Electronic Media: Understanding and Applying Christian Thought

Media This article approaches media as a means of communication; electronic media is one of the mediums of communication. Communication is about ideas and ideas have consequences. By Sanjay Macwan.


Let’s begin with the definition of the term. A medium (plural media) is a carrier of information, art, or objects. A medium may provide transmission or storage of information or both. Media communicates ideas and information through words, pictures, art and motion.  Media particularly electronic media play an important role in the public life. They are vehicles to communicate. They provide information and engage public into the main thread of cultural enterprise.

 

Fueled by right understanding, media can control the public emotions and pave way to have happy and bubbling society. History proves how media have helped in creating positive climate in socio-political and economic spheres. Education, entertainment, socio-economic empowerment are some of the areas where media has helped the civil society to progress. Movies like the Matrix regenerated the God debate. Da Vinci Code gave us great opportunity to discuss God on the university campus all over again. Reversely if mediums are used for wrong reasons it can destroy the society. We know how TV screening of Godhra train burning and subsequent riots shown on television created mass hysteria among communities resulting loss of lives!

 

From World War II onwards we have seen drastic development in the area of electronic media. The invention of television tube, ever influencing cinema, powerful internet networks, and handy mobiles has changed the life forever. Without these gadgets life becomes, almost impossible to live. Media gurus make sure that the business of their mediums keep upward trend by providing creative ways and means to entertain and entangle society to its fold. From morning tea to evening dinner, spiritual meditations to funerals, news and their views, regional presentation to global productions , and from fictions to facts electronic media rules emotions and intellect of literate and illiterate both. Be it government, academia, religion, sports, business or society, media play an important role in shaping the ideas of our culture today.

 

The beauty of creation and the importance of art (media)

 

Before we look at media influence it is important to look at what media transit. Media is a carrier of words, images and arts. It regenerates beauty and satisfies the aesthetical need of a human being that God has put in. God created the world with words that went forth from his mouth, words like "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years," it follows that the sun and moon and stars are echoes of those words and that something of the divine mind and its purposes can be understood in studying them. If we look with the right eyes, listen with the right ears, we will understand the natural creation as a form of sign language through which God expresses himself .

 

Psalm 19 tells us that God reveals himself to us in two major ways: his artistry ("the heavens tell the story of God") and his word ("the law of the Lord is perfect"). God speaks to us through symbol and language, art and word. He created us to delight in beauty, goodness, and truth. However, God, the Primary Artist, never intended us to find beauty and meaning within ourselves. Rather, we must look beyond ourselves for these things. According to Psalm 19, knowing God through the avenue of the written word is a necessary but incomplete part of the picture. Throughout its history, the church has known God through the word and art, truth and beauty, grace and nature.At the very center of Christianity stands the Incarnation ("the Word made flesh"), an event which identified God with the physical world and gave dignity to it.

 

A real Man died on a real cross and was laid in a real, rock-hard tomb. Paul's statement, "Unto the pure, all things are pure" (Titus 1:15) includes the arts . The Old Testament is rich with examples which confirm the artistic dimension. Exodus 25 shows that God commanded beautiful architecture, along with other forms of art (metalwork, clothing design, tapestry, etc.) in the building of the tabernacle and eventually the temple. Here we find something unique in history of art works conceived and designed by the infinite God, then transmitted to and executed by His human apprentices! Poetry is another evidence of God's love for beauty.

 

A large portion of the Old Testament, including Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, portions of the prophets, and Job contain poetry. Since God inspired the very words of Scripture, it logically follows that He inspired the poetical form in such passages. Music and dance are often found in the Bible. In Exodus 15 the children of Israel celebrated God's Red Sea victory over the Egyptians with singing, dancing, and the playing of instruments. In 1 Chronicles 23:5 we find musicians in the temple, their instruments specifically made by King David for praising God. And we should remember that the lyrical poetry of the Psalms was first intended to be sung. The New Testament also includes artistic insights. The most obvious is the example of Jesus Himself.

