Marriage/Parenting: The Enemy Flat-Screen

An enemy hath done this. And its name might be the Cartoon Network. Or NBC and Fox.

I am a man who loves television! I grew up in primitive mission lands, where we had absolutely nothing to do for fun except books, swimming, snorkeling, and tennis. When my three brothers and I first landed in California, a 1966 landscape swarming with rooftop antennas, and spent a week with Grandma’s RCA Victor (color!), we fell off the wagon with a painful thud. We watched TV from early morning until night; we had lunch on TV trays; I practiced violin scales with one eye while also watching reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. We were not particularly discriminating viewers; if it moved on the screen, we would watch. We were usually up by six a.m. to catch the German Farm Report.

Despite my continuing affection for the glowing screen, as a Christian man and father, I have to admit that Hollywood is an industry intent on planting weeds in the pristine garden of our families. TV relentlessly promotes selfishness. It treats sex as a joke. It informs children that lying is the best way to evade the painful results of their bad choices. It generally mocks the faith I spent two expensive decades trying to instill in the hearts of my daughters. Most episodes of Law and Order begin with someone stumbling over a murdered corpse and predictably uttering the exact same three words: “Oh my God.”

I’m not on a kick to tell families to get rid of their TV’s; I really can’t say that with credibility when I still have one myself. And after spending a decade working in Christian television, I have a glowing appreciation for the great boon media is to the kingdom of heaven.

I’m simply saying this. If we don’t pay attention, television will deliberately try to poison our wells. It will turn our values into punch lines. It will put a laugh track under the jests of men and women who care nothing about God, who don’t appreciate his values, and who have no plans to dwell in a home prepared for them.

It is a pleasant reality, though, that if parents offer their kids a creative alternative to a television program or violent video game, most kids will seize it! Trips to Dodger Stadium, parlor games, even a walk to a park with swings and a merry-go-round can whip the pants off Nickelodeon. But it’s got to be your call, your suggestion.

The old Latin phrase tabula rasa suggests that our children come into this world as blank slates. Someone will instill values in them. Either you, or a ten-dollar remote control device. Someone will shape your child for one of two destinations. If you’re too lazy, Hollywood has volunteered to do the job for you.

Don’t let them.