Living With Today's Mass Media

Theme: How Do I Live in this Mess?

by Harold V. Comer

It’s Sunday and Bible study is about to begin. In the hall, a child curses and uses God’s name in vain. He heard it on H. B. O. A college girl walks by on her way to class with a long slit in her skirt. In the Junior High class, a boy repeats a joke from the Johnny Carson show. His friend snickers and two girls look embarrassed.

As the Bible study begins many of the men are thinking about sports and the young married women stop their conversation on movies. The Lord’s people are assembled on the Lords Day in a world influenced by a powerful mass media.

The Jews vs. Pagan Assaults

Godly men have often had to learn to live with powerful influences in the cultures that surrounded them. The Jews failed this task for eight hundred years as they imitated pagan practices, They had not removed the Canaanites from their land as God commanded them. Finally, God exiled them and the Babylonian captivity motivated them and taught them how to resist Gentile cultures. When Israel was engulfed by the attractive Grecian culture in the third and fourth centuries B.G., they wavered but finally resisted many of the Greek religious and moral influences. Today, we are surrounded by a secular culture powerfully portrayed in our mass media. The secular humanistic elements in our society have dominated the popular media. The Christian must learn how to resist the inherent power of these mediums as well as the subtle temptations used by them to squeeze profit from their attractions, He must learn to teach his family how to live among their appealing techniques and resist the error of their doctrines.

Media Bias

The mass media includes TV, newspapers, radio, movies, magazines, records, novels, and videos. In spite of its diversity, each preaches a fairly common or similar view of morality and values. Of these, the news media would be more conservative than most writers, musicians, and creative people in TV. Yet newsmen have a very marked bias which is clearly secular and opposed to common religious values. This was established in a recent analysis of the opinions of 240 leading newspersons in a survey published in Public Opinion magazine. Exactly half of the news-persons rejected any religious affiliation. Only 8% went to church once a week. 86% seldom or never attended religious services. Such facts influence their presentations on alcohol, cohabitation, E.R.A, gambling, homosexuality and many religious subjects.

The few voices who object to the message of most mass media are hardly attractive. They come from small, radical, political and self-interest groups, from some TV evangelists who themselves deserve challenge, and from some ordinary preachers who seem to be over-reacting to common everyday standards and life styles. Society has not had time to build the techniques to analyze the bias and self-interest of varied media. But unless we act forcefully to challenge mass media influences around us, we may be engulfed in a generation of young people who curse, laugh at double meanings in jokes, divorce quickly, jest indifferently about sexual matters, and scoff at chastity as an unrealistically naive hope,

What Can Be Done?

  1. We must admit it is a serious problem.
    Media power is subtle and disarming. While we try to relax we are more susceptible to its power to pleaseĀ  our senses and leave us with secular values. Our casual indifference must be alerted.
  2. We must build our resistance.
    Without conscious resistance we will be changed as much as Israel was changed by idolaters. Resistance is first a fear and then a decision to act!
  3. We must intensify our reaction.
    Does sin, packaged as entertainment,attract you or anger you? If you seldom blush and don’t abhor that which is evil,you are far too casual about the danger.The abuses and manipulations of mass media should anger you!
  4. We must develop other sources of relaxation.
    We can read more nonfiction and talk to our family more. We can pick an interesting Bible topic to explore or visit a Christian. We can take a walk. We can spend time with our family, engage in a sport or invite someone to drop by. We can visit a prospect.
  5. We must make a habit of counter measures.
    Turn the knob on the radio or TV often. Stop buying certain products. Walk out of a store. Quit subscribing to a magazine.
  6. We must be vocal in our response.
    Say something to the keeper of the news stand. Stir concern among the drugged and unaroused brethren. Talk to others.
  7. We must use the mass media better.
    The powers of a medium work as well for truth as they do for error. We must be quicker in learning how to use them.

Conclusion

Cable TV, direct transmission disks, cheap computer instruction and entertainment, and the computerization of the printed word may make available such a mass of cheap information in the next three decades that the dominance of one viewpoint which we have had before us for the last three decades may be shattered. if so, fine; but if we have vast new resources of communications, Christians must learn how to use them quickly and use them well as we have the printed page and the pulpit. Till then, we must strongly assault the harmful influences that seriously threaten our values and a godly life style,

CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 1984