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The Great TV Tune-Out

Lynn Black

People can’t believe that I grew up without television. They assume that my family was Amish or that TV was somehow forbidden. Someone even asked if I had electricity in my house.

The reason we didn’t have TV was simple. Years ago, my parents gave away their TV to a sick friend and discovered that they didn’t miss it. When I was born, they thought I would be more well-rounded and grounded in faith if I grew up in a home without TV.

1950s TV SetWhile other kids watched cartoons and sitcoms, I became an avid reader. Books took me on an interactive adventure that used my imagination; most of my friends let the TV think for them.

I noticed how my friends’ lives revolved around television. In their homes, there was a TV set in almost every room. Their families seemed disconnected, unlike my family who ate together, played board games together, and had lively discussions. Even in the homes of my Christian friends, the TV was always on; and I wondered when they found quiet time to reflect and pray.

I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be missing. Brash and cocky sitcom kids? Outrageous “reality” shows? Offensive music videos? Still, I felt like an outsider when my classmates would discuss the latest episode of Friends or who won on American Idol. I soon discovered that it wasn’t cool to get straight As, belong to the debate club, or play cello in the chamber orchestra. Since I didn’t have TV to dictate my fashion, I was permanently preppie. I was often called a geek or a snob because I wasn’t into TV culture; and some kids called me “Radio Head” because I listened to National Public Radio. Many times I felt I had to “dumb down” in order to fit in.

One Sunday evening during youth group, I was catching the usual flack about not watching TV. This time I responded with a challenge: “I bet you guys couldn’t go a week without the boob tube.”

“OK, you’re on!” a friend exclaimed.

devozine Helping Out TS 116928862-1At that point the youth director jumped in, and suddenly the Great TV Tune-Out had begun. Everyone in my youth group agreed to give up television for seven days. The first few days, the gang suffered some serious withdrawal; but by the end of the week, exciting things were happening. Dave used his free time to volunteer as a Big Brother. Krista kept a journal. Tracy and Jake showed up at my Bible study class.

Eventually, my youth group had a spirited discussion about the influence of TV—how it affects the way we talk, dress, eat, and think; and we realized how often we give TV top priority—even over God. After the Great TV Tune-Out ended, we decided that in order to keep our priorities straight, each of us would give up two evenings of TV a month to do community service. We got involved in everything from staffing a teen suicide hotline to making sandwiches for a soup kitchen. It was fun, and it felt good to help others and to live out our Christian faith.

It’s amazing: When you tune out a little TV, you tune in to a whole lot more!

 

DIG DEEPER

Read Ephesians 4:17–24. How do your TV habits fit into your new life with Christ?

TAKE THE CHALLENGE: Think you could go a week without TV? Try the Great TV Tune-Out with your youth group or with a group of friends. Sometime during the Tune-Out, discuss TV’s impact on your faith.

Lynn Black lives in Akron, New York.

— from Devo’Zine (November/December 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Upper Room Ministries. All rights reserved.

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