Television and Religion: The Shaping of Faith, Values and Culture

by William F. Fore

William F. Fore received a B.D. from Yale Divinity School and Ph.D. from Columbia University. A minister in the United Methodist Church , he was Director of Visual Education for the United Methodist Board of Missions, then Executive Director of the Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches in New York City. From 1989 to 1995 he was Visiting Lecturer in Communication and Cultural Studies at Yale Divinity School.. His publications include Image and Impact (Friendship Press 1970), Television and Religion: the Shaping of Faith, Values and Culture (Augsburg 1987, currently reprinted by SBS Press, 409 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06511), and Mythmakers: Gospel Culture and the Media (Friendship Press 1990).

Published in 1987 by Augsburg Publishing House. Used by permission of the author and copyright holder.


ENTIRE BOOK An examination of the values and cultural significance of secular television, and the role of mass media in shaping our lives. The author provides a theology of communication, a critique of the Electronic Church, and concludes with practical suggestions for those who are concerned about the impact of American television worldwide.


  • Chapter One: The World of Television

    There is a hidden role of television which transcends all of its surface effects. Television acts as “the cultivator of our culture.”

  • Chapter Two: The Technological Era and Its Threat to Religion

    The nature of the technological era, its new worldview and media environment, and religion’s inadequate response. The author proposes an alternative response.

  • Chapter Three: A Theology of Communication

    Communication in its most universal terms must be understood as a basic constituent of the process of being. But we also need to examine from a Christian perspective the role communication plays as a process in our experience as social and political beings. For Christians, the aim of communication is to help people interpret their existence in the light of what God has done for them as manifest in Jesus Christ.

  • Chapter Four: Television’s Mythic World

    The central myths of the media worldview, contrasted with the worldview of Christianity. Clearly we find ourselves living in a society which through its most powerful medium communicates a set of values, assumptions, and worldview which are completely at odds with the religious values, assumptions and worldview professed by more than 70% of its citizens.

  • Chapter Five: The Electronic Church and Its Message

    The Electronic Church in historical perspective: the Great Awakenings. The early stages of the Electronic Church and its rapid growth in the 1970s. An analysis and critique of the Electronic Church — its message, audience, finances and politics.

  • Chapter Six: The Electronic Church and Its Audience

    Extensive research shows that the electronic church has accurately diagnosed the spiritual hunger of millions of people who are reacting intuitively against the inhuman and unchristian worldview of our media culture. However, research also shows that the Electronic Church separates people from their own communities, and is not effective evangelism. Further, it has become captive to the commercial broadcasting system and its demands, and the values implicit in most of its programs are actually the values of the secular society it pretends to reject.

  • Chapter Seven: Strategies for Mainline Churches

    How to go about “creatively transforming” the mass media. Programming strategies. Media reform strategies. Using television as “preparation for the gospel.” Media education.

  • Chapter Eight: Media Violence is Hazardous to Your Health

    An analysis of hundreds of laboratory studies shows conclusively that there is a causal relationship between viewing violence on television and subsequent aggressive behavior. Fieldwork and longitudinal studies confirm the findings. We are faced with a mental pollution that is as dangerous as our physical pollution.

  • Chapter Nine: What We Can Do About Media Violence

    Violence and sexual violence in the media must be reduced. The important thing to stress is to attain this goal without depriving those in the media of the means of livelihood or of the rewards which are justly theirs, and without depriving citizens of their First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech. The author suggests public policy actions regarding the regulation of TV, cable, and videocassettes.

  • Chapter Ten: How to Bust the Communication Trust

    The basic question the First Amendment raises is: To what extent are we willing to give up the value of absolute freedom of expression in order to protect society from expressions which might destroy other values in our society, or the society itself? When we face economic restraint on free speech, something like antitrust laws in communication are necessary. The author suggests three strategies for keeping the mass media open to diverse views.

  • Chapter Eleven: U.S. Media: The Whole World is Watching<

    Media represent a new form of colonialism. The United States insists on “freeflow of information” world-wide, which really means giving the fox the freedom of the chicken coop. Three guiding ethical principals are suggested, including allowing Third World nations to develop their own self-reliance in news, information, and entertainment, progressing at a rate and in a manner appropriate to their needs rather than in conformity to the marketplace needs of the industrialized nations.

  • Chapter Twelve: Signs of Hope

    We may have underestimated the continuing influence of those traditional institutions which have managed to survive without the benefit of the mass media for many years and which continue to transfer cultural values — the family, home, community, school, church, fraternal organizations, and others. If religion alone cannot move with power and authority to bring about the changes necessary, it can at least whisper subversion and at the same time hold the vision of a free and open democracy high for those able to see it.