Megan and I were married almost 11 years ago. And we’ve never owned a television.
You probably think we’re weird (and if you do, we don’t mind). We are a part of that uniquely quirky 4% of Americans who don’t own a TV.
It’s not because we believe television is entirely evil (although, let’s be honest, there certainly are parts of it that are). It’s not that we’re too cool or that we’re trying to be Luddites. Yes, we have smart phones. We have the internet. We sometimes watch movies on our laptop (we have a Netflix account) and watch live sports from time to time (ESPN3 is a nice treat). But we’ve never owned a television. And, if I can be quite frank here, I’m not sure we miss much.
During our engagement a wise couple gave us a challenge: don’t have a television for your first year of marriage. We took them up on the challenge and, in the process, developed healthy patterns and expectation of how our evenings would be spent. (The entire story of what we learned and how that came about is for another post at another time).
Is refraining from owning a television a universal principle we want every person on the planet to adopt? No. Do we condescendingly look down on people who own one? No. Do we sometimes wish we owned one? Yes. But do we grieve when we see people wasting their lives away sitting in front of the TV screen waiting for their next “favorite show” to come on? Absolutely. And this grieving happens way too often.
Recently, through a few interactions, I’ve been struck by how prevalent television is in our culture. This “must see TV” generation is dying a slow death of boredom. Reality TV sucks us in. And maybe the reason reality TV is so appealing is that our own lives and our own stories are so unappealing.
We have only one life to live. Only one. How will you invest it?
Someone recently found out about our no-TV lifestyle. With a shocked look on his face he asked me, “How do you find out what is going on in the world?” I informed him of incredibly cutting edge technologies such as the newspaper, radio, conversation with other people and this amazing thing called the internet.
After he realized other forms of technology exist he asked, “So what do you do with your free time?” For us, life is full and busy as young parents of two active boys – and for me as a pastor. But when there is free time, there are lots of things to do: spend time with my kids, read, connect with friends, play games, go on trips, work out, ride bikes, pursue hobbies, host people at our home, rest, etc, etc, etc…
Then he admitted this to me: “I don’t think I could go a week without television. I watch it all the time.” And then the kicker: “Even if you gave me $50,000 to go TV-free for a year, I couldn’t do it.”
This startled me.
Where it most startles me is that this is someone who considers himself a Christian – and who has told me a few times before he has no time to read his Bible or pray. He’s just too busy.
Please hear me: I’m not slamming television watching. At times, it can very appropriate, wholesome, significant, educational, relational and enjoyable. But how much time do we waste? How much brain matter do we use on meaningless things? How many hours do we spend glued in front of a screen by ourselves on the couch when other family members are in other rooms of the house doing the same thing? How many situations are we in that lead us to sin because of what we’re watching? Will any of us on our deathbeds wished we had watched just one more episode of Two and a Half Men? We are a generation being discipled by Hollywood through our televisions.
Some things to consider: