The medium is the message

Our methods and structures shape and influence the people of the church.  We form our structures and they form us.

Marshal McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message.”  It means that “the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.”  A message given in the context of a friendly conversation in a living room will communicate something different from the same words uttered from a podium to a stilled crowd.

Hot/cool, passive/active mediums

The mediums we use have a way of getting around the conscious discernment of our minds.  While we are listening or watching anything, our minds are focused on the content but the medium exerts subtle influence on us that we don’t realize.

The medium of print and the invention of the printing press significantly amplified the impact of reformation ideals.  The ideas that inspired and motivated the Reformers and Anabaptists had circulated before but never made it very far.  The printing press dramatically reduced the cost of spreading an idea.

The medium of print had a democratizing influence on culture.  As ideas spread there were increasing challenges to injustices of reformation era society.  The peasants revolt was a social protest movement attempting to address many oppressive and unfair aspects that caused much grief for (hanging sentence).

Ideas could be understood independent of their originators.  People came to learn ideas detached from human authority and tradition.  This lead to the rise of linear, sequential thinking and rationalism.  It catalyzed the rise of scientific rationalism and amazing technological progress.

There is a downside to being so shaped by print culture.  Western thinkers tend to over systematize and often fail to see things holistically.  We aren’t as good at seeing how life and society is one integrated system.  We are all connected together.  We western thinkers are very good at seeing the trees and less effective at seeing how the forest works.

A friend of mine pursuing a masters degree said that higher education is the process of learning more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing.  That is our tendency in the west.

The western church, especially its Protestant side, is very much a product of print media.  A sermon, while originally sourced in Greek Oratory was resurrected in order to provide the benefits of such knowledge, properly interpreted and applied, to those who were otherwise illiterate.

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