Teaching the Bible with TV Sitcoms

Teaching the Bible with TV Sitcoms

Dr. Bill Crump
Dr. Bill Crump

June 1st, 2006, 4:35 pm #1

The topic here originally began in the thread The Jesus Proposal, when someone, apparently going off-topic, declared that their Sunday school class had been viewing episodes of The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) as a “method” of teaching the Bible. Since that spawned a rather heated debate, and rather than have it continue off-topic in that other thread, I decided to start a new thread about using classic TV shows as teaching tools in Sunday school. Viewing TV shows is yet another method of merging pop culture with the Church, of making the Church more like the world.

The other thread originally posed the premise that shows like TAGS are “rooted in Scripture” and thus are suitable for “teaching the Bible.” Yet those shows are not supposed to replace the Bible, just supplement it. That premise also claimed that Andy Griffith himself desired that each episode should present some sort of “moral lesson.” Andy apparently mentioned nothing about teaching the Bible as such, just presenting a moral lesson. Yet if the premise states that TAGS teaches the Bible, then the implication is that viewers can learn how to get “saved” by watching Barney Fife lock himself in the jail, Gomer Pyle try to hoot with a mouth full of food, or town drunk Otis Campbell ride a cow while under the influence, for example.

Some clarifications need to be made. TAGS would have been a suitable tool for teaching the Bible, had the show originally been designed and built around teaching Christianity, of teaching people about the Gospel of Christ, of salvation, of New Testament doctrine. But TAGS was designed first and foremost as a "method" of entertainment, to make people laugh, not as a “method” of teaching the Bible. That’s why the show is classified as a “sitcom” (situation comedy), not as Sunday school media.

Similar to Aesop’s Fables, TAGS teaches morality, but neither Aesop’s Fables nor TAGS teaches Christianity. In the other thread, I argued that morality is not synonymous with Christianity, because atheists, agnostics, and people of non-Christian faiths can be moral, kind, good, and law-abiding, yet they are not Christians by virtue of the fact that they choose neither to believe on nor to obey Christ. Christianity naturally begats morality, but morality does not naturally begat Christianity. Likewise, we must not assume that because a highly popular TV show like TAGS teaches morality, then it must teach Christianity and the Bible as well. The fact remains that TAGS teaches neither Christianity nor the Bible. TAGS only teaches morality.

Though a few episodes of TAGS may show people sitting in church or singing a few hymns, TAGS neither launches into the Gospel, nor tells of God’s plan of salvation, nor delves into heaven and hell, nor warns of Satan, nor expounds upon Paul’s epistles, nor admonishes anyone to obey all things whatsoever Christ commanded us (Matt. 28:20 KJV). TAGS does show people living peacefully together, loving each other, being kind and good to one another, feeing good about everything, and basically having a good time in life, give or take a few “knocks” here and there. Does that description apply only and solely to Christians? Of course not! From that generic description, all the citizens of Mayberry could have been devout Muslims, Hindus, or Jews, instead of Gentile Christians.

So why resort to a superficial “method” that allegedly teaches Christianity, when at best, it teaches only general morality, nothing more. Since TV shows like TAGS merely “hint” at Christianity but certainly do not delve deeply therein, why not just bypass them, use a much more reliable and direct method, and go to the ONE source from which people can learn about some REAL Christianity, the ONE source that really tells people how they should live their lives in obedience to Christ? That ONE source is the New Testament. No TV show could ever teach Christianity and the Bible as well as the New Testament. People argue that TAGS does not replace the Bible but merely supplements it. Friends, the New Testament does quite well on its own and does not require any supplementation from pop-culture media. The New Testament stands alone.

