Is There Life After TV? / Family Night at Dodger Stadium!

March/April, 1983
Volume 18, Number 2

Scores of members of the Church of the Brethren have never owned a television set. The decision has been deliberate and voluntary, choosing not to spend money for that which brings more harm than benefit. And as the years come and go, many of us are convinced that television programming is not improving.

TV is the greatest communications medium ever designed by man. Every minute of television programming — commercials, entertainment, news — teaches something. If TV influences an audience’s buying behavior (and at up to $300,000 a minute, advertisers believe it does) — surely it influences one’s social behavior. Steve Allen says that because of the impact of TV, a good percentage of people within the next few decades will think it is perfectly okay “to grab what they want, to do what they want, and the only bad thing is getting caught.” Only rarely, in our opinion, does TV contribute anything useful to one’s life.

Even religious television (according to a writer in Eternity, September, 1978) has become “a new apostasy.” The inevitable give-aways which are offered “if you will write in,” are “evangelical indulgences” which make John Tetzel and his sale of indulgences in the 1500s look like an amateur. Many “Christian” programs are merely dispensers of junk food.

Heavy watchers of prime-time TV programs (according to Newsweek, 12/6/82) are receiving a grossly distorted picture of the real world. For example: Women are portrayed as weak satellites to powerful men; people over 65 are viewed as sick, silly, or helpless; doctors, lawyers, and athletes are glamorized while farmers, factory workers, and small businessmen are considered eccentric; and on the TV screen, crime rages about ten times more often than in real life. George Gerbner (probably the nation’s foremost authority on the social impact of TV) says, “Today television tells most of the stories to most of the people most of the time” — and those warped stories are establishing in our society norms for approved behavior and belief.

The attitude of Christians toward TV has shifted from one of reluctance to purchase a set in the 1950s, to one of general acceptance of its place in the homes in the 1980s. Read the article which follows and notice what happened to one family that decided to give up television viewing.

The article (beginning on page 7) has a message for those Brethren who have become captivated by commercial sports. We wonder why the “social action prophets” (among our activist churchmen) are so silent about all the money spent on spectator sports and immoral TV programming’? Why are there no demonstrations and sit-downs in front of the ball-parks, and the movie colonies in Hollywood? Our empty talk about being socially concerned for the world’s hunger-stricken areas, does not line up with the common practice of supporting multi-million-dollar TV shows, and being allured by professional sports which cost viewers millions and which pay ball-players salaries beyond any reasonable justification. The Mennonite editor, Sanford Shetler, has issued an appropriate indictment against those Brethren who seem to be more interested in big-name sports events than in sharing the simple Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.


Is There Life After TV?

by Lucille Tyson

Right in the middle of “The World at War” our old television set failed us. We called her “Old Faithful.” We had waited all week for that TV program, and now this! What a disaster!

“She’s gone;” my husband Ron diagnosed. The rest of us sat staring at the blank picture tube, hoping anxiously that somehow she’d just as suddenly recover.

“What’ll we do, Dad?” our ten-year-old son asked. “Will we buy a new TV, or get this old one fixed?” queried his younger brother. Shaking his head, Ron turned off the picture-less set and walked silently into the kitchen.

After the children were in bed, Ron began: “I’ve been thinking a lot lately about television and its place in our home. Actually, I’m glad the thing zonked out. Let’s not call in a TV repair man. Let’s get rid of the TV set. What do you think?”

That’s how it all began: Six years ago we transferred our disabled television set from out family room to our basement storage room. To our surprise, it has remained there ever since!

Although our family used television with discretion and selectivity, we were finding it increasingly difficult to escape the rapid declension in TV programming. The few remaining wholesome and worthwhile programs were becoming interspersed with decadent advertising unfit for adult as well as youthful eyes. Televised sports events which my husband enjoyed so much, were becoming progressively riddled with sensuous advertising, which was also being absorbed by our on-looking children. The introduction of scantily-clad cheerleaders cavorting across the tube, has made sports viewing even more questionable for the Christian family.

Regrettably, television has become worse, not better. Ted Turner, Cable News Network owner, condemns television, saying the values championed by the networks have led the country to the “brink of destruction.” He stated that the networks have loaded their programs with “sleazy sex, crime, and materialism playing up consumption and greed — and downplaying effort and hard work.”

What Juvenal said of first-century-Rome seems equally applicable to present-day America: “Bread and circuses had become the sole interest of the mob. Keep them entertained,” he lamented, “and the people would ask for nothing more.”

Closing the storage door on our TV set has opened up an entirely new lifestyle for our family. A home without television offers the Christian family the following benefits :

1) A climate conducive to regular and large doses of family conversation.

Recently the CBS radio network related an interesting story about a teenage girl who won the annual Smith-Corona writing contest. What intrigued the CBS staff was the girl’s comment about having no television in her home. In stunned disbelief, a reporter was sent to interview her. After affirming this fact to the reporter, she was asked how she felt about it. She enthusiastically replied, “in my friend’s homes everyone has to be quiet for the TV. If you say anything, others in the family shut you up. I’m glad we don’t have TV. I have gotten to know my parents very well and they know me very well. This comes from communicating extensively with one another. When I get married, there won’t be a TV in my home either.”

