After Playing All You Can Play, What Then?

By Lewis Willis

I was given an article from the TV Guide (3-11-89) by Dan Wakefield, entitled, “We Need More Religion In Prime Time.” The article was of special interest to me since only last week in our adult Bible class we had discussed the dangers which television poses to the morals of our nation. The article concerned a scene in a recent prime time program in which a leading character, in the midst of a crisis, had turned to religion for answers. Wakefield described it as “. . . an emotionally moving and genuinely spiritual scene but an extremely rare one for prime-time TV.” His point was that more scenes of this nature are needed to reflect the way it is in contemporary life.

He quoted the pollster, George Gallop, Jr., in a speech called “The 1990s – Decade of ‘The People’s Religion,”‘ who reported that his latest surveys reflected that “levels of religious belief and practice in the U.S. are extra ordinarily high . . . The large majority of Americans believe in … God . . . and say that religion is either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ important in their lives. . . Only 4 percent of Americans are totally ‘non-religious. “‘ Wakefield asked why the writers and producers of prime-time TV, who constantly search for the latest “hot” subject to use in their stories, have so neglected God and religion as a source for dramatic possibilities. He then explained why it is neglected. He referred to a recent Newsweek article by Los Angeles lawyer and authority, Benjamin J. Stein, who said, “It would be hard right now to imagine a more atheistic community than the people who make prime-time TV and feature movies.” Therefore, he said we do not see TV characters who make decisions based on religion. Stein predicted that this would change. He said Alcoholics Anonymous is “sweeping Hollywood” with its message of reliance on God or a “Higher Power” for help in getting off booze and drugs. Wakefield noted how some programs have experimented with religious subjects in recent seasons and offered some suggestions about how other highly rated shows might inject the national trend toward religion into their programs. He suggested that Michael J. Fox of NBC’s Family Ties might discover what contemporary, successful, over-achievers have discovered, that is, material possessions do not satisfy all of the longings of man. Wakefield quoted a successful young man, writing in New York magazine, who had returned to his faith. He said, “Once you’ve played all the tennis you can play, what then?” Too many people have nowhere to turn when they realize that materialism and worldliness do not offer solutions to life’s problems. It is here that religion offers the answer and TV needs to turn to religion if it is going to be “true to life.”

I do not believe that screen writers will accurately depict the religion of Christ. Nor do I trust them to develop a religious consciousness for America. However, I remember a time when my peers unashamedly confessed their faith in the doctrines of denominationalism and, at that time, I remember that America had a higher standard of morality than it does today. In those days homosexuality, fornication, divorce, alcohol, drugs, etc., were all considered by most people to be WRONG! It was not that all religion was right in those days – it was simply a fact that a religious society has higher moral standards than does a non-religious society.

People in those days were materialistic but they knew that “things” would not supply what they needed in times of sickness, distress and death. In those circumstances, they turned to their faith. As television has depicted modern man, he has no place to turn on those occasions because, supposedly, he cannot turn to God. Screen writers would have us believe there is no God. Surveys indicate the screen writers are wrong – most Americans still believe in God and give religion a place of importance in their lives. Most Americans turn to God in their times of trouble, even though the screen writers choose not to recognize this. Perhaps, if given enough publicity, this fact about the modern American will one day be reflected in its popular television fare like the Cosby show. Such will not solve all of our problems but it surely will not hurt.

It will always be the role of the Church to teach the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. We are trying to do that. However, it would help if so important a factor as television is in our lives, would at least acknowledge that there is a God to whom we can and must turn. Having seen the effects of glorified sin on TV, I am ready to see the effects of a return to a recognition of God. It couldn’t hurt – it has to help. Parents, in raising their children, need all the help they can get! Don’t you agree?

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 4, pp. 98, 118
February 15, 1990