By Mark Corbett
I am hoping to start a discussion here on a topic which I believe is having a huge impact on us as individual Christians, as churches, and as a group of cooperating churches. I want to talk about an idol that needs to be torn down. That idols is the misuse and abuse of all types of entertainment. Hopefully the following thoughts and questions will be helpful.
Should Christians watch R rated moves or MA rated TV? How much TV should we watch? What should Christians look at on our computers, smart phones, and TVs?
My Testimony Regarding Watching TV
As a young married couple we owned a small TV set. This was a quarter century ago. Although the content on TV was nowhere near as graphic and explicit as it is now, as a young man I still found that the pervasive sexy images which filled television had a bad effect on my thought life. So I asked my wonderful wife if it would be ok with her if we threw our TV away. She graciously agreed to this. I was young and enthusiastic. I didn’t want our TV to cause anyone else to stumble. So I opened up the back, cut a key wire, and then threw our TV in the garbage can. We have not owned a television since that day.
Throwing away our TV was one of the better decisions I have made in my life. It was around that same time that the Lord called us to go overseas to share the gospel among unreached people groups. We never regretted not having a TV. Our daughter, Joy, never “missed” not having TV. We did carefully choose and watch children’s videos with her on our computer. Not having TV was good for her and good for us.
TV eventually crept back into my life. It was probably about fifteen years after we threw away our TV set. We began to rent TV shows on something called VCDs (an old version of DVDs which were popular for a time in Indonesia). We never watched anything R rated. But we started to watch more often, and to be honest, the content was not spiritually healthy. Then we moved back to the US in 2010 and discovered that our internet now had enough bandwidth to watch TV shows on our computers. We chose what we watched and stayed away from MA content. I was probably watching 10 to 12 hours of TV content a week. I knew in my heart that watching TV was not helping me spiritually.
Several times I tried to “cut back”. But it didn’t stick. A few months ago, I decided to “go cold turkey”. I’m glad I did! Since then I have felt more spiritual energy, and have seen the Lord open some doors for new ministry opportunities. I pray that I will not backslide!
I am not committed to never watching any TV or movies in any setting. If I’m visiting with someone, I feel free to watch some TV with them if they have it on. Also, I still occasionally rent movies to watch with Hope. But honestly, I am thankful that God led me to stop watching TV again.
Do I Think All Christians Should Stop Watching All, or Almost All, TV?
No, not necessarily. I think that each believer should seek God’s will based on Biblical principles, an honest evaluation of how TV effects their thought life, and their home situation. While this is an area where different families may make different decisions, my feeling is that most Christians would experience significant spiritual blessing if they watched less TV.
Here are some reasons to consider watching less TV:
1. What you watch DOES influence how you think and what you feel and desire. Why do you think advertisers spend billions of dollar on advertising?
2. TV is full of bad examples. I liked police shows and actions shows and superhero shows. But one thing I noticed is that even the good guys were not good examples. Sure, they were brave and generally good at out-shooting and/or out-kickboxing the bad guys. But in their private lives they were not examples that I would want my daughter to follow. They drank alcohol, often to the point of being drunk. They drank to celebrate victories and to deal with frustrations. They slept around. In real life those actions bring painful consequences.
3. Then there is the sexual content. TV is full of immodestly dressed women (and men, too). Even in “PG” rated material, actresses are often shown to be naked, or partly naked, from behind. These actresses are paid to take off their clothes in these scenes, and indirectly we support this by watching the advertisements during these shows. It is an indirect form of prostitution. That may sound harsh, but it is true. And seeing this content causes many people to lust, which is a form of adultery (see Matthew 5:28). In addition, TV promotes many types of sexual immorality.
4. TV massively promotes materialism and greed, which is one of the major idols in American culture.
5. Most TV shows are godless. I don’t mean merely that the content is evil (although, sometimes, it is), I mean that they almost totally leave God out of everything. A serious Christian character is extremely rare. If Christians are shown at all, they are often put in a bad light.
6. TV’s graphic images tend to capture our imaginations and draw our thoughts away from God.
7. Even the news is problematic. Watching the news causes us to focus too much on politics and world events. We usually can do very little to change those things. TV distracts us from serving our neighbors and serving in our local churches and other ministries where our small efforts can actually make a big difference in people’s lives.
This list is not complete. I’m sure you could think of some more bad things about TV. Is there anything good about TV? Sure, a tiny bit here and there. But would you go to a restaurant where most of the time they served you rotten food and often had bugs and dog poop mixed into your meal just because every now and then you found a bite of something that was actually good and healthy on your plate?
I want to close with some practical suggestions.
If you decide to cut back on TV or even go cold turkey, think about positive things you can do in place of TV. Many people watch TV when they are tired. It’s legitimate to have some rest time. Choose something good for your spirit that is relaxing for you and invest in it. Buy some of your favorite style of Christian music or order some good Christian books to read. I am not suggesting that you should try to replace TV with more work when you are already exhausted. Find ways to rest in God and rest with God, but never rest from God. While we shouldn’t necessarily try to replace watching TV with more work, for some reason that I can’t clearly explain, I have felt like I have more energy since I stopped watching TV again.
For me, going “cold turkey” worked. But the Lord might work in you differently. Here are a list of specific actions the Spirit might lead you to take after reading this (I stopped and prayed for you, if no one actually takes any of these actions then this blog post is pretty much a waste of my time and yours):
1. Some of you already have excellent viewing habits both in terms of what you watch and how much time you spend watching it. You’re a good example to the rest of us. Pray for those of us who are weaker in this area than you are.
2. Very likely, some who are reading this are watching pornography on your TV and/or computer. I pray that God will help you to stop. You might be able to stop on your own with God’s help. If you try to stop and can’t, get help from other Christians. Do whatever it takes to stop. Act like your spiritual and emotional health depend on it, because they do.
3. Some of you need to stop watching MA and R rated content. With very rare exceptions (The Passion of the Christ and Hacksaw Ridge, for example) MA and R rated material is damaging to your soul and mind. Often, it is a “mild” (by the world’s standards) form of pornography.
4. Perhaps you need to reduce how many hours you watch TV.
5. The Holy Spirit is likely going to cause some of you to think of a specific show you should stop watching. Listen to and obey the Spirit’s guidance.
6. Perhaps a few of you will be called to go “cold turkey”, like me. Be encouraged! Getting rid of TV is a lot easier than plucking out your eye!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts, stories, and analysis.
This is a lightly modified version of an article which originally appeared on my blog.