2) An environment which stimulates creativity versus passivity.

Families who spend hours slumped in front of the tube should be concerned about it because they have become an audience rather than a family unit. The only experiences shared are vicarious ones. Watching is not doing.

While working on individual and group projects, our family listens to Christian radio programs and wholesome tapes. Sometimes we chose a game and turn it into a family tournament; the first one to win ten games is the champion — an activity that can go on for weeks! We do physical fitness activities together. We make regular trips to the local library as a family to supply ourselves with individual reading material and information on our current interests and projects. Planning and taking family trips to nearby places of interest teach history, map-reading, and budgeting of time and expenses.

Our sons have learned to entertain themselves because there is no TV to do it for them. They have acquired many skills and developed challenging interests such as: Stamp and coin collecting, designing and building their own model railroad layout, building and painting model ships and planes, constructing transistor radios from kits, making handmade cards and gifts, building things with their father. Currently one son is learning from library books how to raise brine shrimp to feed his goldfish fresh, high protein food. Our other son is in the process of building a wind-powered generator that really works!

Creative activities forge a tight bond between parents and children through working and learning together.

3) Increased effectiveness in school performance.

The California Department of Education recently released results of a survey of sixth graders and high school seniors that indicate the more a student watches television the worse he or she does in school. The survey of 530,000 students conducted during the 197980 school year showed that TV viewing affected test scores across all social, economic, and racial lines.

Schraum, Lyle, and Parker, in their well-known studies of the effects of television viewing on schoolwork, report “extensive cases of drowsy children the morning after popular programs, and a tendency to expect to be entertained passively in class as they are before the TV set.”

After watching television, do students find school dull? Studies reveal a very large number of students say that they do.

4) A consistent, godly atmosphere in the home.

Family members are freed from television’s constant bombardment of unbiblical values, practices, and lifestyles which challenge and contradict that which is taught in the Christian home and the Bible-preaching church. Consistent biblical teaching and living are essential in fostering maximum spiritual growth and development. According to Matthew 6:19-24 and James 1:8, dual standards and double-mindedness result in internal conflict and instability.

This biblical principle is substantiated in the studies of Dr. Francis Horwich, often described as “the public scold of TV.” He contends we are confusing and bewildering our children and youth as to whom they should believe and whose values they should adopt those alluringly depicted on the n/ screen — or those of our parents.

Dr. Sidney Berman, former president of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, states that television encourages confrontation and alienation on the part of children toward their parents’ values and moral code, undermining the parents’ child-rearing responsibilities.

Habitual exposure to the blatant materialism and worldliness in most TV programs and advertising can unconsciously dull one’s spiritual senses and create a worldly orientation to life (1 John 2: 15).

A good self-examination to help a Christian assess the place television occupies in his life is to answer the following questions:

a. Do I spend less time each day reading my Bible and praying, than I would if I didn’t watch TV (Exodus 20:3; 11 Timothy 2: 15)?

b. Do I sit at home watching TV while there are services going on at my church (Hebrews 10:25)?

c. Do I watch programs where immorality, violence, and other ungodliness are being depicted (Philippians 4:8; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)? d. Do I complain, acting shocked and disgusted at the sin I am seeing during a TV show, and yet keep it on (James 4:17)?

The criterion the Lord Jesus Christ used during His earthly life to govern all His actions was, “I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). The Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to determine daily life practices by the following standard: “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:30).

The above article was reprinted from the December, 1981 issue of Faith for the Family, Greenville, SC. Used by permission.

Family Night at Dodger Stadium!

by Sanford Shetler

Americans can be creative, particularly church people, but who would have dreamed of having a church gathering at a sports arena? This time leave it to the California “chapter” of the Church of the Brethren.

Once a year they celebrate “Church of the Brethren Family Night” at Dodger Stadium watching the Dodgers play baseball. About 2,000 Brethren from the area gather for the event. The churches provide singers for the national anthem, throw the opening ball, and have their name up on the large television scoreboard.

“There will be all the fellowship of potluck and all the sharing of a singspiration, with the added excitement of the charged atmosphere that attends major-league baseball,” writes the minister in describing the event in the August, 1982 issue of the official Brethren publication, the Church of the Brethren .Messenger. Many churches buy more tickets than they can use so that they can invite other families to join the Brethren crowd for the Dodger event.

So while church offices are calling for more money for the deprived peoples of the earth (which includes many people in California!), 2,000 church people make a contribution of thousands of dollars to a baseball team that doesn’t need the money and makes fabulous wages playing instead of working. (The average salary of a big-league baseball player is $163,000 annually).

And while social justice activists are denouncing large corporations for their cold-blooded treatment of the multitudes, a church group is aiding a large athletic corporation that continually milks money from many people who need it badly for the basic essentials of life.

And while peace activists are denouncing the use of nuclear bombs, members of a peace church are helping to sing with fervor the American national anthem, which highlights “bombs bursting in air!”

