My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. Hosea 11:8
I am trying to get to my ideal weight by my birthday next April. I made great progress last Lent, even winning the seminary “biggest loser” contest by watching what I ate and putting in a lot of time on the treadmill. I am almost there with nine months to go.
The seminary has a great new fitness center that I use when I am there. When I am at home writing, I have my own treadmill that I keep parked in front of the TV to help make the time pass faster as I walk and sweat. With both schools out for the summer and a break in my priest convocation travel schedule, I have been spending some welcome time at home, writing and preparing programs for the fall.
I am appalled by afternoon TV! I am even more disgusted by my own curiosity! Shows like Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Bill Cunningham, Trisha Goddard, Steve Wilkos and Cheaters feature human disasters, one after another. They are modern versions of the old circus sideshows where freakish people were taken advantage of for profit.
I don’t know whom I detest more: the out-of-control people who appear as guests on these shows, the people who use others to make money or people like myself who support the people who make money off pathetic people by watching their shows! After much reflection, I have several questions.
Is it just harmless entertainment? Is lowering standards just an easy way of making us feel better about ourselves? Does watching pathetic examples of humanity make those who watch feel superior in some cheap way? Does watching such trash make it easier to mimic? Do people who watch tend to say to themselves after a while, “If others are doing it so often, could it be that bad for me, too?” In other words, does it lead to “monkey see, monkey do?”
On the other hand, does it disgust people so much that they are led to go in opposite directions, saying to themselves, “I need to get a grip or I am going to end up like that if I keep going down the same path?”
All the shows have another thing in common: Weak attempts to make cases for being of service to humankind in one way or another by presenting their material.
Is it harmless entertainment? It may be entertainment, but I don’t think it is harmless. There is an old sin called “morose delectation.” It is the sin of “taking delight in others’ sins and failures.” That kind of “entertainment” on a regular basis is surely toxic. It eats away at one’s ability to feel compassion.
There is yet another genre of TV shows including “Revenge,” “Mistresses” and “Saturday Night Seduction,” “Breaking Amish” and “The Dome,” leaving us to wonder why betrayal, seduction, adultery, revenge and iconoclasm are so “entertaining.”
Should we start a petition? Let’s just turn off their life support.
Father J. Ronald Knott