I Don’t Own a Television

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Many of you know that for the eight years Keri and I have been married, we haven’t owned a television. Yes, that’s right, we’re strange. We’ve never seen an episode of Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, or American Idol. It started off as an experiment, and it’s ended up as a lifestyle.

We made the decision not to own a television for a couple of reasons:

1) We saw that it could be a major distraction to meaningful conversation. At least for me, I can find myself tuning into what’s happening on the television rather than keeping my mind focused on a discussion.

2) We feel that media can make a major impact on the way we think and process information, so we want to be discerning about the type of media we subject our minds to.

Now, before I continue any further, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression of Keri and me. We’re not monks or anything. We do have two computers and broadband internet in our home (along with electricity and running water), and we don’t look down on people who like to watch television.

So here are the questions I want to open up for discussion:

–What effect do you think media (including TV, internet, music, magazines, etc.) has on people’s lives? How have you felt this impact in your life?

–What safeguards or boundaries have you set to keep media in check?

10 thoughts on “I Don’t Own a Television

  1. One effect worth noting is that not only does the media reflect our societal values back to us, it also perpetuates them. One of the ways I see this happening in our society is the devaluing of manhood.

    A very good example of this was recently brought to my attention in another blog post in which Dean, the author, compares the characters Andy Taylor from “The Andy Griffith Show” and Ross Geller from “Friends”.

    He says: “Andy Taylor is presented as a model of manhood once taken to be ideal in American culture. To see how things have changed we need only look at the archetypal televisual male character of recent years, Ross Geller, the self-obsessed, insecure paleontologist of Friends.

    The two characters have a few similarities. They’re about the same age. Both have young sons, though Geller’s rarely has much of a role in his father’s life. Both are single or, in Geller’s case, mostly single.

    Geller is emblematic of the millions of infant-men contemporary society has given rise to. Adrift and selfish, incapable of stable relationships and commitment to anything but the gratification of their immediate needs, these guys are everywhere, trying to make their way in the world more by charm than by character, more by wit than by grit.”

    To read the entire post:
    http://deanabbott.typepad.com/notes_and_meditations/2006/12/part_of_the_end.html

  2. Does it really affect my life if I can’t be conversant about how well Jerry Rice danced last night or am somehow changed because I didn’t see the CSI episode that was the talk of the office? I’ve always respected this decision of yours to not have a television… with a bit of envy at my lack of discipline to do so. I’ve started off this year with already having watched less television in a day and that’s my start. It’s becomes all-consuming and I accomplish nothing else until I finally force myself to turn it off and go to bed. And for what… to spend time watching shows I’ve watched several times before?

    I also think the point that Keri made is an excellent one. I’ve noted the devaluing of marriage on the television show. I had a conversation about work where someone told me how funny they thought the show “Everybody Loves Raymond” is and I stated that I did not think it was funny or indicative of how a marriage should be. They just chuckled and made a snide remark about me not being married… why would I want to be married if that is what I have to look forward to and why would one work at a marriage with nothing better to aspire to?

  3. Our Youth Minister, Stu Cocanougher, once mentioned something that I’ve discovered to be true. He thinks that music has a profound amount of influence simply because of the amount of exposure we allow it to have in our lives. We may watch a movie once or twice, but we may listen to a music album hundreds of times. To say that the lyrics don’t have an impact is really kind of ridiculous.

    In fact, the other day I was listening to a CD that a friend let me borrow. It’s an innocent CD except for one phrase in one song. It took me by surprise the first time I listened, and I forgot to skip ahead the second time. Well, the next morning when I was taking a shower, I had that song (along with the questionable lyrics) stuck in my head.

    So here’s my thought: Isn’t it challenging enough to live a life of integrity and purity without cramming a bunch of junk into our minds?

  4. Such an interesting thing that you said that Kyle b/c I was listening to this song… harmless enough I guess although I couldn’t really tell you the point of the song. But then it has a line that says this person doesn’t look a lot like Jesus … I always forget until I hear the line that it’s a song that I don’t like and by that time it’s stuck in my head (like now ). I’ve really been convicted about the things I cram my mind with.

