According to recent studies, Americans spend an average of two hours a day watching television. Others raise that figure to as much as four and a half hours. Add time spent reading
newspapers and magazines, or listening to radio and stereo, or on the internet or video games, and we can see why the media is one of the most formative influences on our culture.
If these statistics on the extent of media’s influence are unsettling, an examination of what they contain should be even more so. All this advertising is overwhelmingly dedicated to
the “values” of consumption, affluence, and power, and makes heavy use of the symbols of prestige and sex.
To the distorted “values” of advertising must be added those of television programming. Take a copy of the TV Guide which comes each week and examine the programs offered on any night from 8 PM until signoff. Group them based on theme or content, as indicated by the brief summaries accompanying the titles. Then ask yourself, what is real and what is not? What is normal and what is bizarre? Good and evil, right and wrong seem to be only shades of the same color.
We should expect the daily newspaper and the weekly news to report on those things that are actually happening in our community or in our city or in our nation or in our world that have the greatest importance. It follows that those things that go unreported are unimportant. As Christians, we would be appalled to discover that on the basis of that logic, God and His values are at best unimportant, and quite possibly, non-existent.
By inclusion and exclusion, the media informs our minds about what they think important. They focus attention on violent crimes, while largely overlooking the many good works of ordinary people; on technological advances, while overlooking God’s endless love and mercy in human life; on the philosophies of entertainers and sports figures, while ignoring the men of genuine wisdom; on certain “beautiful people,” while ignoring people of integrity. Even assuming that the reporting is accurate (and frequently we can see that it is not), the media’s bias
in favor of the spectacular, the depraved, and the trivial makes it a culture medium which preoccupies our conscious with rapidly changing details while missing completely the guiding hand of God in the lives of us all.
The media, therefore, can have devastating impact on every one of us. As surely as wind and ice deform the mountain spruce, the steady hammering of false ideals and “values” warps the human mind. The mind starved of God’s truth and fed only with worldly “values” is weak and defenseless. Any wonder why things are the way they are today? The substitution of fantasy for eternal truth robs the mind of an ability to accept and enjoy present realities. Cut loose from God, the only thing that remains is anxiety and eventually despair.
We are to be people in the world but not of the world. All of us should selectively absorb from our environment those things that support life in God, while screening out all that weakens, debases, or poisons. This is true for us and for our children. The primary source of formation and nurture for the Christian must be the truth that comes from God, supplemented by useful knowledge gleaned carefully from world sources. Nourished with everlasting truth and sheltered in the presence of God, our mind is truly possessed of understanding and wisdom. With this we can make right choices and truly live in peace and harmony.