Home > Brandenburg, Culture > Television: My Story part second

Television: My Story part second

May 14, 2008

A man heard a hot message from his preacher against television.  He told the pastor that he had decided to put his TV in the closet for one month to honor the Lord.  About halfway through the month, his pastor asked him how it was going with the television.  He replied: “We’ve had a hard time all fitting into the closet.”

When I was a kid, my family didn’t leave on the TV like it was another household appliance.  Did you ever have one of those moments though, growing up, when someone says, “I don’t have anything to do”?  Translated:  “Can I watch TV?”  You don’t have anything to do and so you think and you think about what you can do and television’s the answer. Can television by definition count as something to do?  Isn’t it the apex of do-nothing?  Isn’t the TV in the same picture with the couch potatoe?  Isn’t television in the definition of “sedimentary”?

When we had a television, we turned it on.  I don’t imagine that there are many families that get home at night, who don’t turn it on.  People ask, “What’s on tonight?”  If the answer is, “nothing,” that doesn’t mean that they don’t watch.   First they look, but then they find the best nothing on there and sit and watch it.  Is there anything else that we say we’re glued to, besides TV?  Imagine children glued to homework.

More On Videos

Essentially, no television was available to me from the summer of 1980 for the next ten years.  I spent some time standing in the television section of department stores, admiring the new technology for covering NFL and college football.  I remember the advent of the close-up, cameras now zooming close enough to see clearly the ball manufacturer.  I recall thinking that it would be nice to watch that kind of football coverage, briefly coveting the experience.  It was during those silent years, however, that the video arrived, first Beta, then VHS.

During jr. high and the beginning of high school, I had read Star Trek books without seeing much of the television series itself with Captain Kirk and the Spock characters.  My dad wouldn’t allow Star Trek because “it wasn’t real.”  Perhaps better, it was less real then everything else that was fake.  However, my friends and I were trekkies.  We would raise one hand and separate the middle two fingers, declaring, “Live long and prosper.”  We had a lot of fun with it, using walky-talkies as “communicators” during recess.

One trekkie from my school class who had television, so it must have been one of the periods we didn’t, talked about the advertisements for Star Wars.  He got a Star Wars poster.  He talked about the incredible, what they called “special effects.”  That was right around 1976.  Star Wars came out in 1977.  If you wanted to see it, you had to go to the theater.  I think this friend did go somewhere, although he didn’t tell me that personally.  That leaked out somehow and then traveled through the grapevine.  It was a juicy tidbit of information.  Going to a theater was a very bad thing, worse than mouthing off to your parents.  But that, again, was before the video came out.

The first I saw Star Wars was ten years later in 1987.  I didn’t actually see the movie; just saw it playing on a TV.  I walked into a home of a church member where I was an interm pastor.  A bunch of people were sitting in front of the television watching Star Wars.  They didn’t look guilty when I walked in.  The word hadn’t traveled from the Bible college to these church members an hour away that watching Star Wars on video might be something to be ashamed of.  Movies were already strongly entrenched in the home life of Christians via the video store.  People were even already accumulating their clean, Christian collection.  Well, I would be ashamed to have some on my shelf that I have seen in Christian homes, but you can see that they have veered away from the raunchiest forms of entertainment with the best of dramatic arts that Hollywood could produce.   The first Star Wars could pass the Christian bar:  no foul language, no extra-marital, and no immodest dress.

One thing you could see in the “evolution” of mankind through the lens of hopeful science fictionists was the loss of distinction in male and female roles.  The mainly theological liberals who write science fiction see patriarchal society as a leftover from caveman days.  They couldn’t do away with that completely, because of the loss in viewership.  Readers enjoy the dramatic tension between the contrasting male and female roles, even if only for Captain Kirk to meet a bleached-blonde from the planet Schwartz before an episode would end.

My wife and I tried cable the one year.  I had briefly tried the rabbit ear antennae.  It was good for us that we couldn’t get any channels that way, both for our Christian lives but also for my tired arm.  It was difficult holding the antennae in just the right position to get the snowy, one, remote, Chinese station.   Then came the decision about videos.   Perhaps you know the questions that even dedicated Christians ask to determine what, how, how much, and whether to watch.

The Video Store

What is the difference between going to the theater and entering a video store?  I knew there was a difference, but not much of one.  And then what if you can pick the video up at a grocery store or a library?  You could buy bad things at a grocery store and get bad books at a library, but that didn’t stop you from going to those two places.  And if you picked up something to watch while you were there, how could that be a problem?

