Periodic perusal of a little magazine called T.V. Guideprovides one an acquaintance-with programming in this medium, as well as with the trends that this programming is taking. It also allows the pastor to ask knowledgeable, even pointed, questions on family visitation. Most importantly, this pastor is constantly convinced that television viewing has no place in the life of the Christian individual and family. Recently we have read in our literature that a Protestant Reformed garage sale of used television sets is not the answer to the problem, but that sanctified control be exercised over this machine (Beacon Lights, Aug. – Sept., 1972, p. 3), and that removal of these sets need not be advocated, indeed would be virtually impossible (Standard Bearer, vol. 49, p. 94). Although for the rest these articles were excellent, I find this criticism too gentle and these solutions unacceptable.
In a recent T.V. Guide the editors were bemoaning the fact that “soft Southern accents, harsh Midwestern twangs, slow Western drawls are all vanishing, being replaced by the flat speech of network newscasters.” That these unique, sectional differences are coming to an end is, of course, of little import. What strikes us as important is the fact that television can accomplish a change of this kind so unobtrusively. The editorial continues, “Leo Rosten said in these pages some years ago that television was standardizing Americans—standardizing our speech, our dress, our attitudes, our entertainment standards. It has gone beyond mere standardization—we’re becoming homogenized.” I fear Rosten is right. And, therefore, I fear television viewing, with the exception of newscasts, for which no one really buys a television set anyway.
There can be no quarrel with the fact that a television receiver is an amazing invention, a miracle of wiring. If memory serves correctly, an electron gun at the rear of the picture tube peppers the inside of the screen with electrons, following 511 horizontal scanning lines, making a picture ten times each second. What a thing, to be able to see things as they happen anywhere in the world, or even in space! The problem is that this invention is in the hands of the wicked world at its worst. Corrupt unbelief so controls the industry that programming today can generally be broken down as follows:
1.) Mornings, Mon. through Fri.—game shows; inane contests in which avarice abounds.
2.) Afternoons, Mon. through Fri.—”Soap operas”; a steady diet of marital problems: infidelity, divorce, abortion, adultery.
3.) Evenings, Sun. through Sat.—Situation comedies, mysteries, westerns, and movies in which every commandment is explicitly and brazenly broken.
4.) Saturday mornings—one cartoon after another, which even the world calls “witless, heartless, charmless, tasteless and artless.”
5.) Sat. and Sun. afternoons—sports, sports, sports. A person can, and millions do, sit for five hours in a stretch and watch their heroes (?) perform.
6.) Newscasts and special news events—there is no denying that this is something T.V. can do well.
7.) Late night, every night—movies until the wee hours.
There is no way in which we can discuss television viewing apart from programming. Let no one say, it’s a good invention and can be used aright; it’s an indifferent matter. Our subject must be considered within the framework of program contents. We are concerned with television when the switch is on.
Let us get back to Rosten’s idea that through the influence of T.V. the people of this country are becoming homogenized. When something is homogenized it is of the same or uniform composition, quality, or characteristics throughout. Apply this to a large constituency of people, and the idea becomes that millions of people, throughout the land, demonstrate a sameness, a uniformity as far as their characteristics and attitudes are concerned. Homogeneity in such things as milk and peanut butter is fine. When it is applied to people, people in the midst of which are found God’s people, it is pernicious; it is frightening, it is a great evil under the sun.
That it is so frightening lies in the fact that the Devil, through television programming, is able to work almost imperceptibly and unnoticed. He can accomplish the homogenizing of peoples who are radically and basically different, in a wide range of areas, almost without their noticing of it. That’s why many who read these lines will disagree, will defend themselves in this practice. They are not even aware of what is happening to them!
That his homogenizing effect is so pernicious is found in the fact that viewers are influenced in all their attitude and outlook; there is no area of life that is not dramatized, commented upon, or in which instruction is not given. God’s institution of marriage is mocked (last week a movie was shown nationally entitled “How to Save a Marriage—And Ruin Your Life” . . . a farce about marital infidelity and divorce in suburbia). Attitudes concerning authority and submission are treated in such a way that rebellion Is encouraged. The language that is used in almost every program ought to vex the soul of every child of God. It is blasphemous and profane, it is filthy, it is foolish and inconvenient. When such language is used in our presence, the Bible teaches us to rebuke the person. What happens when a movie star, a comedian, a talk-show host, does so? At first we maybe flinch a little; then we get used to it, and it doesn’t bother so much; then we pretend we don’t hear it. That’s precisely how we get homogenized! If we hear such language and do not jump out of our easy chair and snap the program off,we sin! The whole matter of dress is influenced by what film performers wear; how else do you account for the fact that our young people run around like bare-footed waifs, dressed in outlandish denim costumes, and even immodest bikini bathing suits? By now we are into the second generation of this, so that parents run around this way! Entertainment and sports are forced upon us in such a way (it really doesn’t take much force, does it?) that we begin to think that the fortunes of the Tigers, the White Sox, the Twins, and the Dodgers belong to our heritage. And we are told blatantly not to be content with such things that we have, but that we must have this appliance, this new auto, this tool, and this convenience! In fact the whole medium is based upon the ability of advertising to sell. And we buy. It isn’t long and we are dissatisfied with what we have, and begin to think of reasons why we must get a new car or a camper or a new suit. And then there are the “educational” programs that will teach all the children of the nation the same things in the same way. I would be ashamed before God if my children were taught to count and to say the ABC’s by the immoral performers of Sesame Street and The Electric Company. But they have their effect. Witness the fact that even in Christian schools there must be al1 kinds of cartoons and puppet shows, and witness the fact that certain Sunday School papers teach the Word of God through the mouth of a dog!
Every sin in the world cannot be laid at the door of television. The newspapers, books, and magazines also have this same far-reaching effect. But they do not begin to compare as a homogenizing influence simply because, on the whole, people don’t read that much anymore. T.V. has won the attention of the masses. It makes a multi-sensual appeal to the mind. It’s almost as if the Apostle Paul had an inkling what the church would be faced with when he wrote what is found inRomans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” It is our calling to fight this homogenation, this conforming process. God has called us out of the world of darkness into His marvelous light; and we may not be conformed to, or be entangled with, former things. How is the church the light of the world, when she looks and speaks and acts like the world? How can she show forth, the glory of her covenant God when she busies herself. with those things which He abhors and which He curses everyday? Our reasonable service is to present our bodies (all the life that we live in and through the body) living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God. When a person watches present television programming, and when he allows his children to do so, there can only be one conclusion: he does not take the matter of sanctification of life, seriously, nor does he do well for his children. These things are not said vindictively, nor are they said from some lofty perch. They are said out of a loving concern for the spiritual well-being of God’s people, for the welfare of our precious little children, and in the prayer that God’s glory may not be dimmed nor denied in our lives.
It is not impossible to live without television; many do. It is not unfair to your children if they do not have it; it is an advantage to family life. If a television-addicted home be purged of this terrible disease, the members of that family are going to re-discover the deep joys of family relationships, the value of reading and discussion, and that on the way of faithfulness, God commands His blessings.