How Things Used to Be

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.

44 Responses to How Things Used to Be

  1. Avatar
    Debby Mayne November 16, 2011 at 5:45 am #

    Great post, Karen. I agree that it’s sad how things have changed, moving away from the faith element being a vital part of who we are. I’m thankful for the Christian publishers, editors, agents, and writers who bring it back to those of us who want/need/expect/crave it in our entertainment.

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    Linda November 16, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    A wonderful moving commentary on faith and it’s significance in our daily routines and existence. I recently self-published a book, The Bench, by Linda Rawlins about a psychologist priest who helps a doctor catch a killer while counseling priests who have difficulty handling their ministry. The comments from readers have been very rewarding, especially the ones who told me they picked up their Bible to read the specific passages that Father Michael asks the other priests to read. We need more modern fiction that allows the reader to interact with the story and strengthen our faith in the process.

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    Timothy Fish November 16, 2011 at 5:52 am #

    Sometimes, things have to reach the point where people realize they miss the way it was before we can head back the other way.

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    Beth Ziarnik November 16, 2011 at 5:56 am #

    Karen,

    What a great post. You are so right-on in everything you said. I feel the same pain, cry the same tears for what we’ve lost in these United States. I also pray a lot for our country and its people. That loss is one of the reasons I’m motivated to write my novels around characters who, however imperfect, are unashamed of their faith in God and his truth.

    Thank you for affirming both the sadness and purpose that likely lives in more Christian writers’ hearts than yours and mine.

    Bless you!

    P.S. How do we access ME TV? It would not only entertain us but provide great study material on incorporating faith seamlessly into the lives of our fictional characters.

    • Avatar
      Debby Mayne November 16, 2011 at 6:09 am #

      Hey Beth, I went to the ME-TV website and looked up the channel on my cable provider. All you have to do is enter your zip code, and all the different providers pop up with the channels.

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    Kathleen L. Maher November 16, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    This moves me to want to be a better communicator. I was praying this morning about that after listening to one of my favorite radio spots by Ron Hutchcraft–a Word with You. He can communicate deep truths with authority, humor and a rare vulnerability. I want to be a writer who conveys God’s message to hearts and not just intellects.
    Praying for all of us today that God would give us open doors of utterance and the tongue of the learned.

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    Sandra Ardoin November 16, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    An awesome post, Karen. You are so right. Another example is the movie War of the Worlds–the old one.

    And we love METV in our house. There’s another station we get called Antenna TV. It has a lot of the oldies, too.

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    Tracy November 16, 2011 at 6:18 am #

    Great insight. We watch older shows frequently with Netflix streaming and have noticed the faith elements that are no longer part of our culture. One of my favorites is an old Dragnet episode. It’s Christmas, and a baby Jesus is stolen from a church Nativity set. In the end, a little boy had taken Jesus for a ride in his new wagon as a thank-you for his gift. As the priest explains to Friday that the family is poor, the camera zooms in on the Nativity as Friday says, “Are they really?”

    I miss that in shows today. Thank you for reminding us that we can do this in our stories today.

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    Tammie Edington Shaw November 16, 2011 at 6:49 am #

    Amen!

    Thanks, Karen for reminding us of what is important and to not be afraid of being people of faith.

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    Carol McClain November 16, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    I just read today how one TV producer wants his legacy to be that he paved his way for a (excuse me here) “rear entry” scene on a sitcom. The consumerism in our society will give us what pays the most. It’s time to become intolerant and insist on seeing what is right and good. My heart breaks for what we’ve become.

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    Janice Thompson November 16, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    Karen, this is my favorite web post/article in a long, long time. I’m going to share it via social networking because I believe every Christian writer needs to read it. Keep on keepin’ on, girl. You’re making an impact!

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    Jennifer Hudson Taylor November 16, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    Karen,

    I LOVE this post! What you’ve stated is so TRUE and I’m saddened with you. I hope and pray that our Christian books will keep making the rounds all over the world. I also pray that more Christian movies will take more of a slice of the pie so that our children and families will have more of what we had as children. Thanks for sharing this.

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    Timothy Fish November 16, 2011 at 7:39 am #

    I forgot about it because I just had the television on to hear voices last night, but on one of the NCIS shows, there was a guy who walked into a chapel and was talking to God. It is disappointing that so many times actors talk to God like they’re afraid they’re going to disturb him or something (though they have no fear of God in the bedroom). But my point is that even in new shows, God isn’t completely gone from television.

