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Renewing the Battle (3)

Drama, Television, and Movies

Prof. Barry Gritters

(Prof. B. Gritters is professor in the Protestant Reformed Seminary in Grandville, MI. and was minister of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan at the time of the writing of this article.)

 

Lead, Toxicity,

Lead and lead compounds can be highly toxic when eaten or inhaled. Although lead is absorbed very slowly into the body, its rate of excretion is even slower. Thus, with constant exposure, lead accumulates gradually into the body. Lead can cause lesions in the central nervous system and apparently can damage the cells making up the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain from many harmful chemicals (see BRAIN). Symptoms of lead poisoning include loss of appetite, weakness, anemia, vomiting, and convulsions, sometimes leading to permanent brain damage or death. Levels of environmental lead considered nontoxic may also be involved in increased hypertension in a significant number of persons, according to studies released in the mid-1980s. As a result, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have been revising downward the levels of environmental lead that it would consider safe (The Online Edition of Grolier's Academic American Encyclopedia, (c) 1993).

One historian has a new theory for the cause of the Roman empire's downfall: the ingestion of lead from drinking wine out of the expensive lead vessels of the day. Whether he's right or wrong, his conjecture can be an interesting “parable" for our purpose: the ruinous spiritual effects of being entertained by most television, drama, and movies, can be compared to the physical devastation caused by lead-poisoning.

Suppose the respected New England Journal of Medicine reported that a toxic poison has let off from Burger King's drinking cups for the last five years. I trust that we would be terrified. Probably we would be angry at the maker of the cups for exposing us to such danger. Certainly we would stop patronizing Burger King. In a similar way, I trust that God's people, who hear of the ruinous effects of ingesting spiritual poison from a certain source, will be horrified, a little bit angry, and certainly stop patronizing the business.

As with lead, Christians ought to be revising downward the levels of television viewing they consider safe. For more and more reports are coming in regarding the ruinous effects of television viewing, even of programs that are considered innocent.

What are the effects of watching corruption on television and movies?


One historian has a new theory for the cause of the Roman empire's downfall: the ingestion of lead from drinking wine out of the expensive lead vessels of the day. Whether he's right or wrong, his conjecture can be an interesting “parable" for our purpose: the ruinous spiritual effects of being entertained by most television, drama, and movies, can be compared to the physical devastation caused by lead-poisoning.

Suppose the respected New England Journal of Medicine reported that a toxic poison has let off from Burger King's drinking cups for the last five years. I trust that we would be terrified. Probably we would be angry at the maker of the cups for exposing us to such danger. Certainly we would stop patronizing Burger King. In a similar way, I trust that God's people, who hear of the ruinous effects of ingesting spiritual poison from a certain source, will be horrified, a little bit angry, and certainly stop patronizing the business.

As with lead, Christians ought to be revising downward the levels of television viewing they consider safe. For more and more reports are coming in regarding the ruinous effects of television viewing, even of programs that are considered innocent.

What are the effects of watching corruption on television and movies?


READING. My own experience has been that when I encourage a member of the church or an interested visitor to study a certain question regarding doctrine or life, very often I am met with the hesitant response, "But I don't really read." It's not that he doesn't know how to read words. He doesn't know how to sit with a book for more than a few minutes without dying of boredom or losing his train of thought.

The reason, most often? He never learned to read or like to read because he nursed from the breasts of television. And television is an enemy of reading. Hundreds of Christians and non-Christians are trumpeting the dangers of television and movies. Taking time for television means taking time away from reading.

THINKING. Television is an enemy of good, critical thinking. A teacher from Waterlook Schools in Ohio said in a Knight-Ridder news paper column, "The [television] screen does it all — thinking for themselves has gone out the window."[1] More studies than you could ever wade through document this.

Educators and sociologists are alarmed at the effects of television viewing, without necessarily being alarmed at the perverse contents. A teacher at Teacher's College of Columbia University said about children who were nurtured on television, "I don't think they know when to listen." They don't know when to listen.

Educators are concerned about attention span, lack of tolerance, persistence, patience. A child's fluency with words and creativity are directly related (adversely) to television watching. Children who watch much television have fewer hobbies, play less well, and lack the skills and creativity needed for problem solving.

MAJOR CONCERN. Although significant, these are not our major concerns. Our concern is the devastating effect of being entertained by sin and educated by the world. "... loss of appetite, weakness, anemia, vomiting, and convulsions, sometimes leading to permanent brain damage or death..." (Grolier's). "As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth his own death" (Proverbs 11:19).

The effect is the sinful behavior that is promoted in the lives of those who entertain themselves with sin. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said over a hundred years ago, "Theatre-going, if it becomes general among professing Christians, will soon prove the death of piety."[2] Michael Medved, Jewish television critic for PBS, said in an interview, "I don't think I can review movies much longer. It is an assault—an assault on the senses and an assault on the spirit."[3]

VIEW OF LIFE. Movies and television are an assault on our biblical views of life. Television and movies are educational, which is obvious.

