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No Cheers for TV

It is incredible that, in our increasingly illiterate, violent, and uncivil culture, anyone would want to give any cheers for TV. Douglas LeBlanc ["Two Cheers for TV," July/August] says that "any Christian who really cares about redeeming culture" will watch television. But he never says how watching TV—and even "thinking critically" about tv—really contributes to redeeming the culture. His trouble is that he doesn't go far enough in thinking critically about television. It is simply not enough to examine the content of television through Christian lenses; the nature of the medium itself must come under scrutiny. Unaccountably, LeBlanc failed to consider one of the most important books about tv: Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death (Penguin Books, 1985).

While Postman's critique of the medium itself is noteworthy, I fear that LeBlanc is also too uncritical about the values promoted on television and accepted without question by our culture. I will never forget John Piper's assault on television, delivered as a warning to aspiring preachers at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in November 1994:

Turn off the television. It is not necessary for relevance. And it is a deadly place to rest the mind. Its pervasive banality, sexual innuendo, and God-ignoring values have no ennobling effects on the preacher's soul. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles almost everything. I have taught and preached for twenty years now and never owned a television. It is unnecessary for most of you, and it is spiritually deadly for all of you. ("Preaching As Worship: Mediations on Expository Exultation," Trinity Journal, Spring 1995, p. 44)

Christians cannot—and should not—ignore the fact that television has a tremendous effect on our culture. But at the risk of being labeled a "neo-Manichaean," I propose that Christians—and, in fact, ...

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