Congregational leaders will be tempted to blast "Temptation Island," a six-episode television show about unmarried couples mingling with 26 exotic-looking singles.
The first episode airs Wednesday night on Fox.
While the show's Web site says, "Give in to temptation," congregational leaders should resist the predictable urge to attack this sexually charged, offensive and exploitative television show.
Blasting the program may get amens from the choir and nods of agreement from those in the pews. But it will do little to strengthen families, build communities of discernment and advance a healthy understanding of fidelity.
The show and the debate around it offers a teachable moment. So, let's talk about "Temptation Island" in church. Here's a suggested outline:
Begin with the biblical witness, especially the stories of temptation and seduction: Isaac's temptation to protect himself at the expense of his wife, Joseph's resistance to Potiphar's wife, and David's relationship with Bathsheba. Review these stories and consequences of temptation.
Next, explore the primary purpose of television. At its best, television informs us about the world and provides light-hearted or thought-provoking entertainment. At its standard fare, television serves to sell products for corporations. If sex didn't sell, corporations would not use sex on television to sell products. Without the revenue from the business community, television would be far different.
When we talk about flawed television entertainment, we also need to discuss the flawed economic values of main-street and Wall Street.
Then, examine the reality of so-called reality television. The promotional clips of "Temptation Island" show young people who hardly correspond to reality. They certainly do not have the normal American body mass. Instead, one suspects these "real people" have undergone surgical nips, tucks and implants. Moreover, these players have been tested for sexually transmitted diseases, which is hardly standard reality.
Of course "Temptation Island" is really not about reality. It's really about sexual fantasy.
Finally, discuss the church's role in the public square. Raise the question about why Fox affiliate stations in the Bible belt have encountered passive concern from the faith community about "Temptation Island." Ask why community business leaders, who are people of faith, spend their marketing funds sponsoring such programs. Encourage a dialogue about ways believers can express their values.
Unlike so-called reality shows, the community of faith is about reality, meeting real needs, talking about real issues and sharing real faith stories.
"Temptation Island" affords faith leaders an opportunity to be real leaders through a pro-active and positive discussion about low-fidelity television and high-fidelity faith.
Robert M. Parham is the executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.