You Asked for It 2005 - Part 4
Managing the Media
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 28, 2005

 

Main Passage: Philippians 4:4-9 (NLT)

 

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Ah, the memories. Some of those haven’t been on T.V. in over 20 years. Brings a tear to the eye, doesn’t it? How many of you remembered most of those commercials? Do they make you a little nostalgic? Do they kind of make you long for the days of yesteryear?

Do you still believe the media has no effect on you?

There’s really no arguing that television influences us. It has the ability to sway us and impress us. It can affect our thinking and behaviour. It can even mold public opinion. We need to recognize that all media is “educational”. The only question is: What are we learning?

Are we learning that violence solves problems? Are we learning that adultery is good for a few laughs? Are we learning that homosexuality is just another lifestyle choice? Are we learning that sleeping around has no consequences? What are we learning?

You see, the things that we use for entertainment and information can use us. Influence is the power to lead. So you’ve got to ask the questions, “Where is the media leading me. What is it teaching me? How is it affecting me? Is its influence good or bad?”

We’re continuing this morning with our “You Asked for It” sermon series, and if you haven’t guessed yet, I’ve been asked to speak on the media today. We’re going to talk about how the media affects us and what we can do to combat its negative influence in our lives. We’ll talk mostly about television, because it is such a powerful influence in pretty much all of our lives. But what we’ll talk about will also be transferable to movies and music and video games and even the Internet.

Now, let me start by saying I enjoy television. There’s nothing wrong with television itself… it’s what we choose to watch and how often we choose to watch it that matters. And I enjoy movies. In fact, I have a good size DVD collection at home. Music… same thing. Video games? Hey, I get together with some of you to play them! In fact, this past Friday many of you were at Chris and Rosita’s for our outdoor theatre when we showed the latest VeggieTale video on the side of their house using the projector. What you may not know is that after you left, we set up the Nintendo and played a few games on the wall, too.

So I’m not on some kind of witch hunt to bash all types of media. But what I do want to do is warn you about some of the dangers. There are lots of positives, there are also lots of negatives.

  • By age 17 the average person racks up between 15,000 and 20,000 hours of watching TV. That’s the equivalent of two solid years, night and day.

  • A Florida State University study (1993) reported that during a typical prime-time hour of television, the characters talk about sex or display sexual behavior an average of once every four minutes.

  • The average child sees 8000 murders on TV by the time they finish elementary school.

  • By the age of 18, they have seen 200,000 violent acts on TV.

  • In 1993, a study reported that the 100 top TV advertisers spent over $15 billon, because they know that the media influences our choices.

  • On TV, premarital or extramarital sex outnumbers sex within marriage 8 to 1.

  • During primetime, TV viewers see a sexual act or reference every 4 minutes.

  • During 117 hours of programming, 72 curse words were used.

  • Movies are a lot worse. One of the worst was 1990’s GoodFellas, which ran 146 minutes & contained 246 uses of the F-word alone. Unfortunately, movies like this give bad language a good name.
     

Those are just a few statistics, but I don’t think I really have to convince you that there is way too much sex and violence and profanity and hatred and materialism on T.V. You already know that. But do you understand just how powerful the media is? It can formulate opinions, inspire actions, and write the course of human history. Hey, even Ozzy Osbourne knows this…

“I was the ‘prince of darkness’ for nearly 35 years. Suddenly, I became Mr. Super Dad. TV is the most powerful thing that’s been invented.”
~ Ozzy Osbourne

So for good or bad, the media is powerful. We know and enjoy many of the advantages, and if we had time we could talk about them. But this morning we’re going to focus in on the dangers…

 

What are the Dangers of the Media?

A. The Media Presents a False View of Reality.

Advertisers try to show us what life would be like if only we used their product. Sitcoms and soap operas create stories that are supposed to seem real, but are they really? And don’t even get me started about how unreal the reality shows are. Plus, shows and movies often display values, ideologies, points of view, and stereotypes that are sometimes outright illusions.

