REALITY CHECK (dec10rea.htm)

December 10, 2006
vol 17, no. 332

The Golden Calf in the Living Room

    A Sad Commentary on the Stereotypical Home with TV .

    It's been called many things from the boob-tube to hypnotizer, from the shrine of the couch potato to the electronic babysitter. Whether it is HDTV, digital, cable, dish or plain ol' antenna, most consider it a necessity and in that faux pas state does the tabernacle of satan reign supreme in practically every home. All hail the golden calf! That is the sad reality of how a culture, a nation, a civilization has been conquered by the prince of darkness.

by Denise M. Trias
      "Today, the golden calf is the television, holding many souls under its bondage and homage. These slaves give this golden calf the most prominent place in their home. Scandalously, in some Christian homes, this idol stands in place of where the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus should be."

    In referring to the television and radio, Pope Pius XII wrote "This then must be the principal aim of the cinema, sound broadcasting and television: to serve the cause of truth and virtue." (The Cinema, Sound Broadcasting and Television by Pope Pius XII 'Miranda Prorsus' 1957 page 16, article 35)

    Does this happen in fact, when our cinema, broadcasting and television are controlled by liberals and humanists instead of God-fearing men? Pius XII has given us great ideals to strive for in this realm, but every Christian knows that most of what comes into our living room these days has fallen way short of this goal. Our society has moved away from Christian values and this is reflected in what comes across our TV screens every day. If we are not in any position to change the vice that we are exposed to, most often our only recourse is to push the off button.

    That is not to say that there is absolutely nothing good on television, but unfortunately these days one must often go hunting for the wholesome, whether it means switching channels, waiting for something better to come on or having recourse to a well-chosen DVD.

    One of the beauties of life before the media was all the time people used for hobbies and developing their God-given talents. Also, before mass television viewing, amongst children no one had heard of Attention Deficit Disorder, which in my opinion we can blame the television. In The New Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, which has the best chapter on TV that I have ever read (Ch. 7) Jim says, "Parents regularly use television as a babysitter - yet how many would hire a sitter who systematically taught children to solve most of their problems violently, to desire things they didn't need, and to lie and cheat because most of the time you'd never be punished. Far fetched? Read on." (Penquin Books, copyright 1989, p. 119) Jim goes on to explain how modern day television stereotypes and corrupts.

    When God gave Moses the first commandment (“I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange Gods before Me.” Exodus 20:2-3) up on Mt. Sinai, the Israelites were down below dancing around their manmade golden calf. Moses was outraged at their infidelity to God after all He had done to bring them out of their slavery in Egypt.

    Today, the golden calf is the television, holding many souls under its bondage and homage. These slaves give this golden calf the most prominent place in their home. Scandalously, in some Christian homes, this idol stands in place of where the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus should be.

    When guests arrive, it is not they but the calf that is given the courtesies of etiquette.

    When the father of the family comes home from a long day of work, his children are brushed aside as the calf is listened to in earnest. Apparently the idol has more important things to say then the little souls God left in their father's care. Of course, it is these souls who the father must account for on judgment day, not the calf.

    When some members of the family want to share something of importance, they are usually given the glare of death for “interrupting” the golden calf. The calf then “moo's” louder to overcome their voices. In normal circumstance, this would be considered rude. But, the calf is NEVER considered rude. That of course would be politically incorrect.

    Even when no one wishes to listen to the calf, it is allowed to jabber indefinitely in the background as if its non-presence would be a sin.

    It does not matter to the calf's slaves that it has turned all their minds off and has taken the joyful sparkle out of little children's eyes. The exchange for the “excitement” of listening to and seeing the calf is worth the brain damage.

    In the home with the golden calf, God is not allowed to whisper in the silence of hearts. Instead, God is put on the shelf for “whims” and “emergencies”. In the meantime, it is the idol that is the speaker to hearts on all subjects - error or none.

