Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury --http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .
I've been thinking about watching TV. I ought to unplug my TVs—at least for a week. Even if just to see if I could do it. I can think of 15 reasons why I, personally, ought to unplug:
The Devil has a million ways to get at me, but television is his best way of "getting into my head." TV is the most effective influence to make me a less-committed Christian. If I keep watching it, I'll become even more secular in my mind-set. I should unplug my TV.
I waste time on other things, but TV is the biggest black hole of all. Where does TV time come from? It is time which could be spent on better things. Working in my wood shop. Working in the garden. Spending time with my kids. Having a chat with my wife. Going for a walk. In fact, the average person logs more time in front of the TV than doing anything else, except sleeping. The average American adult spends 3½ hours per day watching TV. That is 52 complete 24-hour days every year. We adults spend a full 12 years of our life span watching TV (we spend four months in Sunday school).
I sometimes complain, "I don't have enough time." But the truth is, I have the same amount of time Jesus Christ had—24 hours each day. It's not how much time I "have," but how I use my time that is my problem. I watch TV far less than the average adult, but it's still my single biggest time robber. I should unplug it.
The television is highly effective at brainwashing. It seduces me into accepting sins the Bible clearly rejects. Its story-telling and interview formats raise feelings of sympathy, compassion and understanding for behaviors I know are wrong. TV has already made me softer on divorce. Right now it is trying to convince me that marital unfaithfulness is normal—even attractive. And, increasingly, TV will persuade me that homosexual behavior is simply an alternative lifestyle of people "born this way."
If I keep watching TV on a regular basis, it will surely convince me to soften, then fully accept, these sins. I have watched how this happens to me. I am at first outraged by what I see. I angrily switch to another channel or turn it off completely. But, over time, the outrage dissipates. Eventually I allow the offense to pass by with only a verbal rejection like "that's not true" or "that doesn't fit with what the Bible says." Finally, I quit making verbal comments and hardly notice. Sin has lost its shock. The more I watch TV, the more "understanding" I become toward sin. I should unplug my TV, shouldn't I?
Because it is an emotional medium, TV constantly focuses on falling in love, having sex, and breaking up. This is a false view of marriage. Most of marriage is, well...boring. It's not all stimulation and excitement, with wild and wonderful trips to Acapulco. Marriage is mostly routine, based on commitment—not the romantic ideal presented on TV.
And beyond this false view of marriage, TV is constantly biased against the biblical pattern of marriage. While two-thirds of US adults are married, television constantly focuses on singleness and single parenting, and brainwashes us to believe married life is neither average nor normal. And even when it does feature married couples, these couples are awful examples of regular married life, let alone a Christian marriage. Marriage is tough enough work in today's world, without the influence of television dragging me away from the biblical model. I suppose I should simply unplug my TVs—all of them.
Secular shows are constantly portraying ministers as corrupt, greedy, greasy hypocrites. I don't like that. I don't want my kids being brainwashed against preachers and the ministry. But while preachers do poorly, religion itself does little better. The media's anti-religion bias is deep. Researchers from Duke, Northwestern, and The University of Dayton studied 100 episodes of prime-time TV shows including 1,464 speaking characters and 70 hours of programming. Ninety-five percent of the people showed no discernible religious affiliation whatsoever. And of the 5% which made some reference to religion (mostly to prayer, such as "thank God" or something similar), a full half of these presented the religious message in a negative light. This shouldn't surprise me. Only 7% of TV executives attend church regularly, while 97% are pro-abortion and 80% pro-homosexual. It shouldn't shock me that the television constantly brainwashes me toward a negative and distorted view of religion. I suppose I might argue that my mind is made up. But what does this do to children? And religious programming is no better. Religious TV portrays such a sick view of true religion that viewing secular programming might be safer. I should just unplug the thing.
I haven't started saying all the things I've heard on television, but I'm far less shocked when I hear them. And I wonder, how long will it be until I start saying the words I hear? For instance, in the last decade, I have noticed a significant increase in the use of God's name in a casual way by Christians. I wonder if this is somehow connected with the frequent use of God's name on TV. I remember when I first heard this, how I reacted. It was clear to me that this was a violation of God's third commandment. In fact it is the clearest violation of that commandment you can imagine. Using God's name in a casual way. Now God's name is finding it's way into the language of Christians. How long will it be before I allow myself to say "My Lord," or "Oh God," or "For God's sake"?
