by Elmer L. Rumminger
How Should a Christian Family Deal With Pornography On Television?
This article first appeared in the first issue of the magazine, Faith for the Family, published March/April, 1973.It is reproduced here by permission.
Editor’s note: The article speaks of the problem of immorality on display on television from a 1973 perspective. The situation has hardly gotten better, but we offer it for its historical viewpoint and for the spiritually edifying exhortation it offers. Current readers will want to transfer its applications to present day media of all kinds.
In Part One, Elmer Rumminger explained the shock that fundamentalist Christians were experiencing in the 1970s as broadcast television began to pump out increasingly immoral content. He predicted “it will get worse, much worse!” We who observe the scene in the 21st century should realize that he was right about that.
Part Two attempted to assess blame for the declining morality of television in the 1970s. “Television is to blame. Society is to blame. Satan is to blame. Existentialism — the philosophy of the age — is to blame. No doubt you could add a few more. But,” says Rumminger, “fixing the blame does not solve the problem.”
Part Three offered warnings about the “good programs” — programs that seem very tame by today’s standards! — and a warning that “It Will Get Worse”. We have seen that prophecy come to fruition.
Part Four suggested solutions to the problems on television including taking an active role in public affairs organizations like national lobby groups and local organizations concerned with the effect of television on society.
And that brings us to part Five, some suggestions for personal solutions and the conclusion of the article.
ACTION ON THE FAMILY LEVEL
There is one thing that you can do right now. Today! This may sound strange coming from a teacher of radio and television, but here goes: TRY TURNING IT OFF! You will be amazed at what this simple action will do for you and for your family, once you have recovered from the initial trauma.
I speak from experience. During the Christmas season in 1969, my television set decided that it had had enough. Of its own accord it declined to make any effort to cure my insomnia with interminable interview shows. It flatly refused to cater to my blood-lust with professional football games. It even deprived my wife and children of baby-sitting services!
I say to my shame that I was furious with the little monocular monster. It was far nobler than I — bless its un-transistorized heart!
I fumed, groused, even suffered withdrawal symptoms. I fiddled with the antenna. I made the customary adjustments. I fretted. I vowed that I would not spend one red cent to repair that ungrateful black box, which had enjoyed the shelter of my home for many years.
Anyway, it was only a black-and-white table model. It would be junked in favor of a COLOR CONSOLE. One that works!
But it was Christmas time. I have five children. The budget had already been stretched to the squeaking point. “We’ll wait a month,” I told them.
February first — same situation. “We’ll wait another month.”
Would you believe we soon began to enjoy being an un-TV family? We got to know each other. Barbara could talk with her husband without having to wait for the commercial. Little Adrienne found that Mom and Dad had some advantages over TV cartoons — she could sit in their laps and help turn the pages of a good book.
Douglas learned to read! Our only fear is that the public library may not be able to supply new books fast enough ‘to keep up with him.
I found time for a project which afforded me exquisite pleasure: reading the entire Bible out loud — on tape — from Genesis to Revelation, genealogies and all! I plan to “dub” these tapes to cassettes in the near future, so that I can read the Bible to myself whenever I travel.
Two years later we still had not purchased a new TV or fixed the old one. It was wonderful. “Try it you’ll like it!”
I teach young people at Bob Jones University how to become Christian broadcasters. I have a TV set again. I have to watch it occasionally to keep up with the state of the art — to maintain my professional expertise. My wife hates that set! College aged daughters Erika, Valerie, and Hillarie generally ignore it. Doug, now a fifth grader, prefers Tom Swift novels. Adrienne (in second grade) likes it, but can take it or leave it — even at her tender years. Mostly she leaves it, because time before the “tube” is parentally limited.
I confess to enjoying Monday Night Football when I’m home, but TV-watching is one aspect of my professorial job which I tend to shirk. As a former addict, I am so happy to have been freed from the habit that I don’t want to get hooked again. Besides, I don’t have the time.
When is the last time you read one of the Gospels from beginning to end in a single sitting? “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.”
Have you found the time to visit every family on your block to tell them how to get to heaven? Don’t you care enough about them? “Ye shall be witnesses unto me …”
How much time do you spend with your children in family activities — not just a moment of prayer at table or quickee devotions at bedtime. I mean T-I-M-E — a regular “family evening” of games, model building, vacation-planning, reading aloud from good books, thorough discussions of God’s answers to the problems of life. “Train up a child in the way he should go …”
How much time do you spend in two-way communication with your Lord? “Pray without ceasing.”
Not only do you not have the time to watch the amount of television that most Christians watch — I submit that you dare not risk exposing your mind and your children’s minds to the unholy influence of the vast majority of today’s television programming.
Read Philippians 4:8. “Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Does this describe the content of today’s TV schedule? How about TOMORROW’S?
Read this portion of Scripture in context, and I am sure you will agree that it contains Divine instructions on how to “program your cranial computer” to produce mental, emotional, and spiritual peace and contentment. How can you expect to produce these same results if you condition your mind with violence, sex, witchcraft, nudity, murder, avarice, rock music, etc. ad nauseam? You CAN’T!
Dad, listen! You are the head of your home. The Almighty God, Creator and Judge of the Universe, holds you responsible for your entire family’s well being.
What should you do about television?
Think it through carefully. Base your decision upon what God says is right and good for you and your family — not upon what any human being feels may be enjoyable or entertaining. Ask the Lord to guide you and give you wisdom. He has promised to do so (James 1:5).
Then take positive action. Be loving, but be firm; and stick with it. BLESSING MUST-FOLLOW!
At the time of original publication, Elmer L. Rumminger was head of the Radio and Television faculty of Bob Jones University, a post he held since January, 1972. For nine years previous to this, he was manager of Radio Station WAVO-FM/AM in Atlanta, Georgia. He had also served as news director of the Bob Jones University Hour on WAIM-TV, Anderson, S.C. While residing in Georgia, he was a member of the Advisory Board of the Greater Atlanta Movement to Restore Decency; and he was active in efforts to keep SIECUS-related sex instruction programs out of Georgia public schools. During the Maddox Administration, he was one of five lay members from throughout the state appointed to the Private Education Study Committee of the Georgia Senate, on which he continued to serve under Governor Jimmy Carter. A founding director of Christian Communication Consultants, he has lectured widely on the dangerous anti-Christian influence of modern-day radio, television, movies, and recordings. On the eve of his return to South Carolina, a committee of Atlanta area pastors and laymen honored him with a plaque naming him “Mr. Christian Broadcasting of Atlanta.”