    No matter how foul the golden calf becomes, dumping manure on the floor, it continues to be treated as if it is the majesty and royalty of all. This is one place where its slaves don't even bother to clean up!

    The golden calf brings violence, impurity and idleness into the home and still the most “pious” of Christians allow it to remain as if it were owner of both the home and the family. The golden calf's slaves rarely consider turning it in for a better master. But, what slave wishes to be free from the golden calf of television, when he can be entertained?

    The reason this is such a "hot" topic in my life and why I've written this article is because I can speak from experience for I learned from a TV-free home. Growing up I was a typical American TV addict, being sucked into the evening shows (the rest the family was watching) and putting off my homework until late when I had quiet in the house.

    I remember the TV's constant seductive pull. But, underlying that I remember many resentments I had with the TV- I hated how it broke down our family communication. I grew up in a large family of seven children and I remember that the TV just always added chaos into our already busy, chatty, volatile home.

    The phone would ring and whoever was trying to talk had to talk over the television, which mom had to yell to the children to turn down, which they didn't want to because they couldn't hear it over the voice of whoever was talking on the telephone.

    I resented how it was the center of everything in our life. With a large family, it was always on with someone watching something. Between school, work and after school activities, if any of us watched TV, it then meant no personal time, no reflection time, no quiet prayer time and no hobby time. I resented the constant noise TV brought into the house. I resented the commercials that were time wasters.

    When I got away from home the first time and had no TV, I suddenly realized how I had all of this new found time to develop my interests. So many students go off to college and don't even know themselves and thus flounder trying to decide a vocation. I think TV has been a big hindrance in people knowing themselves and developing their God-given talents. Because the main gist is that when you are watching TV, then obviously it is eating away the precious time that you could be doing these other things.

    I thought too often as I grew in my prayer life what a serious obligation we have to be accountable for in how we spend our time. An hour of legitimate recreation every day is our right, but when there are so many other wonderful things we can do - hike, bike, paint, write, spend with friends, play ball etc... read a good book, when we compare those with watching TV, television rarely compares. The alternatives to watching TV are a much better use of our time.

    I grant we can learn from use of the TV (good history documentaries etc.) and I myself enjoy a good movie curled up on the coach with a bowl of popcorn, but how often do we make it a daily habit when instead we could be reading the bible or the life of a Saint for example or reaching out to someone? In my 15 years of reading hundreds of lives of the Saints who made God their main goal, I came to the conclusion that none of them became saints by wasting their time in front of the TV. They give us the ideal to aim for even if we don't have to be so rigid to throw out the TV altogether.

    It bothers me that when families get together to visit or friends do that often a movie is presented and the precious friendship time that was meant to be spent together was instead passed watching a show. (That is when the original intent was to have time together, versus when you make a point to gather together to watch something particular). So often we let the pull of the TV get in the way of growing in our good friendships.

    My children, whom I home schooled for five years, are now in school. At my house they have their regular hobby time outside of school but it has been drastically reduced with the school commute. This is a heartache as I see my children's longing to have those hours once again, to really dive deep into exploring a topic or drawing (my daughters used to draw two hours a day on their own I cry thinking how this precious talent of theirs lays dormant and is not given the chance to be developed because THERE IS NO TIME!) or working on a special project. How do you think the great artists became so great? Watching TV? I don't think so.

    It wasn't because they were being "socialized" with their peers. It wasn't because they spent every 40 minutes switching subjects all day. It wasn't because they had constant noise in their life being surrounded by a ton of people. No, it was because they had hours upon hours that they self explored, or self developed and nurtured their particular God-given talent. (Think Bach, Michelangelo, etc...) TV time often robs children of that opportunity. Think how many geniuses and artists, men and women who could have made a difference, have not pursued the discipline to be great because they have been dumbed-down by television fare.

    My daughter refuses to spend her snack time playing with the other children. She plays with children at recess, is with them all day in school, is surrounded by her siblings and neighbors all afternoon who are in and out when she is with her dad and then TV, dinner and homework eat up the rest of her time. At only eight years old she took the matter into her own hands. She said to me "Mom, I have no time alone! So, at snack time I take it as my own. I sit at my desk and make cards for my friends, which is what I want to do."

