Maxwell’s Silver Sermon

Charlie looked at the bewildered victims of the crash on the beach and spoke for all when he said, “Guys, where are we?”

If you want to know how we got here (telegraph–television–blogs–Facebook–Twitter) I would highly recommend Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. The fact that a majority of blog readers will know the setting, time of day, and characters of the theatrical reference in the opening quote of this post tells us that Postman was on to something. The average consumer receives philosophical, theological, and cultural challenges through entertainment not through sustained conversation, study, or thinking. In fact what is usually passed off as “conversation” in today’s culture, and more to the point–today’s church,  is anything but. If nothing else, read Postman’s eighth chapter “Shuffle Off to Bethlehem” which surveys the televangelist scene of 1985. The players have changed but the issues are all still there. Here are a few choice quotes:

  • “The first is that on television, religion, like everything else, is presented, quite simply and without apology, as an entertainment.”
  • “If the delivery is not the same, then the message, quite likely, is not the same. And if the context in which the message is experienced is altogether different from what it was in Jesus’ time, we may assume that its social and psychological meaning is different, as well.”
  • “Though their messages are trivial, the shows have high ratings, or rather, because their messages are trivial, the shows have high ratings.”
  • “I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.”
  • “I think it both and fair and obvious to say that on television, God is a vague and subordinate character. Though His name is invoked repeatedly, the concreteness and persistence of the image of the preacher carries the clear message that it is he, not He, who must be worshipped.”

One response to this post.

  1. […] Amusing Ourselves to Death (20th Anniv ed) by Neil Postman. Put down your smart phone for a day and read this. For a little more on this book see my synopsis here. […]

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