Last week’s biggest movie was The 40-year Old Virgin. What’s the message of that movie? From what I can gather, the message is that there’s something wrong with someone who’s forty years old and still a virgin. They just don’t exist! So the whole movie is geared toward helping this guy lose his virginity. But the truth of the matter is, there are plenty of 40 year old virgins out there and that’s fine. When did that become a dirty word? They should be commended for maintaining some moral integrity if they are waiting for marriage.

What’s more, very few of the acts of violence on television, or acts of sex for that matter, show any consequences. There’s no sense of loss, no pain, no heartache, no mourning. There have been people in real life who have murdered because the perpetrators were acting out what they saw on the screen. That’s an extreme case, but it’s an example of how the media presents a false view of reality and removes any consequences from our actions. On television…
 

  • Perpetrators go unpunished in 73% of all violent scenes.

  • 47% of all violent interactions show no harm to victims.

  • 58% of all violent interactions show no pain.

  • Only 16% of all violent interactions portray the long-term negative effects of violence, including psychological, financial, or emotional harm.

  • 57% of all programming is violent.
     

But you know what? Violent crimes occurs far more frequently on TV than in the real world… more than 8 times as much! And crime does have long-term ramifications and consequences for both the victim and the aggressor. But many don’t realize that there are consequences. I read that one teenager was shocked to discover after getting shot that it actually bled and hurt!

Problem is, many people and especially children and teenagers take this false view of reality and try to make it reality. And this isn’t new. Way back in 1960, Dr. Leonard Eron studied 875 third-grade boys and girls and discovered there was a direct relationship between the violent TV programs they watched and their aggressiveness in school. But that wasn’t the end of the study. He later examined the subjects when they were thirty years old. Those who had watched significant amounts of violent television were more likely to have been convicted of more serious crimes, to be more aggressive when drinking, and to inflict harsher punishment on their children. He concluded…

“What one learns about life from the television screen seems to be transmitted even to the next generation.”
~ Dr. Leonard Eron

 

B. The Media Provides Heroes & Role Models not Worth Imitating.

A recent survey of junior high students found that 36% chose actors as their heroes; 19% chose musicians; and 11% tied with athletes and comedians. So it seems the biggest qualification for being a hero or role model is not what one stands for or what good they’ve accomplished; it’s their celebrity status.

Everyone knows now that professional wrestling is fake. They are basically actors who have created these bigger than life characters… some good, some bad. And one of the things that concerns me is that sometimes the big bad guy gets more cheers than the good guy! The media provides heroes and role models not worth imitating.

A lot of comic book heroes have become movie heroes in recent years. Last year, The Punisher became one of those heroes. It was a movie based on the Marvel comic book by the same name, and if you’re familiar with the story you’re aware that it involves a man named Frank Castle whose wife and family are murdered. And so he becomes a merciless killer hunting down the people who killed his family. Yes, he suffered a great tragedy, but since when do we cheer revenge?

Leviticus 19:18 (NLT)
“Never seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone, but love your neighbour as yourself.”

I don’t think the media does a very good job living up to that verse.

 

C. The Media Decreases our Quality of Life.

Or at least our sense of it. Compared to everything the media presents us with, our lives seems dull and boring. We’re not out saving the world everyday, we’re not learning how to survive on a deserted island, we’re not being romanced by the sexy plumber who lives next door. Compared to what’s on TV, our lives seem rather bland.

We have been immersed in a culture of high tech; fast paced; action films… and as a result we have forgotten how to actively listen and carry on conversations and make our own fun. And think about what it can do to children. Kids who watch a lot of TV get bored when the set is turned off; they don’t know what to do with their time.

 

D. The Media Marginalizes Faith.

“There are 2 things TV characters never do, go to the bathroom & go to church!”
~ Travis Johnson

And it’s true. You rarely see references to faith and religion in the media. And when you do, it often portrays an unfair and distorted picture of Christianity and God. Most times Christians, and especially preachers and priests, are portrayed as out-of-touch or as idiots or as wishy-washy in their theology & lifestyle.

Actually, that’s not completely true. There’s not a lot of authentic faith portrayed in the media, but there is a lot of spirituality and religious references. And there’s one place in particular you can look to find plenty of references to God. Award shows. How many times do the recipients thank God during their speeches? And how many times can you look at their lives and realize that they may claim to have a faith but it really has little or no effect on their lives? That a worthless faith. It’s marginalized to when it’s convenient and sounds good.