    • Avatar
      Rachel Wilder November 16, 2011 at 11:53 am #

      That was Tony. I’m an NCIS fan. Tony in a chapel, doing anything other than what he did, would have been wrong.

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    Dawn Turner November 16, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    You nailed it in one, Karen! Hubby and I have often had conversations about the godlessness of modern day television. Sad to say, even the so-called “Christian” channels have some pretty godless programming on them. I still love to watch reruns of some of the old stuff.

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    Rick Barry November 16, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    Back in the early 1970s, I was watching a then-new TV show, “All in the Family.” Suddenly Archie Bunker pronounced the word “Hell,” and he wasn’t quoting Scripture! An unsaved male relative turned in shock and said, “What kind of show are you watching?!”

    Nowadays, no one turns in shock anymore. The frog has been in the pot for a long time, and the temperature continues to rise….

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    Lindsay Harrel November 16, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    Karen, you’re absolutely right. There sometimes are the token “Christian” or “Catholic” characters, but they tend to be extremely hypocritical/judgmental or they really don’t live out their faith.

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    Janet Ann Collins November 16, 2011 at 8:14 am #

    Karen, I can only respond to your post with one word: Amen.

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    Sally Bradley November 16, 2011 at 8:19 am #

    Wow, Karen. Thanks for the encouragement and the conviction. I love that Christian fiction is out there as an alternative. I may have to print this off and post it above my computer as a reminder of why I write.

    I pray America does go through a huge revival, not so I get back the “old” America but because we as a people need it desperately.

  18. Avatar
    Richard Mabry November 16, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    Well-said, Karen. Thanks for saying what many of us have been thinking.

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    Margaret Daley November 16, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    Great post, Karen. I thank you for writing it. It is sad what has happened, how a group of people in Hollywood have helped change America. One thing that bothers me is when they show a Christian as a crazed person. I saw a show recently where the person murdering people did it because of her faith in the Lord. If that was the only show I’d seen of a warped view of Christianity, it might not have upset me as much as it did. Sadly it is one of many shown nowadays.

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      Timothy Fish November 16, 2011 at 11:02 am #

      I wish it weren’t so, but those kinds of things do happen. A person may go to church on Sunday and be able to quote John 3:16, but that doesn’t mean he is a good person.

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    Tari Faris November 16, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    What a great reminder. Wonderful thing to read before starting another NaNoWriMo Day.

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    Beth Shriver November 16, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Great post, Karen. I’m going to check out the ME TV network, it sounds like everything I like and miss about TV.

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    Lynn Coleman November 16, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    Well said.

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    Janalyn Voigt November 16, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    Your words brought me to tears. I couldn’t agree more. Christian authors need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as we carry the torch of God’s word into the darkness.

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    Melissa K. Norris November 16, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    Thanks for this, Karen. I couldn’t have said it better myself. In fact, three weeks ago I quit watching a show on T.V. because it had too many blatant scenes that went against the Bible. I really loved one set of characters and story line, but my heart convicted me.

    Sadly, there isn’t much on the regular networks for Christians anymore. I’ve almost given up watching anymore.

    Sharing this on my author Facebook page and twitter. 🙂

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    Dee Yoder November 16, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    I love METV also, and for the very same reasons. It was assumed that everyone knew about God and no one was shocked or disturbed about Him. Those shows, and old classic movies, make up much of my TV viewing. I’ve written a novel, set in the 1960’s, and just remembering those times brings me happiness. We may have still had problems, but no one thought it was a good idea to let it all hang out on TV back then!

  26. Avatar
    Karen Ball November 16, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Thanks, everyone. If you can get METV in your area, do so. It really is grand. As I’ve been thinking about this more today, I’ve realized something else. What a blessing that we live in a country where, for all it’s issues, we’re still free to worship and write as we wish. Though I weep for what we’ve lost, I am still so grateful to be an American and to live in this amazing country.

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    Rachel Wilder November 16, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Very well said, Karen.

    There is one show on TV that harkens back to the good old days when family and faith mattered. It’s Blue Bloods on CBS, starring Tom Selleck. He’s the NYPD commissioner, his dad is a retired cop, both his sons are cops and his daughter is an assistant DA. They’re Catholic, live on Staten Island, and are the closest knit *real* family on TV since Family Affair went off the air. Yes, it’s a crime drama, but they don’t shy away from what happens to the family, and their faith and ties to each other is a big part of how they live.

    It’s so amazing to watch a show, see 4 generations of the same family eating dinner together at least once a week, and see the grandkids going to Grandpa for advice.

