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Fundamentalist Indoctrination: Is Television an Idol in America?


In August 1989, my wife, Polly, and I, along with several members of Somerset Baptist Church, the church that I was pastoring at the time, started teaching fifteen church children at Somerset Baptist Academy (SBA). SBA was a non-chartered, tuition-free Calvinistic Baptist school. It was the only non-Catholic religious school in Perry County. Polly and I did most of the teaching, spending hours each day teaching K-12 students English, writing, spelling, reading, math, history, science, Bible, and computer literacy. In addition, parents in the church helped teach classes such as home economics, shop, and small engine repair. One dear lady in the church, Delorse, watched our three youngest children eight hours a day so we could teach the church’s children.

SBA was a one-room school. Using standardized testing and other criteria, students were put in particular classes according to their academic abilities. Thus, we had several high school students taking math with third graders. No one was shamed over this. The goal was to meet each student where they were academically. While SBA, its administrator (me), and its teachers had many flaws, we did well when it came to teaching students the basics. Adults who were young children at SBA in the 1990s, to this day, thank Polly for teaching them to read. Unfortunately, no such praise comes my way. 🙂 Students called me “Preacher.” I was a stern taskmaster who demanded obedience, who meted out discipline when students failed to comply. While I have MANY fond memories from the eleven years I spent pastoring Somerset Baptist, I also have many regrets. Fundamentalism causes harm. I was a victim, but I also was a victimizer. I plan to write more posts about SBA in the future. Maybe I can get some of the students, three of whom are my children, to share their SBA experiences, safe from having to write out KJV Bible verses as punishment or memorize the 1989 London Baptist Confession of Faith and Catechism.

In the late 1980s, a Fundamentalist man, whose name remains lost in the deep recesses of my mind, wrote several anti-culture books and offered them free to churches. One book had a red cover, and the other was blue. He sent me two cases of books to distribute to church members. The following report, written by my eleven-year-old son, Jason, on January 11, 1990, was a review of one of the chapters in these books — I assume on the evil of television.

Polly and I owned a TV when we married in 1978. Unfortunately, by the mid-1980s, “God” had convicted me of the sin of watching “Hellivision.” So out to junk pile went the TV until the late 1990s. If you want a bit of insight into my thinking about TV during this period of time, please read The Preacher and His TV.

The following report by my son shows how religious fundamentalism deeply affects the thinking of children raised in such environments. Religious indoctrination is not harmless. Jason, of course, is blameless. Not now, buddy. 🙂 Much like his father and mother, Jason was psychologically affected by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) thinking and Bible literalism. Children are products of the environments and cultures they grew up in. The good news is that parents and children alike can overcome religious indoctrination. The Gerencser family is living proof of this claim. Either that or Satan/Antichrist has control of us. 🙂

This report was slightly edited for grammar, spelling, and readability.

Yes, the television is an idol. We worship the TV every time we turn it on and watch it. The Devil is behind the television. It was his idea to make the television so he could enter people’s houses and rule over them. He loves this idea. It gives him a chance to kill people. The Bible says that the Devil is a roaring lion who seeketh to devour people. In people’s houses, everything is turned toward the television. We do not talk to guests. Instead, we watch TV, and once in a while make a comment about what we’re watching or something else. Even so-called “Christians” watch filthy, junky, ungodly stuff on TV. Soon we become slaves and addicts to the TV. When people start watching TV, it is hard for them to stop watching it. People watch dirty and gruesome things. They say what was wrong with what was on TV, and how terrible it was, yet still watch it. No one even bothers to not watch TV or get rid of it. The Devil laughs at us when we do this because he has won. People have let TV become part of their lives, so therefore they let it control them instead of them controlling it. When we come home we turn on the TV right away. Whenever we’re there, it’s on full blast. TV damages adults, but totally destroys children. One school teacher had her students not watch TV for 24 hours, then write a report on it. One boy thought one minute was like one month, another imagined that the favorite shows were on TV. Japanese children think that they cannot live without it. They have at least 3 TVs in their homes. They think you’re different if you do not have a TV to look at all the time. The TV is a thing that lays the way for the Antichrist. The Antichrist will rule the world by the way of the TV. He will have everybody hooked on the TV, and watching filthy stuff which allows demons to come into their homes. TV is many people’s number one idol, besides other things. The Antichrist will speak through the TV. Unsaved people cannot watch the TV during the tribulation, because they will be killed for not bowing down to him when he comes on TV. We should not watch filthy things on TV. (Over 400 words)

— End of report

Students were required to write a certain number of words for their reports (and they wrote LOTS of book reports) — thus the “over 400 words” statement at the end. Jason and his fellow students quickly learned how to use “filler” (AKA bullshit) to reach the word count requirement. 🙂

