Friday, August 29, 2003

A Possible Use for Television

I've thought of a possible use for television. Here's a fun catechesis game you can play with your older teenagers or young adults. Sit down with them in front of the television set. Make sure you have a copy of the Bible and the Catechism handy, and that a taped episode of Friends, Road Rules, or any episodic show from MTV or the WB network is in the VCR. Play the episode, and discuss the number and kinds of mortal sins each character commits. Discuss the number of times each character repents, confesses, and is absolved of his sins by a just, loving and merciful God. Discuss what happens when you commit a mortal sin and don't repent, confess, and receive absolution from a just, loving, and merciful God.

Another topic would be the harm to others committed by all these cute, funny, and solitary sins. You could begin with St. John Vianney's observation that each mortal sin is a nail in the flesh of Jesus Christ, and follow up with some other questions. How often do people act however they wish, according to what makes them feel good at the moment, even if breaks a promise or hurts someone else? How often are children's needs treated as secondary to the sexual and romantic lives of adults? Is that fair to the children? How often are people lied about, or tell their own lies? How often does a character's vanity, selfishness, or arrogant pride cause another's unhappiness? When the characters appear to confess a fault, do they show true humility or are they usually trying to justify themselves or blame another? Are faults and wrongs truly forgiven, or are confessions and apologies only used as an occasion to get "one up" on the person who's done wrong?

All the characters seem to be materially prosperous. The cast of Friends never worries about money or works overtime, and the children on MTV's shows have beautiful homes provided for them to live in. So do the people on the show look truly happy? Would you be happy if, ten years from now, your life was just like theirs? Do you think you'd be happy if your parents' lives were, right now, just like the lives of the people on the show? Is it interesting that the happiest characters seem to be those whose lives come closest, in some way, to the Church's moral teaching? Would those people be even happier if their lives were even closer to the Church's teaching? Why doesn't the show tell us about Church teaching? Is it because the people who make the shows want us to be unhappy? Why might they want us to be unhappy? Are the commercials part of the answer to that last question?

Will Heaven be full of people who are living, acting, and thinking just like the people on these shows? Why not? You might even try a sort of Ignatian method. Stop the VCR. Imagine that Our Lord, St. Paul, the Blessed Virgin, or any other great saint of the Church was in the scene. What would he or she say to the characters? How would the characters be likely to respond to him or her in view of what we know about them from the show? (Of course, you'll need a kid who has a real personal devotion to do this one). Who should we spend more time paying attention to -- the blessed or the characters on the show? Discuss prayer time and how much time we spend watching television.


No comments: