What do I think of Phil Phillips’s book published by Thomas Nelson? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I have been doing some studying lately in the concept of Christian paranoia over how most every new invention that comes along is something that is going to destroy our children for the next generation. The problem is this happens so many times. It is my desire to find common themes and what can be done when new mediums come up. After all, we don’t want to just follow culture everywhere and jump on every bandwagon, but at the same time we want to be wise and discerning, including with entertainment content.
Phil Phillips writes from a perspective of a therapist in dealing with the issue of TV which he often calls The Box. Certainly, Phillips’s desire is noble and can be applauded. Watch what your children are watching and be aware of it. Try to understand what is going on. He doesn’t say to throw out TV altogether, but he does encourage a vested interest in what your children are doing.
This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. While my Dad and I watch TV together often, including shows like Smallville and the Flash, and we as a family watched Monk and House and other shows like that, but when it came to games, I have often been the lone gamer in my house. Parents. If you have children who are gamers, they would like to see you take an interest in that just as much as you take an interest in your children who play sports.
On p. 54, he does say one main reason that some kids don’t become aggressive in light of what is seen on TV is because of parents. This is the most important insight in the book. It deserves to be recognized by all. If you are raising your children well and teaching them good and evil and giving them a biblical worldview especially, they are far better equipped. I have played games all my life and I am not at all an aggressive person.
However, Phillips does indeed engage in paranoia and many of the rules seem arbitrary. For instance, does a show have more than three weapons on it? If this was followed, you could not watch The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.
I also wondered throughout at times how you could explain the Bible in this position. The Bible has a lot of violence in it and yes, a lot of sexual content. We don’t grant the Bible an exception just because it’s the Bible. If we do that, we are engaging in double-standards.
Phillips does have a bibliography in the back, but the problem is many times in the book, he does not cite sources and does not tell where something is specifically found. Sometimes he will say something like “A boy said X.’ What boy is this? How can I speak to him?
He also sometimes gets his material wrong. For example, he says about Ninja Turtles and this when discussing the cartoon that Splinter was a rat and then became a humanoid rat, but fans of the show know that in the cartoon, Splinter was a human first. In the movie, he was a rat first. (82) He also says Smurfette was a male smurf who became female, but in reality, Smurfette had been created by Gargamel in the show. This is the danger of that if you get something basic wrong, why should I trust you on the others?
He is also vague on what is meant by aggression. It is never defined and sometimes it looks like it is always to be avoided. Sometimes aggression is a good thing. We need to be aggressive, but for Phillips, it looks like there is never a good time for aggression.
The same problem occurs with violence. Phillips is the kind of person who will have a problem with something like Looney Tunes and is convinced that too often children will believe everything on the box is real. Of course, this is where parents need to monitor and discuss, but eventually, children do grow up and realize these things aren’t real and just enjoy them as fantasy.
In looking at the Super Mario Brothers Super Show, which I know very well, he speaks about a three-headed snake that says “Stomp ’em, Tromp ’em, Crush ’em” and of characters being spoken of as belch brains and these are not the kinds of values we want our children to emulate. Good thing that it’s the VILLAINS who do this on the show. Would Phillips really want a show where villains show the behaviors we want to be emulated in society? (p.81)
He gets more bizarre about this show when he starts talking about occultism in cartoons and says that even Mario has a dance, which he connects dancing with the occult. You can do the Mario. You can think the Mario show is the dumbest show ever but you can look at the dance at the end easily and tell that Lou Albano is not leading children into occult practices with a dance.
He uses She-Ra as an example of how She-Ra even cries for an enemy because he was given life and wasted it. When he dies, no one would care. Honestly, this reads as if Phillips is condemning this when I find this admirable. We as Christians should all be sad for those who are given the gift of life and waste it. (120)
Phillips lists several shows he says have problematic and occult themes in them, many of which are just incredibly odd to see. My Favorite Martian should be avoided since it involves UFOs. G.I. Joe should be avoided because it’s too violent. Other shows to be avoided for various reasons are The Munsters, Star Trek, Lost In Space, Dr. Who, Smurfs, Gummy Bears, My Little Pony, Scooby-Doo, and The Archie Comedy Hour. (125-127)
There is a little said on video games, and much of it convinces me that Phillips doesn’t understand video games well. Still, that is minor so I will save that for other works. The emphasis here is still on cartoons.
In conclusion, Phillips means well, but I think his approach will lead to only helicopter parenting instead of teaching children wise discernment skills so they can make decisions apart from their parents that will be for their true good. The goal of a parent is to work themselves out of a job. This doesn’t mean that they play no role in the lives of their children as I can still talk to my parents regularly and go to them for advice, but I certainly don’t need them to make decisions for me anymore, as it should be.
Christians. Avoid paranoia. The problem is not the medium. The problem is discernment.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)