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“Garbage In, Garbage Out”

I recently visited a friend's house to discuss business, and while we were conversing, I could hear the television in another room. Normally, that wouldn't distract me, but I was shocked by the vulgar language on the TV show. Admittedly, I hardly ever watch television, so I'm not sure when it became OK to use such words. The last time I checked, broadcasting obscene content was still prohibited by the FCC, and the profanity in this show was evidence that very little enforcement occurred.

Perhaps the show in question was on a cable network, which falls under different FCC rules (see for details), but I couldn't help but think about how much television content has changed. In the late 80s and early 90s, I loved watching The Wonder Years, starring Fred Savage who played Kevin, a young teenager attempting to navigate life in his stereotypical American family. Though Kevin was the main character, his on-screen crush, Winnie, quickly captured viewers' hearts after her older brother was killed while serving in the military. The show was wildly successful because viewers felt connected to the characters and the realistic story line.

It was clear that Winnie and Kevin had strong chemistry, and those watching hoped the budding romance would grow into a full-fledge relationship after the two exchanged their first kiss in Harper's Woods. The innocence of their attraction was refreshing, as it grew into a meaningful romantic relationship complete with respect and healthy boundaries — that is until a jealous fight destroyed it and eventually ended the show. Though The Wonder Years displayed some controversial behavior for the day with its suggestive references, innuendos, and questionable behavior, the language was clean, and kids could watch without being bombarded by offensive remarks.

It's no surprise that recent studies show that kids who watch today's programming laced with derogatory words, inappropriate references, and obscene gestures perform worse in school, are prone to engage in more combative behavior, and struggle to differentiate reality from fiction.

In 1962, George Fuechsel, an IBM programmer, was credited with coining the phrase "garbage in, garbage out" when he referenced that bad information entering the computer will result in bad information being computed and output.

Dieticians caution that "we are what we eat," but the Bible says that we are impacted by more than that. It warns us that what enters our minds directly affects our actions: "Bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," (2 Corinthians 10:5). Proverbs 23:7 is a little more direct: "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

When I was a child, I remember my grandma singing "O Be Careful Little Eyes" by the Cedarmont Kids. The lyrics remind us to be careful of what we see, hear, say, do, think, and trust because God is always watching. 

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