With the release of its new series House of Cards, Netflix took a leap of faith. Unlike traditional television shows, House of Cards was made available for streaming in its entirety from its launch date. Waiting is dead, according to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.
Netflix is trying to undo what Hastings calls “managed dissatisfaction.” In an interview with GQ magazine, Hastings said, “The point of managed dissatisfaction is waiting. You're supposed to wait for your show that comes on Wednesday at 8 p.m., wait for the new season, see all the ads everywhere for the new season, talk to your friends at the office about how excited you are.” By making the consumer wait, the thinking goes, the entertainment companies captivate us and create advertising opportunities.
Some Christians are quick to criticize our on-demand culture - getting used to having what we want when we want it can get in the way of learning virtues like patience. The constant availability of media gets in the way of our ability to enjoy silence, peace, quiet and the rest that comes from God. Certainly there is some basis to these criticisms.
As I reflected on the concept of managed dissatisfaction, however, I wondered more about the way in which God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. The Belgic Confession says in article two that the Bible contains “as much as we need in this life for God’s glory and our salvation.” We can sometimes find ourselves waiting for God to speak to us in some new and unexpected way. We want God to reveal Himself to us in some way that is easier to understand, in a shorter form and without so many hard-to-pronounce names. We settle for a watered-down version of the Gospel because we don’t want to deal with the complexities of faith. We ignore the parts of the Bible that we struggle to understand or look for the all-powerful guidance of a “spiritual experience” to give us insight into salvation.
The Belgic Confession declares that God refused to depend on managed dissatisfaction. All that we need to know for our salvation and God’s glory is contained within. Our passion and thirst to read Scripture, to delve into the mysterious riches of God’s salvation and to experience a closer relationship with God are not limited by the availability or the need to wait for next week’s episode.
Netflix hopes to draw viewers by the desire to experience an entire show in all of its complexity in a short period of time. An entertainment industry without managed dissatisfaction may remind us that God has already offered us the chance to read, hear and mull over the marvelous, mysterious, beautiful story of salvation on-demand. There’s not even a monthly service fee.