IDEMA: The role of TV in our spiritual life

Apr 22, 2012


Compare that time frame to the average time people watch TV every day: 4-5 hours!

I think of the task of clergy today as trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose. We are up against not only TV, but social media, cell phones, the Internet — anything with a screen.

Here I will stick with TV because it symbolizes the point that I want to make — that we have an old-fashioned idol in our homes, and probably in multiple rooms.

Ancient cultures, including Israel, had what the Bible calls "household gods," which families worshipped and even took on journeys (see Genesis 31:34). Do we now have a modern version of this practice in all the devices we gaze at for hours each day, especially TV?

My daughter said to me that one of her friends said that she was more depressed at losing her cell phone than her virginity.

What is particularly depressing about all of this is the moral, psychological and spiritual impact upon the soul of all this TV worship, along with the other devices with screens we peer into hours on end.

I admit I am writing this article on a computer because my typewriter bit the dust, and a replacement is not easy to find. Screen gazing is sometimes a necessity; and yes, even a joy, but how much is enough?

Newton Minow, then-chairman of the FCC, said famously in a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters on May 9, 1961, that TV was a vast wasteland — a speech which immortalized him. Here is the excerpt:

"When television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine newspaper ... to distract you, and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland. You will see a procession of game shows, violence, audience-participation shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and murder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence and cartoons; and endlessly, commercials — many screaming, cajoling and offending. And most of all, boredom."

We are now heading into high gear in the presidential campaign when super-PAC money is planning on a barrage of negative ads. All of this will tear at the soul and further depress us about the state of affairs.

There is one simple solution to the problem I have raised: Do not watch TV or limit the time you spend in front of a screen. And when an ad comes on, use the mute button!

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune Religion columnist


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.