AN ARTICLE IN a recent Sunday newspaper supplement reported a speech by semanticist Dr. Samuel Hayakawa on the influence of television on children. According to the article, Hayakawa told the American Psychological Association that he sees two primary effects on the youngster whose childhood is spent in front of the tube.
In the first place, the semanticist-turned-college-president said, too much television inspires impersonality: it denies the child the right of being a responsible person who learns to make his own decisions and think for himself. One need only sit passively and absorb what comes on the screen. There is no need for reaction. There is no call to relate the message to life, or even to weigh its values. The child turns on the set and sponges in whatever happens to appear.
Secondly, the psychologists heard, an overdose of television teaches children a false and overly-simple method of problem solving. According to the commercials, every difficulty one might face can be solved by a quick trip to the shopping center. Personality deficiencies, personal desirability, group acceptance — all is quickly handled by the right toothpaste, washing powder or hair spray. The child sees it happen before his own eyes — and all within 60 seconds!
No wonder, then, says Hayakawa, that the same children grow up expecting all problems to have answers that are easy, fast, and require no personal involvement or cost. A generation weaned on such propaganda might be expected to be short on patience when they face real-life anxieties.
This TV-type philosophy can also penetrate our spiritual thinking. Christ has the answers to all our problems, we are told. But we need to remember that we must do some self-sacrificing if the answer Christ gives is to become ours personally and in reality. Bible study is required. Effort must be exerted on our part. Time must and will be consumed before “all’s right with the world.”
We cannot just “turn on” and expect all problems to be solved for us because we are Christians. Some have supposed this and were bitterly disillusioned when their hope failed to materialize. Those who find must be seekers, Jesus said. Doors are not opened without a knock first. Problems will arise from day to day, and whether we view it as a congregation or as individuals, the answer will not just drop out of the sky. There must be prayerful thought, personal effort, and — in most instances — time. It would be wonderful if it were otherwise. But it isn’t.
The day is past (if it ever existed) when a problem could be solved instantly by the authoritative dictum of some learned man or group of men. We are apparently less prone to take the word of men for things today than we once were. ‘Mat is not necessarily either good or bad: it depends on whether we are ready to take the clear words of Scripture instead — even if that demands changes in our own thinking and lives.
Various controversies within the church are also involved here (and new ones are constantly being manufactured by someone, it seems). Because some seek quick nswers, the hawker with the loudest and simplest spiel often attracts the crowds. Many individuals are more concerned with the instant-answer and the minute-solution than with careful (and time-taking) study and application. It is much easier to talk than to think, and not nearly so demanding. There is a time for both, but usually talking should follow thinking and not vice-versa.
It is easy to look for conspiracies and to attach labels. It is not hard to give every man a black or white hat and be done with him. It is more difficult to weigh particular practices and doctrines on their own merit in the light of the Word of God. This is costly: in time, and often in former ideas.
There will never be a shortage of easy answers. These will likely maintain a considerable popularity. But for those who seek more than the 60-second remedy there will also continue to be study, self-investigation, open-mindedness and a desire to appropriate more and more truth from God’s unchanging Word.
May their tribe increase.