“Television as a Family Member?”
First Published: December 21, 2000
This is our last First Epistle for the year A.D. 2000. Our faithful editor will take a brief break and we’ll have the new year’s first edition out for you in the second week of January. In the meantime, allow me to leave you with a few things to ponder over of the holidays.
Read more in 2001!
Have you starting thinking through things you want to do differently in the year to come? Have you been considering making resolutions for spiritual growth in 2001? Here’s one to consider: are you reading enough? I don’t mean glossy magazines or professional rags or sports pages. I mean substantial Christian literature. Maybe TV is one barrier to this. I ran across an article in the Capitol Hill Messenger the other day called “You Have One Life: Is TV Too Big a Part of It? by John Piper.
Here’s what he said: “If all other variables are equal, your capacity to know God deeply will probably diminish in direct proportion to how much television you watch. There are several reasons for this. One is that television reflects American culture at its most trivial level. And a steady diet of triviality shrinks the soul. You get used to it. It starts to seem normal. Silly becomes funny. And funny becomes pleasing. And pleasing becomes soul-satisfaction. And in the end the soul that is made for God has shrunk to fit snugly around emptiness.”
“This may be unnoticed, because if all you’ve known is American culture, you can’t tell there is anything wrong. If you have only read comic books, it won’t be strange that there are no novels in your house. If you live where there are no seasons, you won’t miss the colors of fall. If you watch fifty TV ads each night, you may forget there is such a thing as wisdom. TV is mostly trivial. It seldom inspires great thoughts or great feelings with glimpses of great Truth. God is the great, absolute, all-shaping Reality. If he gets any air time, He is treated as an opinion. There is no reverence. No trembling. God and all that He thinks about the world is missing. Cut loose from God, everything goes down.
“Just think how new TV is. In the 2000 years since Christ, TV has shaped only the last 2.5 percent of that history. For 97.5 percent of the time since Jesus, there was no TV. And for 95 percent of this time there was no radio. It arrived on the scene in the early 1900’s. So for 1900 years of Christian history people spent their leisure time doing other things. We wonder, what could they possibly have done? They may have read more. Or discussed things more. For certain they were not bombarded with soul-shrinking, round-the-clock trivialities.
“Do you ever ask, ‘What could I accomplish that is truly worthwhile if I did not watch TV?’ You see, it isn’t just what TV does to us with its rivers of emptiness; it is also what TV keeps us from doing. Why not try something? Make a list of what you might accomplish if you took the time you spend watching TV and devoted it to something else.” Pretty hard-hitting, huh?