Saying No to Your TV Set

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Okay, so I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say Television is a powerful medium. But just how powerful? Well, perhaps more powerful than most us give it credit.

It’s my belief that television shapes our world more than politics and our collective years in school combined. Although I can’t prove it directly, there’s a boatload of indirect evidence. That’s why I often refer to our TV sets (and other delivery screens) as “teachers.” These electronic-professors figuratively walk to the front of the class every time we hit the remote’s “on” button and begin going through their lesson plans.

Occasionally these digital tutors make positive differences in our lives. Consider Grayson Wynne. Back in 2009, 9-year-old Grayson got lost in Utah’s Ashley National Forest. What could have been a tragedy had a happy ending. Why? Grayson used survival skills he’d learned from the Discovery Channel program Man vs. Wild. The program showed him he could leave clues behind to help searchers find his trail. Taking lessons from this “teacher,” Grayson tore his yellow rain slicker and tied pieces to trees. He was found just a day after going missing.

I’m glad Grayson paid attention “in class.” But I’m not nearly as excited when television’s lessons run counter to Judeo-Christian values.

For instance, a few years back, Michael Jensen, editor of the gay media website afterelton.com, made this observation about how the television program, Ugly Betty was “helpful” in helping the general public accept homosexuality:

I don’t remember [Betty’s co-worker Marc] at any point saying, “Yes, I’m gay, I’ve got a boyfriend” or something like that. It’s just completely woven into the fabric of the show in a completely natural way. And I think that’s how you get to people. You slip in the side door without making a big deal out of it.

Jensen credits television with a huge cultural shift. And I agree with him. TV is very good at slipping its own values through the side door.

In the pilot episode of ABC’s Quantico, two FBI recruits have fairly explicit sex in a car. While Alex Parrish (played by actress Priyanka Chopra) pulls up her panties from around her ankles, her paramour Ryan (actor Jake McLaughlin) asks, “Can I get your number or email, your name?”

“You’re not my type!” Alex says.

“Said to the man you just had sex with,” Ryan retorts.”

“Well, if you were, I wouldn’t have,” Alex says. “I would have gotten to know you first.”

Now, just for a minute, let’s assume Grayson, who would now be 15, is a fan of Quantico. I hope this isn’t the case, but to make a point, let’s just assume he is. Instead of learning survival skills, what would he be studying this time around? The answer, of course, is that sex is such a casual pastime that even knowing a person’s name is irrelevant. Being someone’s “type” is not essential either. Following this train of “logic,” what does that leave for young Grayson to latch onto when forming his own moral boundaries? Not much. Not on television, anyway.

In a recent Vanity Fair article titled, “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse,’” a man called Alex boasts how today’s hookup culture has been a boon to his libido. Alex says, “[Dating apps] set up two or three Tinder dates a week and, chances are, [I’m] sleeping with all of them, so you could rack up 100 girls you’ve slept with in a year.”

It’s a bit of chicken-and-egg thing here. Has television made the hookup culture more permissible? Or are people like Alex the reason today’s television can depict a scene like we saw in Quantico with nary a gasp from the American public? Personally, I think it’s both.

So, what should we do about it? As you know, Jesus often said things that weren’t popular. One of his statements along that line is that we, as his followers, should “deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.” Denial has never been fashionable, and this has never been more true than today. But I submit to you, that when it comes to problematic television (e.g. Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, etc), denying ourselves and saying no may be absolutely the only option we have. Unless it’s a show like Man vs. Wild. Your thoughts?

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

JeffD503 More than 1 year ago

I'm probably going to be stoned for this, but let me just say, I think it's a bit of an over-generalization to say that EVERY single show on TV is filled with filth or that ALL entertainment is against God. That's the general vibe I'm getting. Now, do I think that a lot of today's shows aren't worth watching? Of course I do. Most shows I see advertised look horrible. But does that mean I'm going to take a sledgehammer to my TV? No. There's not a lot of shows I do watch, except for shows like MasterChef, and all the rest are usually DVDs of older shows.


