I had an interesting discussion with a Christian friend the last few days about certain TV shows that are clearly not good for Christians to watch. One such example includes "South Park" though some Christians I know would debate about this and perhaps about "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons." I used to think (and perhaps do to some extent) that as long as I don’t watch them publicly and let them corrupt me morally, perhaps it’s not sinful. But I do think now that perhaps I am wrong.
Even more interesting to me is how my friend bashed "Andy Griffith" and even said that he doesn’t like how the preacher in his Church wonders why they don’t make more TV shows like "Andy." Before explaining his reasons, I wondered why he would think that way. But he explained that they tell little white lies to each other to avoid hurting others’ feelings and laugh at Otis, a drunkard, when they should be helping him overcome his problem. My friend had some good points to make there that are worth thinking about some more.
I did mention that many of us today get so exposed to such clearly filthy shows full of cursing and blasphemies and immorality and sexual scenes and sexual references and other such junk that when we see shows like "Andy" and "I Love Lucy," we think they’re clean because they are by comparison to most of today’s TV shows. In other words, we eventually become desensatized to the filth that shows with minor amounts of it go by unnoticed to us.
What do you think about all this? How should we judge TV shows for deciding if they’re not sinful for Christians to watch? I don’t want to be legalistic here, but I would like to hear some further ideas on this question.
Please be aware that you sent this question to a Christian Apologetics web site. I am not an expert on moral issues related to television content. Nevertheless, you asked so I will do my best to give you a helpful answer.
Bottom line, such things are clearly going to be a grey area. There are an almost unlimited number of Bible passages which can be used with principles which caution us to be careful what kinds of influences we bring into our lives. There is no doubt at all that there are kinds of entertainment which a Christian has absolutely no business watching. Psalm 101:3 is one scripture with a good principle to apply to such questions: "I will set before my eyes no vile thing." Philippians 4:8-9 are appropriate as well. A Christian ought to give their attention to things which noble, right, true, praiseworthy and so forth. Clearly some of the material on TV and in movies does not meet these standards!!!
So, what should our "position" be on such things? I believe we ought to teach these biblical passages and principles with strength and conviction, but we should not make the mistake of creating rules and legalistic. Such rules are not helpful to creating righteousness. This is what is taught in Colossians 2:16-23. Paul tells us that human created rules "lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." So, let us teach biblical principles and not hesitate to do so, but let us not have official policies.
One person watches the Simpsons, enjoys the humor, and is not hurt spiritually. Another finds the material to be offensive and feel that they should not put such "vile" things before their eyes. I think we can agree that watching South Park, The Simpsons and Family Guy is debatable. For myself, I find South Park offensive and am not willing to watch this show, but I actually enjoy The Simpsons. When my kids were young I did not let them watch this show. Which is worse; to watch violent TV, shows with sexual innuendo or shows with profanity? Is all of this completely outlawed for believers? I believe that a number of NT passages encourage us to reach our own convictions and use these to guide our actions but we should hesitate to create legalistic rules for others. There is some freedom in Christ. 1 Cor 5:9-10 tells us that we cannot fully disengage from the world, nor should we. Yet, like I already said, there are things we definitely should not indulge in. You ought to read Romans 14:1-15:4. Here you will find good principles for how to treat believers who do not have exactly the same convictions in detail as you do.
As for your friend who thinks Andy Griffith is offensive and that a Christian is sinning if they watch this show, my personal opinion is that this person is way over the top. That is just my opinion, but….. If we refuse to watch or listen to or read anything at all which has even the slightest hint of sinful influences then we will become so isolated and "wierd" that we will not be able to reach out to normal people. Lying and drunkenness are part of real life. If we cannot read about that or watch shows which include such behavior, then we cannot read the Bible, because even the Bible includes accounts of people who lie, and commit blatant sin. Such radical, legalistic oversensitivity is not helpful. That is my opinion.
Bottom line, you need to reach your own convictions on these things. You definitely will not get me to make this decision for you. I think that when in doubt, it is better to be careful and conservative, but please do not go so far that you cannot even relate to people in the world and do not allow legalism to catch your attention.