Tearing Down the Temple

Reactions to reading the book of Romans

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Romans 1:18-24. The Unholy City—X. Go ye into all the world

The mindset of optimism is scarcely confined to America. One reason for this is the use of American television productions in other countries.

When my wife and I were in Sweden recently, I was surprised at how many Swedish people spoke good and even excellent English. Their speech was well inflected, idiomatic, perfectly understandable, and in one memorable case, accent perfect (I thought she was from New Hampshire). When I asked our Swedish friends why so many Swedes spoke English so well, they explained that as a small country the production of television shows was quite limited, and that since the dubbing of American imports was too expensive for so small an audience, the common practice was to add subtitles. Thus everyone gets to hear idiomatic English spoken by good native speakers, while simultaneously reading the Swedish translation. Since we were so easily able to communicate everywhere we went, our treatment by our Swedish hosts was quite lovely. The same was also true of our travels through Denmark, another very small country and language group.

This fact of American television being transmitted abroad has also resulted in the spread of the philosophy promoted by American television entertainment. Doubtless there are some remote backwaters where it has not yet had an effect, but they are few, and in terms of absolute population, almost negligible. Even in places where the government has enacted legislation forbidding American television broadcasts, because of the corrupting effect on public morals or religion, (most notably in some Islamic countries, e.g., Saudi Arabia) people quietly agitate for its return, and in some cases governments have partially relented. Satellite broadcasting has effectively put an end to all but the most stringent and repressive attempts at large-scale censorship, and provides an opening for the Gospel through Christian television broadcasts via satellite, over which it is virtually impossible to exercise any local control. It must be observed here that freedom cuts both ways, allowing both the bad and the good.

There is no doubting that American commercial television is a very attractive product. As to quality, it is a mixed bag, but the worst of it is more consumable than the endless drivel of propaganda that pours from state broadcasts in totalitarian lands.

As to content, well, that is something else again. The philosophical assault on the Gospel reaches its zenith in the television product (not in the seminaries). With a very little effort we shall see why that is true.



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