"Junk food for the soul"

By archbishop Lazar

Junk food is by artificial means flavoured and coloured, exceedingly sweetened and to a great extent habit-forming. It is harmful to the physical and mental health and the consumption of it counteract or even puts the beneficial and healthy nutrition out of order. Recently it was shown in the movie “Supersize me” (a film which runs down Mc Donalds) that junk food even causes diabetes.
The television is an almost exact spiritual equivalent to junk food. Almost all the content of the programs is uneducated and not nutritious, the opposite to sound mental health, and is full of values that are in opposition to a sound and healthy community. The lifestyle and the ideal presented there is artificial, corrupted and unpleasant. Besides the television is highly habit-forming.
Even cartoons intended especially for children contain cruel, aggressive and violent actions, that later is reflected in the behaviour of children in the schools and in playing. It is repeatedly shown in experiments done by University of British Columbia (Canada) and in studies and examinations in United States and in Europe, that TV-watching gives rise to negative ideal and pattern of behaviour in young people and that children tend to accept TV’s versions of life and behaviour as acceptable models.
TV’s commercial, which is designed to increase and make money out of the desire of every human, is very popular among children. Repeatedly we have seen that televisions commercial have a great effect not just on children’s senses, that are easily influenced, but also on many grown-ups. This commercial seems to start, build up, increase and then use all sorts of lusts and cravings.
If one would scrutinize the moral content of the TV-programmes, including cartoons for children and the commercial, one would realize that they are in complete opposition to Orthodox Christian ideal. When knowing this, please take a moment and compare the number of hours both children and adults spend under the influence of TV with the time they spend in church, praying and reading the Scriptures and other spiritual edifying books. Apparently the dark influence by satan and his ideal is established in our children’s lives in an early age and in our home.
This problem is often associated with the sad fact that many parents, who is proud of their TV set, at the same time is ashamed of the icon of our Saviour. The TV set is placed on an obvious place, almost a place of honour, in our homes and the icon corner does not exist at all; and if there is icons, they are taken away from the headroom, not to “cause embarrassment”.
Many parents, who allow their children to watch TV for hours, do not spend so much as ten minutes together with their children in prayer in front of the icons. The Saviour and His saints is embarrassing, they are not very welcome, while the Evil One’s liturgy, which is daily performed on TV, gets a place of great honour by the family members. The family who would never think of reading together about the lives of saints or the Scriptures, can eat in front of the TV, just like the pagans did share their celebrations with the idols; and often do these families also neglect to bless the food before eating it.
Later will the parents in those families be sorry for the lack of moral and spiritual standard of their children. How often do you read about the lives of the saints to your children? How much time do your family spend together in prayer in front of the icons? How often can your children see an icon of the Saviour or saints in your home? On the other hand, how much time do they spend with violent, aggressive and cruel cartoons? How much time do they spend with loud-voiced, aggressive, sensual and unmoral anti heroes on the TV?
No one is foolish enough to be of the opinion that a physical and mental healthy child can grow up if he eats more junk food, or even the same amount as healthy, natural and nutritious food. Why would anyone be that foolish and suggest that one can raise an emotional, mental and spiritual healthy child with spiritual junk food?
The television, as much as any other thing invent by humans, have been dedicated the demon of greedy and enviousness and it is manipulated especially for the purpose to increase and take advantage of every humans lust and cravings. Even the sporadic “proper” programmes are more then well compensated by commercials made to satisfy and gormandize on human cravings.
Some people say, for excellent reasons, that it is better to have a TV set at home where the watching can be controlled then to let one’s child watch TV somewhere else under uncontrolled conditions. There is great truth in this. But take a moment and ask yourself if your TV takes precedence over your icon corner, if TV takes the greater part in your children’s lives in relation to Christ. Do you feed your children with spiritual food, or spiritual junk food? Knowing that every parent is to be held responsible before everyone’s Judge about how they have raised their children, should be enough to make them take a moment and seriously reflect on this question, even though the parent’s decision alone is not enough to solve the problem.

Translation from a swedish text. Originally from Canadian Orthodox Message, which is published by OCA’s episcopate in Canada.
Father Lazar Puhalo is a retired archbishop in Ottawa in Canada.