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“Ask a Priest: Can Music and Videos Become Idols in My Life?”
Q: I would just like to know when something of a hobby or interest becomes an idol. For instance, music, by listening to my favorite song over again, or movie clips or other videos, by watching a certain type of video for too long. What is the urgency of this issue? Should it have high priority in my life by virtue of it concerning idolatry or is it something that I can work on without having to stress over? I feel like my overall concept of idolatry might be misconstrued, and so I ask for your guidance. – N.C.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: The fact that you are asking this question might — might — be a sign that the Holy Spirit is nudging you to rethink how much time you devote to music or videos.
Perhaps it would help to put together a weekly calendar, hour by hour, on a grid. Fill in what you do at each hour of the week.
Once you deduct for sleep and eating, figure out what percentage of your waking hours are devoted to music and videos and movies, etc.
Then, project that use of time over, say, the next 40 or 50 years of your life.
With a bit of math, you could figure out how many weeks, months, even years you spend listening to music or watching videos. The results can be eye-opening.
Then consider this: At the end of our lives, we will have to give an account to God of how we used one of our most valuable resources in this world — our time.
Folks who spent 10 or more years glued to the tube by age 65 (not unusual) will have to answer for that use of time. “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much” (Luke 12:48).
And this, of course, doesn’t even take into account the content of what people are listening to or watching.
The upshot is yes, too much time and attention on entertainment media can be a form of idolatry. We can give the media more weight than God himself.
Every minute in front of a screen or plugged into earphones is one less minute for serious reading, works of charity, and prayer.
Resources that help us bring balance to our media consumption could include the U.S. bishops’ conference Family Guide for Using Media and books such as Taming the Media Monster. A National Catholic Register posting might be helpful for perspective on the use of social media.
So, it might be good to take some of this to prayer and weigh whether you are using your brief time on this earth is a good way.
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