The following is an adaptation of a paper written for a Politics class in the course of D.Min. studies at Drew University. It has been shortened and simplified.

A revolution in our perception of science, technology, and the media is in order if we are to "escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires" (2 Peter 1:4). In a key scripture, Luke 17:1-3 we see that Jesus cared not only about sin, but about the media through which temptations come. We too must be concerned not so much about what is in the air (the flying demons of medieval Christianity!), but what is on the air.

The call to re-think how we "view" television is fundamentally a call to think. Does not our Lord always call us to use our mental faculties, to follow the truth wherever it leads? This is of the essence, because the church seldom questions the social system. We are brought up to "eat everything on our plate," so to speak -- to ingest the spirit of our age uncritically. We have elevated the virtue of "tolerance" above all other values. This is demonic. We are even raised to believe that capitalism and exploitation are of God.

The average American knows far more about sports than current events, and cares little for those in the "outside world." This brings me great heartache, and it is not unusual for my congregation to receive an exhortation to stay current with the news, contribute time and money to help those less fortunate, and become key players in the drama of redemption as "the salt of the earth" and "light of the world."

Clergymen, symbols of the American "system," likewise are socialized not to question. Having drunk deeply of the "system," they have choked down any natural objections or pangs of conscience. Few churches have the mettle to speak against the system, or any part of it! The media need to be scrutinized and exposed.

In beginning to formulate strategy, it is necessary to identify the problem. In the spirit of Mark 5, we must call the demon by name. Consumerism is a great evil. Now I, for one, do derive some benefit from the "system," which comprises production, marketing, purchase, and consumption. Yet injustice is implicit in the capitalist system, as anyone who has visited a third world country will have realized. The burden of guilt, or the convictions sharpened through third world travel, are testimony to our complicity in the exploitative system. TV is the primary medium through which consumerism, violence, immorality, and general secularization are intensified in our lives - and nearly every American household owns at least one.

What are the results of our consumer-driven economy -- and the nearly universal denominational support it finds? Consider the evidence of social erosion facilitated by the greed of big business and the entrepreneurs who direct them:
* Financial shipwreck. Impulse spending, unprincipled and unbudgeted personal finances, credit card "slavery," and staggering personal (and national) debt plague most of us. Such recklessness is powerfully promoted by the corporations and their cronies. Money is one of the most common subjects of marital disputes. To make things worse, we deprive our children of the opportunity to learn from our mistakes by keeping the subject of money "hushed."
* Disintegration of relationships. The basic social unit is being reduced to the individual alone. Alienation is the characteristic symptom when social erosion affects the familial level.
* Disintegration of health. Television has wrought great harm in its contribution towards nicotine addiction, alcoholism, etc. Laziness is in principle condoned as the lives of the "rich and shameless" are paraded on screen. We as a nation are grossly out of shape.
* Ruin of family values. TV eats up precious family time. A 1996 USA Today poll found the average male watches 28 hours of TV a week; some children, to their detriment, watch even more. Even in the International Churches of Christ, whose members are typically extremely involved in church and community events, there is a crisis in relation to TV. A survey of Washington DC inner-city "pre-teens" (ages 9-12), 5/21/97, revealed that the average pre-teen spends 21/2 hours watching the "tube." Not surprisingly, their parents' viewing time was 11/2 hours a day! This has been addressed and continues to receive follow-through. We believe that the ones who need the challenge are not so much the youngsters as their parents, who must take seriously the responsibility to protect and nurture their children during these formative years. Infidelity and fornication are depicted as excusable, "natural" courses of action. Dysfunction is increasingly portrayed as normal. The traditional "family," thanks to the media, is gaining negative overtones.
* Pathetic role models. When convicted felons are kids' role models, we are in trouble!
* Erosion of morality. Violence, promiscuity, and materialism are highly exalted in the media, and are prime agents in our moral decline. This clearly translates into injustice, crime, and hedonism.
* Secularization. These days, money is the bottom line. Worth is defined as financial worth; humanity is emptied of that which is truly valuable. Jesus noted that the Pharisees loved money, yet he assures us that what is highly valued by men is detestable in the sight of God (Luke 16:15).

