Columnists > Soul Food

Test-tube teacher

This experiment in learning by default ought to stop

Issue: "Reno Under Fire," April 26, 1997

It is the evening of April 30 and your family has just finished a late dinner. There's some noise outside; if it were October, you'd think it was trick-or-treaters. Then a knock. By the time you reach the door and open it up a crack, you see that a small crowd has gathered. In the front a goofy-looking lady dressed in baggy trousers grins. &quotHi, I'm Ellen. Thanks for having us in for my coming out party."

She flashes another grin and pushes past you into the living room, pulling along her friends: a motley crew of heavyset women and hand-holding young men. &quotThis is great. Just great," they gush as they take their seats around the TV. &quotWhy don't you join us."

You look around uncomfortably, not sure you want to have these people in your home, especially with the children present.

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But little Sally pleads, &quotOh come on, Dad. Don't be so stuffy. It's Ellen. She's on TV. She's so cool."

And suddenly the room is full of folks looking at you as though you are from Mars.

&quotCome on," Ellen pleads, &quotI'm just so cute. How can it hurt to have me in for a visit. Why, my friends and me, we're just like you ... and we're really nice people. Don't be so stuffy. Besides, haven't you heard? Tonight I'm announcing I'm a lesbian. It's been in all the newspapers and magazines. Everyone will be watching. This is a historic night. You can't miss it."

how about it? will you let her in? Will you join the crowd? Be with it?

Even if you manage to resist Ellen's charms tonight, you've probably let her friends in before. After all, they're on the tube. Night after night TV mocks family values by making parents look like incompetent nincompoops and showing kids how funny it is to mouth off at parents and act as they please. Night after night it teaches you and your kids that sexual purity is passe ... that having sex with whomever is willing is great fun, even if you're married-as long as you don't get caught. Many of you even let the drug pusher into your kids' bedrooms without your presence since they have their own sets. There they can be relentlessly bombarded with immoral values and improper ways of dealing with relationships.

Surveys show that Americans watch a lot of TV. The average man watches just under four hours of TV daily; the average woman a half hour more. Their teenager manages to squeeze in nearly three hours of TV between homework and chores. Christians aren't much different from our non-Christian neighbors in what we watch, and how much we watch it.

Three hours of TV a day averages out to over 45 days (24 hours a day) of TV viewing in a year. That's a month-and-a-half given to watching whatever the networks throw our way. Multiplied over 60 years, it adds up to almost seven-and-a-half years (day and night!) in front of the tube!

Even if we only watch wholesome, educational programming, it is hard to imagine anyone at age 70 looking back over his life and saying, &quotIt's been a great life because I've spent more than a tenth of it watching educational TV!"

the first of the ten Commandments is, &quotYou shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). Americans don't bow down and worship little statues, for the most part. We're more sophisticated; we bow instead before the pale green glow of our TV sets. Even many churchgoers, who excuse their lack of Bible reading and church work with the complaint, &quotI'm too busy," somehow find time for their nightly &quotworship" with the tube.

Not only does TV keep us from reading the Bible; it keeps us from reading other good books. It hinders meaningful conversations with family and friends. The late TV comedian Groucho Marx had it right. He said: &quotI find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set I go into the other room and read a book."

Folks are right to criticize TV's new rating system. But I think we need to go a step further. Think through what you want to do with your life. One day you will stand before the God who created you and gave you the precious gift of life. I have a nagging suspicion that it won't go well with you if you have to say, &quotI watched some great TV." c

Mr. Cole is pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship.

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