First, I would like to thank the many folks who contacted us concerning my report of our home being defaced with eggs. There were many expressions of regret at such a childish action and surprising support for my past articles and encouragement for any future writing. As one who so often is criticized, such kindness is a real blessing. Today we received a lovely flower arrangement from a neighbor, affirming our town and its people. Both my wife and I are deeply grateful.
In that vein, I would like to celebrate the writing and congratulate the authors of two very profound and inspiring columns in the Friday, Sept. 21, edition of The Sentinel. The first was the “Inspirational Message” penned by pastor Constance Lunn of the 1st Congregational Church of McPherson. In her mediation, Pastor Lunn questioned our self-identification as a “Christian Nation” in the face of the American preoccupation with, and exploitation of, violence. Cruelty and violence flood our media. She asks why do so many of us find it entertaining to view someone else's death. She doesn't find it entertaining, and neither do I. Even the “previews” use explosions, murders, suffering and death as an enticement to watch. The electronic and video games our youngest “play” also glorify violence and vengeance. The TV broadcasts two brutes in a cage beating each other senseless and call it sport. A young football player lies unresponsive on the field, not breathing or moving, must be resuscitated back to life, and after a few ministrations by trainers, and a short moment of shocked silence by the crowd, is carted off the field and play is resumed. We've seemingly accepted that such violent injuries are just part of the experience. It's the game that matters. A visiting young Tabor College football player is beaten to death. The killers have been taught for most of their lives that “violence solves problems.” The young Brandon Brown must have been a problem for his murderers.
And why are we surprised when some punk purchases an ever-available handgun and blows away someone giving him a problem? What we ignore or overlook is that in our lust for excitement, shock and stimulation, the constant inundation of killing and suffering ultimately numbs the viewer's sense of the horror. No matter how gross is the violence, it becomes just another “must see” TV. We can hardly wait for the next bloody episode. And violence reigns. Jesus, the Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, and who calls us to “love as He loves,” to “never return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good,” to “seek no vengeance” is totally ignored. We simply use His name to gloss over the truth of our real passion. We spread a coating of “Christian” sanctity over our self-righteous and violent behavior. Pastor Lunn was right on target. How can we call ourselves a Christian nation when we are so entertained by death?
Page 2 of 3 - In that same edition of The Sentinel was an editorial, “Is your TV sucking your life away?” by Michelle Tehaux. I loudly and urgently say “yes” to that question. Even as TV promotes violence in our land, it also trumpets other self-destructive messages. It teaches, violence solves problems, but also “sex is the goal of life.” Being sexy is the measure of a woman's worth, and sexual activity is the validation of any relationship. Most all the attempts at comedy are basically smut, with the jokes focused beneath the belt. Every TV show exploits and sensationalizes the lure of the sexual, with increasing amounts of skin on display. Of course, not to be denied, the guys are promised greater performance by using the right gel or pill. Why do we wonder about our struggle with abortions? This message is the cause; abortions are the consequence.
Unfortunately, we also teach all our young folks that a remedy for any ill is found in a pill. The pharmaceutical ads are atrocious. Actors (not real people) are pictured struggling painfully through life until they find the magic medication, and lo and behold, suddenly every one of those wretched suffers are smiling in joy. And all those folks in white coats and stethoscopes aren't physicians. Why shouldn't young people take drugs; we daily tell them to use drugs and feel better.
I think television someday will be named as one of the main causes of Alzheimer's and dementia. When people stare at the TV screen, they quit thinking; they simply absorb what's pouring forth. When we stop thinking, our memory is inhibited, and maybe, destroyed. That's why I always advocate the newspapers. We must engage a newspaper, we only stare and absorb a TV; newspapers educate, TV indoctrinates; newspapers can be held accountable (you can cut out an item and save it for future reference), TV screams its message, and cuts to an inane commercial.
Of course, that's all TV is; one long commercial, for a product, a service or a lifestyle, with a few silly contests and violent dramas thrown in to keep us watching. As Art Linkletter so powerfully stated years ago, “TV is not an entertainment medium, a sports medium, a news medium; it is only a sales medium.” I think he was right then, and it has only grown worse.
Obviously, I'm not a fan of TV. We don't turn on our TV set until the 5 p.m. news. Some people turn them on “first thing in the morning” and go to sleep with those talking heads still hyping a way of life. Few people recognize that when they leave their TV blaring, the destructive messages subliminally enter the back of the mind. You don't need to be staring at the talking heads to have their message infiltrate your consciousness. There recently was a cartoon showing a man lifting the top of the TV set and pouring in his garbage. Sadly, I think the set is the source of most of the garbage. It does suck your life away, Michelle; you are right to be aware and cautious and alert the rest of us to the threat. Thanks!
Page 3 of 3 - Fr. Bob Layne is a retired Episcopal Priest living in McPherson.