The recent death of “Captain Kangaroo” (retired US Marine officer Bob Keeshan) puts me in mind of a complaint I have about television, in general. As Joyce Brothers said of the good Captain: “Parents could turn on the TV with complete security that what was shown wouldn’t be harmful in any way.” But that’s just no longer true today. In fact, neither can adults watch TV without being offended, insulted, depressed, etc.
This magnificent tool of communication, more influential than all the books that have been printed (with the exception of the Scriptures) and all the speeches that have been made, could have been used to educate the world. It might be employed to promote democracy in Iraq, honesty in Washington, Christianity in Europe, freedom in Red China, etc. But, instead it has been and is being exploited simply to make money for entrepreneurs and investors, and in doing that, it caters to the most lowest common denominator in the human population.
This has all been said before, but I think there has recently been a notable deterioration in television programming. When Sandra and I go on the road, we watch a great deal of television, since we travel by trailer. We don’t have a lot of friends in the communities we visit, and we stay home a lot. This TV viewing has given rise to the following observations.
What purports to be national news is now consists of inane conversations about hopeless Democratic candidates for the presidency, trials (especially sensational trials dealing with sexual matters), fires and storms, and commentary by those whose opinions are unworthy.
CNN is totally unwatchable. Fox News has fallen into much of the above. And even when there are talented commentators, they waste their time on subjects that just aren’t newsworthy. News services show extreme bias, especially on my favorite subjects, Israel and the Faith.
PBS, the “public” television network supported at least in part by taxpayer dollars, has a leftwing bias so sharp that it simply is intolerable, except to learn what the point of view is on that side of things. Those running this network have become arrogant and unreachable, so that not even Congress can impress these know-nothings. Its coverage of Israel, a subject where I am informed, is so exceedingly leftwing as to make them a veritable mouthpiece for a nonexistent people, a group of murderers who call themselves “Palestinians.” I personally called one of the PBS stations to complain to a program director about one of their interminable “Praise the Muslims” hours, and was told pointedly, “I understand your reasons for calling, Mr. Levitt,” with the strong emphasis on my very Jewish name.
The so-called primetime programs are utterly unwatchable. In three months of travel, Sandra and I could not sit through a single one of these programs. We tried, but could not, because of offensive content or downright stupidity.
In 1961, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton N. Minow called television a “vast wasteland.” In the interim since those words were spoken, this wasteland has grown wider and now runs deeper, more like a vast cesspool.
And with the recent Super Bowl halftime program, we actually have touched the bottom of this pool.
The only way to change commercial television is to stop buying the advertised products. We must discipline ourselves to do that. For example, anytime I hear a banging, screaming car commercial, with rock music and a shouting announcer promising bargains, I simply remember the name of that vehicle and resolve that neither I nor anyone else in my family will ever buy that particular car. And so it goes with all the products.
Otherwise, this extremely powerful and influential medium will eventually completely dominate the lives of those without intellect enough to choose between products, information, and entertainment. It already is doing that to a shocking degree.
The answer may be to do what many Christians have done. Simply shut off the set and throw it away. The following article, adapted from John Schneider’s video, What Ever Happened to America? gives some insights into how TV is ruining many of our Christian families.
Television has become the single most dominating presence in our society. In 1955, television was only on in the evenings, with few choices of stations, and in less than one-third of American homes.
But today, virtually every American home has TV and two-thirds have two or more sets. Two-thirds have cable — and who knows how many channels, 24 hours a day. That is an amazing progression in technology, but it’s been an appalling regression in social, moral, and intellectual standards. This explosion in TV viewing also parallels the growth of crime and other adverse moral trends.
This does not mean that it’s totally television’s fault, but it is certainly part of the process. It’s so much a part of our everyday lives, it has to have an effect.
Larry Poland, of Mastermedia International, recently said: “While I’m concerned with some of the trash that comes out of Hollywood and the 25-inch sewer line into your living room, that’s not my biggest concern. My biggest concern is the consumer because the person that watches ‘x’ number of hours of television a day, even if that person calls himself a Christian… he does not know how to manage his family’s media consumption. And the heads of families, the fathers and mothers, are not managing the flow of stuff into their homes….
“I’ve had it up to here with parents saying ‘I don’t know where we went wrong. You know we raised our kid in the church, and he came to know the Lord when he was a kid, and he wants to look like a rock star and he’s doing drugs.’ The first question I ask is ‘What kind of media do you allow in your home?’ Because if we don’t control the input of media into our homes, and into the minds of the people in our families, we don’t have a leg to stand on in defending ourselves against anybody outside, or God himself, when it comes to the erosive, destructive influence of media. The Achille’s heel of Christian families is that we are not managing our media to keep the evil stuff out.”
Film critic and social analyst Michael Medved agrees: “You have to change families first. And that means that parents have to monitor much more closely what their children are watching, what their children are listening to. And for goodness sake, try to cut down on the TV a little bit.”
