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Tony Rossi

Radio Host/Producer

Before You Throw Out Your Television...

The Catholic website Aleteia ran an article recently titled “Turn It Off, Tune Out, Save Your Soul.” The gist of the writer’s argument was that while there are some good things on television, “We have to police what goes into our minds and, if we have children, what goes into theirs, and that policing ought to be a lot more stringent than it usually is. It’s usually like the genial English bobby of children’s story books, willing to look the other way, when it ought to be like a North Korean border guard.”

I’m sure the writer is well-intentioned, and I sympathize with parents who struggle to find shows they can watch with their kids. That being said, I still think that perpetuating an anti-TV culture among Christians can be harmful in the long run.

For instance, a lot of Christians have already given up on television because they say it doesn’t reflect their values. But when a large group of people stops watching TV, programming executives with the power to choose what shows make it on the air can ignore that group. The Christian complaint that there’s nothing good on TV becomes self-fulfilling because the Christian audience has removed itself from the equation.

The anti-TV attitude may also turn off Christian youth with creative talents from pursuing a career behind-the-camera. Instead, TV should be seen as a mission field where Christians can bring light to the darkness, as The Christophers’ founder Father James Keller would say. You may not like the content of a lot of shows today, but they are generally well-produced and know how to tell stories. If young people learn those techniques, then use them to tell mainstream stories that reflect their values, an impact could be made.

Consider that TV was traditionally watched in a living room. Who do you usually have in your living room? Family and friends. As hokey as it sounds, TV characters who viewers watch every week become like family and friends. The stories they tell can connect with viewers and serve as a teacher or an inspiration.

For example, I watched a PBS documentary a while back about Mary Tyler Moore in which Oprah Winfrey said she was inspired to get into television because of Moore’s news-producer character on her self-titled sitcom. Also, I once heard “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson say in an interview that when strangers approach her, they act like they’re old friends who’ve known her all their lives. She attributed that to the fact that she was a presence in their living rooms for several months. That’s cultural power! Why would Christians want to give up on that?

Finally, there’s the argument that a lot of people on TV set a bad example. Here’s another perspective: my favorite sitcom of the last 20 years is “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Boy, was there a lot of arguing on that show! You could say it was setting a bad example. What I’m left with from “Raymond,” however, isn’t the fact that they fought a lot; it’s that they never let it get in the way of their being a family. Once you waded through all the comedic bluster, these were characters who genuinely loved each other and stuck together despite their differences. That’s a pretty good example in my book.

So before you decide to completely ditch television, see if there are ways you can use it to some advantage. It’s a powerful tool that will shape hearts and minds with your input—or without it.

 

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, HOW TO DISCOVER AND CULTIVATE YOUR TALENTS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org