TV is bondage. Too many of us are slaves to it, the thing is on day and night, so hot you could cook on it. It influences our values and routinely out-guns the church. Television presents itself as a baseline moral standard. Violence is routinely used for conflict resolution and sex between unmarried persons is routine and Normal, while ethical or moral ambiguities surrounding that behavior are usually depicted as fringe. Our real-life expectations now mirror television: all style, no substance, impatient, superficial relationships that happen too fast, burn too hot, end too quickly. And we’re hooked. We’re junkies. We have this mess droning on day and night. In our car, on the way, at school or on our jobs. We are a people who must be entertained at all times, a people all but allergic to quiet. Truth is frightening. Truth exposes us. Truth is frequently revealed in silence, so we fill up our heads with noise.
The average child will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. By age eighteen, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders. Millions of Americans are so hooked on television that they fit the criteria for substance abuse as defined in the official psychiatric manual, according to Rutgers University psychologist and TV-Free America board member Robert Kubey. Heavy TV viewers exhibit five dependency symptoms--two more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of substance abuse. These include: 1) using TV as a sedative; 2) indiscriminate viewing; 3) feeling loss of control while viewing; 4) feeling angry with oneself for watching too much; 5) inability to stop watching; and 6) feeling miserable when kept from watching.
We were in the church sanctuary and I’d played several well-known, simple congregational songs for the child to sing. She was on stage holding the mic, looking bewildered as I tried song after song until I finally asked her, “What do you know how to sing?” The five-year old girl said, “I don’t know any church songs, but I know Justin Beaver songs.” This is, pretty much, the state of affairs in many of our churches. Our children know nothing of God, nothing of worship. The couple hours a week they spend dozing off in service or playing with toys back in the kids’ room is simply no match for the average 40+ hours per week we abandon our kids to the television set. The next day I was in Walmart where I passed a 2012 photo calendar of some little white boy. Bieber. Justin Bieber. Some scrawny white kid with a bad haircut. I’d never heard of him. He is, apparently, a huge star, the latest preteen idol. Little girls, apparently of diverse ethnic backgrounds, love this little boy, of whose moral, ethical and spiritual nature no parent can be certain. And yet these parents routinely expose their young daughters to Mr. Bieber and his music, which, on the face of it, may be perfectly innocent and wholesome, but which misses the much larger point: Justin “Beaver” wouldn’t be a star of any caliber if we didn’t have our kids’ TV’s droning on all day and all night.
A “star” is only a “star” if they have exposure—access to us, and most especially, to our children. I realize many who read this are now rolling their eyes at me as I attack television as The Great Satan, but that is exactly what it is. Rather than art imitating life, television has grown so huge, taking up such a disproportionate space in our lives and the lives of our children, that TV—by which I mean media at large, not limited only to the tube—has now become the definer of “Normal.” TV defines what is normal for us, for our children. TV sets the moral standard, the baseline of acceptance within society, defining it by codes like TV-G, TV-PG, and TV-M. Our children (and many if not most of us) have this thing running day and night. In our homes, on our jobs, on our cell phones. This constant brainwashing, this constant defining and redefining of “Normal,” inhabits every area of our lives and speaks to us in a louder and more credible voice than the church pulpit. Many of us simply do not read anything at all, let alone the Holy Bible, but we have this mess droning on and on and on day and night. In our car, on the way, at school or on our jobs. We are a people who must be entertained at all times, a people all but allergic to quiet. Our children, especially, simply cannot fathom quiet. Cannot imagine unplugging and hearing nothing, watching nothing. Our children live lives filled with constant noise. Rather than taught to analyze, to logic, to think, we hammer them, day and night, non-stop, with data and information, telling them, programming them, Brainwashing them—This Is Normal. Quiet Is Strange. Alone Is Strange. Thinking Is Strange. These Are Normal Clothes. This Is Normal Morality. These Cuss Words Are Okay. You Can Cuss With These Words Once You Are 17. Anyone challenging this indoctrination, encouraging parents most especially, to simply turn this stuff off, is viewed as extreme, as a radical, as a nut. As Not Normal.
This is not a Christian or even moral argument.
This is about allowing others to define Normal for us. I reject the premise
that dramas which include nudity, violence and profanity are
“adult” fare. I reject the equating of violent and immoral behavior with maturity, “For Mature Audiences.” What an
awful message we send to children. Young girls, caught in the
hormonal grip of puberty, make concerted efforts to dress like
whores because they’ve equated a promiscuous posture (if not
actual promiscuity) with sexuality and sexuality with maturity.
