by Karen Ball
My family and I have discovered a new TV channel we absolutely love: ME TV. No, it’s not about being egotistical. ME stands for Memorable Entertainment, and its lineup boasts all the old shows that we used to watch when I was a kid. No fooling! It’s like my youth has been reborn! Everything from Rockford Files to Wagon Train, Perry Mason, to Dick VanDyke, Hawaii 5-0 (the REAL 5-0) to Family Affair, Columbo to The Guns of Will Sonnett…so many shows that, even at the earliest age, caught my imagination and introduced me to the power of story. Each show, in it’s own way, drew me in, making me a part of the drama, adventure, or romance. I knew, even back then, that I wanted to be a part of all that. Of weaving stories. Of letting them bring truths to life in a way that engaged the heart, imagination, and mind.
But as I’ve watched these old shows, I’ve discovered something. Something that absolutely astounded me. God is there. Up front and center. In these TV shows—Prime Time shows–shows that, all those years ago, visited countless homes every week, characters—beloved characters—quote Scripture, pray, and read the Bible. Faith is as much a part of these stories as anything else, and it’s woven in seamlessly. Even, at times, masterfully.
And here’s the thing: I didn’t remember that about these shows. As I’ve wondered why, I realized something. My not remembering wasn’t because the faith aspect wasn’t well done, but because it was a natural part of things back then. Not only of the shows, but of life. When this realization hit me, I found myself inexplicably moved. And saddened.
Moved, because God’s truth is so beautifully represented. Because the power of God’s Word and love is demonstrated so honestly, so realistically, that I want to jump up and cheer. The faith element isn’t tacked on or “Hollywood.” It’s just a part of the fabric of the characters and the story. And it’s perfect.
And saddened because of how much we’ve lost. After a few days of watching these old shows, I found myself fighting tears. I turned to my dad during a particularly moving episode of Wagon Train, where they offered a simple but beautiful prayer for God’s intervention during a crisis. “That’s what America used to be,” I said to him, pushing the words past a sudden tightness in my throat. “I miss that America.”
Friends, we’ve lost so much. Not just in the shows we watch on TV, but in our lives. Because odds are, if a TV show today showed the reality of faith and God as unashamedly as these old shows, there would be an outcry. Complaints about what folks were being forced to watch, about not being “tolerant” of other world views. But more than that. My heart breaks because, back then, Americans were proud not just of their country, but of the fact that we were people of faith. People who prayed for each other, people who acknowledged God freely, in every aspect of life. Who recognized and celebrated the positive impact of Truth. Shoot, people who understood there was Truth!
That’s why I believe so much in what we as writers, editors, agents, and speakers do. We may not have those kinds of shows on TV today, but we—you and I—can bring such stories to life in the pages of our books. So stay the course, friends. Let God’s love and truth shine bright in the stories and books you craft. Remind your readers that we are still, no matter what the world wants to think, people of faith. People who pray for each other. People who are moved and inspired by Scripture. People who understand that what makes us American isn’t freedom from faith, but freedom of faith.