Robert D. Decker is professor of New Testament and Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
How carefully do we monitor the programs our children watch on television? How many hours per day or week do we spend in front of the TV? Ought Christians have a television set in the house? At the very least, excerpts from the following article by Jean Shaw ought to cause us to ponder these questions. The article appeared in the March 5, 1986 issue of thePresbyterian Journal.
Donald E. Wildmon was obviously tired. On a speaking tour for the National Federation For Decency, he was winding up a series of one-night stands that had taken him all over the United States. One more stop after St. Louis, and he would go home to Tupelo, Mississippi for a rest. Fatigue was not his greatest problem, he told us. “What kills my spirit is the apathy and indifference among Christian people.”
Wildmon proceeded to attack that apathy with his own recitation of the ills of television interspersed with actual film clips taken from recent programs. “When I first became concerned about eight years ago,” Wildmon explained, “I thought the problem was sex and violence. Now I know that the real problem is an anti-Christian attitude among those who influence the media. The result is discrimination against religious people. Those who control TV are not apathetic, but overtly hostile.” Film clips were shown which depicted the clergy as dumb, hypocritical, harsh, unloving people. Persons who gave any evidence of religious upbringing or moral values were shown to be easily tempted by sexual aggressiveness. God was depicted as a being who always forgives sin, even when it is anticipated, and who welcomes into heaven the person who “does good” (whatever that means).
We should not be surprised at the anti-Christian bias of television. According to a non-religious survey of those who control TV, 93% felt that abortion was right, 5% felt that homosexuality was morally wrong. Wildmon pointed out that every television show using homosexuality as a subject is reviewed by the national Gay Media Task Force, and this organization is paid for its services. The survey revealed that 16% of those involved in media believe that adultery is morally wrong. Wildmon added the statistic that 85% of the allusions to sex on TV are between unmarried people.
Who is the leading evangelist on TV? You may recite any of the popular names – Graham, Robertson, Falwell, etc., and you would be wrong. The answer is Norman Lear, whose programs reach more people in one week than all other evangelists reach in a year. “There is religion on TV,” Wildmon asserts. “It is a religion of secularism, hedonism, materialism, and humanism. The question is not ‘Should values be imposed on the viewers?’ but ‘Whose values should be imposed?'”
Up to this point the presentations were limited to prime-time television. The seminar now turned to pornography, and if anyone in the audience didn’t know exactly what that was, Wildmon had covered a table with magazines, purchased in convenience stores that morning in St. Louis. Available to anyone who asks (regardless of what the stores say), these publications depicted naked men and women in various sexual positions of such erotic nature that one could only gasp at its carnality. On the table also were photocopies of cartoons from sex magazines, all treating clergymen and religion with the grossest disdain.
We were then prepared for brief film clips of pornographic movies—the kind available on cable television or from video cassette outlets. Wildmon explained that he didn’t like to show these excerpts but he has learned that verbal .descriptions simply do not have the impact. Those who wanted to were allowed to leave the room. Those of us who stayed saw scenes of indescribable lewdness that glorified self-indulgence.
The person sexually aroused by pornography must have this appetite satisfied by something more than pictures of people in erotic situations. The next step is visualized torture. From this evolves the actual practice of torture itself. Rapes in the United States have increased by 700% in the last decade. Child abuse, largely related to pornography and prostitution, is on the increase everywhere and now accounts for more hospital treatment than tonsillectomies and other child-related problems.
We saw a 30-minute cassette by Dr. Elizabeth Holland, a Memphis pediatrician, describing specific cases of child molestation, not by strangers or outsiders, but by parents and siblings! Almost every case was related to pornography, usually magazines purchased legitimately and kept at home . . . .
The same issue of the Presbyterian Journal reports that the relatively large Missouri Synod Lutheran Church continues to refuse to ordain women to the ministry of the gospel.
The ordination of women to the ministry “is expressly prohibited by the Scriptures,” according to a new report by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s theological commission.
“The idea that God desires man to be the head of woman and woman to be subordinate to man is rooted deeply in the Old and New Testaments,” says the report, titled “Women in the Church.” It was issued by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the 2.6 million-member denomination to provide theological support for the synod’s traditional opposition to ordination of women.
The report claims “the occupation of the pastoral office by women violates the headship structure rooted in God’s order of creation.” It also asserts that “women are not to be pastors nor perform the essential and unique functions of the pastoral office, since the pastoral office has oversight from God over the congregation, ‘the household of God.'”
In distinguishing between functions of clergy and laity, the report expresses what it calls the “opinion of the (committee) that the reading of the Scriptures is most properly the function of the pastoral office and should therefore not ordinarily be delegated to a lay person, woman or man.”
On the question of whether women may serve as assistants in the distribution of communion, the commission “strongly recommends that, to avoid confusion regarding the office of the public ministry and to avoid giving offense to the church, such assistance be limited to men.”
One wishes that churches in the Reformed tradition would take as strong a stand on this issue as the Missouri Synod brethren.
Christians in America think very little of persecution. They are free to worship, educate their children in God’s fear, and live the Christian life according to God’s Word. Such is not the case in many parts of the world. Did you know, for example, that: “Christians in Nepal face regular persecution and even torture, according to a delegation of British and U.S. officials who just visited the mountainous Asian country for six days. People who are baptized face a one-year jail sentence, while someone who leads another person to Christ can receive a six-year sentence—equivalent to the punishment for manslaughter. The visiting team, sponsored by Christian Response International, included two members of the British Parliament and two representatives of U.S. congressional staff. But opinions vary on the appropriate response. Any criticism, say some observers, will make things even worse for Nepalese Christians.” (World, April 7, 1985)
Calvinist Contact, (March 28, 1986) reported that: “Four more ministers of the unregistered Baptist church in Leningrad have been put on trial. On January 29, 1986, sentences were pronounced against Vladimir Filippov, Stanislav Chudakov, Andrei-Filippov, and Veniamin Yefremov. Senior pastor Fedor Makhovitsky has been serving a five-year strict regime sentence since his arrest in August, 1981. Vitaly Varvin, a young layman in the church, was released in mid-February after four years strict regime for refusing to collaborate with KGB agents. For many years the Leningrad congregation met regularly for worship services in the home of one of the members, a Mr. Protsenko. In 1981 he was arrested and sentenced to three years of imprisonment plus confiscation of this property. When the Protsenko house was confiscated the congregation started meeting in the forests outside the city. One member of the church commented recently to a Western tourist, ‘Our church’s refusal to submit to atheistic control by registering has infuriated the authorities. They are doing everything they can to break us. But God has given our church faithful leaders and a dynamic group of young people who are committed to the Lord. We know that Christians around the world are praying for us, and that helps us stand.”
Many more reports could be cited which tell of the sufferings of Christians in China, Romania, Albania, and other countries. Let us daily pray for those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.