a cosmic warzone. As Paul says in Ephesians 6, our fight is not with flesh and blood, but rather with the evil in the spiritual realm. This evil stemmed from Satan rebelling against God. Some of the angels also followed him, and they began to rebel against God’s original design for creation. These angels are in charge of systems on this world, and they seek to make us believe things that are not true.

The movie, The Hunger Games, depicts how a society can normalize something that can be demonic. In this movie, there are children that are selected to wage a fight with other children from different areas of a post-apocalyptic North America. It is in this reality that it is normal for people to view these games and watch these kids kill each other. This is not that far-fetched from some of the history of Earth. Whether it’s the holocaust, inquisitions, or Roman coliseums, this type of barbarism has been prevalent in our own history.

This normalization of a demonic activity still continues today in many forms, but one in particular is entertainment. While it is not as violent, our culture has normalized the activity of being entertained, and it can have systemic consequences that the stoicheion don’t want us to see. By examining how our culture wants us to be entertained, we might uncover how this type of philosophy keeps its grasp on us.

According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American over the age of 15 has 5 hours of recreation time each day. This is time where people are not sleeping, working/school, or other mandatory activities like chores or paying bills. These 5 hours represent the average free time that a person has, and the federal bureau says that we spend 38 minutes socializing, 18 minutes reading, 19 minutes exercising, 25 minutes on the computer for leisurely purposes, 17 minutes relaxing/thinking, 17 minutes doing other leisurely activities, and 164 minutes watching television. We also spend, on average, $2600 a year on entertainment (and only $1200 on charities). For those that grew up with media, these numbers are even more exaggerated.

We’re evolving into a new entertainment-oriented “normal”, and this is the work of the stoicheion. Our entertainers get more of our attention and money than family and friends. And what does it say about our culture that we pay people that put a ball through a hoop more than we pay those that are caring for the disadvantaged and children?

This is having a damaging effect on our society. Professor Glen Sparks of Purdue University shows that there is plenty of evidence associating violence in media with desensitization to violence and aggressive behavior. He also shows that the more sexuality that is viewed through entertainment the more sexual mores change in a culture. Finally, he shows that the viewing of entertainment is a primary cause for the rising ADD in our culture.

And it’s not just the kids. We’ve increasingly become conditioned to being passive spectators in our life. We view our lives like a movie that unfolds, and we end up seeking first the kingdom of entertainment.

We need to wake up to the ways the stoicheion are influencing our culture. What is “normal” in our culture for entertainment, and what would God have for our “normal”? Examine the role of entertainment in your life and the life of your kids. Guard your children as they are being raised in this entertainment culture. In these small steps, we can begin to combat the ways in which the stoicheion are controlling our lives.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. Prayerfully examine the role of entertainment in your life. How much time and money do you spend on entertainment? Do you feel this lines up with God’s will?
  3. What are some other “normal” cultural pitfalls besides entertainment that we run into?
  4. Has our entertainment culture affected how we do church? In what ways?
  5. If you cut out some time you spend consuming entertainment, what would you replace it with?