    Unfortunately, she had some misguided well-meaning adults who took her to a psychologist trying to make out there was something wrong with her because she wanted fifteen minutes to herself each day!!!! (Because she wasn't "socializing" with the other children during that time!) How ridiculous!!! I yelled at all of them. I said, you as an adult want your alone time. You want your hour or two hours a day all to yourself to do your own thing, to think, to pray, to do whatever! Why can't you give an 8-year old child the same courtesy and for just fifteen minutes!!?

    Children need some time alone each day to PROCESS (mentally, psychologically, spiritually and physically) all that is thrown at them. Unfortunately TV once again bombards them with more STUFF to process...more than their little minds can handle often- that is especially the little ones, harming and hindering their development and their little nervous systems by TV overload.

    My eight-year old daughter goes straight to her doll house on a Saturday to spend time in imaginative play which is so important to children's development at that age. Another thing TV robs children of is imagination, since it does the imagining for them! How do you think adults become GREAT PROBLEM SOLVERS? It isn't by watching TV! It began in toddler-hood and pre-school by spending hours building forts, playing with blocks, making up plays etc... all USING THEIR OWN IMAGINATION. We have set our society up for a huge crises by turning out a few generations of boob-tube drones who can't think critically!

    When I was in junior high and high school and then was a nanny in my twenties and babysat throughout all of those years for hundreds of families (literally I spent 2 to 4 nights a week babysitting), the biggest lesson I came away with all of those years was how harmful TV is to little children. Not only are there the obvious problems with many of the shows promoting violence, the breakdown of family communication etc... but children who watch TV...GET DEPRESSED. Why? Because they are not being active which is what every little child NEEDS to be doing, they are interrupting that much needed PROCESSING TIME (as they are learning so much) AND they get BORED. Regular wholesome activities that should liven and excite a child they come to find BORING because too much TV-watching throws so much at their little nervous systems and puts them on overload that the rest of life seems dull and unexciting.

    I see it in my own children. It has been one of my biggest heartaches the last few years as half the week they are in the care of others totally outside of my control (I'm in a joint custody situation sorrowfully, grievingly and unfortunately) to see my children who would sit still literally FOR HOURS to enjoy great books that we would read and discuss together (I will never forget my little girl, my oldest daughter when she was four, sitting on the couch with her dad one Easter afternoon for FOUR HOURS listening and TOTALLY captivated to the precious story of Heidi. He kept trying to put the book down, but she kept urging him on and he was enjoying himself so, that he complied!) instead be totally fidgity and unable to settle down because they now enjoy a TV-junk lifestyle (and lots of computer time too) half of the week with other caretakers. I can barely get through one book with them now as they can't concentrate well any more. And no wonder they flounder in school??

    Those things that ten years in a TV-free home (we watched nothing for the first seven years that I had children, and now we do watch movies on a monitor but they are well chosen, carefully and consciously picked out) that I didn't have to deal with (whining about what they wanted because they saw it on TV, for example) made my parenting so much easier and made our relationships so much more wholesome and gratifying. Now the consequences of the golden calf are my new heartache as my children complain constantly, "I'm bored!"

    I have hundreds of wonderful educational interesting things to do in my house that my children used to do for hours in delight (I do not believe in having a sparse home for children where there is nothing to do with their hands and thus all they are left with is to be idle and fight) that now they find BORING! Why??? That stupid TV!!!! It takes them a whole day when they come back to my house to readjust and get back to into the WHOLESOME mode away from that IMAGINATION SQUASHER, BRAIN-DULLER, IMAGE BOMBARDMENTER! (you guessed it, the TV)

    One caretaker last year who was so intent that my children SHOULD be in school all day and claimed I wasn't educating them. My only comment is come to my house and see all the "educating" I did with them - bookshelves upon bookshelves of projects and reading etc. we did together not to mention the exploring we were able to do out in the REAL WORLD because they weren't stuck inside four walls each day. But now my children's "caretakers" let them watch up to 3 to 5 hours of TV each day! I said, "This is YOUR idea of educating my children? You show then you know NOTHING about children!" I finally concluded and realized that this caretaker just couldn't handle my children and was too busy on the computer to watch them and used the TV as a babysitter. Why else would that be allowed to happen? I am not talking about their father by the way.

