Turn off Television, Turn on to Life
By Alice Doyle
Four years ago, we turned off the TV for good. We still own one and use it to watch videos and DVDs, but we don’t have cable or even an antenna for regular programming. We get interesting reactions when we tell people. Some say they should do the same thing; others preach the virtues of channels like “History” and “Discovery.” To the latter, we say, “We didn’t give up TV because we think everything on it is bad.” Like all media, TV can be used for evil or good. I think it’s important to develop the virtue of temperance rather than prohibit everything that can be sinful if abused. So, I don’t believe giving up TV is an imperative of living a holy, Christian life. For our family, though, the decision to turn it off has been a blessing. I’d like to share the reasons we initially decided to do it, and the results we’ve seen in our family life because of it.
First and foremost, we gave it up for our children. Most shows and even commercials are not appropriate for them. We knew if we had TV, they would want to watch programs we couldn’t in good conscience allow. Passing on TV altogether avoids arguments and the temptation to disobey. We’re also not bombarded by messages to buy things we don’t need. Commercials have gotten steadily worse over the last few years, but even with squeaky-clean content they promote an overwhelmingly materialistic orientation toward life. It used to be that need drove product development. Today, products are developed that create new needs. Commercials “enlighten” us about these new needs. Shortly after we gave up TV I noticed a big change in my spending habits. – I never realized before the extent to which commercials influenced them.
But TV has another more insidious impact – its social agenda. If I made only one argument to encourage every Christian to turn off the TV it would be this: we need to boycott the social engineering delivered to American homes through television programming. It is directly opposed to our beliefs. The best example of this currently is the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle. The television industry uses fiction to indoctrinate the public. It connects homosexuality to sympathetic faces and stories. Hollywood’s method is so effective it wins hearts and minds to its perverted ideas without a debate. In fact, it is nearly impossible to debate an issue with someone who bases his opinions on the “reality” presented on TV. Stark facts about the gruesome truth of the homosexual lifestyle suddenly seem fabricated and impossible to believe. In a bizarre twist, fact becomes fiction and fiction, fact. Homosexual “rights” is just one part of the worldview the television industry is selling. I’m not buying, but I don’t want to window shop either.
Finally, we just don’t have time for TV. In fact, despite turning it off we still lack time to do everything we’d like to do. My mother has said many times that she won’t live long enough to read all of the books she wants to read. I know I’ll never acquire all the skills I’d like to have. Can you imagine Thomas Jefferson finding time to accomplish all he did if he’d spent time every day in front of the set?
Turning off TV has brought peace to our home. It has opened space for other things like family games, reading, and prayer. I don’t know how different our children would be if they watched TV regularly, but I know our nine-year- old has fewer “wants” than she would if she were inundated with commercials about what she should have, wear, and even eat. Instead of being plugged in to TV, we are plugged in to each other doing things that bond us as a family.
If the idea of being TV-free appeals to you, I suggest you take the opportunity of the upcoming Lenten season to put it to the test in your own home. Spend time listening to the voice of the Lord rather than the voices on TV. All the noise in our lives can certainly drown out His still, small voice. And who knows, on Easter Sunday, you may be surprised to find you really haven’t missed TV at all.