Monday, April 10, 2006


Knowing What Matters Most Quiz:

1. Name the five main characters of the television program "Friends."
2. Name the five freedoms of The First Amendment.


I don't know the answer to (1.)--and am proud of my ignorance. Here is the First Amendment fo the United States Constitution.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."


Ray said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I know there are six main chracters on Friends.

Michael Russell said...

Uh, I didn't know either of the two.

I suppose, from my perspective anyway, that a more important conclusion might be drawn by asking for the names of characters from any popular TV show vs. the ten commandments. Or, for the guys, how 'bout the names of the starting lineup of your favorite baseball, basketball, football, foosball, or whatever-ball team vs. the beatitudes?

Frankly, although I'm thankful to live in the U.S., I'm much more thankful to be a member of a kingdom. Not trying to sound holier-than-thou; just trying to keep in mind what's really important, i.e., what is eternal and what is temporal and fading away.

Tim said...

Um, is Friends a television show or something? I guess not having owned a TV for the past 30 years or so has really left its mark on me. (Frequently repeated conversation: "But what do you do in the evenings?" "We read books.")

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

One of my students corrected me today concerning this quiz. There are six main characters. Of course, I'm happy to have committed this error.

Ed Darrell said...

My son can name the five freedoms in the First Amendment, the rest of the Bill of Rights, relate the history of religious freedom in America, accurately, and give you the six main characters on Friends plus their idiosyncrasies.

Knowledge is not a zero-sum game. Friends is not the opposite of freedom. Not knowing what's on television is okay, but the question is, what useful activity filled the time otherwise?

And the original poll was done with the characters in the Simpsons, which remains one of the best television sit-coms ever.

dave and amy terpstra said...

I knew all five freedoms and I know all six characters from Friends. Last week I read Frankenstein, Of Mice and Men, The Soul of the Apostolate, started 1984, and I am leisurely reading some of Pensees by Pascal. I also watched The Simpsons on Sunday and CSI on Thursday.

Why must so many members of the intelligentsia take such an elitist and self-righteous position against those of us who watch television? I watch t.v. I also think, read, and have intelligent conversations. End the prejudice against television watchers! Some of us think too!

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

"Why must so many members of the intelligentsia take such an elitist and self-righteous position against those of us who watch television?"

Because it is a waste of time (usually) and because it corrupts one's sensibibilites.

Ed Darrell said...

All information can corrupt the sensibilities -- which is why censorship of books has been popular for so long.

It's not the medium that is always the message. Sometimes free will is a threat to unjust authority.

How can you be sure that your distaste for television is noble, and not oppressive? How does it differ from any oppressive regime's distaste for books, or opera, or music?

dave and amy terpstra said...


(before I begin, I wanted to again thank you for the forum to debate humanely and with good humor)

I will not argue that some sensibilities are dulled through large quantities of television viewing. I would suppose the most common of these is the dulling of one's sensitivity towards the emotions of other live and present human beings. I would not even disagree if someone suggested that regular overdosing on television viewing could lead to a general inability to respond to a plethora of stimuli.

However, you have conceded that you watch some television. And you have admitted that television only "usually" dulls one's senses.

Since you agree that some television programs do not dull the sensibilities of their viewers, I would like to suggest that some even enhance some sensibilities.

Some of the sensibilities television can enhance: appreciation of color, sound, music, and language. Television can enhance one's sense of timing in conversation. It can sharpen one's ability to tell a joke or a story. It can even grow the brain of a young child through its visual stimulation.

All of these things on top of the fact that it taught me how to be a fairly accomplished woodworker (without ever taking a woodworking class) through The New Yankee Workshop on PBS.

Bryan L said...

