My Downton Disposition: How TV is Teaching Us

If you are like me and thousands of women across the nation (and Europe too!), the hit drama Downton Abbey consumed your Sunday nights for the first few months of this year.  After getting my Downton fix, I often found myself talking to myself in a British accent, longing for someone to join in the sophisticated conversation (preferably Matthew Crawley).  When Downton drama occurred it was as if it had affected my own life!  I found myself completely depressed the day after one particular episode as if it really had a direct impact on my world. Funny how my mood is affected by what I watch.

Maybe you love another TV show like The Big Bang Theory, and struggle with letting crude jokes creep into your conversation with friends.  Maybe you love Parenthood and start talking with your spouse about how you should work while he stays home with the kids.  Or you watch Everybody Loves Raymond and think your husband or boyfriend is flat-out lazy…What about all that you do?  Or you watch Glee and think, maybe this  whole homosexual debate is a myth, that homosexuality isn’t sin and people are just born that way. Notice a pattern?

What we watch has a major impact on our attitudes whether we like to admit it or not.

Nicholas Johnson, author of How to Talk Back to Your Television Set, said, “All television is educational television. The question is, “What is it teaching?”  Think about it.  How do the shows that we watch, and, in all honesty, get addicted to, affect our lives? How do they affect the way we think? Do they cause us to think about things like gender roles, marriage, friendships, and work in a different way? Johnson talks in-depth about the great effects of television on society.  The question is, “Are we allowing television to affect us more than the reality of God’s Truth?”

I’m not saying that TV is a sin, or direct from the pit.  Television has allowed for great connection within society, prevented disaster, raised awareness, and the list goes on.  However, as followers of Christ, we have to determine who or what is defining our worldview. Johnson has a point – the TV shows that we watch are educating us, and they are forming our worldview possibly without us even being aware of it.  The effects can be positive, but also terribly negative.

So, what are we to do?  I don’t think it’s as much about having a list of what you can and can’t watch as much as it is about honoring to God and reflecting the gospel. If we’re not actively placing a filter on my heart and brain while watching TV, then we will definitely be inundated with a worldview apart different from God’s. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2

The Word of God is our filter.

It is by being inundated by His truth first, above everything else, that we can know what God’s heart beats for, to perceive and understand our world based from His perspective. Jesus spoke into this issue of our hearts in a most practically deep way when He said “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).  It is simple enough. Whatever we fill ourselves with, will overflow into our spheres of influence.

My British accent may not have a negative effect on anyone (except for possibly annoying roommates), but the sadness that I experienced affected the opportunity I had to encourage those around me had I been in a more joyful mood. Needless to say, I’ll be thinking twice before tuning in to Downton next season.

What about you?  What is your filter?  What are you being filled with?  And what is TV really teaching you?