Intersecting Stories
By |   June 7, 2011 |   in Movies, Television |   3 Comments

I have this theory about TV and education.  The more degrees you have the smaller your TV, and the larger your bookshelf.  My friends from the university I work at have pathetically small televisions, and they’re never in the living room.

Last year at a garage sale I found a giant TV for $50.  Eagerly I broke solidarity with my colleagues and proudly displayed the icon of America’s favorite pastime front and center in the living room. I don’t have a PhD, so it’s okay.

In spite of my electronic shrine, I hardly ever watch TV; the more channels we have the less there seems to watch.  Actually, I’m more of a movie guy.

In a good documentary I learn about culture, injustice, and history.

When I find my eyes opened to the joy and darkness of our world, I’m challenged to find God in the midst, and to reconcile my ache to uncover his kingdom on earth.

A few of the most influential include The Corporation, Why We Fight, Food Inc. and Born into Brothels.



I have this idea that if I listen and learn from others’ stories it gives a sort of meaning to tragedy; it’s my way of honoring others.  Depressing dramas and war films always seem to pull me out of my self-centeredness and move me towards a deep sense of gratitude.  A couple of my favorites include To End all Wars, The Long Engagement, Saints and Solders, and Les Miserable.

Through the years films have been fodder for spiritual growth.  A good flick shows God’s beauty in the midst of life, and I’m left humbled, enlightening and often moved towards prayer.

I haven’t been watching much this last year. When the kids go off to bed and my wife and I have a chunk of time, she doesn’t want education, or exposure to the sadness of the world; she wants to laugh. And so to love my wife I succumb to watching TV. (Actually we rent entire seasons and watch them straight though.) Watching stupid videos has been fun, strangely bonding and ultimately spiritually formative on the highest level.  Whether watching The Office with my wife or sharing a bowl of popcorn with the kids over an episode of the Cosby Show, I find just being together is extremely impactful for me.

Is TV a waste of time?  Is staring at a box mindless, self-centered entertainment?  You bet.  But, it can also be relationally building; film stimulates discussion and it’s a way to share life with others, which just happens to be one of the most significant ways God teaches and forms me.

Join the Conversation

How does Nathan’s reflection reframe how you view watching television or movies?

What movies or stories have recently moved you toward gratitude and away from self-centeredness?

Nathan Foster:
Nathan Foster is assistant professor of social work at Spring Arbor University (Spring Arbor, Michigan). He has been a counselor and founded/directed Door of Hope Counseling (Arvada, Colorado). He is married and has two children. He is an avid cyclist and still dreams of mountain adventures. His most recent book is Wisdom Chaser: Finding My Father at 14,000 Feet.
    • Pat Pope

      Very interesting and in a lot of ways, I can relate. I have two degrees and a 13″ t.v.–two in fact, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. They’re on quite often, but I find that it’s often background noise more than anything. The larger t.v.s that are so popular now, I’m not comfortable having one of my own. I just don’t see the need for 32″ or larger screen unless you have an incredibly large room. I do have two bookshelves chock full of books and I spend more of my time online reading blogs like this one. I too like documentaries and would prefer to watch one versus a dramatization or made-for-tv movie of the same event. I have basic cable and have learned to live with it because I really can’t afford the pricier packages. Besides, some of the other channels I’m able to see with a modest amount of snow in the picture, but’s good enough for me. I guess you could say t.v. is not really a priority for me.

      I think t.v. is what you make of it. I do watch some of the reality shows and I find them to be great commentaries on our culture. Some escape from reality is okay as long as we keep it in perspective and don’t start incorporating some of the values presented to us in our everyday lives. But there also are really newsworthy and worthwhile things to watch such as the documentaries I mentioned above or real news programs (can’t believe now we have to distinguish between “real” news from what passes more as news shows.) that elevate one’s thinking and awareness. There also are just good, entertaining shows like the Cosby Show that the author mentioned. They give you a break from your day, provide good entertainment and you don’t feel any worse for the wear from having watched them.

    • I consider myself to be rather educated: B.Ed, MA, RCC and a variety of other little letters (no PhD yet) AND I have one very large TV and second one that is bigger than small. My husband is three courses short of his MA and is an ordained minister. HE bought the TV’s. We’re both 50+ and have active, full lives BUT love our TV’s. Nothing like hockey on the big screen if you can’t afford the games b/c of never ending student loan debt! Wii on the TV – the bigger the screen the better! Yup, there’s a lot of junk, but we control the junk we watch. I can’t lie, there have been times when I’ve vegged mindlessly in front of the screen. Perhaps a way of coping? One of my favorite memories from my childhood is watching Bonanza with my dad after Sunday night church. It was one of the only times he ever sat down with us, other than Sunday dinner.
      I work with Middle Schoolers and it certainly helps with relationship building when I’m up to date on the important things in their lives, whether it be TV shows, movies, music, books…
      BTW, we have many large bookcases, overflowing with great books, plus books in boxes and books on the floor. Yup, I’ve got it all!

    • Steve Pierzchala

      Interesting article…We have 1 small TV, “You can’t see the people very well,” our grandchildren inform us. We received a DVD at Christmas time but have been unable to watch it because our DVD player broke down at that time. We just “purchased” a new DVD player and can’t figure out how to hook it, the Wii, and the VHS player up all at once.

      For the first time ever, the TV is in our bedroom because my folks stayed with us and we prefer that they don’t struggle up and down the steps…so we moved the TV into “their” room for them to watch, unfortunately for them, without cable. At the same time 3 college kids moved in with us, not our own, and stayed for a month which kept us from moving the TV back upstairs.

      What I observed is that with the TV in our room, it is much easier to watch. I turn on the local weather station and then start surfing. Delightedly, at first, I saw that PBS has many hours of documentaries. I love them…but I find I don’t like the struggle between watching a documentary and spending time doing the plethora of other things I like to do. Why is it TV wins out so easily?

      Alas, I will soon move the TV back upstairs, have a guy from our youth group come and hook up my players and Wii, and get back to escaping through reading. Why do we think that escaping through reading is better than escaping through television? I’ve pondered this for years. (:>)