And for that matter, what is wrong with wanting to be entertained? Did they not have entertainment in the Biblical days? Did people do nothing but work or did they have some kind of pastime? Now, I think people can take it too far and let entertainment become their god, but I also see no harm in watching a good show (few as they may be), popping in a video game (one of my pastimes) or listening to music on my iPod. I won't share what I like because I'm sure, given the majority of the commenters on this post, no one will approve.


I'm just asking what is so terrible about wanting a little entertainment in life?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't think there's anything wrong with entertainment, neither do I believe that one needs to get rid of their TV, cable, music, games, etc. I watch several shows and movies, listen to several genres of music, and am fond of gaming. However, there are wrong forms of entertainment as well, and the shows, movies, etc. that glorify that and continuously push an ungodly lifestyle shouldn't be entertained by us as Christians. Whether the commenters approve of your entertainment choices or not is irrelevant, because we as Christians answer to God. There is no need to be defensive. The blog post is supposed to be used as an edification tool, and a call to search through the Bible and pray about your own choices. I have explained my own personal choices many times to both Christians and non-Christians alike, and it has served as both a witnessing tool and a learning experience for me. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am speaking as a college student with young siblings, and over the past year or two I have really begun to notice the filth presented not only through television but all around. I feel that I am often redirecting attention or explaining how God's view is dramatically different than what is being displayed to them. While there are select shows I do enjoy on TV, there are several ways to watch them and help limit the filthy shows. If you are concerned about children, you could set up extremely strict parental locks and have only basic cable, and each time your child watches a show then you have to unlock it. Though it's a pain, at least you know what your child is watching. You can also do this with most antennas if you attach a mid-scale converter box to it. I've found it especially helpful to be able to use the fast-forward option occasionally if you're watching a program meant more for adults. Hulu and Netflix are great options if you're into a series, and you want the option to be able to skip inappropriate content that might occasionally pop up in the show. Netflix also offers a lot of great kids movies and shows, and I know it has a parental lock on it. 
Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
As, ironically, I was just commenting on the last article, I think this is absolutely true. We've taken being entertained'' as such an assumed, basic value (despite its total lack of biblicality) that we're willing to justify (and unwilling to give up on) all manner of garbage in the name of pursuing it. It's become the new Asherah Pole; the total cultural blind spot among God's chosen. And I think we're reaching a point where following him becomes a choice between most media, and obedience to Christ; the two are no longer compatible (if they ever were).
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
"Ugly Betty" was what, a decade after "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" normalized homosexuality through Willow and Tara? (Among... well, other things.) It's been happening awhile.

Something you notice when you stop watching filth (movies, or television) is that when you go back to it, you NOTICE the filth more. You can even dial back the television shows a decade or two and see how much we've progressed. Do you remember the 90's? The movie "The Last of the Mohicans" got an R-rating because a beating heart was held in a man's hand (and a bit of blood at the end); now I can watch Elijah rip out three hearts in rapid succession each week on "The Originals" -- TV14. Law & Order somehow got along for 20 years without showing too much gore; "Bones" opens with disintegrating limbs.

Some shows are still "decent" and don't overdo it, but they're becoming scarce.

I haven't had cable in awhile, and stream the two or three shows I do watch. Except for "Game of Thrones." I rip those, put them through editing software, and spit out my very own copy sans nudity, sex, gore, and foul language. Wonder of wonders, there's still a plot and about 43 minutes of every episode left. Who knew? Some might argue that I'm supporting filth by purchasing and editing them; that is true. Some might argue that I don't need to watch the show at all; that's true. But I still do it, because I enjoy fine storytelling, and have a little bit of a thing for costume dramas.
bobed More than 1 year ago
You are perfectly correct about all the filth in television, but you follow it up with an admission that you watch Game of Thrones? And you get rid of all the nudity, sex, gore and foul language?!?! And there's still a plot left?!?! Forgive me for not believing you a bit. Game of Thrones mixes up plot points with their filthy content, entwined so completely that there's no feasible way you could get rid of the filth and still know what's going on in the show. There's no need to lie to justify your consumption of filthy content; simply admit you cherrypick what you think is filthy.
Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
I think he/she said GoT was the one exception to his/her editing, actually. I mean, the point stands about following filth- just clarifying. :-)
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
ClearPlay also has a Game of Thrones filter, proving that it CAN be edited and still have a coherent plot. ;)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A couple of points to clarify things _not really disagreeing on them):
1) "Mohicans" was a movie, not a TV series.
2) Movies have been up-and-down since the mid-to-late sixties. They haven't changed that much, except in terms of perhaps realism.
3) On TV shows, however, you're likely right on: big changes since the 90's.
Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
Very true. I think sometimes we can forget- especially as TV and the culture shift- that movies have not been a linear progression. I think the main difference is that today, they are more explicit in depicting nudity, sexual acts, violence, gore, etc. Movies of past decades (particularly both the sometimes-shocking-in-its-intensity sensuality and the OTT-gore of some 80s films) have been more intense- but have also been so through implication, tone, or style, rather than straight up, lingering, unflinching close-ups of the sexual or graphic content.

