They Didn't Have TV During the Civil
A friend with a national Christian ministry made the following comment
in an email sent to his supporters with respect to reports that CBS is
considering Howard Stern as a replacement for David Letterman if
Letterman moves to ABC: "If CBS chooses to replace David Letterman with
Stern, may many of us have the moral convictions as individuals to do what
we should have done long ago -- boycott CBS and the hardcore advertisers
of the Stern show."
Many of us would agree with a hearty, "Amen!" But my friend's statement
begs the larger question of the appropriate role of TV in our lives as
Christians. Below is my email response to him.
You are right about
having "the moral convictions as individuals to do what we should have
done long ago - boycott CBS...," but that doesn't go far enough.
When are Christians going to wake up and get rid of their TVs and stop
watching any of this garbage, including Letterman, as if
Letterman is really something any of us should be watching in the first
place? There is
virtually nothing on the air worth watching! Even the "clean" shows are
mostly mindless drivel meant only to entertain or amuse us. TV provides
nothing of eternal value or significance, except to distract us from the
serious business of serving our Lord. TV is to its addicts like alcohol is
to its addicts -- a tranquilizer from reality to make us "feel" better.
Some will argue that there are some educational or informational benefits
from TV. Yes, there is some benefit. But it's a very small benefit
-- just like the abandoned, starving children of Sao Paulo, Brazil find
some scraps of food as they rummage through the city dumps to sustain
their lives. It's not what you want to dine on by choice.
Every major study
of the mass media ranks TV dead last in terms of its ability to deliver
lasting educational benefits. Every other form of media does a better job
(print, radio, etc.). To choose TV as a delivery media for its educational
value is like learning to write with hammer, chisel, and stone.
So why do we insist on devoting so much time and energy to TV
and give this box a place of prominence in our homes? Because we are lazy
and seek to have our ears tickled and our eyes fed and our minds poisoned
with mindless junk food. Honestly, do these shows bring us any closer to
I would like to ask the Christian viewing public, particularly the men,
this one question about their TV habits: Can you justify your consumption
of this entertainment (even the clean stuff) by standing before God and
explaining to Him that you, in fact, have been reading your Bible,
meditating on Scripture, memorizing Scripture, and praying as much as is
possible -- that you have devoted more than enough time to your family, to
serving in your church or community -- that you have been over-exerting
yourself to win the lost?
If you can't answer
"yes," then you have no business being in front of the tube. I'll bet more
Christians can recall specific lines from long-ago sitcoms better than
they can recall Bible verses. It's a fact we'll not be very proud of when
we answer to God for every thought, every word, and every deed.
The real shame is how much our preoccupation with TV robs us of so
much richness in our lives and relationships right now. Just think if that
time was poured into more fruitful endeavors. At the end of our lives, in
those final hours before death, I can't imagine anyone requesting to see
reruns of M*A*S*H instead of having just one more minute to hold
onto and talk with a loved one -- a parent, child, friend, or spouse. Why
would we live our lives any differently now?
When enough people stop watching, and the advertisers realize they are
wasting their money, then we will have brought the industry to its knees
and put all the Sterns and his sitcom imitators out of business. In the
meantime, to the extent we watch even the clean stuff, we not only
distract ourselves from "real" life and God, but we feed the monster that
produces all the filth.
Sound harsh? Sound narrow? TV is not a sin in and of itself. Sin with
TV comes in the form of content or when it distracts us from the other
priorities God has given us. If content is your problem (sexual images or
language, perversion, foul language, etc.), then you have deeper issues
to cover. In terms of distractions from the things of God, the Bible doesn't forbid TV but it also isn't
found on any of God's priority lists. You be the judge.
Remember Paul's words in II Timothy 2:3-4:
"Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in
active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that
he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier."
Consider Hebrews 12:1-2:
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily
entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before
us, fixing our eyes on Jesus [not the TV!], the author and perfecter of
faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the
shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Set aside the entanglements of TV, give that time to God and your
family, and just see how much God can do with you!
March 7, 2002