Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rant on television

Times have sure changed. Of course, change is inevitable. I once read that the only thing predictable about change is that change will happen. It can be seen on earth, in nature, technology and countless other visible testaments that surround us. Some changes are lauded as good. Modern medicine, for example, now has answers to diseases that, one hundred years ago, would have been a certain death sentence. Other changes are criticized as being detrimental. Technological advances that have led to identity theft comes to mind. One change included on the list of detriments would have to be society's increasing love affair with television.

As recently as fifty years ago, television was considered by the majority of Americans to be a treat--something that was not necessarily found in all households and was turned on for a specific purpose such as a favorite show or the local news. There were just a few channels from which to choose and often picture quality depended on the weather. Eating family dinners and family interaction time came before television viewing. How times have changed.

In present day America, with few exceptions, all families have televisions. In fact, families now often have several of these black boxes located throughout their homes. The living room boasts a large screen; the family room sports a flat screen; bedrooms, once a sacred place for privacy and imagination, have now succumbed to the lure of the ever present television set. Some people even have a set in the bathroom! Many kitchens have television sets--after all, if a modern wife has to spend time in the kitchen at all, at least she can watch her favorite talk show. Children as young as four years old have not only a television in their rooms, but a DVD player as well.

Now, before anyone labels me as old fashioned ( a label I actually find complimentary) and legalistic, we do have television sets in our home. This is not by my choice, though, and I would prefer to not have any. Walk into any room that holds a television in a modern American home and you will notice a common factor--the furniture is situated in such a way that it all faces the television set. In times past, the family was the center of the home. That has now been replaced by the lure of the glowing black box. We are provided instant entertainment--movies, sports and the newest passion, reality TV--all at the touch of a button. We can flip through 300+ channels without leaving our seat. While some of this is not a problem in and of itself, the concept behind this addiction to television is loaded with issues.

Millions of dollars are spent in this country on advertising. When a family sits down to catch this week's episode of "The Amazing Race", their home is opened to advertisers competing for their dollars. The Travelocity gnome is searching for a good deal on a vacation and it can only be found by booking with Travelocity. This seems harmless and it truly is--this particular ad. Countless others, though, expose our children and ourselves to alcohol commercials, lingerie commercials (complete with scantily clad women to catch the eyes of the male viewers), commercials for enhancing the size and performance of men during sex, fast food commercials (there is that instant gratification again) and others which I am embarrassed to describe (GoDaddy comes to mind). Thirty years ago, these commercials would not have been given air time nor would families have watched if they were. Now, we view them with our children sitting with us and think nothing of it. Or maybe we do squirm a bit but reason that the advertisement will be over soon and we can get back to watching a show about murdered police (complete with graphics) or the lives of two gay men who adopt a child. Complacency has set in and the television has become an idol worshipped by many families and deemed a necessity in our homes.

In addition to those issues already mentioned, another result of our television idolatry is the disconnect of the family. Dad watches "Law and Order" in the living room, Johnny watches "Phineas and Ferb" in his room, Sally is watching the new "Wizards of Waverly Place" in her room and mom is catching up with the Duggar Family while washing the dinner dishes. The hours from supper to bedtime, once spent talking or playing Scrabble, are now spent separated by walls and doors, the room's inhabitants staring mindlessly at the glowing black box. Sadly, in my home, if the hours spent watching television were compared to the hours spent reading the Bible or some other book, I would be embarrassed to see the comparison. I believe God was serious when he told the Israelites to have no other god before him. This commandment is just as applicable to our lives today as it was to God's chosen ones thousands of years ago. We are similar to this people group in that we make excuses for what we do. "I am tired after working all day and deserve a little me time in front of the tv." or "I can't think straight after a long day to read to you." We need to own up and call this what it is--sin--and confess, repent and turn from it.

To be clear, watching television is not a sin; however, being so addicted to it that we choose it over our relationships with family, friends and God IS a sin. The glowing box has an off button. With a little practice, we can all learn to push it. The more we do that, the easier it will get.