TV: A Life Waster

Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective on the Internet, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you’re watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels.
(John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, p.120)

This is a toughy! But I can’t but agree.

TV: A Life Waster

5 thoughts on “TV: A Life Waster

  1. Dan B. says:

    A great quote from a great book. I’ve read it once and plan to read it again. I’ve been convinced lately that I’m watching more than I need to, and as we only have 24 hours in a day, we will fill it with something. Without help from the Spirit to encourage us to fill that time with godly meditation and thought on His Word and worship, we will fill it with things that will do nothing but prevent us from exercising our minds.

    I truly wonder how often in a gathering place you would find groups talking of anything of meaning–setting even “religious” or Christian talk aside–whether it be politics, world events or questions of “why.” We are a generation that wants to be entertained, not one that wants to be forced to think about things. This is why the news media holds a great power, especially in this country–because there is a good number of the public that is simply waiting to be told what to think.

  2. Stephen says:

    Hi Dan,
    All true. People want to be entertained. Me too. The danger for Christians is that a view of the world comes disguised as entertainment and subtly rots away the Christian world view.

  3. David says:

    Hmm! Not entirely convinced. There are a lot of shallow and banal books out there. Does that mean we should stop reading books? Try this for size:

    Books are one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, magazines are running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective with magazines, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. Books still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the covers are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what book you’re reading. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on books diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive books. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels.

    Does it sound as convincing when you substitute “book” for TV? I suspect not, yet there was a program on Radio 4 recently (The Long View) that talked about books causing exactly this sort of moral panic when they first became cheap and ubiquitous.

    It’s too easy just to blanket condemn television. Have you never been “forced to think about things” by something that you watched for entertainment? Is television not also a very powerful means of informing and educating?

    Mr Piper may go on to develop this theme further but I am unconvinced by this quote. It’s too simplistic an argument just to say TV bad.

  4. Dan B. says:

    David–I see your point with substituting book for TV, but when he speaks of it being the greatest waster, I think he’s touching upon the fact that many today watch television. And not as many read–there are some who read banal things, but more watch TV in ways that he speaks of than reads, in my opinion (I obviously have no studies to back this up, only my experience in going through school and knowing that in my generation we did ANYTHING we could to get out of reading the books we were assigned…like finding there was a MOVIE for the title or quick notes, etc.).

    English society may be quite different than America, but here TV dominates culture–people schedule their lives around their favorite shows, and a very, very large majority do NOT watch TV for educational purposes (since most of such programming does not “sell” and is not widely available, unless you have cable).

    Obviously, not all TV is bad, and I don’t think that in every situation a TV show makes someone check out intellectually. On the contrary, you could be utterly consumed by educational or thought-provoking television to the point that it could divert your attention from your walk with Christ.

    He makes the argument throughout the book that we allow other things to contend for our time that we should be devoting to God. He may have slightly overstated it (I certainly would not paint broadly and say, “TV Bad”), but I think it’s still a valid point, whether it’s books or TV.

  5. Stephen says:

    Well said, Dan. It is valid to substitute “books” for “TV” and apply the same reasoning. However, since the media are different the outcomes may be different. I think I’m right in saying that books better help preserve the critical mind. TV has a habit in some if not most people of switching off the critical faculties in favour of reception of entertainment. This ISTM is deeply dangerous since entertainment acts as the trojan horse for views of the world which are unbiblical. It may happen in some trashy novels also, but to a lesser extent.

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