Friday, June 26, 2009

Media and Our Capacity for Humility

A fool does not delight in understanding,
But only in revealing his own mind
(Prov 18:2)

In the previous post regarding holiness and modern media, I contended that we hinder our walk with Christ if we use modern media uncritically and naively. In the posts to follow, I hope to demonstrate how capacities inherent to faithful Christian discipleship are endangered by an unthinking embrace of media. We want to follow this by examining Ephesians 5:15-17 and its application to the media world, and finally conclude with a few practical suggestions on how Christians might use modern media with wisdom and discernment.

The first capacity endangered by media, particularly that of the published and communication variety, is a properly humble self-awareness. The Christian is called to "all humility" (Eph 4:2), in view of God's sovereign grace (cf. Eph 2:8-10), and to remember "he is nothing," so that he is not hindered in the need to "bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2-3). Yet, cultivating humility is certainly not the focus of media.

Via such venues as blogs (go ahead, chuckle at the apparent hypocrisy!), texts, Facebook, and Twitter, we have the historically unprecedented ability to instantly update and broadcast our perceptions, criticisms, and experiences to a mass audience. Though this potential may come with a price... foolishly believing that sharing our own mind is really that important.

William Deresiewicz, in his article, "The End of Solitude," made a similar observation:
The goal now, it seems, is simply to become known, to turn oneself into a sort of miniature celebrity. How many friends do I have on Facebook? How many people are reading my blog? How many Google hits does my name generate? Visibility secures our self-esteem, becoming a substitute, twice removed, for genuine connection.
Nicholas Carr, addressing Twitter in particular, is even more direct:
Twitter is the telegraph of Narcissus. Not only are you the star of the show, but everything that happens to you, no matter how trifling, is a headline, a media event, a stop-the-presses bulletin.
Reflecting universal and total depravity, narcissism is unavoidable as a cultural phenomenon. But for Christians it is inexcusable, because it unsettles the foundation of the Gospel itself:
...the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,so that, just as it is written, 'LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD' (1 Cor 1:28-31)
The reality, however painful it may be to admit, is that our thoughts and experiences are terribly unimportant (Take a minute and let that one soak in... I know it stings a bit). If His Word is inestimable (e.g., Ps 119:127) and our words are negligible at best, which should be the focus of our contemplation and communication?

Pray for Iran

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body (Heb 13:3).

Another post on media is forthcoming later today, DV, but for an example of media used wisely watch this CBN report on Iranian Christians with Voice of the Martyrs' Todd Nettleton.

*We're not big fans of the 700 Club, but this report was a good reminder that Christ would have us pray beyond ourselves and our immediate fellowship.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Holiness and Modern Media: Introduction

Therefore be careful how you walk... (Eph 5:15)

We're going to interrupt the previously attempted restart in order to post on my recent foray toward a Biblical understanding of Christian holiness in a media-drenched world. A sufficient number of requests have prompted us to post the audio of Sunday's class, "A Wise People: Holiness and Modern Media," on the website, but its Socratic nature may make a blog series more helpful.

Our way forward in holiness amidst modern media, will not be through Christian obscurantism, which would condemn every technological advance since 1611 and directly connect every modern medium to the coming of the Beast. After all, if we accept Merriam-Webster's definition, that media denotes "a medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression," we must conclude that media was God's idea.

Condescending to communicate to His creatures, God has written a book, which is, in fact, a medium! There was even a book before the foundation of the world (cf. Rev 13:8). God, in His mercy, is a revealing, communicating, transcribing God, so to condemn the use of media in toto would be short-sighted. Needless to say, media has undergone a bit of development since God finished His book sometime in the late first century.

We live in an age of prolific media opportunities and intrusions, where the means of communication and expression develop at a speed unseen by previous eras of humanity. We may organize the media onslaught in three general categories:
  • Published Media, which is disseminating information for public viewing and would include books, periodicals, websites, and blogs.

  • Broadcast Media, which is the transmission of information to a mass audience via audio and/or video signals and would therefore include radio, television, movies,Mp3 players, etc.

  • Communication Media, which is the transmission of content between two or more individuals and encompasses cell phones, texting, social networking, etc.
Yet, while the efficiency and immediacy of these forms of communication receive great attention, we have not always given the same care to critically consider the media we use, especially as Christians. Have we even thought to ask whether our use of media may have trade-offs or draw-backs? The truth is we often assume that because something is new it must be better and if it is new and fast... well, then, what imbecile would stand in the way of such apparent progress? And as we are swept along, we may be failing as followers of Christ, holy and set apart by His blood, to ask the most important question: how is this medium affecting my life before my Savior and my God?

So, in the few posts that follow, we'll be seeking to uncover some of the capacities that may be endangered if we do not consider such questions as
  • What values are inherent in my use of media?

  • How does media impact my thought, my worship, and my relationships?

  • Are the patterns and habits cultivated by media helpful or harmful in my walk with Christ?
All of which is essentially to ask, how carefully do I walk?