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NCIS : 4 reasons I cannot recommend it

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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The cast of CBS hit television show NCIS (L-R): Gibbs, Ziva, Tony, McGee, Abby (Credit:KissofCrimson via deviantart)

“What TV shows should you watch with your kids?”  This question was asked by several readers last week in response to our Cultural Commentary “‘Preachers’ Daughters’ shows Hollywood vs. faith.”  You know that shows such as The Bible and The Great American Bible Challenge are safe for children and effective ways to teach them the biblical world view.  You also know to avoid shows such as Modern Family, with its blatant endorsement of homosexuality.  But what shows are “in the middle”—not explicitly Christian but good ways to teach biblical values?

To my surprise, I couldn’t find any.  Take NCIS, for example.  It is #1 on Nielsen’s top 10 every week.  It is also one of my favorite shows—the plots are always new and interesting, and the acting is excellent.  But what does its popularity say about our culture?  What lessons does it teach our kids?

  1. Spirituality is irrelevant.  No character ever goes to church or prays.
  2. Self-reliance wins the day.  “Gibbs” (the lead, played by Mark Harmon) gets the villain because he never gives up, not because he turns to God.
  3. Premarital sex is normal.  “Anthony DiNozzo” (played by Michael Weatherly) sleeps with as many women as he can; his sexual conquests are one of the humorous themes of the show.
  4. Violence is routine.  Every show starts with a murder; many are resolved by killing the villain.

The popularity of the show is no surprise—its values reflect the values of our culture today.  My point is not to lambast NCIS; as I said, I enjoy the show each week.  But I must discern and reject the anti-biblical themes that are written into its plots.  I would not expect children to be able to do the same.  And NCIS is more family friendly than the large majority of network TV shows these days.

Why don’t we have more biblically-sound TV?  The answer is not financial: The Great American Bible Challenge debuted as the Game Show Network’s #1 program of all time, with more than 13 million viewers for the season.  And The Bible had a higher initial rating than any competing show on the major networks.

Here’s the issue: We need more Christians who will pay the price to produce excellent TV with biblical values.  When Mark Burnett set out to create The Bible, he was asked, “Who are you to make a Bible miniseries?” Note that he produced Survivor, The Voice, The Apprentice, and Shark Tank, among others.  Burnett thought about his experience, expertise, and accessibility to those who are best in their field and answered, “Who am I not to do this?”

We change culture by achieving our highest influence and living there faithfully as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).  You may not be called to produce TV shows, but you have a Kingdom assignment that is equally valid.  Who are you not to fulfill it?

NOTE: I’m grateful to all of you who commented on this issue last week, and also for those who recommended Mastermedia International and The Hollywood Prayer Network.  These are great ways to pray for more in Hollywood to become salt-and-light influencers for the Kingdom.