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    When a new priest came to a couple of parishes in June of 1999, it was remarked that he did not have a tv set in his rectory. While the given reason he did have one is his rectory was that he thought tv was a bad influence, I think in reality he was trying to give off an air of holiness that he really did not have He stayed at the two parishes until he moved to senior status in June of 2018.. I would like to claim that he was the worst priest that these two particular parishes ever had, but his predecessors were not all that great either. The interim priest before him who was there only three months before him had done time in prison for damaging property while protesting nuclear weapons. This interim priest died in Bettendorf Iowa in August of of 2013 at the age of 53. The three priests prior to the interim priest from a time period of November of 1973 to March of 1999 all had allegations of sexual misconduct against minors levelled against them. The first one pled no contest to sex offenses in Wisconsin and was sentenced to ten years in prison. He had earlier been defrocked in 1993. He had been at those two parishes from November of 1973 to November of 1976. The second priest did not face a criminal trial but the diocese of Peoria settled a civil suit with the accuser in August of 2013. That was four years after the priest’s death in August of 2009. The third priest was forced to step down from the priesthood in the diocese of Peoria in August of 2015 because of allegations of sexual misconduct almost thirty years earlier. Sometimes the problems are not external influences like TV but the wickedness of the interior of the person.

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      The priest who went to prison for protesting nuclear weapons probably isn’t such a bad fellow. Not sure wtf he damaged to catch a felony worth state/federal prison. I just happen to think his heart is in the right place on this issue.

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        Maybe the reason I did not think that highly of this priest who damaged a nuclear missile silo in the mid 1980’s and then was involved in other protests in 1998 is because I thought some of his activities were nothing more than grandstanding. Also, I heard that when he left the the two parishes he was the interim priest from March of 1999 to June of 1999 that that some items in the rectory that were there when he first arrived were discovered to be missing soon after he left those two parishes. Actually I do not care for Catholic priests as a group anyway. Often they make a pretense of holy living that they do not actually practice.

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    Yes, we can watch too much TV. But people our age grew up with it by and large. By the time I was in high school I barely watched TV, as I was busy! Went through religious permutations but resumed watching TV over 30 years ago.

    And my children grew up when the experts spent all their time crying over how evil video games were. Now, my 2 sons are writing a role-playing game (think D&D) very seriously. So I guess playing video games and table top games turned out to inspire them. Also, my youngest streams video games as a hobby. I’m proud of him as he is quite ill (fibromyalgia for 12 years since he was 14!). The oldest, my autistic (but high functioning) son works in food service. The fact he is best at customer service at his job is amazing, as he literally had to learn to talk to neurotypical people. I never thought he was that bad but then it turned out, I am autistic too!

    So what I’m trying to say is yes, there can be too much TV, tablets, computers, laptops etc. But they can also be used for good and there are so many things on these mediums that can teach us and inspire us, and that we can also use to teach and inspire our children. So there is nothing wrong with the TOOLS, but how we use them.

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    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    The second-hand B+W television that first came into my “poor people” home quite literally saved my life. I had spent the first six years of my life in a stimuli-deprived home environment. Think of being a child trapped for six years in a small, undecorated room with white walls, a white ceiling, and a white floor—and his little boy body was the only thing in that room.

    Then my television arrived as a gift from an uncle—a gift for being a brave little kid and suffering through several grueling days in a hospital. My television was a blessing back in the late 1950s and 1960s. It kept my brain and soul from rotting in-situ, and I learned so very much by watching it. It was a very special caregiver, and I thank Jesus for the opportunity to learn from it and to receive all of the positive stimuli it provided. If that electronic wonder had not arrived, I would almost certainly have ended up dead or in prison.

    I feel sorry for the Christian Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals who are not allowed to own televisions—–even today. They miss out on so very many good things people need to know. I learned a lot from the old Three Stooges shorts, which were on WLAC-TV most late weekday afternoons in my kiddie days.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    I remember during our church- going days,with the Pentecostal sects,they all railed against TV. We never got rid of the TV though. It was a source of news and information. And we watched televangelists on it, faithfully, thinking that would increase our faith and spiritual growth. We figured that WHAT you watch mattered. I could see it was ridiculous to fear the TV, while being mean as a snake towards others,lol. Funny, there’s some videos by a girl,Mykala Cooper, saying that stuff that the IFB and Pentacostal/ legalistic churches say. It’s smiley, creepy, and I’m so,so glad I shun churches nowadays !

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    we had a small portable tv for years so we could hide it away. mom loved it and so did we, but she felt so much shame due to pentecostal teachings. also we were told it would be a stain on dad’s so called ministry. then the 1980s hit and the rules relaxed. think color tv and mtv. these things were a life line. i always knew pentecostal life was not normal, but now i could see people living normal lives. tv was a gift for us too.

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    Barbara L. Jackson

    Hmmmm What I like to watch when I feel depressed are shows like PBS NOVA and Nature that have animals in them. One show I like is about weasels. There is another about squirrels. I must be an addict.

    We have HOKU so we can get some of the old PBS programs.

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    We were fundy and thought TV was evil, so raised our 3 children without a TV. We thought it was such a Good Witness to heathen neighbours. We didn’t mow the lawn, do DIY, hang out washing or shop on Sundays either for the same reason. Probably if neighbours noticed at all, they didn’t admire our piety like we hoped they would, just thought we were a bit ‘odd.’ Certainly never heard of anyone finding jesus cos of our ‘good witness’ in not having a TV or not operating the washing machine on the sabbath day. Oh the delusional nature of our fundy-ism back then!

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Bruce Gerencser