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On Growing Up Without Television

It's kind of ironic, but I watch a lot of television at work. The people I work for subscribe to cable and keep a TV in the office. When there's down time or when my duties keep me inside, I see something I have spent most of my life without.

I was raised in an old-fashioned Christian family. My parents felt television was not helpful in raising godly children. They wouldn't own one. That isn't to say we were without our failings. It isn't even to say our family never saw TV. We children gladly watched it when visiting relatives or staying at the occasional motel. My father might indicate we'd chosen poorly, but he let us view the tube in these settings. Still, we lived a long way from our extended family. Most of our traveling days ended at campgrounds rather than motel rooms. We saw very little TV and were encouraged to think critically about what we did see.

Our family was an exception even then. The neighbors had TV. Most of our cousins had TV. The kids at school had TV. Our teachers tuned in an educational television channel for some interesting classroom enhancement. The kids on the school bus talked about a show called Gun Smoke.

I never saw Gun Smoke until a few years ago. Somebody at work tuned in a channel that plays old reruns, and I finally came to understand what the kids on the bus were talking about. Well, OK, I really don't remember many details of the school bus discussions, but other people have fondly recalled the program since. The reruns have also taught me what people are talking about when they remember a character from fifty years ago called Barney Fife. This channel replays other old shows as well, and I'm getting a crash course in the TV of my childhood. Some of it is the TV of a few years before my childhood. One might say I'm catching up with a part of my culture I missed.

As I catch up, I find myself glad I missed it! Based on the reruns and current programming I've seen at work and in the homes of my extended family, here's what I missed. I missed the idea that one could shoot somebody at least once a week and remain a normal, healthy, compassionate person. I missed the idea that lying is funny. I missed the idea that it is possible to jump up from drinking alcohol with a clear mind and quick reflexes. I missed learning that the end justifies the means. I missed the notion that suddenly making love to a woman after the briefest of unhappy acquaintances doesn't qualify a man as a boor. I missed the idea that lust is a harmless friend. Yeah, I'm glad I missed it.

I know there are good things on TV. I know that some people feel it is important to be up-to-date with the culture so they can relate to the non-Christians they hope to introduce to Christ. I know television is such a big part of the average American's life that he or she might be hard pressed to fill the hours without it. I even know some people will call me a legalist, but I'm still glad I was raised without television.

The average American Christian has been so desensitized by the Hollywood mindset that he or she doesn't even realize how morally and spiritually inadequate such entertainment is. If we weren't so desensitized, we'd call some popular shows pornography. If we weren't so desensitized, we'd understand the emotional impact of filling leisure hours with images of anger and violence. If we weren't so desensitized, the stuff we find entertaining would make us sad. I watched real-life footage of police officers dealing with ordinary sinners Friday. I enjoyed it. I suspect my Lord grieved over the self-destruction we saw. Television brings out the worst in people, and we don't even realize what's happening.

I was raised without television or secular movies. People thought I was missing good things. I've been an adult for a long time now. I could fill my evenings catching up with what I missed as a child if I wished. I could, of course, fill my evenings with what's current on TV as well. Now that I have an idea of what I missed, I don't want it. Television programming and advertising are permeated with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. According to the Bible, these things are inconsistent with experiencing and reflecting the love of God. From that perspective, the question of who is missing what becomes overwhelming.

I was raised without television. As a result, I neither have nor want television in my home today. I also recommend that you not have it in yours. Call me a legalist if you must, but before you get too angry, try shutting the thing off for six months. During that time spend a short half hour a day in the Bible and good Christian books. Come back to watch for an evening, and tell me if you aren't a bit shocked at what you see. Some things are best missed.

This work is in the pubic domain and may be copied and distributed freely.


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