I contend that using the TV sitcom or similar show as a “method” to teach the Bible is a subtle ploy initiated by the Change Movement to downplay the importance of teaching exclusively from the Bible. Undiscerning people will believe virtually anything set before them, especially if the Church condones it. If churches use TV sitcoms more and more, then it is likely that, given time, these undiscerning people will believe that their “religion,” their “Christianity,” comes more from the TV sitcoms than from the New Testament itself. With more time, TV sitcoms could eventually replace the New Testament. Sound far-fetched? The seeds for that happening are sprouting right now in Sunday schools that advocate TV sitcoms and similar shows to teach the Bible. That’s the real bud that needs nipping. "Nip it! Nip it in the bud!"
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“Anonymous”
“Anonymous”

June 2nd, 2006, 3:16 am #2

"Dr. Bill"

You are still arguing against a point NO ONE is making. NO ONE is suggesting using the Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) as a method to teach the Bible. NO ONE is making the premise that states that TAGS teaches the Bible. What is being argued is that TAGS can be used as an illustration when teaching the Bible. Without commercials, an episode last 20 minutes, that leaves 40 minutes time to go on from the illustration into a Biblical study. It is similar to all the many "preacher's stories" we have heard over the years. Are you against all of those stories as well. If so, we can simply replace the preacher with a tape of James Earl Jones reading the Bible (which by the way is quite good).

Are you arguing that every class must cover every aspect of Christianity? EVERY Class must tells of God’s plan of salvation, AND delve into heaven and hell, AND warn of Satan, AND expound upon Paul’s epistles, AND admonish anyone to obey all things whatsoever Christ commanded us. Or is it that each class must teach about some aspect of Christianity? If so, one of the classes AFTER THE TAGS ILLUSTRATION, focuses on judging others...something desperately needed on this site! (Matt 7:1-5 are the verses quoted to use). Another class discusses patience...something I desperately need after reading this site! (James 1:2-4 are the scriptures used.) What does it matter what the original purpose of the show was? VeggieTales has as its purpose to teach the Bible, but I’m sure you are against a talking tomato as well.

NO ONE is arguing that this is deep spiritual meat for a Bible class. Often the class is offered on Wednesday nights during the summer when attendance is spotty due to vacations and other excuses. It's a great nonthreatening way to invite a friend who is unchurched to come the first time. Then as their faith matures, you go onto more spiritual meat like the topics you mentioned in other classes.

The frustration I have is that ANYTHING innovative being attempted by churches is ridiculed on this site. If I am wrong, name ONE THING that has been introduced in the last twenty years that has been promoted on this site. Before I get a condensending remark, I don't mean a new spiritual truth, but just a different way of doing things...i.e. projectors, Bible-times VBS, etc. I would love to hear from Dr. Bill, or Donnie, or even Ken talk about a church in a positive light. "Boy the church at ________ is doing great. They are reaching the community around them, bringing souls to Christ. Just last week they did ______ and had a great response." Before you say that isn't in the scope of this website, you cannot direct someone in the correct path just by showing them all the incorrect ones. A much better way is to show them good examples.

I see more and more comments about who is making the post than the contents of the post itself. At times I think you’d rather get a comment from Jack or Kent rather than someone who is really trying to have a discussion. For example, my guess is I will be addressed as "Anonymous" with the "quotes" just because I'm not "brave" enough to leave my “name.” I don't want to leave my name because in 5 minutes a crazy conservative could find my house or my job and hunt me down. (Dr. Bill, it took me, a looney liberal, about 8 minutes to get a satellite image of your house ...but luckily I'm not that looney.) What does it matter if I chose to leave my name or not. Anyway a much more brave thing would be willing to have a real (not virtual) conversation with someone you know who loves the Lord but doesn't believe exactly as you instead of resorting to rantings on a blog somewhere.

I stopped posting to this site a while a go because I felt like everybody was shouting and nobody was listening. I pretty much only visit now when it’s late and I can’t sleep. The main reason I’m posting now is that I’ve known Joey a long time and it just makes me too mad to see people who have never met him, or visited his website, or been to a class, or read his book make these broad generalizations that are untrue, unfounded and ignorant! How’s that for a rant!

