Torch, Summer 1982

4 A Guide to Better Viewing. By J. Wesley Baker W e sing its tunes. We use its phrases in our conversations . We know its heroes . We use it as a teacher, companion, and friend. With the "average" American spending almost 30 hours a week with it, there is no doubt that television is a pervasive part of most of our lives. In spite of this closeness - or perhaps because of it - we hear very little from our pulpits about how to watch televison. There may be an occasional attack on the offensive content of a particular program, but the topic of how to watch television remains largely unaddressed. Because television has become as much a part of our daily routine as eating, it is sometimes jarring to be confronted with the question of how our TV viewing is a part of doing all things to the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31). But, the verse places the challenge in exactly that sort of everyday context. How, then, will we answer the question? For some Christians, the answer is to remove the one-eyed centerpiece of most American living rooms. Given the declining quality of typical network fare, this is certainly a valid option . Even TV Guide and the newsweeklies have recently published articles about the declining morality in TV programs . Most Christians, however, apparently have not eliminated television from their daily schedules . A recent national survey indicated that only four percent of the Christians questioned said they watched no television or almost none. For those who have decided to keep their set, the question is still waiting to be answered. To develop a response, let's look at three areas of concern for the Christian: television's control of our time, its role in providing information , and the question of its influence. CONTROL OF TIME A few hours spent watching television each day does not seem like much, but the latest A. C. Nielsen figures, when projected over a lifetime, indicate that the "average" person will spend the equivalent of between 11 and 13 years of his life in front of the TV set. Watching that much television has to detract from other activities. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, after all. One crucial area TV viewing has affected in many families is the amount of time spent in constructive interaction. Sitting around together in front of the TV set can't take the place of family members talking or even playing together. And, as the number of multi-set families rises, fewer families bother to sit around the set together. PROVIDING INFORMATION One of the God-ordained purposes of the family is the communication of values (Deut . 6: 7). The open access that television is providing to information has lessened the importance of that role for the family, and many parents are abdicating their responsibility to teach their children. One secular finding concludes: "The information monopoly once enjoyed by parents has been breeched, if not shattered ." If television is providing much of the information in our homes, we must ask, "What values is it teaching?" IMPLICIT MESSAGES Television is a part, and apparently an important part, of socialization . This is the process by which we