Homework reading this week has me plowing through A Royal Waste of Time, by Marva Dawn. I need to finish reading it in the next couple of week (yikes). It’s not overly long (370 pages) but it is proving difficult to summarize. It is a collection of ‘rants’ on very deep issues. Each one of them starts with a wee bit of context – like a gulp of fresh air – and then plunges deep into things like the meaning of culture, what ‘worship wars’ are really about and tonight, about media and a lack of intimacy skills. At these depths my brain hurts and my ears begin to pop and by the end of a chapter I come up gasping for air, unsure what to do with all this.
Dawn writes that TV addiction, besides being a colossal waste of time, promoting greed (watch Saturday morning cartoons if you don’t believe me), stifling creativity, violent, full of vivid sexual activity …
I’m sorry but I just have to pause here and tell a story. I am visiting a elderly lady in my church, a delightful woman who is a wonderful example, a beautiful servant of Christ. She is in chronic care and is watching soaps when I came to visit… have you seen what is on the soaps these days? At 2 pm in the afternoon, in the span of 20 minutes I saw three couples engaged in active intercourse with dialog and sound that made me squirm. I think she was mortified too! Maybe this was just a really bad episode and usually it isn’t quite so visceral but MAN! was that ever graphic!
Anyway… where was I … Oh yeah! TV bad. Anyway, Dawn writes that TV trains people in not engaging socially. TV is by nature a passive information delivery system. You sit there and absorb it – You don’t initiate, or respond, for hours at a time! In addition to spending more time with the TV you end up spending less time working at social intimacy or in an affectionate community.
On average, a viewer spends 28 hrs a week in front of the set and by comparison a married person spends 5 minutes talking to their spouse a day and 30 seconds a day with each kid a day! YIKES! More research from the US shows that high school students in 1996 spent 80% of their discretionary time watching TV!
Jaques Ellul wrote (40 years ago no less!) that an increase in technological advancement will be accompanied by a corresponding decline in skills, and time, for intimacy. He predicted that we would reverse the poles in our world and technologize our relationships and intimize our technology. Talk about calling the shot!
Now parents can buy an intercom so they can tuck their kids in bed remotely, carry on relationships with people we have never met, and spend more time playing with our cell phones than with our kids.
“Goodnight Dad! over.”
“10-4 little buddy. Give yourself a kiss for me”
So where is the church in all this? The last thing families need is another place where parents don’t see or talk to anyone and sit in front of a screen. What should the church be doing to step into the gap here? “Rather than make church more like TV,” Dawn responds, “we need to help people in our churches ask better questions about TV.” William Fore says the solution is not “to make worship just like television – with its constant hype and glitz – but to invite people to recognize the phoniness of that medium, to cherish instead reflection and genuine thought instead of brainwashing”
I am convinced that one of the few intimate social environments left for our culture is eating together. That is why I think that the Wednesday night dinners at my church are so important. We meet together at 6 pm (more than 50 people) and we share a meal face to face with each other. Sure there are lots of logistical issues to work out and finding the volunteers is a chore but is it ever worth it! Moms get a chance to talk and Dad’s can cut their kid’s meat. This just doesn’t happen in western culture anymore.
Read Acts and what do you see the church doing. By the end of the first week they are eating together, sharing. Meeting the needs of the group. Our society is desperate for intimacy and chat rooms and, yes, BLOGing just doesn’t cut it. We need to practice the art of being together reveal the counterfeit experiences that our culture throws at us.