Kids, idiots that they are, continue to equate cigarette
smoking, drug and alcohol use, with “maturity.” Why? Because
that’s what TV tells them. That’s how the rating system works:
the farther away from the baseline, the more vices pop up in the
content. To a child, cigarettes = adult, sex = adult, booze =
adult. Adults who abstain from these behaviors are routinely
depicted on TV as fringe, as Not Normal, as The Other. Such
people are routinely depicted as dysfunctional and, usually,
with a sinister side that is ultimately revealed. Every cop is
crooked. Every priest is a pedophile. When I see little kids
throwing up gang signs—even “safe” faux-gang signs, fingers
crooked into cryptic messages—I just want to beat the crap out
of that kid’s parents. You should be ashamed.
We punish kids by forcing them to be quiet. To be alone. Time Out. Go to your room. No television. The message: noise is Normal. Quiet is punishment. In most social circles, the quiet kids, the loners, are considered freaks. They are ostracized, humiliated and bullied. Noise is Normal. The Crowd is Normal. Desperate to define themselves, kids find role models not in their busy parents whom they see, maybe, 15% of the time, but in the television and media they are immersed in 90% of the time. Brainwashing. These Are Your Core Values. Your Parents Are Freaks. This Is Normal. Kids have no money. So who is financing this beast that is corrupting their values? You are. Oh, well, I have those channels blocked. Doesn’t matter. Cable companies don’t allow you to pick and choose which basic cable channels you will pay for. By paying for even the most basic cable, you are still providing money to and therefore incentivizing even the channels you block. You are financing this.
Is there good on TV? Of course. But we don’t look for good. Kids, most especially, do not look for good. Are not socialized to look for good. Kids look for What Parents Don’t Want Us To See Or Hear. And they surf the networks until they find it. It’s not a hard search. The Not Good outguns the Good about a million to one. And even the Good is deceptively evil. Baseline, family-friendly shows still tend to define Normal for us in ways that contradict God’s Holy Word.
Buy all the Barney videos you want, you are still indoctrinating your children to understand and accept that television will tell them right from wrong, that TV will define “Normal.” You are associating television with a baseline normalcy, and when your kids move from Barney to Bieber, your kids' sense of morality, that television=normal, moves their moral compass along with them. And when Bieber inevitably springs past pubescent nicety into adolescent depravity a la Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, he will bring your kids right along with him, because you’ve allowed Bieber to define Normal for your little girls and boys. You’ve allowed a kid who likely does not know God and whose moral center is a huge question mark to teach your children about life and love and right and wrong. And when Mr. Bieber tires of his prepubescent restraints he will—as Janet Jackson and Timberlake have—inevitably move toward experimentation and likely questionable moral values emphasizing hedonism and sexual impurity. And because you’ve allowed your kids to lock into Bieber rather than Jesus, he will take them right along with him.
By paying that cable or satellite bill, that Internet bill, that cell phone bill, by buying those video games and consoles, you are financing the very thing that is destroying the fabric of Christian life. A simple, off-the-top-of-your-head count of how many hours your kid spends playing video games (while the TV drones on in the background), how many nights you find your kid asleep in front of the TV, iPod earbuds jammed in his ears: beloved, this, by any definition, is brainwashing. By any definition, this is psychological conditioning. You are turning your child over to the world, to unscrupulous, soulless money-hungry people who get rich selling sin to children. Add those hours up, parents. Then count the hours per week your child spends with the Lord. In bible study, in prayer.
It’s not even close.
Un-plug. Cancel that cable,. That satellite. Break your addiction. Stop financing the very evil that is destroying our families. Chances are, you’ll have a household revolt on your hands. Because you’ve allowed, for years, your TV to run your life, to define “Normal” for you, to babysit your children. Chances are your entire family now suffers media addiction. They will assume you’ve lost your mind, that you’ve become extremist and fringe if you pull the plug, and all hell is likely to break loose in your home.
Which is the clearest indicator you can find that you have, absolutely, allowed TV—media—to become your God. It is a God to you, to your children, to your family. As a result, the church seems fringe: a quaint anachronism. The pastor seems extreme and out of touch with “Normal” because “Normal” is being defined and regulated by your flat screen and cell phone.