At one time over a year ago I made reference that you (Dr. Bill) were the only regular responder who tried to carry on a valid discussion. I am afraid your Kenification has been complete and now I don't really believe you are interested in truly discussing matters any more. I see how you would rather spout on and on instead of truly trying to engage in discussion. Your parables from a while back really bothered me. All were over the top, many were condescending, and none of them provided any lessons other than conservatives are right, good, and humble, and liberals are from Lucifer himself. What was the point other than to let off some steam? I see your answers are getting more and more extreme. A year ago, you may have said that you don’t see the point in using TAGS and wouldn’t go to a class that does. (Something along the lines of what you said about the Passion movie) Now it is a subtle ploy of the change movement (or according to PPB “SATAN CENTERED”) to replace the Bible with Barney. Please…

“Anonymous”
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Dr. Bill Crump
Dr. Bill Crump

June 2nd, 2006, 3:01 pm #3

Anonymous: "You are still arguing against a point NO ONE is making. NO ONE is suggesting using the Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) as a method to teach the Bible. NO ONE is making the premise that states that TAGS teaches the Bible."

So NO ONE says TAGS is a method to teach the Bible? Think again:

"B" (regarding TAGS): "As I've thought today about this entire discussion, I am just more and more amazed at the close mindedness concerning a method of teaching the Bible. Understand that's what this is, a method."

Sorry, but once you start incorporating TV shows into Sunday school, folks are gonna get the impression that it's a way to teach the Bible, and eventually maybe even replace the Bible. So just drop the pop culture nonsense and stick to the REAL THING, the New Testament. Leave Andy for the afternoon/evening entertainment at home.

BTW, you mentioned that my stories and parables disturbed you. Either you didn't understand them or they pricked your heart, which is what they are supposed to do--get you to thinking about following the New Testament to the letter.

I recall a reference made earlier to using Andy, whom a Sunday school class can see, vs. Jesus, Whom the class cannot see. Nothing was said that one can see the written Word of God, the New Testament, which provides far better instruction in Christiantiy than anything Andy could ever teach.

So we can continue this "discussion" all you wish, even though I'm sure you can see that it's pretty well run its course. You've made up your mind to use Andy in Sunday school as some kind of "tool," "method," or "instruction" in the Bible, or whatever other label you wish to put on it, and that's that. All we've done is to advise you that the last thing Sunday schools need is another pop-culture gimmick, no matter how popular and "comfortable" it makes everybody feel. The New Testament is the simplest and most authoritative tool for teaching the New Testament.
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Dr. Bill Crump
Dr. Bill Crump

June 2nd, 2006, 4:47 pm #4

"Dr. Bill"

You are still arguing against a point NO ONE is making. NO ONE is suggesting using the Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) as a method to teach the Bible. NO ONE is making the premise that states that TAGS teaches the Bible. What is being argued is that TAGS can be used as an illustration when teaching the Bible. Without commercials, an episode last 20 minutes, that leaves 40 minutes time to go on from the illustration into a Biblical study. It is similar to all the many "preacher's stories" we have heard over the years. Are you against all of those stories as well. If so, we can simply replace the preacher with a tape of James Earl Jones reading the Bible (which by the way is quite good).

Are you arguing that every class must cover every aspect of Christianity? EVERY Class must tells of God’s plan of salvation, AND delve into heaven and hell, AND warn of Satan, AND expound upon Paul’s epistles, AND admonish anyone to obey all things whatsoever Christ commanded us. Or is it that each class must teach about some aspect of Christianity? If so, one of the classes AFTER THE TAGS ILLUSTRATION, focuses on judging others...something desperately needed on this site! (Matt 7:1-5 are the verses quoted to use). Another class discusses patience...something I desperately need after reading this site! (James 1:2-4 are the scriptures used.) What does it matter what the original purpose of the show was? VeggieTales has as its purpose to teach the Bible, but I’m sure you are against a talking tomato as well.

NO ONE is arguing that this is deep spiritual meat for a Bible class. Often the class is offered on Wednesday nights during the summer when attendance is spotty due to vacations and other excuses. It's a great nonthreatening way to invite a friend who is unchurched to come the first time. Then as their faith matures, you go onto more spiritual meat like the topics you mentioned in other classes.

