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 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.