 

 First of all, He was by trade a carpenter, a skilled craftsman (Mark 6:3). Secondly, His teachings are full of examples which reveal His sensitivity to the beauty all around: the fox, the bird nest, the lily, the sparrow and dove, the glowering skies, a vine, a mustard seed. Jesus was also a master story-teller. He readily made use of His own cultural setting to impart His message, and sometimes quite dramatically. Many of the parables were fictional stories, but they were nevertheless used to teach spiritual truths via the imagination. We should also remember that the entire Bible is not only revelation; it is itself a work of art.

 

And this work of art "has been the single greatest influence on art. It sheds more light upon the creative process and the use of the arts than any other source, because in it are found the great truths about man as well as God that are the wellsprings of art." “Art is God-ordained; it is a divine gift that we cannot live without. Without art we lose beauty, and without beauty we lose the vision of a God who is relational, not just propositional. In short, we lose a vision of God who compels awe in the hearts of those who love him.”   

Media influence at a glance – recent developments

 

God through words and arts has influenced human society. He has given us same communication means to explore more of Him and share his knowledge with others. Language, symbols, objects, and art, we use all of them to know him. As society progresses and technology advances we have powerful electronic media that transmits words and arts to enlighten and entertain us. But human creativity, like all other gifts bestowed upon us by God, may be used to know God or may be misused to go away from God.

 

In last 100 years we have seen how media has increased its boundaries to influence hearts and minds of infants, young and old. Driven by technological advancement how contemporary electronic media rules the emotions of the viewers. From still to motion pictures, from analogue to digital, media is increasing its influence every second. Internet network, Films, TV, Mobiles, Smart Phones, and Ipods, are gadgets of the new world. They influence us both in terms of communication media and shaping our lifestyles. Let us explore specific mediums.

 

Films are very integral and important part of our culture. From Alamara to Mother India and from Ek Duze Ke Liye to Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Indian films have come very far to shape and reshape aspirations of the masses. Regional cinema is doing well for quite some time now. Our stories and screen plays are becoming global brand doing well in Europe, America and far Eastern countries. From narcosis to catharsis, films project and reinforce cultural values on us that we laugh, cry, and dance at the music of this popular medium.24X7 sports, news, music, religion, shopping, traveling, education; virtually everything is there in front of a television though. We have programs on marriage and rapes together, events of violence and festivals together, yoga and two-piece models together. Age old sas bahu serials still rule our drawing rooms after 10pm. SMSs have become most popular tool to accept or reject a talent, a neta, a marriage or a government.

 

Crime shows looks more than criminals and still there is a viewer-ship to it! Children have more than eight Cartoon channels to choose from and entertain themselves. TV once an idiot box not has become an idol every Indian worships!Welcome to the internet. It is probably the grandest invention of our times. Computers, Ipods, smart phones, all gadgets are now connected to the net. At the fingertip we enter the world and can fantasize ourselves. Started primary as an information tool, internet has become life-hub in 21st century. E-mail to E-commerce, music to movies, and chatting to cheating it has already re-defined us! Press enter and whole world is in front of you. It is so exciting that the hidden desires come in front to play ‘eve’ in the garden of internet.   Collectively media – while making our life easy delivers appalling influence upon us.

 

Marshal McLuhan and Quentin Fiore in their book The Medium is the Massage says, “All media work over us completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage. Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without knowledge of the way media work as environments”Media reflects and shapes our worldviews, embodies the commitments, virtues and social values. They present religious values to us. Electronic media captures our imagination and sometimes do imagining for us. Media create an imagined world for a short time and invite us to live there. They confirm, challenge or transform the world of our fantasies. In short, media dictate our attitudes, choices and beliefs.

 

We become what we behold!

