Let me begin by saying we don’t watch that much TV. I realize that “not much” is a relative term, but compared to the average American, my family’s TV consumption is minuscule. The latest Nielsen Co. report said that the average American now watches more than 151 hours of TV a month. That’s about five hours per day and an all-time high, up 3.6% from the 145 or so hours Americans reportedly watched in the same period last year. Five hours a day! I barely sleep that much! That being said, we don’t live under a rock either. We have a satellite with a DVR and subscribe to Netflix, so while we don’t watch as often as the average American, when we do choose to watch TV we have enough options to be selective about what’s on the box.
With three kids, most of the shows we watch on a regular basis are either animated or they feature furry puppet monsters. Mandi’s current favorite is Gravity Falls, a cartoon about twins, Dipper and Mabel Pines, who are spending the summer with their eccentric Great Uncle. Their “Grunkle” Stan runs a tourist trap called The Mystery Shack in the remote Oregon town of Gravity Falls, where paranormal phenomena occur on a regular basis. It’s like The X-Files for kids (or for parents who have to watch cartoons when the kids are around, but enjoy story lines about werewolves, time travelers, ghosts, gnomes, mermaids, and mystery)! Ok… I like it too…
Aside from the litany of cartoons and kids shows, the one hold-out for Mandi and I, the one “send-the-kids-to-bed-so-we-can-watch” show has been The Office. The mockumentary follows the lives of the employees at a failing paper supply company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I still remember watching it for the first time (against my will, I might add, because I thought it would be incredibly boring) during season 3. After an episode called Conflict Resolution, I was hooked. The dry, sarcastic humor and the way the employees interact with each other and interact with the camera was hilarious. We bought each season on DVD and when the first 8 seasons showed up on Netflix, you would have thought we won a Dundee Award.
Did I feel a twinge of guilt when someone would curse or use the Lord’s name in vain? Ill-at-ease when the professing Christian on the show was mocked, or when the show made light of Meredith’s alcoholism or Kevin’s addiction to porn, or Creed… well… just being Creed? Was I uncomfortable when Stanley’s affair was covered up by Jim and Pam’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy, or when Angela was sleeping with Dwight and Andy at the same time? What about Michael and Jan, or Michael and Holly, or Michael and Pam’s Mom, or Michael and Concierge Marie?! Did I have a queasy feeling in my stomach when Oscar’s homosexuality was applauded or when he had a gay affair with Angela’s husband the (State) Senator? Yesh. But the moment passes, Jim pranks Dwight, I’d laugh it off, and say to myself, “This isn’t as bad as most shows on TV.”
So why the change of heart? Why did I stop justifying my actions and turn it off? It’s not one thing in particular, but a series of events over the past few weeks that brought conviction and change to my tv watching habits.
A couple of sermons that I heard recently drew my attention to these verses:
1 Corinthians 6:18a tells us to “Flee from sexual immorality.”
1 Thessalonians 5:22 takes it a step further when it tells us to “Stay away from every kind of evil.”
And Ephesians 5:3 says “But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints.”
The word translated “sexual immorality” in this text is the Greek word “porneia”. It’s a pretty general term used in Greek literature to cover anything from adultery to fornication to prostitution to homosexuality. Basically it’s any and all sexual activity outside of marriage. In his book Hole in our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung says, “The simplest way to understand porneia is to think about the things that would make you furious and heartbroken if you found out someone was doing them with your husband or your wife.” If someone gave your spouse a hug or even a kiss on the cheek (in some cultures) it wouldn’t bother you, but much more than that and they’re on dangerous ground. And God’s Word tells us to flee from it, don’t participate in it, don’t watch it, don’t even think about it, FLEE. As Christian’s we should abstain from even the appearance of evil, as not to hurt our witness and bring shame to the name of Christ.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Prop. 8 and DOMA became a topic of conversation around the office and caused one of my employees to ask alot of questions. He sat at my desk inquiring about my views on same-sex marriage, knowing that I’m a Christian. I explained my reasons for supporting a Biblical view of marriage, and we discussed his views as an atheist. All the while, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit was saying, “This is who you’re trying to reach. This is who needs to hear the gospel, and he knows what you watch. He knows what you laugh at.”
There was no power in my testimony. I knew that my words didn’t carry the weight that they should because my actions didn’t back them up. I heard a quote in a sermon by David Platt a few days later that further emphasized this truth:
“If we roll our eyes and shake our heads when we see the Supreme Court ruling on this case, yet we turn the channels on our TVs to watch the trivialization of sex on shows and advertisements, to surf the Internet to find images in order to satisfy our lusts, to go to movies that glamorize sex … and entertain sexual thoughts and desires outside of our own marriage, then we have missed the entire point,” Platt said*.
I have a friend who could repost this blog and label it, “Why I stopped watching Friends.” We are all at different points on our journey, but we cannot be obedient to Christ’s command to “flee from sexual immorality” and “stay away from every kind of evil” if we continue to willfully listen to filthy language and casually watch sexual immorality unfold on a 30-foot screen at the movies or a 30″ tv at home. We lose our effectiveness to share the gospel with the ones that are closest to us; our friends and family who don’t know Christ. They know what you watch. They know what you laugh at. Does it match up with what you believe?
*To watch or listen to Platt’s full sermon, The Cross and Christian Sexuality, visit http://www.brookhills.org/media/series/the-cross-and-christian-community.