A New Generation of Conservative Thought

Time to throw out the television

By Dr. Grace Vuoto
January 25, 2011

It may sound like a radical idea, yet it is now inevitable: the television set is a menace to our souls. It is time for God-fearing Americans to throw out this box that we have welcomed into the bosom of our homes as though it too could help us create a haven in a heartless world by cheering us or distracting us from our woes. Instead, its presence is de facto the heartless world tarnishing our haven to the extent that we can no longer tell the difference between what is public and what is private. The strangers at our kitchen table and in our living rooms must now be escorted to the door.

Recently, MTV launched a hit teenage drama called Skins that is once again lowering the bar for what is permissible on television. Skins depicts drug-crazed, sex-obsessed teenagers ostensibly escaping their dysfunctional homes and in search of self-improvement or understanding, but in reality reveling in debauchery. The series in fact has young actors—as young as 15—engaging in graphic and lewd behavior. The characters even brazenly exchange sex for drugs. In other words, MTV is trying to dupe America into believing that what was once known as the underworld of prostitution and addiction is really now a part of the average American teenager’s growing pains and coming of age journey.

The series has sparked a firestorm.

“The show has the potential to change standards for what's acceptable for television and for teenage actors,” said Melissa Henson, a representative for the Parents Television Council.

The television watchdog group has asked the Department of Justice to investigate Skins, calling it “the most dangerous television show for children.” Sponsors of the show, including Taco Bell, L’Oreal, Subway, GM and others have pulled their ads from the program. Meanwhile, MTV top brass are defending the show publicly as a candid portrait of the “real-world issues” teenagers face, while privately wondering whether they have strayed into kiddy porn and are in violation of federal childhood pornography statutes. And it comes as no surprise: the controversy is merely adding to the interest and buzz the show is generating.

This scenario has become all-too familiar. Liberal producers, screenwriters and actors, in partnership with amoral and greedy corporate sponsors, collaborate to create programs that will “push the envelope”—meaning drag decent Americans into ever-deeper levels of smut, cynicism and despair. As traditionalists rebel, the controversy generates even more publicity for the ever-lower standards until the whole society is further immune to the coarsening. In reality, if we examine the trajectory over the last sixty years, the American home has been dragged willy-nilly into the bordellos that were once shunned and confined to “red-light districts”—those places where only the fallen and disrespectable dared to wander.

Since television became widely available in America in the late 1940s, it has had both fans and foes. The best argument for television programming is that these can provide news, information and possibly some education. They may even provide entertainment. Yet, the dangers that are ever-present in the box far outweigh any benefits it may have. Regardless of all the parental locks or blockers that are now being bandied as solutions to “control” television, it is clear that television, by its very nature, cannot be controlled.

The home and the television are fundamentally at odds. This is because at the very best television is a window into the world and the home is supposed to be a shelter from the world. Unless we fully grasp this and shun the box, we will remain at the mercy of the world and its unpredictable and various evils. If we are not proactive, it is akin to leaving our front door wide open day and night.

The twin evils emerging relentlessly from television stem on the one hand from a deliberate, liberal assault on the manners and morals of traditional America in combination with the ceaseless materialism and consumerism spewed by commercials. Therefore, to sit in front of the television is to be bombarded both by the licentiousness and permissiveness of liberalism, punctuated by the restless greed of corporate America. The Christian viewer cannot win this battle unless he slams the door definitively on the intruder.

Christians have become duped into believing they can find some kind of compromise, some half-measure with this form of technology whereby they can benefit from its virtues and negate its vices or dangers. Some even insist that Christians can co-opt television for evangelism and Christian programming. The problem with this argument is that it is almost impossible to prevent the seepage of erroneous messages and images from other channels, other programs and commercials into our homes.

Moreover, we must return to a greater understanding of marriage as a sacrament—a divine blessing that must be housed in a pristine and angelic environment. One does not put the fine China next to the garbage can, even if the lid is closed. Similarly, the innocence and beauty of the love that binds two people in marriage cannot be so cavalierly placed beside a box that is largely operated by many who despise marriage, who hate the home and who are in full rebellion against God.

The early Christians taught that the sanctity of marriage is the layperson’s conduit to God himself. If one is not to find God in a monastery or a Church, then the next best place would be in the loving arms of a spouse. It is not just children who need constant protection, it is also the adults, the parents and spouses who must adhere to their marital vows.

My home is mine. For the sake of my soul, my husband’s soul and the blessing of our union, the danger-box will be muzzled once and for all. To reject television programming is to restore at last the beauty of the home as a sanctuary from the degraded and lost world we inhabit.

-Dr. Grace Vuoto is the Executive Director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal. She can be reached at gvuoto@edmundburkeinstitute.org