 

Last two decades of media influence has caused a shift in values: we live in a culture dominated by the secular view.  Barkha Dutts, and Mahesh Bhatts of post-modern India rule the debates on our televisions these days. Powered by the visual sensations, discussions on mass killings of Gujarat riots or Nithari killings or Mumbai bomb blast do not generate sense of shame but desensitizes us that we soon surf to another channel!  Notice how media ferry us to accept alternate lifestyle or Page3 midnight parties. We are able to political or social all our programs communicate all-inclusive secular view leaving no room for discussing the ideas of truth, morality and God. Someone said it is possible to debate private bedroom matters public TV but not God that is a public matter! 

 

Founded in secular understanding of God and nature media does not satisfy our hunger that they claim to do for us. Reversely they build up boredom just after enjoying them.  We see a fashion model going mad and wandering around Delhi streets. We have youngster

s distributing MMSs and movies clips to satisfy some of their fantasies. A dedicated bahu in reel life, getting frustrated that taking divorce in real life. And, speculate the damage done by the minds that spends hours in front of porn sites and develop an imagination that indulges into what is ugly and non-sense.

 

In search of a meaning between the lines of real and virtual, probably younger lot is taken for a ride. We wonder why upwardly looking, smart, educated and earning youngsters are not able to fathom meaning of life. Why life produces more monotony and boredom even after so much of entertainment?  Three hours movie or few cyber-café visits would provide some solace to the spirit – they think- but satisfying and right relationship does not emerge that way. Hooked on mobile keypads we are not actually able to connect with the ‘other’. Living in reality shows (May I say unreality shows?) generation next finds it difficult to take on pressure that develops stress and destroys the beautiful being that God Himself has created.  In search for an ultimate relationship, human being entangles himself in media circus but in vein. Let us remember that media is medium. It is not the message. When medium becomes message we have misspelled meanings.  

Let’s begin to redeem media

 

Just to remind that God created language, symbols, art and motion. We know God through His artistry and His word; if media are not governed by the Christian view of God it obviously transmits what is secular and damaging. The damage is done both in terms of knowing God through media and communicating him through media. I suggest that we need to redeem media to explore the nature of God through artistic expressions and to communicate His nature to others. This process will enrich Christian presence and presentation in India. In UESI forum I would suggest that we must offer our young people a context in which they can religiously engage with media to:

 

1.       THINK critically

2.       LEARN to see in fresh and challenging ways

3.       EXPLORE religious concerns through the lens of their experiences

 

To enhance our communication means,

 

First, we must shape a critical perspective to bear on the intersection of religion and media Young people must be inspired to think about how religion and theological perspectives shape the imagination, nurture a worldview and imagine a future.

 

Second, engaging in and through the media will help Christians in the process of being salt and light of the world. If the medium has lost its meaning by its abusers let us intervene. As Christians we need to understand and respond adequately to media effects as we are also not beyond its influence.

 

Third, Christian communication in India is largely verbal or written. We are pretty slow in exploring the world of arts, entertainment and emerging technologies. Notice how secular produces and directors are able to read and reciprocate to the need of the masses so quickly and successfully. It seems we are way behind to affect the generation next. I suggest we re-capture the media and regenerate art that would satisfy the soul, entertainment that enriches the mind & heart and technology that supports life to its fullest sense.

 

Fourth, we need to enter in actual media world. It demands high level of creativity and skills, we need believers of genius caliber entering into this field and providing some ground breaking art, films and TV sops. Programs like Khushi Ki Duniya by CBN very creatively delivers kingdom values to children preparing a framework for the Gospel to make inroads. I witnessed a Bharatnatyam school in the City of Varanasi, teaching dance to the students who come from all religious backgrounds. The art and content that is being communicated through dance is Bible based and generates popular attention. It is high time that we start doing such things in all other areas.   

 

To summarize, we need more Christian artists who will influence the cultural scene of India, explore God through artistic expression and dedicate India as a pleasing sacrifice to our Lord.

 

Redeem media!

 

Paper presented at UESI-Gujarat Triennial Conference. 

 

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