The Televangelist: A Case for the Idiot Box

Each Friday in The Televangelist, Richard Clark examines the met and missed potential of television.

Television gets a bad name, primarily because it’s so good at supporting stuff that is unequivocally dumb. Still, underneath that thick layer of dirt is something beautiful. There are several television shows being produced that could be worth the time, but the common factor of almost all of them is that they take a certain amount of work and commitment. They take an investment.

But that’s the beauty of the thing: like real relationships, getting to know these characters in a way that makes them seem real and empathetic requires a determination to do just that. Fortunately, the lack of actual relationships means we can learn about people in a detached way. We can discuss their lives with others without gossiping. We can study people. The key, though, is that we have to find the right shows.

You’re not going to do that by channel surfing. Channel surfing is an outdated practice that Christians would do well to abandon. It’s dangerous, it’s inefficient, and it results in your watching things merely to pass the time, rather than redeem it. Instead, we should be purposeful in our television watching, choosing carefully the shows we invest in and making a plan ahead of time for how we will watch them.

I named this column The Televangelist because I’m passionate about the medium, and I wanted to tell you about some of the ways it has helped me, and can help you. This will come primarily in the form of my spotlighting individual episodic television shows every week. I do a lot of watching on Hulu Plus and Netflix – I watch almost nothing in real-time. Some of what I talk about will be up-to-date, and other stuff will be years late. Ultimately, I’m just trying to talk about some of the shining moments in television, as well as some things that are less than shining.

Hopefully, though, every week we’ll be able to sit back and look at some of that stuff we take for granted and think deeply about it. The plot twists, the competition outcomes, the characters and the cliffhangers – all of this is going to come up. And while Christians shouldn’t feel a responsibility to watch everything we talk about, my hope is that eventually you’ll be able to look at much of it and declare simply that it is good.

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

  • Jeff Cavanaugh

    What’s the place of plain old entertainment for the Christian life? Does my “redeemer” function have to be turned on all the time, or can I occasionally just check out and enjoy relaxing with remote in hand (and in frequent use)? I guess I just don’t see the danger in just passing time, as long as I’m doing it in moderation.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    @Jeff – I agree, basically. I would say that the biblical calls to redeem the time, glorify God in everything, and to always remain sober and vigilant always apply to every situation. The real question is what that even means.

    I would say there is value in “plain old entertainment” – the problem is that taking in “plain old entertainment” that is often provided on television can be hugely detrimental if done passively, and I’ve found that channel surfing is one of the most passive ways to take in media in existence. So the danger is there. Obviously there are situations wherein it might be fine for someone – I’m not trying to draw legalistic lines, but to give general advice.

    Ultimately, speaking from experience, I’m much likely to engage with something if I’ve sought it out rather than stumbled and settled on it in a moment of “checking out”.

    So in short – just plain entertainment is fine, but as Christian’s we are biblically commanded never to check out if that means doing away with thoughtful vigilance and a sober mind.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X