The frustration I have is that ANYTHING innovative being attempted by churches is ridiculed on this site. If I am wrong, name ONE THING that has been introduced in the last twenty years that has been promoted on this site. Before I get a condensending remark, I don't mean a new spiritual truth, but just a different way of doing things...i.e. projectors, Bible-times VBS, etc. I would love to hear from Dr. Bill, or Donnie, or even Ken talk about a church in a positive light. "Boy the church at ________ is doing great. They are reaching the community around them, bringing souls to Christ. Just last week they did ______ and had a great response." Before you say that isn't in the scope of this website, you cannot direct someone in the correct path just by showing them all the incorrect ones. A much better way is to show them good examples.

I see more and more comments about who is making the post than the contents of the post itself. At times I think you’d rather get a comment from Jack or Kent rather than someone who is really trying to have a discussion. For example, my guess is I will be addressed as "Anonymous" with the "quotes" just because I'm not "brave" enough to leave my “name.” I don't want to leave my name because in 5 minutes a crazy conservative could find my house or my job and hunt me down. (Dr. Bill, it took me, a looney liberal, about 8 minutes to get a satellite image of your house ...but luckily I'm not that looney.) What does it matter if I chose to leave my name or not. Anyway a much more brave thing would be willing to have a real (not virtual) conversation with someone you know who loves the Lord but doesn't believe exactly as you instead of resorting to rantings on a blog somewhere.

I stopped posting to this site a while a go because I felt like everybody was shouting and nobody was listening. I pretty much only visit now when it’s late and I can’t sleep. The main reason I’m posting now is that I’ve known Joey a long time and it just makes me too mad to see people who have never met him, or visited his website, or been to a class, or read his book make these broad generalizations that are untrue, unfounded and ignorant! How’s that for a rant!

At one time over a year ago I made reference that you (Dr. Bill) were the only regular responder who tried to carry on a valid discussion. I am afraid your Kenification has been complete and now I don't really believe you are interested in truly discussing matters any more. I see how you would rather spout on and on instead of truly trying to engage in discussion. Your parables from a while back really bothered me. All were over the top, many were condescending, and none of them provided any lessons other than conservatives are right, good, and humble, and liberals are from Lucifer himself. What was the point other than to let off some steam? I see your answers are getting more and more extreme. A year ago, you may have said that you don’t see the point in using TAGS and wouldn’t go to a class that does. (Something along the lines of what you said about the Passion movie) Now it is a subtle ploy of the change movement (or according to PPB “SATAN CENTERED”) to replace the Bible with Barney. Please…

“Anonymous”
Anonymous: "Dr. Bill, it took me, a looney liberal, about 8 minutes to get a satellite image of your house...What does it matter if I chose to leave my name or not."

I note that Anonymous switched from discussing TAGS to confessing that he is spying on my house via satellite. I don’t believe he’d have made that foolish statement, had we known his name. So he’s willing to spy on those who post on this web site, yet he is too much of a coward to reveal his true identity. Double standard! I wonder if it’s because someone else just as "looney" and lacking in scruples may come along and use a satellite to spy on him. Could Anonymous possibly be a voyeur? Since he’s the proverbial Big Brother who (literally) is “watching,” I’ll have to “entertain” him each time I go outside by striking a pose or saluting the sky, knowing that his “eye” will be there.

Actually, I thought we had been "discussing" the inappropriateness of using TAGS and other sitcoms in Sunday school: Anonymous condones using TAGS in Sunday school; I don't. Those are the usual two positions in any debate: for or against. But if Anonymous has decided that he'd rather discuss espionage and other off-topic items, then it's time for him to "ease on down the road."

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B
B

June 2nd, 2006, 6:15 pm #5

"Sorry, but once you start incorporating TV shows into Sunday school, folks are gonna get the impression that it's a way to teach the Bible, and eventually maybe even replace the Bible."

There is a gigantic step between using TAGS as an illustration and replacing the Bible with it. I don't think you're going to have to worry about any churches having DVD players with TAGS in the pews next to the songbooks anytime soon.