Several years ago there was a show in which one of the characters was deciding whether or not to protect her virginity. So she consulted her priest. Sounds like a good plan. But what did the priest tell her? He told her to do what she feels is right since God will never stop loving her. He was right that God would never stop loving her. But he was dead wrong in telling her that how she feels is the ultimate guide for how she should act.

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is found in the book of Judges. The book is filled with people doing terrible things, and then the very last verse explains what was going on…

Judges 21:25 (NLT)
… the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

We can’t be guided by what we feel. We need some kind of external source to define right and wrong. And the Bible can do that for us.

 

E. The Media Tears Down the Family.

Have you ever noticed how fathers are portrayed in sitcoms these days? They are usually lazy, bumbling idiots who create more problems than they solve. TV dads have become punch-lines. Meanwhile, many of the kids on TV have become spoiled brats who frequently disobey their parents and have no respect for them or any other adults. TV depicts marriage as being filled with fights, arguments, and a lack of respect and love. 23 TV families were studied and they found that there were 9 conflicts per hour. Marriage can have its ups and downs, but come on!

 

So there are definitely some dangers when it comes to the media and what we choose to watch, play or listen to. What can we do about it?

I suppose we could do what the city of Ridgewood, NJ, did. That city decided that every Monday would be “Family Night”. No homework is issued, no sports practices held, no evening meetings scheduled. Families in Ridgewood are encouraged to turn the TV off Monday nights and play games, take walks, do craft projects, have a picnic, get out the photo album, have a sing-along, tell stories, go roller skating, bowling, visit a museum… whatever, as long as it’s relational and interactive.

Or we could do what the president of Turkmenistan did. Did you read that in the paper this week? He has already outlawed opera and ballet, and now he’s going after long hair, gold teeth, and lip-synching. So I suppose we could follow his example and ban all forms of media all together. But that may be a little extreme. And difficult. As Orson Welles said…

“I hate television. I hate it as much as I hate peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.”
~ Orson Welles

You can ban television if you want. That may in fact be the safest route. But if you choose not to, let me make a few practical suggestions…

 

How Can I Minimize the Dangers of the Media?

1. Check the ratings and reviews beforehand.

Find out what the content is before you watch, particularly with movies. I know how hard it is to get up and walk out of a movie you find offensive. It’s embarrassing, it’s a waste of money… so why put yourself in that situation? Before you even go to the theatre, find out what you’re getting into.

1 Corinthians 10:23 (NLT)
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”--but not everything is helpful. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”--but not everything is beneficial.

So you want to find out if what you’re going to see is good for you. The best place I can recommend for you to check is a website by Focus on the Family: www.PluggedInOnline.com. There you can find reviews for movies, television shows, and music, all from a Christian perspective. Another site where you can also find reviews including video games is ChristianAnswers.net. Almost every time I’m planning on seeing a movie, I check out these sites first. And many of the times I didn’t, I regretted it.

www.PluggedInOnline.com
www.ChristianAnswers.net

1 Timothy 1:19 (NLT)
Cling tightly to your faith in Christ, and always keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.

You can keep your conscience clear by doing a little research beforehand.

 

2. Decide ahead of time what you intend to watch.

Regulate how much you let TV into your life. At the beginning of every week, I plan out what shows I want to watch.

Actually, for the past several months Shera and I have been talking about cutting back on our cable bill. We had full-tier cable and never watched half the channels. So I figured while I was preparing this message this week it was a good time to do it. So we cut out a couple of the packages, which results in a lower cable bill, less options to occupy my time, and less temptation because the we got rid of the channels that featured the most profane and explicit shows.

Proverbs 15:14 (NLT)
A wise person is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash.

 

3. Tape the programs you want to watch and view them later.

Hey, there’s about 20 minutes of commercials in every hour now. So taping shows allows you to fast-forward through the commercials. Plus you can fast-forward through anything objectionable. And if you never actually get around to watching the shows you taped, what have you lost really? You don’t actually have to watch television on the television’s terms.