In that way, movies have necessarily become worse- they've simply become more clumsy and direct, accomplishing the same level of problematic content in a less veiled, more obvious manner.


But yeah, TV has just... kind of exceeded all bounds of sanity, in some areas. And that's a bit frightening, as a parent, since it tends to be a lot more easily accessible than movies are.
charitysplace More than 1 year ago
You are correct... I was merely making a point about what was considered R-rated material in the 90's... and that you can now see that same material on prime time television on a non-cable network. Content is worse all across the board.
Jennifer Weitlauf More than 1 year ago
I have satellite service & I have no intention of giving it up. I only watch college athletic events & REAL Wrestling. I honestly don't remember the last time I watched something that wasn't sports related.

But before I started watching more than just football I found myself giving up on my favorite TV shows when they started promoting things like homosexuality.
Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
That is a frustrating media struggle for those of us (like me) who do still watch a few ongoing shows, via Hulu/Netflix. Because even otherwise 'harmless' shows are starting to mainstream homosexuality, and it's only going to get worse in shows and movies as the decades pass. I think that's where a lot of decision-points on how close to walk in our faith are going to come up for the crowd that already avoids the gore-and-sensuality brand of shows.
Erastus Vaulk More than 1 year ago
We dropped our cable service years ago. 

My wife wanted to for quite a while, but I was the holdout. You know, I watched news and the occasional, way overpriced pay-per-view boxing event, after all! …But one morning, when I had fallen asleep on the couch after a late night at the job, I woke to find my 5 year old daughter at my feet watching the TV I had left on all night.

"Why did those men put that man in the trunk of that car, daddy?" she asked. 

And that made up my mind.

It's been almost 9 years without cable and I don't miss it. Between DVDs, Netflix, and the web who needs it? This way we ACTIVELY choose what WE want to watch rather than PASSIVELY watching what THEY want us to watch.

Do it. Trust me. It doesn't hurt.
bobed More than 1 year ago
Television is indeed a 'teacher'. It's gotten to the point where I'm afraid to let my kids watch supposedly clean shows like Good Luck Charlie, because of the filth woven in. I barely watch any TV at all because every single show is tainted with filth. And I can't understand the Christians that do allow this filth into their homes. How do you rationalize watching shows that amount to pornography, against the purity of the Bible you claim to love, or the Teacher whose values you purport to follow? I will never understand or condone it.
Andrew Gilbertson More than 1 year ago
Because we're blind. We desire, we are told we have a 'right' to be entertained... and so we start making excuses and justifications to hold on to that which is clearly in conflict with what we've been commanded. "It's not hurting anyone, it's not committing adultery, it's not stealing anything- so what's the big deal?"

It's been that way since the dawn of time; God's people want something that transgresses his principles, but steadfastly live in denial, pretending that it is compatible with the lifestyle of following Christ, because they don't WANT to give it up. 

Heck, even being aware of that fact doesn't make it easier to not still WANT to watch shows that intrigue us, have interesting characters, impressive effects; there are plenty of things I've given up that a large part of me still *wants* to revisit, even though I know it's wrong. It's the classic sinful-desire-versus-knowledge-of-the-truth war that's been waged in believers since the beginning- just wearing a new face.