poison_signWhat is one of the most exciting questions facing humankind as we enter the 21st Century? It is this: “Will CBS’s ‘Survivor2’, or NBC’s ‘Friends’ rule Thursday night viewing in the U.S.?

This question is so vital it was chosen to be the cover story of the March 2nd issue of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. The score so far? ‘Survivor 2’ leads by 28.8 million to ‘Friends’ 22.1 million. Imagine this: 51 million people watching ‘Survivor’2 and ‘Friends’ every week. And that is in the US alone. The two shows have a wide following world wide, including Malaysia.

If ‘Friend’s and ‘Survivor’ define the cultural values of our age, I fear for the future of humankind.

‘Survivor’ popularised what has come to be known as “reality TV”. 16 people are thrown into the wilderness, far from civilisation. There they have to survive the elements and each other. One by one, the contestants are voted out by their peers. The last survivor gets a million dollars. Clearly the show is an affront to biblical values. It is Darwinian. It rewards cheating and conniving. And to what end? The winner sells his or her soul for mammon.

What is worse, this is not reality TV at all. When you watch ‘Survivor’, just keep asking yourself this one question. Who is doing the filming? The survivor camp is filled with cameramen who retire each day to a base camp not too far away where hot food and hot showers are on tap. 16 survivors marooned in the wilderness? I don’t think so.

And what about ‘Friends’? What is my beef about ‘Friends’? (My friends have heard me say that ‘Friends’ is more demonic than ‘Harry Porter’.) Friends is funny. Its tough trying to survive in the jungles of the global economy. Everybody deserves a few laughs now and then. What’s wrong with that? Just this. That it trivialises anything and everything for a laugh. Sex, friendship, parenthood, marriage–nothing is sacred. A regular diet of ‘Friends’ slowly sucks away the significance and divine glory of the most holy of God given institutions. 51 million people and more watching ‘Survivor’ and ‘Friends’ regularly.

That is scary indeed. One can only concur that as a race we are feeding regularly on illusion and triviality. Perhaps Neil Postman was not too alarmist when he warns us in his book AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH:

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia,when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

Illusion and triviality? The bible deals with exactly the opposite- truth and life. As John tells us in the prologue to his first epistle: “The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes, and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of Life.” I John 1;1 (NLT)

If our diet consists solely of illusion and triviality we will die. We need to feed on the Bread of Life. This is the word we need to get out. Now if we can only get them to turn off the tube long enough to listen.