Monday, January 16, 2006

Amusing Ourselves to Death

I finished reading Amusing Ourselves to Death over the weekend. If you haven't read it, you should. Here is a quote from the chapter entitled "Shuffle Off to Bethlehem:"

"The executive director of the National Religious Broadcasters Association sums up what he calls the unwritten law of all television preachers: 'You can get your share of the audience only by offering people something they want.'

"You will note , I am sure, that this is an unusual relitious credo. There is no great religious leader—from Buddha to Moses to Jesus to Mohammed to Luther—who offered people what they want. Only what they need. But television is not well suited to offering people what they need. It is 'user friendly.' It is too easy to turn off. It is at its most alluring when it speaks the language of dynamic visual imagery. It does not accommodate complex language or stringent demands. As a consequence, what is preached on television is not anything like the Sermon on the Mount. Religious programs are filled with good cheer. They celebrate affluence. Their featured players become celebrities. 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 religion altogether.

"...I think it both 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..."

<idle musing>
Wow, Pretty heavy statements. There are many other observations in the book related to how television has shaped the way we view reality. The scary thing is that this book was written in 1985. Think how much worse it is 20 years later, an entire generation has been raised since then who have been put in front of the tube as a babysitter.
</idle musing>

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