One wonders what 2,000 Brethren could do on that same night if they spread out over California in a witness campaign to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who have never heard the message.

This is just one more example of the tremendous impact sports has had on the minds of many Christians today — an impact which, as Max Lerner has pointed out — has become an obsession.

Incidentally, since we are so creative, why not plan a special Dodgers Night at the Brethren churches of California, and invite the players with their families and friends, to come to a Gospel feast of song and word? It just could be that some of the members of the Dodger team might decide to do what Billy Sunday, a member of the Phillies team, did when he heard the call of the Lord and left the team to preach the Gospel. And that would be news!

Reprinted from the Mennonite publication. Guidelines for Today, Johnstown. PA, the November/December 1982 issue.  Used by permission.
[Guidelines is no longer published. Bro. Shetler, a Mennonite bishop from Johnstown, PA, died in 1987.]
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Captivity… Dreams… Rulers… Fire… Lions… Prayers… Kingdoms. From a dedicated youth to a faithful sage, Daniel’s life stands as an example to follow.  Yet beyond his personal life, God gifted Daniel with a message of future events.  Though difficult to grasp, these events would shape the world for the coming Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ as King.


Luke presents a warmly personal and historically accurate account of Jesus as “the Son of Man.” This course will survey the Third Gospel, with emphasis on the unique events, miracles, and parables of Jesus found in it.


This class will provide a broad overview of general church history. We will then focus on the Anabaptist and Pietist movements, especially as they relate to the formation and development of the Brethren groups. This is a two-part class. Plan to take both parts.


This course is intended to lay down a measure in a world where truth is slippery and often subject to interpretation. Where “Christian Values” become a political slogan, and “good people” are our allies despite their faulty core beliefs. Where Facebook “friends” post memes about the power of God, despite a lifestyle that is anything but Godly. In the process we often fight among ourselves, doing Satan’s work for him. The purpose of this course is to lay the measure of Jesus Christ against the cults, religions, and worship in our contemporary world.


While Protestant translations of the Bible contain 66 books, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches recognize additional canonical books as well.  Where did these books, collectively known as the Apocrypha, come from and why aren’t they part of our Bible?  How reliable are they, and what value is there in studying them?


The goal of this class is to acquire a firm grasp of the teachings and themes of these two general epistles. Peter covers topics from salvation and suffering to spiritual deception and the return of Christ. These letters are packed with warnings and encouragements for Christian living.


A detailed study of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the “I Am” metaphors in John’s gospel. Why did Jesus describe himself in these terms? How do they relate to each other? We will look at spiritual and practical applications to further our Christian growth.


Have you ever been visited by someone who said they wanted to study the Bible with you so that you might discover the truth together?  Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have much in common with evangelical Christians, and they seem to be well versed in the scriptures.  But what do they really believe and how can we effectively witness to those who have been ensnared by this false religion?


While we may consider Hosea as one of the minor prophets, his message vividly illustrates the major doctrine in all Scriptures.  The theme of God’s unconditional love is magnified and extended beyond those deserving it.  God expresses tender words towards His erring people inviting them to turn from sin to reconciliation with Him.


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The Brethren Bible Institute believes in the discipline of the whole person (spirit, soul, and body). We will aim to train students not only about how to study the Bible in a systematic way (2 Timothy 2:15), but also how to live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12). God calls Christians to the highest of character when He commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15), and holiness requires discipline.

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A friendly social group intermingling of students between class periods, and at general school activities is encouraged. Each student should enjoy the friendship of the entire group. At all times, highest standards of social conduct between men and women must be maintained. This means that all forms of unbecoming behavior and unseemly familiarities will be forbidden.

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MEN should be neatly attired and groomed at all times. Fashion extremes and the wearing of jewelry should be avoided on campus. The hair should not fall over the shirt-collar when standing, nor should it cover the ears.

WOMEN should wear skirts cut full enough and of sufficient length to at least come to the knees when standing and sitting. Form-fitting, transparent, low-neckline, or sleeveless clothing will not be acceptable. Slacks and culottes are permitted only for recreation and then only when worn under a skirt of sufficient length. Wearing jewelry should be avoided on campus. Long hair for women is encouraged and all Church of the Brethren girls (and others with like convictions) shall be veiled on campus.

The Institute reserves the right to dismiss any student whose attitude and behavior is not in harmony with the ideals of the School, or whose presence undermines the general welfare of the School, even if there is no specific breach of conduct.

The Brethren Bible Institute is intended to provide sound Bible teaching and wholesome Christian fellowship for all who desire it. The Bible School Committee worked hard and long at the task of arriving at standards, which will be pleasing to the Lord. It is not always easy to know just where the line should be drawn and we do not claim perfection. No doubt certain standards seem too strict for some and too loose for others. If you are one who does not share all these convictions, we hope you will agree to adjust to them for the School period, for the sake of those who do. We are confident that the blessings received will far outweigh any sacrifice you may have to make. If you have a special problem or question, please write to us about it. To be accepted as a student at BBI, you will need to sign a statement indicating that you will cooperate with the standards of the School.