by Dave Hintz
According to a national survey (1998) the average American watches 3 hours and 46 minutes of television each day! That same survey states that 98% of U.S. households have at least one television. 66% of Americans regularly watch TV while eating dinner. 49% of Americans say they watch too much TV. Average number of hours the TV set is on during the day: 7 hrs., 12 minutes.
Many of you know the drill, you come home searching for something to do, so you sit down and decide to flip on the television. With your body on the sofa and your thumb on the remote control you flip through the channels hoping to find something that will titillate your senses, make you laugh, stir your emotions etc. Thus, we pass precious time doing nothing more than sitting, breathing, and watching flashing dots on a glass window. In the upcoming series of Calvary Review articles I want to take an opportunity to challenge your television viewing habits. With this month’s entry I want to discuss the mindset which we need to have in approaching this topic.
Often, when I broach the topic of television abstinence many defensively inquire, “What’s wrong with a little television?” My answer, “Nothing!” That’s right, it’s not a sin to watch television (although it could be). But that question troubles me. It belies a passive mindset which is so pervasive among American Christianity instead of the active approach found in Jesus, the Apostles, and many great men of faith.
As a college pastor, I am often asked the eternal purity question “How far is too far?” In other words, how much kissing, caressing, and holding can I do before I sin? I never fall for that, rather I ask them the better and more biblical question of, “How can you bring the most glory to God? What actions can you take that will make His name great and help other people to love Him more?” Those are the questions which should govern our lives; instead of how far can I indulge myself without sinning. That is the difference between the active and passive approach to the Christian walk.
Why do I bring this up? Because I firmly believe that television perpetuates this passive mindset. Think about it. When you read this article your mind is at work. You try to make sense of the sentences, you are more than likely forming an opinion, and some of you are already refuting what I am saying. When you read fiction, your mind seeks to recreate the world or the written word. You labor and concentrate on each sentence trying to follow the story line – even rereading certain pages when necessary. Essentially, reading takes work!
Yet, what happens when you watch TV? Your mind does not have the creative license to fashion the fictive world to its liking. The information comes too fast to effectively interact with it. Emotions and desires are manipulated by sound bites and shocking images. Television tells your mind what to think. It brings many to a trance-like catatonic state where they tune out the world and drink in the information given to them by alternately flashing pixels and reverberating speakers. Is it any mystery that many researchers agree that television stifles the development of a child’s imagination? Television trains people to be passive, and this passivity impacts the church. No wonder so many students have trouble consistently reading their Bibles, men have trouble engaging in active ministry, and the masses hunger for short pithy messages filled with jokes and stories. These people still look at life through their television. They content themselves to be passive Christians, who do not actively sacrifice the time, effort, and energy to toil for the Lord. And when you ask them to reconsider one of the great time waisters in the history of creation, they retort “What’s wrong with a little television?” Before you can seriously analyze your television viewing habits, you need to ask yourself if you are even asking the right question.