It's very difficult to discuss a topic when the argument turns so quickly to lunacy. The question is about whether TAGS can be used as a means of illustration, not as a replacement for scripture. THE SHOW ITSELF DOES NOT TEACH THE BIBLE; a teacher would use the show to illustrate things from scripture. But, by all means continue to disassemble piece by piece an imaginary point of view if you want.
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Anonymous
Anonymous

June 2nd, 2006, 8:56 pm #6

Anonymous: "Dr. Bill, it took me, a looney liberal, about 8 minutes to get a satellite image of your house...What does it matter if I chose to leave my name or not."

I note that Anonymous switched from discussing TAGS to confessing that he is spying on my house via satellite. I don’t believe he’d have made that foolish statement, had we known his name. So he’s willing to spy on those who post on this web site, yet he is too much of a coward to reveal his true identity. Double standard! I wonder if it’s because someone else just as "looney" and lacking in scruples may come along and use a satellite to spy on him. Could Anonymous possibly be a voyeur? Since he’s the proverbial Big Brother who (literally) is “watching,” I’ll have to “entertain” him each time I go outside by striking a pose or saluting the sky, knowing that his “eye” will be there.

Actually, I thought we had been "discussing" the inappropriateness of using TAGS and other sitcoms in Sunday school: Anonymous condones using TAGS in Sunday school; I don't. Those are the usual two positions in any debate: for or against. But if Anonymous has decided that he'd rather discuss espionage and other off-topic items, then it's time for him to "ease on down the road."
DB,

You are reminding me why I stopped posting to the site. It seems like it is more important to get a good jab in than really discuss the meatier matters. I found it quite ironic that the only reason I put the "anonymous" paragraph in so that it wouldn't become an issue (from all your previous posts I know that it is a pet peeve of yours, I was just trying to give you a valid reason why some don't like to give out personal information)...and that was what you decided to comment on. It really seems what you value in the church is at odds with what is important to me. I would really like to understand your position on the church itself, and maybe insight on the TAGS issue might get me there. With that long prologue could you answer the following specific questions:

1. Is there any time that a non-Bible illustration can be used to help teach Bible concepts? If so, why is a pop-culture (albeit 40 year old) illustration invalid?

2. Is there ONE THING that has been introduced in the past 20 years you find useful in teaching the message? (Projectors, Cell-groups, Drama-based VBS's, Veggie Tales, the Passion of the Christ Movie, etc...) or did innovation stop with flannel boards and film strips?

3. When you say TAGS as a method to teach the Bible, I am inferring you mean replacing Bible study with watching TV. Do you not understand that a real forty minute Bible study follows the twenty minute TAGS episode? If so, is your objection simply the "slipperly slope" argument?

4. I completely understand you prefering not to go to a TAGS class, but it seems from your answers you feel that it is beyond a preference but it is sinful. I don't see ANY scriptural justification for this. Please elaborate.

5. It also seems that you are opposed to any "scheme" to bring the masses in. Unless it is simply so we are not like the Rick Warren crowd, I don't understand why bringing the unchurched to church is such a bad idea. I know the miracles were performed to show the deity of Christ, but couldn't they be considered a scheme to attract the masses?

6. Is your point that if the people don't want to come to a gospel meeting then they aren't worth saving? There are large swaths of my generation and the next that aren't receptive to traditional services. What is so important about keeping the structure the same if it means we lose thousands if not millions? I don't mean replacing Jesus with Jack Bauer, but changing the way we do things as long as its scriptural. Is there one non-traditional thing you can think of that might bring in someone who otherwise would never step their foot inside a church building?

7. I see us infighting about petty things such as singing a song between the Lord's Supper and the contribution, while the world around us is going to hell in a handbasket. Seemingly we'd rather argue about singy clappy songs than deal with bigger issues like the divorce rate in the church, what it truly means to die to Christ and what does that mean about how I live my life, drug and pornography addiction, and homosexuality acceptance in our culture. I really don't have a question here, but you are more than welcome to comment.

I hope you want to engage in a real discussion. I'll be awaiting your answers.

