Ninety-eight percent of American homes have at least one television. The average adult between the ages of 25 and 40 has watched between thirty and forty thousand hours of television. The average child watches 30 hours of television each week.1 Brethren, it is well past time that we examine the important implications of television where Christian living is concerned. What has television done to us?
Television has made us artificially emotional — Everybody cries when “Old Yeller” is put to sleep at the end of the famous Disney movie. Isn’t it strange that we often laugh, cry, and respond emotionally to the fictional characters and events in our favorite movies and programs, while scarcely a thought is given to the greatness of God and the precarious state of the lost? “Rivers of tears run down my eyes because men do not keep Your law” (Ps. 119:136). When Jesus wept (Jn. 11:35), it was because of real people and real events. Television, on the other hand, takes us to a fantasy world where our emotional and empathetic energies can be spent on fictional events. Could it be that we are sometimes desensitized to our own world as a result?2
Television has made us into consumers — When Jesus said, “the lamp of the body is the eye” (Matt. 6:22), His point was that we often end up coveting the things we see. Television capitalizes on its ability to produce slick images that stimulate our desire to have “more” and “better” things. God says that covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5), while television repeatedly tries to convince us that we deserve better that what we have. This consumer mentality affects our view of the church as well. Thanks in part to television’s influence, many now approach the worship of God with a self-centered, “what’s in it for me?” attitude. To many people, worship is more about being impressed and less about the active expression of praise and gratitude to the God who loves us. The next time we’re tempted to say, “I didn’t get much out of worship today,” perhaps we ought to ask ourselves if we approached God as true worshippers (Jn. 4:24) or as selfish consumers.
Television has made us poor listeners — Television is a series of fast-moving images that actually works against the ability to think and reason. Just a century ago, audiences could listen to speeches and debates that literally lasted for hours on end. Now, the average attention span of an adult is somewhere between three and five minutes. Listening is an active process that involves concentration of the mind and reasoning abilities. Television makes no such demands. When we’re bored or disinterested, we can change the channel. T.V. producers know just how long to spend on a scene so our attention doesn’t wane. In fact, television does everything possible to keep our attention while never really demanding the concentration required for good listening skills. By contrast, Jesus repeatedly demanded that we listen, using the word, “hear” some 22 times in the book of Matthew alone (cf. Matt. 11:15). Perhaps we ought to consider whether our attention span has been affected by hours of television viewing. More importantly, how has our ability to genuinely pay attention to God’s word been affected?
Television in and of itself is not an evil thing, but we can scarcely afford to ignore its influence. It does affect our ability to hear and respond to God’s truth, and it is entirely capable of hardening our hearts (1 Tim. 4:2). Let’s be aware of the effects of television in our lives. — JB
Sources Referenced for this Article:
1Turner, Timothy. Preaching to Programmed People. Grand Rapids: Kregel Pub., 1995. p 20-21.
2Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Penguin, 1985. p. 75-6