Take a good look at the marriage landscape around the country, and you'll find that not only is the divorce rate still very high, with some 50 percent of marriages breaking up, but you will also see the institution of marriage steadily under attack. Whether it's the Massachusetts legislature approving same-sex marriage for out-of-state couples or the California Supreme Court's decision to overturn a same-sex marriage ban, Christians hoping to protect marriage between one man and one woman have their work cut out for them.
In addition to all the battles raging in state capitals and in the courtrooms, the Parents TV Council says there's a major war being waged against marriage right in our own living rooms. It happens every time we turn on the television.
On Aug. 5, the council released "Happily Never After," a report that reveals how broadcast networks treat marriage and sexual relations. The bottom-line message from the networks is that marriage is boring and too burdensome, but sex with any one at any time equals real freedom. When it comes to sex in TV land, anything goes.
"These study results suggest that many in Hollywood are actively seeking to undermine marriage by consistently showing it in a negative manner," said PTC President Tim Winter in a recent statement.
What's even worse, he adds, is that much of the programming undermining marriage and glorifying sexual promiscuity is being targeted at children. The study found that the "family hour," the 8-9 p.m. time slot, with the largest number of children watching, actually contained the highest amount of references to non-married sex, outnumbering references to sex in marriage by a ratio of 3.9 to 1. You can read the details of the report by going to www.parentstv.org.
The numbers as well as the depictions now shown on our TV screens will shock even those of us who think we have seen and heard everything. The PTC points out that such abhorrent behavior as partner swapping and sex with prostitutes, along with depictions of strippers and references to pornography and pedophilia, are now found on primetime TV regularly.
"Children and teens are now exposed to a host of sexual behaviors that less than a generation ago would have been considered off-limits for broadcast television," Winter stressed.
The PTC reviewed more than 200 hours of primetime entertainment programs on the major broadcast networks including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the CW at the start of the TV season last fall. It found even measures such as content descriptors, which the networks put in place to help families make wholesome viewing choices, were either "lacking or inadequate." On ABC, for example, the PTC says some 38 percent of the programs airing during the "family hour" that contained sexual content did not receive the "S" descriptor.
With the fall TV season right around the corner, this report can be another reminder about how less is definitely more when it comes to TV viewing. Revisit those viewing habits to see how much time you and your kids are spending in front of the television. It should be in a central area of the home where viewing habits can be monitored closely. Finally, don't forget to write or e-mail the networks and the advertisers responsible for polluting the public airwaves. These are just a few ways to show that, despite what the networks try to tell us or sell us, marriage as God ordained it can still lead to happily ever after.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of Catholic Connections produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.