    You know I’m a big reader and so lately the things that I read have come under scrutiny by me — not because they’re inherently bad, but because they aren’t always edifying. I like cop/mystery books and at the end of the day they haven’t added any value to my life or challenged me in any way. I want to be sure that I fill my days reminding myself of the amazingness that is my Savior and what He did for me, not keeping up to date with the latest Hollywood gossip.

  5. This topic is one that God has used to convict my heart and habits on. A few years ago I became aware of the correlation between how much tv I watched and how much time I spent with God. The more tv I watched, the less timeI spent with Him and the less tv I watched… well you get the picture.

    When God called me into full-time ministry and I came out to Texas for seminary, one of the things I deliberately left behind was my tv. That decision has helped enhance my spiritual growth and helped keep me accountable in the time I spend with Him. I really believe this is an area where Christians here in the U.S. are blind because it is a habit they grow up with and many times (not always)are slack in giving their all to Him. I can make that statement because it has happened to me.

  6. To watch or not to watch….that is the choice.

    When i was a single parent , before I got married 2 years ago, my son and i never turned on the tv. It just became a fixture to dust in our main living room. We could not afford to pay for television programming. And forget about receiving just your main city channels. They don’t just appear on your tv anymore…..even with bunny ears. We sometimes could get a spanish channel, locally, which was entertaining, but we don’t understand spanish so it didn’t last long. Life was more calm and peaceful without the daily watch of the tube. Didn’t know alot of what was going on in the newsworld, which my mom thought was weird.

    Now I am married and my husband’s first request was to pay for cable. I fought inside myself with this decision. I wondered why it seemed to be so important to make it an immediate reality in our lives. I always know, in my heart and soul, that our lives would be more peaceful and calm without the tv. Kyle told us in a sermon, last week, that this too, is a choice.

  7. Kyle, I’m not a member, but I totally concur. Five years ago, when I gave my life to the LORD, I sold my TV and CDs. Since then, I’ve decided to go back on the CDs, but I have not waivered on the TV. The silence in my house is wonderful.

  8. Great discussion!
    When Janis and I had small children we had a small TV that we kept in the washroom. If we wanted to watch a program, we had to know exactly what we were going to watch (typically this was Cowboys vs. someone), pull it out and put it up after we were through. (Often we had to turn off the TV during the commercials… still do.)

    We did this to encourage our children to read or do other things rather than watch TV. It worked! (Before anyone tries this, they should also know that it presented a lot of peer pressure on the children when they went over to a friend’s house! There were times when they were considered ‘odd’ because they wouldn’t watch a particular movie/program with ‘normal’ friends.)

    When the children got a little older we had to modify the rule to be, if Mom and Dad can’t watch it then neither should they. (Typically, this meant No PG-13 or ‘R’ rated movies, but there were exceptions for Indiana Jones!)

    We still have a small TV. How small? It’s smaller than my computer monitor. The guys at the office think that is hilarious.

  9. I find myself in a dilemma. My wife and I owned a 42″ plasma when we first were married almost 4 years ago. it only lasted about 1 year and then broke because of the altitude where we lived. Ever since we have not owned a television. My wife and I found that after the tv was gone we had to stimulate our minds and be more creative. It was great. But now we are constantly on the internet. Me reading the latest news, (as if it matters, or is even accurate) and my wife addicted to ebay.

    Here is my question. Is it possible to become a monk somewhere. If anyone knows of a monk opening, or amish job get in touch with me. It’s sounds funny but I fell like I have to resort to extremes just to protect my mind. Is there a healthy balance? And what is wrong with the amish in the first place?

  10. Yeah, I know what you mean, Ben. I’m beginning to think that the impact of the internet has far surpassed that of the TV. If I didn’t use it for making money, I think I’d probably chunk it out too. Too often, the time that Keri and I plan on spending together is eaten up by the computers.

    The monks do have something right. Our society is completely missing out on solitude and silence – something that was modeled by Jesus and very important to every person’s spiritual well being.

    But at the same time, we’re called to be stewards of the kingdom of the Christ – salt and light. Hard to do that when you’re living under a bushel.

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