But it's not just God's name. Television constantly tries to adjust all of my vocabulary. I hear it every day. TV is constantly correcting, constantly teaching, constantly "discipling" me. It tries to teach me to say "partner" instead of "wife." It wants me to say "in a relationship" instead of "married," and "gay" instead of "homosexual." It is so effective at teaching me what is right and wrong in speech, that gradually the vocabulary of the world seems "politically correct." But, along with this new vocabulary come the world's values. I don't like what the TV does to my vocabulary. And what this new vocabulary does to my values. Why don't I just unplug it?
It's most evident in shows like The Simpsons, Rosanne, and Married...With Children. But it's everywhere else as well. The relational modeling of TV is to deride others and criticize and put down loved ones. All this is done for the sake of humor. And it works. It is humorous. No wonder these same kinds of critical put-downs show up at home, in schools and at church. TV is a bad model for interpersonal relationships. It makes it easier for me to use put-down humor. I ought to just unplug it, I suppose.
Why would advertisers spend millions of dollars if their advertisements did not cause me to want things? TV engenders coveting, materialism and idolatry—finding joy in things. How much has this "materialistic pornography" influenced me already? What has it already persuaded me to find happiness in—besides God? What has the TV taught me to want? To want so badly that I consider it a need? I should simply unplug it, shouldn't I?
It's like alcohol, or tobacco, or gambling. The net result is socially negative. TV executives argue that there is no connection whatsoever between violence on television and crime in the streets, or between TV's sexual titillation and the behavior of the individuals watching these programs. Yet, the same TV executives will collect a million dollars for a 30-second advertisement during the Super Bowl. How do they collect money for these advertisements? Who pays for them? Why would advertisers pay such sums if the medium has no affect whatsoever on behavior? C'mon. Quit kidding us! TV does change the way we act. The average child sees 8000 killings on TV by the eighth grade. Is this in no way connected with the fact that violent crime is up 560% over the last 30 years? So, even if the TV had absolutely no affect on me personally, I ought to unplug it—simply as a social protest or boycott against the evil it promotes in society.
The studies are decisive. The more TV that children watch, the less studying they do, the later they will stay up at night, and the more tired they will be the next day at school. The more TV that students watch, the lower they score on achievement tests. Besides these proven facts, TV works against reading and discussion, two primary ways people learn. But what if I'm an empty-nester and all the kids are gone? What does it do to my educational achievement? Does it inspire me to read more? Discuss things more? Does it define the really deep issues? What issues does television raise which will be around in 100 years? Even ten years? I'm afraid TV even depresses my own learning, not just the children's learning. If I had the guts, I'd just unplug it.
It irritates me. It embarrasses me too. Part of the reason I watch TV is to "keep up." To make sure I am "current," up-to-date, and "in the know" concerning the latest. Television tells me what is important to talk about at coffee break, over lunch, with fellow travelers at the airport. The great sin in modern society is to be "out of touch." I want to be aware of my world, so I can talk intelligently about what is going on.
The trouble is, what the TV tells me is important really isn't. It is trivial, silly, even idiotic. Last year it constantly instructed me to talk about Michael Jackson, the Bobbits, and Tonya Harding. Last fall, O.J. Simpson was the issue. Next year it will have a whole new agenda. Not one of these things is really important at all, let alone biblically important. TV-watching causes me to adopt a secular agenda in my discussions. I need to talk more about God, godliness, holiness, righteousness, and the eternal truths, not the passing trivia of the TV agenda. I resent being controlled by this one-eyed master in my family room. Don't you think I ought to just unplug the thing?
I wish it did, because I'm one of those persons with a special affinity for CNN and C-SPAN. But, to be honest, most of the news is not about the eternal issues facing men and women today. Since local news shows generate significant income for local TV stations, they fall to the tremendous pressure to grab ratings by scandalous stories, titillating topics, and staged video. Murders, rapes, tragedy, and a host of stories reflecting a dangerous world are the constant fare. The more I watch, the more I'm taught that people are not to be trusted and the world is a dangerous place. National news is worse. I remember how I was glued to CNN during the Gulf War. It seemed like such an important thing at the time. But, now that I reflect on it, just what was I watching? I was watching the terror of war—thousands of people being killed, sent to eternity without God—and I sat in my living room, with a snack, watching it all as if it was an entertaining video game. Shame on me! Even the news hasn't redeemed the overall general negative effect of television. I really ought to quit fooling myself by saying otherwise. I ought to just unplug it.
