Affronts to Righteousness

For a Christian, a sufficient reason to avoid television is that it is mainly a channel of worldly amusement. Worldly amusements like the movies and TV are especially dangerous because the influence goes one way only, from screen to viewer. The Christian who surrenders himself to the commanding presence of a movie or TV program has no effect on what is happening. He cannot step into the action and take up the cause of Christ. He cannot rebuke irreverence, challenge falsehood, or protest indecency. As a mere viewer, he must meekly accept another man's picture of the world. He must sit passively under the spell of sophisticated people as they instruct him in pagan values and unbiblical ideas.

There, in the company of sinners, he becomes familiar with the intricacies of their habits, their thoughts, their language, and their humor. He joins approvingly in their pleasures. He listens with mute, weakening resistance to their careless blasphemy and obscenity. He laughs gaily at their crudities and sarcasms. He discovers plausibility in their opinions. He hates what they hate and likes what they like. He trundles along like a rat after the Pied Piper in each commercial or preview. He unconsciously acquires a view of world events constructed on humanistic error. He becomes infected with greed for the wealth on continual display. Altogether, he throws aside the armor of God and lets the devil stick him with every wily dart in his arsenal. Only a fool would suppose that worldly entertainment has somehow eluded control by the powerful being whom Jesus calls the prince of this world (John 14:30).

The Christian who sits in his home and stares at ABC or who attends a theater and lifts up his eyes to Hollywood has become an intimate companion of the world. As he lounges before the screen and participates fully in godless experience, he is the man who sits in the seat of the scornful (Psa. 1:1). Clearly, to help us attain the blessing reserved for those who stay separate from the world, we need rules against TV, movies, vice-ridden books, romance novels, tabloids, magazines dedicated to glamour and greed, theatrical shows, professional sports—in short, against all the varied products of the modern entertainment media.

Most Christians who patronize the entertainment media have persuaded themselves that their own brand of worldliness is not exactly what the Bible forbids. They have put themselves beyond the reach of any exhortation that merely stresses the need for separation from the world. We will therefore turn from generalities to specifics, pointing out some of the particular dangers lurking in popular entertainment.

  1. The media routinely present booze, smoking, and rock music as the pastimes of normal people; promote immodesty, unisex clothing, and kinky hairstyles; nurture a longing for sleek cars, luxurious homes, and exotic travel; and foster a preoccupation with everything concerning the human body—its smell, look, feel, physique, grooming, and adornments.
  2. Any patron of the media must inevitably develop a taste for rock music, which is pervasive as the theme and background music of most programs, shows, and commercials.
  3. Romantic scenes in movies and TV show necking (or worse) between an actor and actress who are not married to each other. If it is right for them, why not for teenagers or for any pair of adults in the church?
  4. It is rarely possible to select a single item from the entertainment media. Generally, the consumer must take a mixed menu. A TV program or magazine article is joined to commercials that may be very objectionable. A G-rated movie may be shown along with previews of movies rated R or PG.
  5. A Christian has no business frequenting the places that sell popular entertainment. Some secular bookstores, though they serve a respectable clientele, are stuffed with trash and pornography. Virtually all video stores tempt the consumer with shelf upon shelf of crummy movies. Every theater is the hangout of people seeking carnal enjoyment. The worldlings who see a Christian go there, even to see a show which he regards as innocent fun, are likely to conclude that he is no better than they are. Moreover, he weakens his inhibitions against attending the same theater to see worse fare.
  6. Money paid to the entertainment media assists the growth and profitability of an industry which, for the most part, is dedicated to promoting sin.
  7. A weak Christian who is led to think that popular entertainment is acceptable may, through lack of discernment, watch a show or read a book that causes him to stumble. After all, most of the available books and shows are pretty bad.
  8. The main premise of most stories in the media is that life without God can reach a happy ending.
  9. Much popular entertainment teaches lazy enjoyment of fantasy and interferes with normal adjustment to the hard realities of life.
  10. Even the superficially most innocent forms of popular entertainment are filled with ungodly attitudes and values, which are readily absorbed by the viewer, especially if he is young in age or in faith.
  11. Popular entertainment weakens the conscience by diverting moral energies to secondary or frivolous concerns. The people Paul describes as having weak consciences were overly exercised about eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8:7, 12). The secondary or frivolous concerns promoted by TV include a long list of genteel civic causes, from saving the seals to recycling. Such causes might serve a good purpose, but they count little for eternity.
  12. Popular entertainment defiles the conscience (Tit. 1:15) by turning good upside down and instilling a moral fervor in support of what is actually evil. The audience learns, for example, to applaud such wicked causes as women's lib, gay rights, pro-choice, and sexual liberation.
  13. Popular entertainment sears the conscience (1 Tim. 4:2) by showing more sin than anyone can properly detest. No viewer of TV, for example, can possibly rouse himself to indignation and horror every time something objectionable flashes on the screen. Thus, if a person watches TV habitually and indiscriminately, his moral responses weaken until they disappear altogether. Then he watches apathetically, his conscience deadened by overexposure to sin. He begins to wonder whether it is really sin. The damage to his conscience worsens until, in time, he is left with little ability to resist temptation, and under the right circumstance, which the devil is certain to create, he easily falls into gross sin.

