Television Bashing: Reviving an Old Tradition

The thesis of political scientist Michael Budde's book: the
global culture industries present a huge obstacle to spiritual formation.  Budde's book is a wake-up call to the
Christian Church, to help it recognize the extent to which the culture
industries subvert the following of Jesus.


By "culture industries" Budde means mass
communications media, telecommunications firms, computer interests, and
marketing firms.  The construction of
consumption is the job of the culture industries. It is Disney, and not Exxon
or the State Department, which typifies power in today’s economy.  Beware of Mickey Mouse.


The facts are sobering: culture industries have an enormous
influence over what we desire, what we value, what we buy, and how we behave as
citizens.  We are not stupid or easily
fooled, but but our choices are increasingly channeled by the culture
industries.  We are playing poker against
an opponent who has already seen our hand (42).


Television receives its usual share of justifiable abuse in
Budde's book. No matter how many times we have seen the statistics, they still
cause a jolt: the average person will spend thirteen years of his or her life
watching television, three years of which – twenty-four hours a day – will have
been commercials.  Budde pays much more
attention television's form (rather than its content), the way it seduces and
immobilizes people through its manipulation of space and time. Add to
television the constant exposure to the Web, logos, and radio, and you have a
convincing argument that, yes, it really is that bad.


Culture industries present obstacles to prayer, Church
space, religious symbols and narratives. Above all, the global culture
industries rob the Church of time. "One would be hard-pressed to learn any
demanding set of skills or competencies with the amount of time most Christians
in advanced industrial countries devote to their faith tradition. On the other
hand, there are few competencies that cannot be acquired with three to four
hours per day of time invested – and people in the West use that much time to
develop 'competence' in television-watching" (82).

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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