Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flickering Pixels: CH 2

A friend recently told me he left a church because the media used to depict Jesus was borderline blasphemy. The church rewrote a scene from Napoleon Dynamite, where the geeky anti-hero was played by the Christ. Nun chuck and bow staff skills would serve little purpose for a non-resistant Messiah (Matthew 5:43-48).

This week I saw a church using billboards promoting The Naked Truth on sex to attract seekers. Perhaps we've misunderstood Paul's statement about becoming the slave and Jew (1 Corinthians 9). Our illustrations often do little to further the Kingdom of God. The line between applicability and appropriateness seems to be thinning.

These are but a few examples of multimedia use in churches. I wonder if the cost of such metaphors is more than a CVLI license and advertising space. Long-term, these 'amoral' media could wreak havoc on American Christianity. Shane Hipps opens this Pandora's Box in chapter two of Flickering Pixels.

"The Magical Eye" relies heavily on the writing of social critic Marshall McLuhan. Like the prophetic Postman, McLuhan was a man of foresight. He suspected electronic media would reshape our culture. While his popularity dropped by the Eighties, his works brought forth the conspicuous phrases:
  • The medium is the message
  • The global village
  • The future of the future is in the present (Source: McLuhan: Foward through the review mirror)
Playing off the first phrase listed above, Hipps deconstructs the assumption from the first chapter, namely, that technology is amoral. He writes, "[T]he various media through which we acquire information are not neutral. Instead, they have the power to shape us" (pg. 26).

I might (not so) boldly attribute the rise of violence, ADHD and autism to the ubiquity of audio-visual media. The printing press trained our Left Brains to dominate, while the revolution of what McLuhan calls the 'electronic age' has resulted in a 'shifting [of] cognitive modes from the left to the right hemisphere' (McLuhan, The Global Village, 80). In other words, the Western culture is watching the brain unravel as it sits bemused before the television screen.

The chapter opens up the topic of 'Christian' media--perhaps influenced by Rob Bell, one of the signature names on the back cover of Hipps's book. Bell writes, "Christian is a great noun but a poor adjective" (84). And it is all too true that marketing has tried to sanctify bad brushstrokes and guitar rifts because the message exploits the medium.

Unfortunately, the chapter is profoundly inconclusive. Using the 90's craze of the Magic Eye posters, Hipps states the obvious: "We need to train our eyes to focus beyond the surface of our technologies" (pg. 30). Fortunately, the rest of the chapters give some insight into how the reader might accomplish the task.

Questions to consider:
  • What lies beyond the surface of the blog (as well as other digital technology)?
  • Why have digital books not outsold printed books, but digital news is destroying printed news?
  • What makes music Christian?
  • What are the gains of the electronic age and revitalization of the right brain?
Integrity Check (these words included):
Hipps's Words: 33
Total Words: 527
Percentage: 6.2%


4suchatimeasthis said...

I think that most current uses of "new" technology are at best inept, and at worst, counter-productive. BUT, I don't believe that the technology is flawed - I do believe it is amoral. The problem lies where it has always been - in our own selves.
We take the easy, comfortable, non-threatening approach. We are not disciplined in our own priorities. We love our comfort more than our LORD. Therefore, "technology" serves the easy, brainless laziness of our comfort-oriented lives.
I believe that "one man sold out to God" (to borrow loosely from D. L. Moody) can, and occasionally does, use the tool that he is given (in this case "technology") to serve his Lord in strong and productive ways. I think each of us could, if we chose to. (If I remember rightly, even the then-new technology of the printing press raised very similar questions in many minds.)
So, I am not sure that a thoughtless use of current tools is any worse than a poorly painted picture in the 1600s, or a poorly written book even earlier, or a choir singing without enough practice. The question seems to be more whether we are requiring excellence in our own pursuit of God, and in using what He has given in ways that He prompts us.
So I am going to log off and go read my Bible and ask for today's assignment from Him.

Sprained Ankle said...

Thanks for your comments. The lack of discipline and excellence surely big issues. I also wonder if dependence is a greater issue. This week a young man told me if he lost his cell phone he would be, well, lost. On days when the Internet is down, I have trouble getting into a work flow. When the cable goes out, we sit silently in the dark. When we grow dependent on the things created to help us, we endanger our body/mind/spirit.

I think dependence on God is the foundation for discipline and excellence. If we strive for the fruit without the root (how poetic), we will only be frustrated.

willtolive said...

This is why, yet again technology through a movie, The Matrix (specifically Reloaded) was an awesome movie...the MAIN point in a conversation between Neo and the Wise Old Man revolved around the dependence on "machines." (technology)

Ironically, very few people enjoyed this movie because they were too lazy to think through deeper thoughts after the awesome fight scenes. ;