Even if a viewer disciplines his mind and his viewing so that TV cannot push him to moral disaster, TV will still have a profound effect on his character. Whether he is young or old, he is very impressionable. The people he admires on TV are bound to influence him. If he closely monitors himself, he will most certainly find evidence of this influence in the way he acts, talks, and thinks.

Questions for Evaluating Media Content

The best way to judge a particular offering of the entertainment media is to look at it through the glass of the Ten Commandments. A series of concrete questions based on these commandments will help to spot the moral flaws.

First Commandment

2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:2-3

  1. Does this entertainment fail to recognize God as over all and heaven as the goal of life?
  2. Does it contain any humanistic philosophy?
  3. Does it contain any hedonistic philosophy? Does it teach: "You only go around once in life; get all the gusto you can"?

Second Commandment

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:4-6

  1. Idolatry is the worship of demons. Does this entertainment create an interest in the occult or in false religion? The first hole in the dike of public resistance to the occult was the program Bewitched.
  2. Does this entertainment invite worship at the idol of money, power, fame, or pleasure?
  3. Has this entertainment become an idol in itself?

Third Commandment

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Exodus 20:7

  1. Does this entertainment contain any blasphemous or irreverent use of God's name?
  2. Does it mention God in a flippant or belittling way?
  3. Does it say anything hostile to those who bear God's name: the church or Christians or fundamentalists?

Fourth Commandment

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Exodus 20:8-11

Fifth Commandment

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Exodus 20:12

  1. In this entertainment, do attractive characters model disrespect for elders?
  2. Does this entertainment make parents, teachers, police, preachers, or other authority figures look like fools?

Sixth Commandment

Thou shalt not kill.

Exodus 20:13

  1. Does this entertainment portray violence as a natural or good way of responding to provocation or of dealing with problems?
  2. Does this entertainment portray violence in such a way as to suggest that it is only a game and nobody really gets hurt (as in old cowboy movies)?
  3. Does this entertainment focus on gory, gruesome details? Such a focus is not good for the audience, because it desensitizes them to horror. And in sick minds such a focus may create a disposition to commit horrible crimes.
  4. Does this entertainment treat a violent man as a hero?
  5. Does it provide detailed instructions for committing a crime?
  6. Does it give the weak-minded an example of a sensational stunt or crime that they might attempt to reproduce? A few years ago the media reported the case of some children who, in imitation of a violent crime that they had seen enacted on TV, poured gasoline on their parents' bed and burned their parents. A student once told me of a child who, following instructions he heard on TV, made Molotov cocktails in his garage.
  7. Does any sympathetic or attractive character exemplify uncontrolled anger, a smart mouth, selfish scheming, bullying, hatred, or contempt for goodness?
  8. Does this entertainment present insulting words as wit or humor?

Seventh Commandment

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:14

  1. Does this entertainment contain indecent exposure?
  2. Does any person in the entertainment direct seductive words or actions toward the audience? Advertisers are always using sex as an attention-getter. But would Jesus Christ allow a girl on TV to flirt with him?
  3. Does this entertainment contain suggestive humor?
  4. Does it say anything condoning immoral behavior?
  5. Does it model immoral behavior? This includes kissing or other physical demonstrations of affection between actors and actresses who are married in the story but who are not really married. Of course, today's TV programs have dispensed with even the pretense of marriage.

Eighth Commandment

Thou shalt not steal.

Exodus 20:15

  1. Does this entertainment cast a favorable light on any form of stealing?
  2. Does it treat a thief as a hero?
  3. Can this entertainment be enjoyed without stealing time from employer or family?

Ninth Commandment

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Exodus 20:16

Tenth Commandment

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour's.

Exodus 20:17