If you don't like "Anonymous," why not call me Opie.
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Dr. Bill Crump
Dr. Bill Crump

June 3rd, 2006, 7:14 am #7

I'm not sure we could have a "real" discussion, because "B" claims that TAGS is a method to teach the Bible, whereas "Anonymous" claims that TAGS only presents biblical principles but doesn't teach the Bible. So it sounds like folks really don't have much of a handle on TAGS, except to agree that it teaches morality. And that's all it ever did, does, and ever will do. Nothing more. And as I've said for the nth time, Christianity begats morality, but morality does not necessarily begat Christianity.

I wonder, though, why a sitcom like TAGS for "teaching" in Sunday school? If one feels compelled to use something from Hollywood, why not use something far more "biblical" in scope, like The Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings, or Jesus of Nazareth? But the drawback is that the biblical presentation may be skewed by the producers, directors, and other worldly factors; a less-than-accurate biblical interpretation may be presented.

Furthermore, why the need to supplement the Bible with TV sitcoms or anything else for that matter? Do people really have that much trouble understanding the New Testament without comparing it to Andy and Barney? People claim that Jesus' parables were used to draw crowds. Since they've worked quite well for 2,000 years, why try to fix something that isn't "broke"? Those whom Jesus intended to understand His parables did so without the assistance of a drama troupe acting it all out for the crowds. The Judean equivalent of TAGS in Jesus' day would have been for Jesus to supplement His teachings and parables with dramatic presentations, complete with sets, costumes, and actors. Yet Jesus never used them. They were certainly available had He desired them, but He didn't. He never used pop culture. He only used His miracles as proof of His divine Authority, but He never allowed the pop culture of the world to influence His message, because His message transcends culture. He preached the Gospel, period.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus explains that people have the Word of God to guide them. If people won't believe the Word, even an extraordinary event like someone returning from the dead to preach won't convince them. The same analogy can be applied to TAGS. Those people who don't believe Jesus and the Word won't be persuaded any more by pop-culture incentives like watching TAGS. Jesus is telling us in this parable that additional trappings and impressive, even extraordinary, gimmicks over and above the New Testament won't get any better results than the New Testment itself.

So again, put Andy on the shelf for the evening's entertainment at home, and stick exclusively to the New Testament. We're just saying the same thing over and over.
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Opie
Opie

June 3rd, 2006, 4:10 pm #8

I think if you read B's latest post, that we are on the same page, I think you are using semantics to make it into something it is not. I don't see any difference between a preacher telling a story at the beginning of his sermon or showing a video clip, TAGS episode, or dramatic skit as an illustration. Obviously you do. If all there was is illustration, I agree it is wrong. But your impression of watching TAGS and then going home is simply not how the class works. But I've been to classes where the class pretty much read a scripture and then stated, "means what it says and says what it means" and went onto the next scripture without any thought how the scripture should really be implemented into their lives. I think that is just as useless.

I also disagree that the first century church didn't incorporate the culture of the day to attract the unsaved. Paul with the alter of the unknown god, Jesus with the woman at the well. Many of the parables are cultural stories that the people could identify with. According to your argument, if Jesus didn't include culture and stories then his ministry would simply be reading from the Torah in the temple which is what the Pharisees would rather him do. He reached out to the masses and did outrageous things to try to get their attention. Yes, even raising someone from the dead didn't reach some, but I bet he did get a few new disciples that day (and if one sheep is lost, ...). I know it did effect his disciples, apostles, and Mary and Martha.

You continue to try to box me in the corner choosing either the New Testament or pop culture. That is not the choice I have. I can stay inside the church building, speaking King James to others that understand the same and hope that some stranger who has never heard a thee or a thou comes in and sees Jesus inspite of the barriers presented. Or I can do my best to make that first contact with Jesus as easy as possible...and once he gets a taste of the Living Water he'll want to continue past the milk into the meat of what it means to be a Christian.