Sixty-four percent of Americans say TV has a negative effect on family life, according to Gallup. A full two-thirds say that TV has a negative effect on children, and 62% argue that TV promotes negative values. Then why do we watch? Why to I watch? Because it is a habit. TV is the "plug-in drug." It is more addictive than tobacco or alcohol or pornography. How do you know you are addicted? You try to stop! You unplug all the TV sets in your home. You see how you feel. See what happens. See how long you can go without television. As for me, I'm addicted. I need it. But it's bad for me. Isn't this a perfect example of addiction? I ought to unplug it. I shouldn't be addicted to anything. Except God.
I don't mean in a political election. I mean vote for something bigger. Christians in North America are rapidly coming to the place where we are going to have to "vote"—either for the culture or against it. Many Christian leaders are increasingly convinced that the only Christians in the future will be those who have "come out" of the culture to live different lives, based on the values of the Bible, not the latest values of the Phil Donahue Show. Perhaps we do not yet live in "Sodom." But once we do, separation is the only option. When this time comes (and it may not be far off,) my hunch is that many Christians will vote to stay in Sodom. They will have been so seduced by the world that they will keep on trying to be "salt" until they eventually "lose all their savor." Yet a few—a "remnant"—will vote to reject the culture and will start to live their lives on Christian principles and behaviors. It has happened dozens of times through history. It may be about to happen again. When that time comes, how will I vote? Will I be so softened and seduced by Sodom that I'll try to stay with an anemic attempt to "be a witness"? Or will I have the guts to reject Sodom's culture and become "peculiar" or "separate"? If I can't make a little decision on something like unplugging our televisions, how will I be able to make a decision on the really big vote coming later? This could be a good test for me. I ought to unplug my TVs as a test of my ability to resist the evil culture. Even if I only did it for a week, it would show me something. Wouldn't it?
I've been studying the TV-media industry the last few months. I've got a feel for where it's headed. In the future, we will have 500 cable channels to watch, providing a vast array of "whatever you want." Since cable is not restrained by broadcast standards, it will be able to provide even more of "what people want." What do they want? They want sex. They want violence. They want nudity. They want blood. No, they don't say they want these things. In fact, they condemn them noisily in all surveys, acting as if they're the silent "moral majority." They condemn them, but they watch such shows. They consistently drive up the ratings of shows featuring sex and violence. Titillation sells. And TV is about selling. It is about ratings. When we only had three channels, the TV executives provided some restraint among themselves. But with 500 channels, the competition will drive all of the shows to feed the base desires of men and women. Will TV get worse? The answer is obvious.
And what about interactive television? In the future, we will no longer just watch a couple go to bed or undress, we will be able to control their actions interactively. In the future, we will see a merger of the TV, the CD-ROM, the computer, and the phone line. It is a leap of significant moral consequences from watching to directing actions of sex or violence.
And all this is just the beginning. In the next fifteen years, homosexual "love" will be normal. Total nudity will be common. The "seven deadly words" will be eliminated, and we will hear everything imaginable (and quite a bit we can't yet imagine). God will be openly mocked. There will be "artistic joking," picturing goats, women, or two lesbians hanging on a cross. There will be direct promotion of anti-Christ values and, just perhaps, even promotion of the Antichrist himself. Certainly, this is where it will go, won't it? All you have to do is continue the line on the graph—project the rate of past change into the future.
But all of this will happen gradually. That's the terror of television. It seduces us. It tempts us a tiny bit at a time, never overtly, and always with our willing participation—we go along. So most of us will gradually accommodate all of these things, and worse. Why not? Most of us now watch things we never dreamed we'd watch ten years ago. How did we get here? Gradually.
So, what should we do? I wonder what it would be like if our church went together and just unplugged our televisions. Possible? OK, maybe not. How about trying a one-week "unplugged" experiment? Just one week? Are you up to it? Think you can go off TV cold-turkey ... even for a week? Just one week? Shall we try it? If we all went off the plug-in drug together maybe we could do it?
What do you think? Wannna' try?
So what do you think?
To contribute to the thinking on this issue e-mail your response toTuesday@indwes.edu
By Keith Drury, 1994. You are free to transmit, duplicate or distribute this article for non-profit use without permission.