By Mike Willis
My generation is the last generation to know what life was like with- out a television. I was eight years old before we had our first television. My Uncle Jim was the first one in our neighborhood to have a television and on Friday nights, my father would take us over to Uncle Jim’s house to watch the Friday night fights. Uncle Jim would fall asleep in his chair, but the rest of us enjoyed the fights. Since we did not have a TV, we listened to Roy Rogers on radio, when the radio signal was clear enough to hear.
When we finally got our first TV, we were able to receive only one station, channel 9 that beamed from Lufkin, Texas (30 miles away). On an especially clear day, we might receive a poor picture of some of the Houston channels.
In those early days, some gospel preachers warned of the dangers of television. As I recall, they warned of two dangers: (1) Television was a sinful waste of one’s time; (2) Television would make the morals of Hollywood the morals of America. The preachers were right on both counts. However, members joked that when our preacher visited in their home, his eyes were glued to the TV, so they thought it hypocritical for him to be preaching to them about TV.
Let me freely confess my enjoyment of TV. I enjoy watching movies, a limited number of sit-coms, the news (I am almost addicted to the news channels), Discovery programs, sports, and many other things on television. I have not to responded to the dangers of television by ridding our house of TVs, although some very conscientious Christians think that is the better approach (and they may be right). Having admitted that I watch TV, let me now warn of some of the dangers that some programs on television present:
1. Some television programs contain nudity and explicit love scenes. The things that are presented in prime-time programing and the afternoon soap-operas leave little to the imagination. Every season the TV producers push the limits of what is acceptable for prime-time programming a little further, this year televising nudity in some scenes. Jesus warned of the danger of lust saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28). The ratings say that certain presentations are for “mature audiences.” What is “mature” about lusting after the nakedness of someone other than his marriage companion?
We especially need to speak a warning about MTV and VH1, both channels playing videos of the latest hits. Most of the videos feature immodestly clad actors dancing while the song plays. If we understand that the sin of dancing is stirring up lust, why would we want to fill our hearts with lust by watching these channels?
2. Some television programs are full of profanity. Filthy language permeates prime-time programming. Some characters cannot speak a sentence without throwing in profanity. Some comedians are so filthy mouthed that one cannot enjoy their humor. When I was a child, my parents would not allow me to watch the movie Gone With The Wind because Clark Gable used a curse word. Look how far we have moved in one generation! Paul wrote, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). If we shouldn’t be talking like that, we don’t need to be listening to it either. Listening to such speech is how one learns to speak the same way.
3. Television has been used as an instrument to re-shape the moral values of America. Programming has been used to re-shape our thinking about capital punishment, sex outside of marriage, abortion, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, the feminist movement, and many other things. Programs such as Dr. Quinn openly press the feminist agenda. Ellen promotes homosexual “rights” and is de- signed to re-shape our thinking to accept homosexuals as “normal.” Three’s Company portrayed three young adults (two females, one male) living together, laying groundwork for live-in arrangements for the unmarried. Mrs. Doubtfire was designed to teach us how to have a civil divorce with equitable visitation for both parents. The person who is not aware that Hollywood is trying to shape his moral values is naive indeed. Paul warned, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 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” (Rom. 12:1-2).
Are we conforming ourselves to Hollywood’s morals? Who can deny that Hollywood has influenced the moral changes that have occurred in this generation?
4. Television desensitizes us toward sin. Jeremiah spoke of a people that could not blush saying, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord” (Jer. 6:15). Men had become so hardened by sin that they could commit it without feeling shame. Those who use profanity used to be embarrassed to speak that way in front of a lady. Fornicators hid their sin. Pornography was only available in illegal outlets. Divorce was rare. Homosexuals were “in the closet.” No longer is that true. We have become desensitized to sin; our sense of shame is eroding.
5. Television presents false religion. The religious channels are full of false religion, and these are probably the cleanest channels on TV. These channels portray begging preachers fleecing the poorest of their money and charlatans performing “miracles” to a gullible audience. Other programs portray women preachers, teach salvation by faith only, teach a “feel-good” message without substantial doctrinal content, and many other doctrines contrary to the revealed word of God. Christians should not be supporting false religions with monetary contributions (2 John 9-11). Christians must “try the spirits” to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). We must be careful not to have our religious convictions shaped by the false religions of the world that are portrayed on TV.
6. Watching too much television is a sinful waste of time. What our forefathers warned about TV has become true. Men who don’t have time to read their Bibles, visit the sick, attend Wednesday night Bible class, and other activities that Christians should do have plenty of time to watch 4-5 hours of TV every night (from the time they come home at 5:30-6:00 until 11:00 p.m.). Remember Paul commanded that Christians should be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:16). Are we redeeming time or wasting it?
I still have not sold my TVs. I am not advocating that others do differently. However, I am calling our attention to some of the dangers of TV. The wonderful devices that have been invented have potential for both good and bad use. I use the telephone, but try not to use it for gossip. I have preached the gospel on the radio, although much that is broadcast on radio is filthy. I use the Internet every day, although there is pornography available. We need to be aware of the dangers of the misuse of any of the things we have. Perhaps this article will help us to remember the dangers of the misuse of television.