People often demand to know why it is that we as a society consent to pay movie stars and professional athletes such obscene sums of money, while teachers and other people clearly providing greater benefit to society are paid so very little.
There are a great many economic and social explanations one can go into, but one basic point that probably bears pointing out is that society does not in fact spend more on Hollywood or on professional sports than it does on teachers. Nationally, the US spends an average of $10,000 per year on each student in public schools, and average college tuition (blending public and private) is roughly the same. Thus, a person with a four year college degree has had roughly $170,000 spent on his education — almost certainly more money than he will spend over his lifetime on movies or watching sports.
The reason why teachers make so much less than movie stars or professional athletes is that the total amount of money collected by these entertainment celebrities is spread over a much smaller number of people. There are under 500 players in the NBA, around 1700 in the NFL. The number of actors who make truly large amounts of money (especially when averaged over a career which often has long dry periods) is at most a couple thousand. By comparison, there are over six million teachers and three hundred thousand college and university professors.
Entertainers make so much money because modern means of communication allow large numbers of people to enjoy the performances of a comparatively small number of people.
Typically if one discusses the reflection of American culture in mainstream entertainment, there are very little positive things to be said—especially in Christian circles. But there is rarely a clear solution to the problem. Some discussions of the issues, in my experience, fail to reflect the gravity of the matter. I think it matters, more so than just casual condemnation in conversation. The entertainment center in America—Hollywood—matters because it is the global center of art and entertainment. Art is the way we humans respond to the cosmos. Every generation delivers something beautiful for future generations to brood over and take delight in. Storytelling is the way human beings learn. It is the way we define our values. It gives us heroes and noble dreams. Entertainment is the way we stretch beyond the limits of our day to day work to experience the depth of our human nature. Entertainment should lead us to laugh hard, to cry with empathy, and to feel exhilaration and wonder.
It is frightening to think that Christians are missing from this unbelievably influential and urgent landscape. Christians have something to offer that is direly missing from Hollywood. We bring hope, the mandate of concern for the world, and most importantly, the glory and creative energy of the Holy Spirit.
This is needed terribly in movies, television shows, videogames, and the Internet. We need not only to be donating to and praying for organizations such as ActOne, which has a Christian vision for entertainment, we need to encourage faith-filled artists and professionals to be writers, directors, actors, and so forth, in order to change the landscape and give our youth better idols to look up to. This is a moral imperative for all Christians.