According to Medved, recent statistics show that the average American child, by the age of six will have spent more time watching television than that child will spend speaking to his parents in an entire lifetime.
Medved notes: “Do you find yourself saying ‘Come on. Lighten up. It’s just entertainment. This eye gouging and the filth and the language is just entertainment, nobody takes it seriously.’? The fact is, they can sell beer — they can sell vacuum cleaners — in 30 seconds. They’re selling ideas. They’re selling values in the hours and hours of television and movies that people see. It matters. What Hollywood does matters, and we’ve got to care.”
So what is the answer? How does a parent reinforce what they want their child to learn?
Dick Rolfe, of the Dove Foundation, offers this: “It’s very important today that parents dialogue with their children and expound on how they see what’s going on in life — not to ignore it, not to overexpose it, but to identify it, to recognize it and to bring it into the family conversation…. These family times together are so important because they are the only opportunity that we, as parents, have to share our values with our children. And, after all, that’s really our legacy to our children — our values.
“The most important step in helping your children to be able to use the media properly and to become your allies in this media battle is to help them understand what your values are. Help them understand the difference between good and evil and what the Bible says about good and evil. Let them know what you believe about what makes a man worthy and humble, and kind and loving, and generous. Teach them those things that you want them to model. Discuss what the worldview of a program is. Get them to understand the media that they’re watching by asking the right questions: ‘Well, who is the hero? Who’s the villain? What is the worldview? How is the government treated?’ ”
In an age where moral relativism is the popular thought, be sure to remember what Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council reminds families: “Our liberties and values come from God. They’re clearly outlined in the Scriptures. If we fail to recognize that, then values and laws are open to re-decision every year, whenever 51% of the people decide that something is no longer wrong. That’s a disaster and we’ve already seen the effects of it.”
What are you modeling in your home? Where do you look for moral absolutes?
Being in the television medium myself, I take some satisfaction in knowing that our program only succeeds if its audience likes and supports it. It is not like the Super Bowl, which will always be televised, or empty headed sitcoms paid for by beer manufacturers, etc. We have had to go off the air in some areas, but those are a small minority. In general, our audience has supported us well, and we’ve been able to continually produce new programs, visit the Holy Land, and conduct dynamic interviews with important personalities of our times.
Most importantly, I’m delighted that we can reach so many people with the subjects of Israel and prophecy. These are crucial in the world today, and no matter how many television programs (as well as churches and seminaries) prattle on with false doctrines and useless teachings, we will continue to sound the alarm: The end is coming, the Antichrist is almost upon us, and it is time for everyone to make their choices for eternity.
So thank you so much for your wholehearted support of our outreach, and know that we join you in deploring what’s going on in the medium where we teach.
More to the point, one trip to Israel will give you more information than watching TV for 20 years (including our programming). Toward that end, we have upcoming tours slated for just that purpose. The Deluxe Tour, visiting Israel only, will depart on March 14th (my Christian birthday) and will return on the 24th. Our Grand Petra Tour, visiting both Israel and Petra, will depart on March 14th and return on the 28th. The Grand Athens Tour, cruising the Greek Isles and touring Israel, extends from March 9th through the 24th. Finally, our Ultra-Grand Tour, with everything — the Greek Isles, Israel and Petra — will begin on March 9th and end on the 28th. We’ll also have our usual Kibbutz tour in June, a lower-priced alternative for teachers and students.
For more information or the confirmation of tour dates, check with Tony at (214) 696-9760 during business hours. You can also call 1-800-WONDERS (1-800-966-3377) anytime for a brochure about any of our tours.
This summer, Sandra and I will start our speaking tour at Eureka Springs, AR, the weekend after July 4th. From there, we intend to serve Branson, MO, and then drive across Kansas, stopping at churches as we travel. Then we will visit Colorado, including the Denver area. Time permitting, we’ll move on toward California in August, and then head home over roughly the same route. If your church lies between Branson, MO, and San Francisco, this is the time to contact Claudia at (817) 417-0059 to arrange for a speaking date (July and August are now available).
With our step of faith in going onto the PAX network, I’m hoping you will prayerfully consider what the Lord would have you give to help our ministry. And, of course, tune in to watch on PAX Thursday mornings on cable at 9:30 am on both coasts and at 8:30 Central and Mountain Time. Dish Channel 181 and DirecTV’s Channel 255 will carry our programming at 9:30 ET, 8:30 CT, 7:30 MT and 6:30 PT on Thursday mornings. Local broadcast viewers should check these times with their local PAX affiliates (see pages 18–23 of the January Levitt Letter, or check online at http://www.levitt.com/airsch.)
Finally, please continue to remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
P.S. I hope you’ll consider that by supporting this television outreach, you offer Americans in every state an extremely worthwhile alternative to the worsening secular broadcasts. Thanks.