  28. Avatar
    Melissa Tagg November 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    I love, love, love classic TV shows…and I’m a big fan of ME-TV. So, that’s what drew me into your post. But…wow. You took it such a moving direction. Thank you for the encouragement to stay the course and to, in our stories, give Truth the voice its lost in our culture.

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    Annette Irby November 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    Thanks for this thoughtful, heartfelt post Karen. I was thinking this very thing the other day, the respectful mention of God in television series I watched as a young person and how I didn’t even notice. Like you said, it was normal. And now, it’s surprising when God is mentioned in a positive light. But stories are still powerful. And through the gift of story we can display truths that change lives. Thanks for the encouragement.

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    Hilarey November 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Beautiful, Karen! Thank you.

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    Sally Apokedak November 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Great post. We really are a post-Christian culture. I once asked a five-year-old niece who was visiting me for the first time to sing Jesus Love Me. She asked, “Who’s Jesus?” I said, “He’s God. He’s the one who made you.” She said, “Huh, uh.” I was so shocked that a child could live to be five in the USA without having heard of Jesus.

    Your post reminded me of this short post from Chuck Colson. We do need to be careful to not be sarcastic and offensive in our delivery, but we also need to speak out about our faith and our God.

    • Avatar
      Timothy Fish November 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

      We get a lot of kids at church who know absolutely nothing until we get them. Mostly it is because their parent (singular) never goes to church. And considering how little of the Bible some churches are teaching these days, even if they have been in church somewhere, they still might not know anything.

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    Patricia Iacuzzi November 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Hi Karen–

    Great post! I try to live without the cable channels (live in the country and still dependent on a landline–and without a credit card or kindle! 🙂 Even hated it when the government switched us from analog to digital.

    I’m seeing some Christian values played out in CBS shows such as NCIS, Blue Bloods and CSI N.Y. with Gary Senise. He’s done a wonderful personal job of supporting our troops behind the scenes. Add Denzel Washington to that list, too.

    I read–a lot! And the family exchanges many of these shows and movies on DVD as gifts. Thanks again for the update and that these shows are still being seen.

  33. Avatar
    April McGowan November 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    I so agree. I had a similar experience re-watching the Twilight Zone a couple months ago. Just about every other episode had to do with God, His provision, His creation, His salvation. And again, in introducing The Waltons to my kids. They didn’t hide His name, they prayed in times of trial, they shamelessly attended church. Even in the 80’s with the Cosby Show–they had tight morals and an evident belief system (ach, a doctor who didn’t preach that evolution was the only way). Since then, it seems like Hollywood today is run by people who ARE ashamed, or unable to fight the consensus around them and present something they think we want (which most of us do not). I don’t think TV is a refection of who we are, but it is fast becoming a reflection of who THEY say we are. Unfortunately, when so many Americans watch that much of it, they begin to believe it’s true.

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    Peter DeHaan November 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    I’ve noticed the same thing in old movies. Some things are so overtly God-focused, spiritual, or moral that I am shocked — and then I am shocked that I was shocked in the first place!

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      Mary Vee November 16, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

      Thank you, Karen. Can’t top or equal your message.
      Very moving.

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    Wade Webster November 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    PREACH IT SISTER!!! We need to take advantage of the one area the liberals haven’t touched, our Christian publishing companies. Although, with so many of them being bought out by big conglomerates, we need to watch our steps or our message might be watered down, just like the TV shows. Lets all remember to keep the main thing the main thing. Shine the light of Jesus to a dark world!

  36. Avatar
    Pamela Meyers November 17, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    I’m coming to the party late as I just got this on my feed through email. I love ME TV. I just finished watching the entire run of the Mary Tyler Moore show. That show was pretty void of spiritual inferences. Now I’m on another cable channel called INSP and watching reruns of the Waltons. Today’s Broadcast stations and most cable stations are void of any kinds of shows where people are actually shown praying and talking about God in a natural sort of way I rarely watch broadcast TV anymore.

  37. Avatar
    Karen Ball November 19, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    Those of you who mentioned NCIS and Blue Bloods, I’m right there with ya! Love those shows. Blue Bloods especially for the way it honors family. Those Sunday dinners they share on the show are such a blessing. Yes, I know it’s only TV, but a show that models something that used to be the norm in America, something that so many have lost, is a great show.

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    V. Colclasure January 2, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    I so agree. It started with the “no prayer in schools” mantra and was intensified with the court’s Roe vs Wade ruling. We can only go back by reclaiming the minds and hearts of the children – a very difficult thing to do in today’s school system.

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