They teach you what's funny (the laugh-track tells you when you should laugh). They teach sinful pride, selfishness (a characteristic of most stars). They teach what's important in life (being rich, famous, and powerful). They mold your opinions about what' s beautiful (not you), what's ugly (99% of the population), what's important (pleasure, entertainment), what's necessary to own. Love of pleasure rules. Christians don't want to have their own or their children's opinions formed by this medium.

VIOLENCE. "More than fifty studies have been conducted ... and all have reached the same conclusion: the amount of violence a child sees is correlated significantly with the amount of aggression a child displays."[4]  Already in 1968 the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence said of violence on television," ...it is a matter of grave concern." The "Journal of the American Medical Association" said that there should be "a major, organized cry of protest from the medical profession in relation to what, in political terms, I consider a national scandal." And the citizens of our country wonder why in the 1990s there is such violence. Some know. In the local press in April, the editorial writer said, "With such a teacher, children become more violent and more physically aggressive themselves....   Leonard Eron has spent 36 years researching TV violence. Tracking children through to adulthood, he found those who watched more violent TV were convicted of more serious crimes, were more aggressive when drinking and were most inclined to be violent when handling their own children. ...young males ... often view the violent men on television as examples of effectiveness, strength and action."[5]

When we and our children view the world's sins, we become desensitized to sin, callous towards unholiness, until an ungodly life isn't horrifying to us. The great blessing of the Holy Spirit is the work of a sanctified conscience. The great curse of sin on television is the searing of the conscience.

MATERIALISM. "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth." One prayer we learn from the Lord who saved us is "Give me neither poverty nor riches... lest I be full and deny thee and say, 'who is the Lord?"' The prayer we learn from television's advertising is, "Lord, I want it all; I want all the modern clothes, the new car, the brand-name foods and drinks, the best vacations.... I want everything."

Rev. John R. Sittema, a Christian Reformed pastor from Dallas, Texas, wrote in the April, 1993, Outlook about materialism. First in his section on "overcoming materialism" was, "If only we learned our perspective on wealth and poverty from God instead of TV. ...commercials are perhaps the most deadly item on the screen, sowing seeds of discontent and greed, and particularly aim at the younger 'consumers'”[6]

FAMILY LIFE. Most television programs and movies are an assault on family life. Where is the calm, unhurried conversation around the Word, with quiet meditation? Where is the time spent reading together? Is there any ability to pray together as a family in the evening before the youngest go to bed? Does a family have the right to pray, asking God's blessing, or even the will to pray, after they have filled their heart from the television or the rented video? Oh, how we need to pray! Some families don't take the time calmly to speak together, but think they spend time in fellowship because they have been in front of the television together. Sad.

MARRIAGES. But I cannot think of any worse effect that television could have than the ruin of marriages.

From the viewpoint of time alone, television is a threat to marriages. Sports, news programs, documentaries, interviews, etc., can consume the evening so that husband and wife rarely speak. It is no wonder that, more and more, "communication" is high on the list of "difficulties" in marriages.

But Scripture teaches that there is one thing that strikes at the heart of marriage. It alone is ground for divorce. Fornication. Adultery. If there is one word that describes television and movies today, it is "pornographic," which simply means, "the writing about fornication."

I so fear (and shudder thinking about it) that the next generation (that's you) will have so many marriage problems that pastors and elders will not know where to turn. Pastors see it already. Why? Because little boys and little girls have learned that the sex and the sexual enjoyment on television is the way it ought to be. Now you are young men and young women who know nothing else. And soon you will find that you do not enjoy your wife, your husband. Burned in the image of your mind are the scenes from televisions and videos.

Or, in marriage, one or the other commits the sin by being entertained by it (the wife in the daytime soaps and talk-shows, the husband usually in the evening shows). Fatal blows are struck at their marriage.

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.  And against your marriages.

A LOSS OF HOLINESS. To sum up, the effect of most television programs and movies is simply a loss of holiness. Spurgeon was right. If theatre-going (read: "movie watching") becomes general among professing Christians, it will soon prove the death of piety (read: "holiness").

No wonder. The Spirit of Christ is a Holy Spirit, whose interest is our holiness. But when a Christian ignores that, entertaining himself with unholy filth, smearing the world's dung over his home and soul, it is no wonder the Spirit is grieved, with drawing Himself in His power and comforting presence. Unholiness stinks.

 But the fight goes to the last ditch. Quentin Schultze (who shows his bias in favor of TV in the introduction of his book, "Redeeming Television") dismisses almost all the reports of the sociologists who see a connection between television and bad behavior. And do some among us say, "We have watched television a lot, and this did not happen to our family"? Thank God that He overruled your folly. So far.

But "be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption..." (Galatians 6:7,8). You will too.


 

1 Phil Phillips, Saturday Morning Mind Control, Oliver Nelson: Nashville, 1993.

2 Sword and Trowel, September, 1879, quoted in Banner of Truth, December, 1971, page 31.

3 Christianity Today, March 8, 1993, page 25.

4 Philips, page 53

5 The Grand Rapids Press, April 13, 1993, page A10.

6 Page 17.


Standard Bearer /  May 15,1993

Last modified: 28-apr-2004