Christians and Television: From Death to Life, Not Rot to Sanitation

A cadaver in a lab is no more alive than a corpse in a ditch, though it may smell a little less. In the end, both are buried. Rot looks alive compared to the sanitized corpse because rot is life that feeds on death, but sanitation’s sanctity is ultimately worth something. Because Christians identify with Christ’s resurrection as well as his death, merely sanitizing a corpse dignifies it but fails to perform the necessary resurrection from death to life.

There is a story used to convince children that they should think carefully about the movies and media that they consume. It goes something like this: Some kids ask their dad to let them watch an action movie featuring just a little bit of nudity and bad language. Dad says no, and they ask why. He tells them to go away and come back in an hour, and they do, to find a tray of freshly baked brownies for everyone. The dad says that there is one catch: there is just a little bit of dog poop in the brownies. All of the other ingredients are the finest stuff in the house. The kids turn down the offer, because clearly no one wants to eat dog poop no matter how little of it there is.

The story has at least one immediate response: Never consume even the slightest bit of impure entertainment! Sermons and Hallmark Channel only! There are other, more thoughtful responses: ask why the children do not want to eat dog poop (which may very well confirm the immediate response), ask what the children miss out on by not eating the brownies, and whether the cooking process might have sterilized the dog poop. It is good to examine the media that we consume and consider what effects it might have upon our souls and what we might look at next to balance out any harmful effects. On the one hand, living our new life in Christ means turning aside from evil forms of amusement and learning to appreciate healthy forms of entertainment. On the other hand, Christians presently living on this earth exist in a moral nuclear wasteland a la Fallout 3.

In a nuclear wasteland, even the food is poisonous. It will kill anyone who eats too much of it, but starvation kills faster than cancer. While entertainment media is not exactly food, dealing with ordinary people outside the secure vault of Bibles and devotional books requires some familiarity with the movies and TV shows that they know. Barring a revival of the Spanish Inquisition, no pastor can control the media that the all church members will consume either for enjoyment or even intellectual interest. In my own case, I have seen a few scattered episodes of cartoons such as Family Guy and American Dad, and although they are chock full of crude humor, the moral of the story is often against the objectification of women or the idea that being rich makes a work ethic redundant. While I do not suggest that either cartoon would form a decent substitute for a Bible study curriculum, knowing what our neighbors are watching can help us talk to them about life and even open doors to talking about eternal life.

In the life of the Christian, following Christ in his death and resurrection are daily realities and neither is complete until physical death and the Day of Judgment, when all will be raised. There is a point after which the Christian’s life transitions from merely being alive to working out the finer details of sanctification, but all Christians must remember their source of life and cling to Christ the True Vine of John 15. Even supposing that television brings loads of rot and drivel into the house, Christians have to be alive for running away or destroying the TV to do any good. Even the most stuffy and puritanical church ladies will admit that the Pharisees were spiritually dead although they did not even know about television. Out there in the nuclear wasteland where death and rot reign supreme, baptism and communion are still resurrecting the dead and sustaining the raised, perhaps even allowing them to redeem what they find in the wasteland. Baptism is not supposed to be washing a corpse or communion a funerary offering for the dead, but even for the uninitiated in the ways of garbage and smut, they can be.