I do appreciate the tone of your response. I think if you continue in the same vein those who prefer the verbal jabbing will tend to find others (say Ken) that they can joust with. However, I really wish you would answer all my questions directly. Particularly 2, 6 and how you feel about 7. I promise if you do I will answer any Biblical question you have for me.
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Dr. Bill Crump
Dr. Bill Crump

June 3rd, 2006, 4:22 pm #9

The topic here originally began in the thread The Jesus Proposal, when someone, apparently going off-topic, declared that their Sunday school class had been viewing episodes of The Andy Griffith Show (TAGS) as a “method” of teaching the Bible. Since that spawned a rather heated debate, and rather than have it continue off-topic in that other thread, I decided to start a new thread about using classic TV shows as teaching tools in Sunday school. Viewing TV shows is yet another method of merging pop culture with the Church, of making the Church more like the world.

The other thread originally posed the premise that shows like TAGS are “rooted in Scripture” and thus are suitable for “teaching the Bible.” Yet those shows are not supposed to replace the Bible, just supplement it. That premise also claimed that Andy Griffith himself desired that each episode should present some sort of “moral lesson.” Andy apparently mentioned nothing about teaching the Bible as such, just presenting a moral lesson. Yet if the premise states that TAGS teaches the Bible, then the implication is that viewers can learn how to get “saved” by watching Barney Fife lock himself in the jail, Gomer Pyle try to hoot with a mouth full of food, or town drunk Otis Campbell ride a cow while under the influence, for example.

Some clarifications need to be made. TAGS would have been a suitable tool for teaching the Bible, had the show originally been designed and built around teaching Christianity, of teaching people about the Gospel of Christ, of salvation, of New Testament doctrine. But TAGS was designed first and foremost as a "method" of entertainment, to make people laugh, not as a “method” of teaching the Bible. That’s why the show is classified as a “sitcom” (situation comedy), not as Sunday school media.

Similar to Aesop’s Fables, TAGS teaches morality, but neither Aesop’s Fables nor TAGS teaches Christianity. In the other thread, I argued that morality is not synonymous with Christianity, because atheists, agnostics, and people of non-Christian faiths can be moral, kind, good, and law-abiding, yet they are not Christians by virtue of the fact that they choose neither to believe on nor to obey Christ. Christianity naturally begats morality, but morality does not naturally begat Christianity. Likewise, we must not assume that because a highly popular TV show like TAGS teaches morality, then it must teach Christianity and the Bible as well. The fact remains that TAGS teaches neither Christianity nor the Bible. TAGS only teaches morality.

Though a few episodes of TAGS may show people sitting in church or singing a few hymns, TAGS neither launches into the Gospel, nor tells of God’s plan of salvation, nor delves into heaven and hell, nor warns of Satan, nor expounds upon Paul’s epistles, nor admonishes anyone to obey all things whatsoever Christ commanded us (Matt. 28:20 KJV). TAGS does show people living peacefully together, loving each other, being kind and good to one another, feeing good about everything, and basically having a good time in life, give or take a few “knocks” here and there. Does that description apply only and solely to Christians? Of course not! From that generic description, all the citizens of Mayberry could have been devout Muslims, Hindus, or Jews, instead of Gentile Christians.

So why resort to a superficial “method” that allegedly teaches Christianity, when at best, it teaches only general morality, nothing more. Since TV shows like TAGS merely “hint” at Christianity but certainly do not delve deeply therein, why not just bypass them, use a much more reliable and direct method, and go to the ONE source from which people can learn about some REAL Christianity, the ONE source that really tells people how they should live their lives in obedience to Christ? That ONE source is the New Testament. No TV show could ever teach Christianity and the Bible as well as the New Testament. People argue that TAGS does not replace the Bible but merely supplements it. Friends, the New Testament does quite well on its own and does not require any supplementation from pop-culture media. The New Testament stands alone.

