The Role of Television in America’s Decline
The following is from a Trumpet Brief sent out yesterday. These daily e-mails contain personal messages from the Trumpet staff. Click here to join the nearly 20,000 members of our mailing list, so you don’t miss another message.
What role has television played in the loss of American power and prestige? Yesterday the New York Times featured an unflattering profile of U.S. President Donald Trump, accusing the former reality tv star of basically producing America’s biggest reality tv show inside the White House.
“People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television,” the Times reported. This is supposedly what fires him up for the day and often triggers a torrent of tweets assailing critics who seek to delegitimize his presidency.
Trump, for example, wasted no time in firing his angry retort in response to the New York Times. He called it “another false story” from a “failing” newspaper. Fake news!
His tweet didn’t stop a cnn round table from having an absolute field day with the Times hit job earlier today. For a sitting U.S. president to be watching that much cable news, particularly when most of it is Fox News—“That’s a problem,” one host intoned. Four to eight hours of television per day—“That’s more than even doctors recommend,” another chimed in. “Shouldn’t he be busier?”
Assuming the Times article was accurate, its tone was markedly different from another penetrating New York Times piece about tv-viewing preferences of sitting U.S. presidents. In 2013, when the Times talked about Barack Obama watching television—and he watched a lot—it was always a much-needed break from a long, grueling day at the Oval Office. The Times defended President Obama’s obsession with binging on dark, edgy dramas. For him, it was a type of “poetic reflection.” Obama’s favorite shows—Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Mad Men, The Wire, The Knick—all echoed the “sadness and strife” that made up so much of Obama’s workday.
He needed tv, in other words, for reflection. Trump is addicted to it because he’s shallow.
Whatever you may think about the tv-viewing habits of the last two presidents—or the way the New York Times reports on them—what is it with America’s obsession with television? Are most of us, on average, really watching four or five hours of it every day? What is this doing to our moral and spiritual health?
Look at the content in many of these “edgy” dramas! Television today churns out a flood of illicit sex and graphic violence. And with each passing year, the “edgiest” content gets worse and worse. Is it really just entertainment? Or is it a reflection of the real world we live in? And more importantly, what does God have to say about our entertainment-crazed, pleasure-seeking world?
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about the injurious impact of excessive television viewing as far back as 1955—and this was during its supposed golden age! He wrote about people who had their minds opened to the truth while listening to his radio program, The World Tomorrow. But with the advent of television, many of these radio listeners no longer “had time” to listen to God’s truth. “We have television now,” they said. They were putting entertainment programs ahead of Jesus Christ’s gospel message!
These people were saying, in effect, “I’m passing up an eternity of glory for a few hours a day of feasting my eyes on the sordid scenes of crime, murder, intrigue, illicit love, and plain silly, empty, worthless fun.”
Mr. Armstrong wrote that in 1955! If the content was that sordid more than 60 years ago—if a few television stations were that distracting in the early days of tv—what must it be like today?
Mr. Armstrong wrote another article in the May 1981 issue of the Plain Truth titled “The Role of Television in the Decline of U.S. Prestige.” He wrote, “The world wants idleness, ease and entertainment. … It’s a matter of supply and demand—and the public demands programs that are exciting, shocking, daring—and this means violence and illicit sex.
“American television programs are tailored to what the public prefers to view. And the public does not find normal American living that exciting. Therefore the programs are not self-portrayals of what ordinary routine American life is like. It has to be different to be exciting and entertaining. The mass audience wants to be taken into a different and imaginary world of excitement and interest—to escape from the realities of its own humdrum routine life.”
Yes, television has played a significant role in the decline in the United States of America. You see its unhealthy and ruinous effects from the top down in the United States of America!
God’s people must take a stand against the ungodly entertainment and time-wasting content of this present evil world (Galatians 1:4). As Mr. Armstrong said during one of his early radio broadcasts, “Television brings across its message, whatever it may be, with terrific impact, both through sight and sound simultaneously—a very effective medium. But what are we doing with it—how are we using it? Oh, just to while away our time, to amuse and entertain ourselves, most of us. Listen: It brings with it a tremendous responsibility on your part, and it’s going to require a little bit of self-control and guidance … over your own selves, as to whether you use it wisely.”
Philippians 4:8 gives us a list of the kind of righteous, godly things we should fill our minds with. These are the last things that a screenwriter would think to put on the television screen today.
Go to God for an evaluation. Ask God to reveal those areas of your heart and mind that are still filled with darkness, and let the glorious light of the gospel of Christ fill your heart and mind!
We are running out of time. As Mr. Armstrong said back in 1955, don’t pass up on an eternity of glory in God’s Kingdom for hours a day of mindless television viewing—much of it sordid scenes of crime, violence and sex.
Feast on the truth of God instead!