By Michele Rosenthal (auth.)
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Extra resources for American Protestants and TV in the 1950s: Responses to a New Medium
These pleas for practical involvement in television, however, were largely overshadowed by negative evaluations of programming content. For the editors, little on television warranted positive praise or even critical evaluation. Even religious 22 American Protestants and TV in the 1950s television was largely ignored by The Christian Century. True to its rather highbrow, intellectual character, the magazine was reluctant to cede to this new medium its due cultural weight. 3 Throughout the nineteenth century, liberal Protestant leaders played an active role in creating and defining acceptably wholesome forms of commercial culture.
Dewey’s 1950 political campaign, the editors were hopeful that television could bring the “town-meeting” to America’s living rooms. These fleeting hopes that the TV could create a new public sphere or that the TV could act as an alternative educator in remote areas were soon dashed. The editors soon questioned whether any public service programming would or could have much effect on viewers. ”45 If the audience was not really paying attention, the television’s potential both for good and evil was far more limited than previously thought.
18 To save America from the fate of Rome, the church needed to actively intervene: “The task of saving America from the enervating influence of the commercial exploitation of the people’s leisure, rests uniquely upon the shoulders of Protestantism. ”19 In this context, the decline of Protestant influence in America is explicitly linked to the rise of commercial entertainment. Despite the fact that television has yet to appear on his mental horizon, it is clear that Morrison would judge it to be irredeemable.