I contend that using the TV sitcom or similar show as a “method” to teach the Bible is a subtle ploy initiated by the Change Movement to downplay the importance of teaching exclusively from the Bible. Undiscerning people will believe virtually anything set before them, especially if the Church condones it. If churches use TV sitcoms more and more, then it is likely that, given time, these undiscerning people will believe that their “religion,” their “Christianity,” comes more from the TV sitcoms than from the New Testament itself. With more time, TV sitcoms could eventually replace the New Testament. Sound far-fetched? The seeds for that happening are sprouting right now in Sunday schools that advocate TV sitcoms and similar shows to teach the Bible. That’s the real bud that needs nipping. "Nip it! Nip it in the bud!"
Here are a few summaries of TAGS episodes to see if they teach us how to get to heaven:

Andy and Ellie the druggist stage a fake robbery at the drug store so that Barney will have a “crime” to solve and be happy. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

Barney cites Gomer for making a U-turn, then Gomer cries “Citizen’s ah-RAY-est! Citizen’s ah-RAY-est!” when Barney also makes a U-turn. But Barney’s pride prevents him from paying his own fine, so he acts like a dope and puts himself in jail. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

Barney dresses in drag to show the bank how easy a mark it is, but he only succeeds in locking himself in the safe. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

A secret gold shipment is supposed to come through town, but word leaks out, thanks to Barney, and the whole town turns out for the gold truck’s arrival. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

When a billy goat eats some dynamite, Barney becomes a “Pied Piper” surrogate by playing his harmonica to lead the “loaded goat” out of town. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

Two sweet old ladies steer Andy and Barney to moonshiners around the area to be rid of the “competition,” because they are secretly operating a still in their own greenhouse. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

When Andy attempts to take a vacation for a week and leaves Barney in charge, Barney constantly pesters him for advice about petty decisions that most half-wits could handle. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

Andy makes a brief trip to Raleigh and leaves Barney in charge. On his return, he finds that Barney has virtually incarcerated the whole town on petty charges. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

Rather than oust Barney from the community choir because he can’t sing, Andy and the choir deceive Barney into believing that if he just whispers into a really sensitive microphone, he will really shine. But the microphone is dead, and a bass singer behind the curtain sings the part. Although it raises Barney’s self-esteem, it is comical, and yet it is “innocent” deception, nonetheless. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

When a man angry over having received a ticket vows to pulverize Barney as soon as he finds him out of uniform, Barney “hides” in his uniform day and night. Andy arranges for a judo expert to pose as Barney in street clothes, who works the man over. The man is humbled, and Barney is made to appear the victor. Although it is comical, it is “innocent” deception, nonetheless. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

On visiting Barney in Raleigh, Andy deduces that the very family with whom Barney rooms has been pulling a series of local supermarket robberies. After talking with Barney’s boss and knowing that Barney is about to be fired for obvious incompetence, Andy arranges for clueless Barney to be present at the next robbery in time to nab the family in the act, which saves his job [until the next time]. Although it is comical, it is “innocent” deception, nonetheless. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

Each time Barney makes a stupid, idiotic blunder, Andy covers for him and shines only a “positive light” on blatant incompetence. Does that teach us how to get to heaven?

We could find similar threads in shows like Leave It to Beaver, I Dream of Jeannie, Captain Kangaroo, and Bewitched. The latter is a really a good one. Next thing we know, folks will be vainly trying to milk Christianity out of shows about witches, when they get just a tiny hint of Christianity from TAGS! The bottom line is that pop culture has no place in biblical teaching, because pop culture won't teach us how to get to heaven. So put Andy and all the other classic TV shows on the shelf and reserve them for the evening’s entertainment. The best source for teaching the New Testament is the New Testament. The best source for finding out how to get to heaven is the New Testament.
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Dr. Bill Crump
Dr. Bill Crump

June 3rd, 2006, 7:12 pm #10

BTW, learning from the New Testament and teaching it to others is not limited to the four walls of church auditoriums ("worship centers" to the moderns) or Sunday school rooms. The NT is easily carried around in public and is not nearly as cumbersome or heavy as TV monitors and DVD players or VCRs. Now of course, evangelicals bent on taking pop-culture-based "religion" to the public may go so far as to set up street-corner booths with generators that can power up all the equipment to play TAGS for curious spectators and satisfy their lust for that ever-needful pop culture. But there's no need to go to all that trouble, when the simplicity of the New Testament is much easier, faster, more direct, and more economical.
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