What I know about television

Paul Kershaw

I grew up in England. My family, from as early as I can remember, used to get together each evening to share Mum's beautiful home cooked meal - which we would eat in complete silence.

Perhaps this flowed from a staunch retention of Victorian values?  I'm afraid not. Rather, without fail we would sit transfixed in a quarter circle, plates on our laps, with our eyes glues to the TV.

Typically we would enjoy Dr Who, David Attenborough "The Trials of Life", Jacques Cousteau, The Goodies, Fawlty Towers, Parkinson etc, many of which were aired in Australia during the 70's and 80's I believe.

It saddens me now to think that our family wasted so much relational time " the TV would stay on until we went to bed. But at least the British had some decent programmes I might proudly claim. Since living in Australia I have been shocked at the deterioration in the moral content and quality of TV productions. Things really came to a head when Big Brother arrived, and so I have refused to watch it to this day. But the worst shock was to find that Big Brother started in guess where " Ol' Blitey!. So I'm wondering, is it just because I've turned 40 (memory loss) or perhaps I never did notice the strong sexual references in Blake’s Seven and the cleavage in Dad's Army?

Television reviewer Mark Hadley (Sydneyanglicans.net / Southern Cross) comments that,  "Seven has now become the new TEN," after his analysis of network’s new "Last Man Standing". It left him declaring it the "lowest common denominator" that made Big Brother look like a "relationship counselling service". The questions that really hit me after reading Mark's article was - Why is it necessary for him to review this show ? Or, why is this review appearing in a Christian publication? Are Christian people watching this material?

This is not the first time Mark has reviewed such a show. There seem to have been a rash of such productions over the last say 5 years, each successive incarnation pushing the limits of our perverse imaginations. It is grieving that script writers can conceive such sordid situations that debase human dignity and degrade our bodies. It is dreadful that human beings are willing to enact such roles and that they will to do this in front of a camera. It is frightening that we feel we can be entertained by it.

The detailed dissection of these productions has been done by other Christians and non-Christians over the years, with predictable conclusions. But people are still watching them. After reading Mark's article I bought a TV guide (10th " 16th July 2005). I found Big Brother had 15 scheduled time slots spanning a period of six days, with a total viewing time of 16 ½  hours. This does not include the little appetisers they insert in the ad breaks before.

My point is, should Christians should be watching this material or give their viewing time to organisations that broadcast such shows?

Being Christian does not mean we are not subject to temptation but I would like to suggest that the temptation to watch these and similar programmes should be resisted (Eph 4:22-24). Through our sinful nature we have an instinctive curiosity about such things (Romans 7:14-25, Gal 5:16), even believing that the material presented cannot affect us. We might convince ourselves it is only entertainment, a form of escapism or that if it's on TV in prime time then it's ok because the censors in their wisdom have passed it.

Yet God has made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Cor 1:20) and God has given them over to their depraved minds (Rom 1:28-32) even as they create this material. The producers of these shows have no regard for how the material may affect human society and the values we hold. The only thing they are interested in is ratings, which means money. There is no evidence of any knowledge of God but only that they have been deceived by the great deceiver (Titus 3:3) and are following the carnal desires of the sinful nature.

What can we do about it? I would simply suggest - DON'T WATCH IT (2 Tim 2:22, Phil 4:8).

Encourage everyone else not to watch it, especially your Christian friends. We have been set free from such things (Rom 6:22). This will also affect ratings and ultimately the content of broadcast material. If 10% of Sydney are not watching these programmes by 2010 they will notice. Pray that God will have mercy on our society and be patient waiting for those involved who have been deceived into producing this material, that they would repent and seek God.

We shouldn't be trapped into thinking it's ok to let our kids watch this material if we're there with them, as if we're clever enough to guide them through the sea of filth we've just subjected them to, or that it's somehow good for their education. It's fine to educate your kids about sex, just don't let Channel TEN do it. Why not get together with our church pastors or youth leaders and sort out a better way of helping Christian kids and young adults on subjects such as dating, parties, relationships, physical contact etc. ?

Of course there is a broader question " should Christians watch any television ? Certainly there are many programmes that are benign or even helpful to Christians. The problem is deciding which. For many this will become a matter of conscience before God and our knowledge of his will. We need to be aware of our "weaker brother" (1 Cor 8:13) whether he is watching it with us or not. Many of us are sport fanatics and I concede there's nothing equal to watching sport live, especially Rugby World Cup finals. But there are many examples of material in addition to those mentioned in this article that go well beyond being a matter of conscience, and the bible clearly warns us to stay away.

Finally back to Mark's article. Should we be reviewing programs like Last Man Standing, Big Brother or Desperate Housewives in Christian focussed media ? Sadly such reviews are an indication that Christians are watching these shows.  If no-one took an interest in these shows then we could relieve our brother Mark Hadley of the revolting task of having to review them.

In 2001 my wife and I asked a builder to take the roof off our house and put a new one on (with of course a second floor added between). When it came to installing a new antenna, the money just seemed to dry up. TV left our lives that day " an unanticipated result of the renovation. Our children (so far) are very happy to watch selected videos/DVDs. Having been for four years without TV, I have to say I feel quite" sidelined when people share about Sex in The City. Or somewhat distanced when people discuss Desperate Housewives. Is there anyone out there who wants to talk about Jesus' resurrection? Too boring?

Perhaps we can also ask the question " am I (in watching/reading/etc) in anyway supporting an organization which is actively presenting a way of life which lies in direct contrast to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Finally you may be wondering how I might know so much about programmes I have never watched. Does that really matter? " the point is am I correct about their content, and if so, what should be our response?.