    I finally sent over a home school unit (this was just prior to when the judge put them in school and I was sending over home school lessons) for the children to do about watching too much television. They had to read the Berenstein's book "Too much TV". I then proceeded to educate my children the best I could on this TV matter and encourage them on their own to just leave the room and go play elsewhere or not turn on the TV in the first place or just turn it off on their own accord instead of relying on their caretaker to act responsibly in this matter.

    Another problem with TV is that it is the number one cause of obesity in this country. Growing up in a home with a health teacher as a dad I was always thrown articles and given "talks" by dad about the importance of getting off our duff and outside to play. Want to lose weight? Get rid of your TV! You'll be surprised that since you aren't SITTING you thus then are NOT MUNCHING! As well, you are being active INSTEAD of INACTIVE.

    One of the things I really learned to appreciate about a TV-free home was the hours I now had to read, especially when that was practically ALL I could do when breast-feeding my five children over the years. Though I got pretty good at nursing at a table and thus paying my bills, sewing or doing art at the same time.

    The book I mention above, "The New Read Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease is a bombshell about the importance and joys of reading and how harmful modern day TV actually is to your family, especially your children. I recommend this book to everyone whether they have children or not. Every human being can benefit from this book.

    Dr. Mercola has an interesting health website where he has some great personal essays on TV. He also often posts and reviews many articles about television. If you want to read about research done about TV viewing, go to his website and do a search: TV or Television. He scans all of the medical journals for good articles and then posts them and then attaches his own critical commentary to each of them.

    One of the other pains about television is all the flippant back-talking and disrespect to adults that children pick up from it as well as bad language. My three eldest children learned to be obedient and respectful. Now I have to deal with the bad habits my two youngest have picked up from the TV. It's like when my husband, shortly after we were married went to work at a financial institution where profanity was the norm all day with his co-workers. He had never used profanity prior to that. The only thing that cured him from using the same language around our house is that I made him say a Hail Mary for every cuss word that came across his lips. Thankfully it worked. Unfortunately, it has not worked yet with my three and five year old. Bad habits are so hard to shake. It takes constant vigilance. The problem is the promoter of the bad habit is the TV and has not been removed. It is still an occasion of sin for them half of the week and I am not there to use any consistency in replacing the bad habit. My poor children. Please pray for them! I am sure I am not, to use a phrase that ironically began on TV, the "Lone Ranger."

    The last thought I want to share about TV viewing is in regard to little children. Toddlers and babies shouldn't even watch it. It is so harmful to their development. Once again, I point you to reading articles about the research on TV. Pre-schoolers' development can be delayed and inhibited also by TV as it blocks the important "messy media" stage of their life. Instead of painting, playing, imagining, building, gluing, cutting, drawing etc... that are so important to the development of their mind and nervous system, children are passively starry-eyed in front of the TV.

    Several generations now have shown the ill effects of this passive, submissive invention that has so damaged not only minds and bodies, not to mention imaginations, but souls. That is why I call it the golden calf in the living room. Remember Christ's words: "No man can serve two masters". Do you serve the golden calf or Christ. You should know by now one cannot serve both.

    If I am to leave one thought with readers today it is this: The next time you think of turning on the TV spend a moment thinking "What am I MISSING OUT ON by turning this on today?" and, even more pertinent, "What will I MISS OUT on in God's eyes if I waste my time in front of the golden calf?"

Denise M. Trias

    REALITY Check
    December 10, 2006
    Volume 17, no. 332