the media, culture and the past year #1

Well I must say I’ve been happy to see all the commenting and interest into the things that have been written about as of late, and I encourage the discussions and comments to continue until things are seen more clearly. I make myself available as a resource for questions but I am now putting the responsibility on the locals who are concerned to continue to press the matter with the XFBA.
Media and Other Thoughts on Music, TV, Movies and Books

Lately my wife and I have been finding our time when we are not working and doing the normal routines of life that we are watching and listening to a lot of media. For the first couple years of our marriage it was a rare thing to catch the two of us watching TV. We’ve never paid for cable, and probably never will, but even back then we didn’t have much interest in what was going on in TV-Land. Since we’ve moved to california things have changed (now what role California’s media saturated culture is involved in all of this I am not yet sure but I suspect its more than we realize). In any case we’ve gotten at least more interested in TV shows.

A Bit About Media
In“The (Magic) Kingdom of God: Christianity and Global Culture Industries” Michael Budde he talks about the “old art of TV bashing” and quite frankly his tv-bashing is pretty good – because what he points out is the impossibility to cultivate kingdom practices within a community of faith when so much time is spent in front of the television. One of his main arguments is that if there was more time spent practicing the ways of Jesus there would be less time being influenced by the TV. I can’t agree more with his thesis or his conclusions. Much of the bad theology, hypocritical actions and ignorance within the church is due to our own lack of creating and cultivating good disciples. This takes time and TV (among other things) takes time away. This means we would have to stop doing or at least be much more stingy about the way we spend our time if we are to “cultivate” our faith better.

The trouble is, is that this view on its own is some what dissatisfactory to me. I have always tried to stay out of both the left and right categories of life, theology and politics. I don’t want to be on the side that withdraws completely from culture, the media, and those things that are not exclusively Christian produced (in fact I rarely find Christian productions done all that well). Nor do I wish to go the other way and accept everything uncritically. The majority of Christianity could be put into the exclusive or inclusive camps. This is true even within our own Quaker tradition. Where we tend to fall on the too conservative or the too liberal side of things. So I write this post as one coming from neither position – I am neither wholly accepting nor wholly bashing the things of the media. In fact in a coming post I’ll explain what I’ve liked lately when it comes to music, movies, books, and television.

For me this is an exercise in theological reflection, as well as a way to look back over the year and consider what things have influenced my thought, transformed it, or even sidetracked it.

The media is not neutral. I know many people believe that we can “turn off” our minds when we turn on the IPod, TV, or open a book, and there are those who argue that these things have little to no effect over us. But everything that is written, every story told, every song sung, every pixel captured, and every movie filmed, has ideas, influences and reasons for which it has been made. Take this ol’ blog as a perfect example. This is media. And it is formed by every interaction I have with those around, with the culture, with the Scriptures, and with the Spirit. I write as one who has had particular life experiences, with particular ideas, and interpretation of events. My ideas are subjective, they are true in so far as they are how I have experienced them, but they may not be “wholly true.” In fact I believe in very little objective truth, God’s own truth is the exception (but our interpretation of this truth is and always will be subjective). One of the main purposes of media is to create a desire or need – so that people keep coming back.

This is why churches and every Christian must be careful with the intake of what kinds of things we allow to influence us. Many of us have been formed not only in the consumerist culture of American but also in the “consumerist” culture of our churches – we’ve learned how to consume spiritual life in the same way that we consume any other product that is sold to us.

In “Emerging Churches Ryan Bolger states, “When churches decide to make entertainment their main focus, they create a continued expectation and desire for more. Marketing is not neutral; it fosters human desire as must as it satiates (137).”

“Consumer churches present a relationship with Jesus as the answer to widespread feelings of angst. Thus, Jesus is turned into a product that satisfies needs. The problem is that Jesus won’t satisfy individual needs, for the gospel is primarily about God’s agenda, not ours. For true satisfaction to take place, needs must be reformed and transformed to correspond with the gospel (138).”

“Consumer churches promote self-interested exchange and thus violate an inherent part of the gospel, that of the gift. They want satisfied customers who will return the next week (139).”

Though Bolger’s work is aimed at the practices of Emerging Churches what he says here is important in discussing the impact that the consumer market has on us.

Some Queries that arise from what has been said for reflection:

A. What do we desire – and what encourages those desires? Of those desires which are caused by “needs” created by the TV, movies, advertisements and which are created by a desire for the Kingdom of God?
B. How would my own faith look differently given less time consuming and more time in discipleship? How can faith be fostered apart from the crutch of media? Can faith be fostered through reflection on music, movies, TV, etc? If so what ways can we foster it?

C. What ways do we become more Christ-like in the way we consume? In the way we understand needs? In the way we start and end with God’s agenda and not our own? How do we use this to understand and filter what we consume?

D. How do I reject consumerism and instead become a giver instead of a taker? How do we subvert the lie that we never have enough?

From a Jewish Sedar “Dayenu”

Dayenu! That Would Have Been Enough – Passover with Aish:
“Dayenu” — Therefore, how much more so do we owe abundant thanks to God for all the manifold good He bestows upon us. He brought us out of Egypt, He executed justice upon the Egyptians and their gods. He slew their first born. He gave to us their wealth. He split the sea for us, led us through it on dry land and drowned our oppressors in it. He provided for our needs in the wilderness for 40 years and fed us the Manna. He gave us Shabbat, led us to Mount Sinai and gave us the Torah. He brought us into the Land of Israel and built for us the Temple to atone for all our mistakes. (Passover Haggadah)

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Wess

…is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a “released minister” at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.