Television is a very powerful medium for teaching, as well as other mediums like it (whether what they teach is good or not is a whole other issue). Although a lot of people would be able to tell you the first question and not the second (like me), I think after reading the first amendment many would say "oh yeah I knew that". I don't think many would read it and think it's something completely foreign that they've never heard of or didn't realize existed. Although many couldn't quote the first amendment we know it's contents; maybe from years of schooling or just the fact that in this country the first amendment is taught to us over and over through mediums like television. This teaching is not necessarily by reciting or memorizing it line by line, but often through stories and dramas that are interesting and where the first amendment becomes something that's important to know in the story. Sure we couldn't quote it line by line but we know the contents even if we couldn't say they belong to the first amendment. Maybe the idea isn't to just bash people for wanting to watch entertaining television that makes them laugh, cry and a whole lot of other stuff in between, but instead to figure out how we can better utilize it to effectively teach important truths and good values to people through entertaining and interesting shows and programs.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Bryan is uttterly oblivious to the form, nature and structure of television. He is hypnotized. He must get himself forthwith to reading Neil Postman, "Amusing Ourselves to Death." Then for an even stronger dose of truth, he must immerse himself in Jacques Ellul's, "The Humiliation of the Word."

Bryan L said...

Um, thanks Douglas for your kind words. Are you always this nice to commentors on your blog? What exactly am I hypnotized by? I don't even watch tv except for maybe one 30 minute episode of a comedy a week and sometimes not even that much.
What exactly did I say that you have the problem with?
I take it you don't watch tv your self. If so then how do you know what is out there and what it's saying? How do you know the form structure and content of it all? Did a book tell you all of that? Do you listen to music (modern music), watch movies, or attend plays? Just curious if it's just tv that you don't like or those other things as well.
How old were you when you started taking this stance on tv? Do you feel guilty about being amused by things? How did you first come to this particular stance? Just curious.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


I wrote the truth. Your statement is typical of people who have never exegeted the form of television. You needn't take it personally. Just read Postman!

I am, no doubt, utterly oblivious to many things. If someone points it out, I should respond.


Bryan L said...

Take it personal? You told me I'm oblivious and hypnotized. Those aren't exactly impersonal words.
If you are so against tv, and you don't watch it how is it that you exegete it so well and are such an authority on it? Are you just relying on secondary sources and what people tell you about it? Is it possible that you're just exegeting books about television?

Bryan L said...

Thanks for your thoughts and question.
As for what I mean by tv being a "very powerful medium for teaching, as well as other mediums like it (whether what they teach is good or not is a whole other issue)."
I don't think anyone can deny that tv has a powerful influences on people. It does. Unfortunately the type of influence it has is all over the spectrum. It can influence people in positive ways and negative ways. To give you an example, since this original post was about Friends, in a positive way I think it can teach much of the church a thing or two about unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, acceptance, unity despite differences, etc...
On the negative side it can influence people into thinking casual sex carries no consequences, It gives people an unrealistic view of jobs and bills, consequences and certain responsibilities in life.
I often see how tv, music and movies influence youth into thinking rebellion against teachers and parents and society is cool because they see it in movies or music videos and stuff. Those are negative influences.
I believe though, that as Christians we should realize the powerful influence of tv and that that tv isn't going away (no matter how much noise we make in blogs or in books) and we should instead see how we can use it for good and educate people about the bad. We should teach them to watch tv critically and responsibly and learn to take what is good out from it and spit out the bones
As many people could attest (some in the comments of this blog) it is possible to be well read, think for yourself and still enjoy tv in moderation. See the problem with this discussion is that the extremes of tv and tv watchers are being pointed out and it's assumed that everyone is stupid and can't think for themselves and the solution is to just cut it off all together instead of teaching moderation and educating people about what's out there. Sure there are people that are couch potatoes or who are addicted to tv but there's a deeper problem going on there than just watching tv and cutting it out wouldn't necessarily solve that problem.
And as far as the commercials criticism now and days you have things like DVR and Tivo that let you skip the commercials and Itunes lets you download episodes of shows that are commercial free.
There's a lot more I could say on the issue but for now I’ll just leave you with those thoughts. Feel free to disagree with them. Thanks.

Julia Gwin said...

I have 5 young children. I decided to give up television about 8 years ago, after observing its influence upon my oldest child. I determined that television actually worked AGAINST my efforts to educate my children both intellectuallly and morally. It makes them emotionally brittle and greatly decreases their ability to think deeply or enjoy each other. If I had not had children, I don't think I would have examined the issue at all. It was observing television's impact upon their innocent minds and souls that convinced me of its evil. It is worse than a waste of time, for it robs them of so much more that could have been gained but for its insidious influence.