Sociologists recognize that secularization takes place through three avenues: (1) the media, (2) the technological explosion, and (3) the university. Might we not add a fourth: the church? Truly the church has lost its moorings, and is now ethically adrift on -- yes -- a sea of relativity!

The problem: it is "politically incorrect" to speak clearly and authoritatively, to give the direction people so desperately need? Of course it is! But more on this in the conclusion' Moreover, the secularization process anesthetizes us against the real violence and immorality in the world. I will never forget the horrific scenes of violence of The Sand Pebbles and In Cold Blood, films I saw as a youngster. These movies deeply affected my conscious as well as, I believe, my subconscious. Nor will I forget the first time I saw nudity on screen -- and the (different sort of) violence that did to me. Social sickness results from sick values pushed by the media.

Many of the corporations that benefit from advertising and consumerism are highly exploitative. Exploitation takes place (1) in the corporate sphere and (2) in the consumer sphere. It takes two to tango; in this case we, while often participating unrighteously in area (1), are also guilty of complicity in area (2). It is now incumbent upon us to "unmask" them.

Having identified the powers of selfishness to which we are now addressing our attention, it comes time to "unmask" them. As Richard Horsley soberly adjures us, "Fidelity to the gospel lies not in repeating its slogans but in plunging the prevailing idolatries into its corrosive acids."

Television (standard "furniture" in any home) qualifies fully as an agent of the economic exploitation, commercial television in particular. Not that I stand against commercial TV! I am commenting only on the processes in play which lead to the corruption of society and spirituality. What are the intentions of those in power (the Gordon Geckos of our society), as well as of those who appear to profit in a hideous sort of symbiotic relationship? Through these greed-based corporate aggregates, the economic exploitation of our congregations and the wider community is taking place-not to mention the rest of the world, the Third World in particular.

The Madison Avenue lie commonly takes the form "You will be a happier product if you own product x." Moreover, an image of "caring" is concocted in the boardrooms of big business. Yet we know what is really going on. The values of big business are all too often "Maximize profits; the ends justify the means; money is the bottom line; broadcast what brings in revenue." Although there ought to be enormous resistance to the official doctrines of consumerism, there is virtually none. We are rolling over and letting whole generations be indoctrinated!

Tragically, the response to advertising consists of little more than "Cool!" or "I want that!" or "I'm willing to spend money I don't have, and work overtime for more things." We, however, have a prophetic mandate to call the victimizer by name. Well, his name is Mammon and he is "senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless" (Rom 1:31). His spirit indwells nearly all companies, and he appears not to have a conscience. We need to raise the level of consciousness about this! Violence, degradation of women, and the profanation of the sacred are indignities to which millions are subjected in the public arena. And Hollywood glamorizes and conceals the truth. The ad-men conceal the awful emptiness of a life whose value consists in possessions alone.

Television stations are willing partners in this duplicity. And, odd as it sounds, we too are willing partners in our own deception, in our own alienation. The pressure to conform is an overwhelming current for most men and women. Yet the naked truth is still too awful to gaze upon without shame. Alas, we are not yet completely dehumanized or beyond redemption! Through the bold declaration of the Gospel there is hope. In the meantime, however, we prefer escapism to owning up to our own shallowness and mutual manipulation.

These are truths with which we must confront our world, starting with our churches. I realize, of course, that a more direct approach could be taken. One could go straight to the seats of power (big business or the television companies), articulate the concerns of the public over the misuse of the media, and possibly use prophetic dramatic action. This public critique might flout social convention, or even law. One could thus demonstrate that the power is not omnipotent. Boycott might also be effective, either of television stations or products and activities promoted through the stations. Yet I do not have the certain conviction that this is the most effective way to effect change in this area, in part because so few people realize the nature of the domination by which they are oppressed. Indeed, we have been trained to love what the media offers -- and love it we do, dearly. We will be wise if we begin our expos