Today’s title comes from my dad.
I spent a week in Alabama recently and as soon as he and I sat down at the dining room table, my bags in the floor by the door, he told me he had a blog post for me.
To be honest, I wasn’t excited to write about television. I didn’t want to write the same finger-pointing, culture’s-in-a-handbag-to-hell post I’d read or heard a hundred times. And the title, the one my dad recommended, the one I ultimately decided to use, seemed like that.
But after he and I talked I decided this post was important to write. Because things are not going well with television. And because, well, a lot of it’s our fault.
I figured I’d have to start this post by convincing you of the problems with TV programming, but after looking at the statistics, I doubt that’s necessary.
You watch a lot of TV (the average American watches almost seven hours a day). So you know it’s getting bad.
In 1994, twenty years ago, eighty six percent of Americans thought television was responsible for a “decline in values” (That’s before reality TV even existed). And yet, ninety nine percent of people owned a television. Today, sixty six percent own three.
Studies show that girls who watch reality television have a significantly distorted view of realty, caring more about appearance and accepting gossip and mistreatment as normal aspects of “healthy” relationships.
Studies show that kids who watch a lot of television are more prone to acts of aggression.
They show that people who watch a lot of television aren’t as happy as people who don’t.
There are so many studies. And almost none of them advocates for television viewing as a path toward a better life.
But we watch anyway.
Forty nine percent of people say they watch too much television.
So, if we actually believe television is messing us up, and if we actually believe it would be better for us to watch less, why don’t we turn it off?
When my girls were babies my husband Justin bought me a small TV with rabbit ears. I watched three shows: “Live with Regis and Kelly,” “The Bachelor,” and “Dancing With the Stars.” That is a very embarrassing list to publish on the Intenet.
Anyway, I really liked “The Bachelor.” But there was this thing inside me that didn’t like “The Bachelor.” Every time I’d watch I’d feel vaguely guilty. And then one night, watching some poor girl cry in a limo, her heartbreak spilling all over my TV set, I decided I had to stop watching. It just seemed wrong.
So, I decided for myself (not for you or anyone else) to stop watching.
Except I didn’t. I tried to stop watching. I mostly stopped watching. But then I’d have a really hard day and my kids would puke everywhere and cry for three hours straight. And when I finally put them both down for a nap, I’d binge watch half a season.
And probably eat a whole box of Nilla Wafers.
I think there are a lot of us out there who do this. We get convicted and make resolutions and then fall back into the same destructive behaviors.
We decide it’s not that big a deal. We need a break. An escape. We’re not getting drunk or having sex or yelling at anybody.
No. We’re just watching real people get drunk and have sex and yell at one another on TV.
My dad first started talking to me about TV back when the “Duck Dynasty” thing happened. We talked about how it made sense that the gay community was offended and about how they had every right not to watch the show. But we were confused about the call for it to be cancelled.
Because we were offended by all kinds of shows on television and no one seemed ready to cancel those.
Dad said maybe we just hadn’t been vocal enough. Maybe if we spoke up we could clear TV programming of misogyny and hatred, greed, anger, sexual abuse, the mockery of good and the glorification of evil.
At the time I wondered if he was right. Was the problem that we hadn’t spoken up?
Today, I’m not so convinced and here’s why: “Duck Dynasty” is still on the air.
And it’s not on the air because it was just too good to cancel or because so many people spoke up for the Robertsons.
It’s on television because people watched: 8.5 million the first episode after the controversy.
You see, television caters to viewers. If you’ll watch it, they’ll make it. Regardless of the complaints.
Nobody thinks “Jersey Shore” is quality programming. But people watch “Jersey Shore.” And it’s cheap to make. So producers and networks make more “Jersey Shore.”
The practical application is simple: If you think television programming is bad, broken, busted, or contributing to “a decline in values” but you choose to watch it anyway, that’s on you.
If you want TV to be different, your first step is to stop watching.
Television is what it is today because for too long, Christians have watched what they knew they shouldn’t watch.
Now, I’m not in the business of legislating what that is, not for you. That’s your job. But I suspect that if you’re watching anywhere near the daily average of television you’re probably watching something you know you shouldn’t watch.
I know it’s hard. I know it’s much easier to just complain about how bad it is. But that’s not going to do much, not so long as you keep tuning in.
James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
You know what you need to do. Pray for strength, seek out accountability and (pardon my crude but accurate language) stop watching crap.