Your public support for movies and videos can affect your Christian testimony.  You can also argue for a better use of your own time.  Your clean, solid to borderline entertainment opens a temptation to anything for others.  I believe this is where the meat-offered-unto-idols argument comes in.  You don’t want to cause someone else to stumble, including those in your own family.  The best question usually isn’t whether something is right or wrong, but “is it the best?”  God wants honor and love, so we prove everything and hold fast to that which is good, approving those things which are excellent.  The videos can hamper your ministry to others.  It can deaden you, but also deaden them towards you.  You lose that edge that can make the difference in someone else’s life.

I needed a policy based on Scriptural principles that would guide my behavior on the issue of television watching.  The policy that developed for me with my family was keeping film in the background of our lives.  I didn’t want it public, so even though it wasn’t a conviction, we didn’t go into video stores.   Since that time, online DVD rental companies have started that deliver them through the mail.  They have a gigantic selection that often includes the morally best that anyone could watch on television.  I think someone would be fine to say “no” to these businesses.  They can easily be a trap for a man and his family.  In principle, I think that using their service is superior to traveling somewhere local to get a film.  You can control your intake and selection while keeping a reduction in your life of the activity of watching programs on DVD.

The DVD rental delivery companies I compare to the internet.  They can be used for bad or good.  Their privacy is both bad or good too.  The internet can allow someone to get the worst of everything in the privacy of his own home.  It all needs to be filtered.  That’s why I’m a member of Covenant Eyes and everything that I view goes to a pastor somewhere else, so he can see the sites that I’ve looked at.   Now hundreds of television programs are offered over the internet—sports, news, and movies.  All of this technology is morally neutral.  Like so many other things, it is all a matter of how you use it.  Or maybe the better question is:  Is it using you?  We need to control the machines instead of them controlling us.  To do this, we do better if we develop discernment in our lives.

Perhaps the invention of VCR/DVD has done something for our churches.  We said the theater was bad.  It was settled.  Then came TV.  Then came videos.  Then came the internet.  We don’t know what’s next.   Do we love the Lord or not?  Do we want to serve the Lord or not?  If the videos and TV and internet are too much of an attraction to us, what does that say about our Christian devotion?

We have a rule in our house that we don’t talk about entertainment at all outside of the home.  If we do talk about it, we do at home where we can monitor it and judge it.  We have another rule.  If you do talk about it outside the house, then all of it will disappear.  Those rules have worked out fine.  I don’t want entertainment to be a big deal to us.  I don’t think it is.  I think it can become that way.  I want Jesus Christ and His Word to be by far the most important in our home.  To do that, we’ve got to make sure all the weeds are mowed to keep the kind of good hearts that God can grow in.

  1. May 14, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for your comments here. I particularly liked when you said, “Their privacy is both bad or good too. The internet can allow someone to get the worst of everything in the privacy of his own home. It all needs to be filtered. That’s why I’m a member of Covenant Eyes and everything that I view goes to a pastor somewhere else, so he can see the sites that I’ve looked at.”

    I work for Covenant Eyes and it is always an encouraging thing to see how our product has helped people overcome temptations.

    If you are ever interested in writing a testimony about how Covenant Eyes has been of help to you for our company’s blog, please let me know. (You can make it anonymous if you want.)

    Luke Gilkerson
    Internet Community Manager
    Covenant Eyes

  2. May 14, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks Luke. I’ll consider the blog testimony.

  3. OLD fashioned preacher
    May 15, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    When I was growing up the family had ONE tv (can’t watch more than one at a time)(b&w), so when I got married neither my wife or I brought one into our new home. We found ourselves too busy in church to have time to watch one (so why waste the money?). Later we saw the adverse effects and didn’t want one. Our children are all grown now – people always asked (when somewhere along the line they realized we didn’t have one) “What do you DO with your time?”. We responded “Spend time with God, our church family, and each other. Our children play bagpipes, piano, guitar, harmonica, banjo, mandalin, organ, fiddle, and autoharp – people say “I wish we could play an instrument” — Need I say more about TIME and productivity????????

  4. OLD fashioned preacher
    May 15, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Oh yea; and memorized chapters, not verses of Scriptures. Better things to have come to mind than episodes of tv programs.

  5. May 16, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Old fashioned preacher. Thanks for commenting. I can’t say that anyone has made a bad decision in not having a TV. You give good reasons for not.

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