 

4. Watch actively. Discuss the shows.

Ask questions like: “What is this show trying to make me believe?” “What is this program’s viewpoint on morality?” If a show is promoting negative messages, talk about what you find objectionable. It may mean you stop watching that show, but at a minimum it will make you more aware and discerning about what you’re taking in.

 

5. Consider your home a safe haven and your TV a guest.

Your home is a refuge… it’s a sanctuary set apart from the onslaught of the negative influences in society. If a guest to your home were to tell dirty jokes to your children, use God’s Name in vain, encourage them to drink beer or describe acts of graphic violence, you’d ask that visitor to stop or leave, wouldn’t you? Why should TV be any different?

Psalm 101:3 (NLT)
I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.

 

6. Evaluate how Media affects you personally.

Be honest. How do the shows you watch and the movies you go to and the music you listen to and the games you play affect you? How do they affect you in the areas of violence, and sexuality, and profanity? How do they affect your relationships? How do they affect your thoughts and what you dwell on? Do some changes need to be made? Jesus said…

Matthew 18:9 (NLT)
“And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better to enter Heaven half blind than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.”

Is Jesus advocating self-mutilation? No, I don’t think so. The Bible’s quite clear that He’s more concerned about what’s on the inside than the outside, and gouging out you eye will have no effect on what’s in your mind and heart. So what is Jesus saying? He’s saying, “Cut off the sources that tempt you to sin.” If that’s a particular show or a particular game or a particular song, then cut off the source.

Romans 14:23b (NLT)
If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

 

7. Establish TV-free Times.

Not times when you're free to watch TV, but times you're free from watching TV. Maybe one night a week. Or one week a month. Or one month a year. Establish a time when you’re going to turn the TV off and you’re not going to turn it on again until the time has passed. Just turn it off and see how much it controls you. You may find out that you are more dependent on the TV than you are on your family or on the Lord. Hey, you can even say you’re fasting from your television, if you’re doing it in order to get your life in balance with God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)
You may say, “I am allowed to do anything.” But I reply, “Not everything is good for you.” And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.

 

8. Do not participate in anything that brings dishonor to God.

I remember when Pretty Woman came out on video. And as you may know, the movie focuses on a prostitute. So there’s a fair amount of content in it that deals with prostitution and sex. Well, it was new on video and we didn’t really know a whole lot about it, so somebody ended up renting it and stuck it in the VCR to watch… me… my brother… my mother… my grandmother! I don’t think I was ever as uncomfortable watching a movie as I was that day.

You do know that God is omniscient and omni-present, don’t you? That means He’s all-knowing and He’s present everywhere. There’s nothing you can do that will ever be hidden from Him. He knows what you do in secret.

Remember that old Sunday School song? “O be careful little eyes what you see. O be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down in love. So be careful little eyes what you see.”

So when you turn on the TV or when you put that movie in, you may as well be aware that He knows about it and He’s right there watching it with you. Ask yourself, is He pleased with what you’re watching?

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)
Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God.

 

Well, there’s a variety of ideas that may help you establish some good television habits and guide you in your choices of movies and music and games. But in case none of those help, or if you want to boil it all down to one verse, here’s that verse… Ready?

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Do you think it’d be okay for us to adapt that for TV viewing?

Philippians 4:8 (adapted from NLT)
Fix your eyes on what is true and honorable and right. Watch things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Watch things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

 

Application Questions:

  1. How many hours a week do I watch T.V.? Is that too much? Has it become more important to me than God/family? If so, what steps can I take to cut back?

  2. Is there anything I’m watching that dishonours God?

  3. What do I allow my family to watch? How is that affecting our home life? How is that affecting the spiritual and social development of my child(ren)?

  4. What themes are present in the music I listen to?

  5. Would I be embarrassed if my spouse/pastor saw my “history” files on the Internet?

  6. Memorize Philippians 4:8. How will this verse influence my choices when it comes to the media (T.V., movies, music, video games, Internet)?

 

Sources:

  • Rewind Your Mind: Does God Care What I Watch? by Travis Johnson

  • Taming the Tube by Robert Leroe

  • Is Television Demonic? by Joel Smith

  • Television & Movies: Look Out For That Pothole! by Kevin Higgins


 

 

 

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