The end of the written word?

Facebook is predicting the end of the written word–at least on Facebook, which the head of the company in Europe says may well be all video in 5 years.  Suggesting that reading and writing will be all but obsolete (though not completely), Nicol Mendelsohn said, “The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” which “conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

This is not true, as media expert Neil Postman has shown.  It certainly isn’t “quicker” to watch a video, as opposed to scanning a few paragraphs.  And the information value of videos is quite low, if you are looking for ideas and facts, as opposed to emotional experiences.  And “stories” can be told with much more depth in writing, as nearly any comparison with a movie and the novel it was based on will prove.

And yet, I can see Facebook and other online media replacing the written words with visual images and oral performances. This would be in line with the predictions of another media scholar, Marshall McLuhan, who said that when this happens, we will revert back to a pre-literate culture, one that is tribal, anti-rational, and functionally primitive. [Read more…]

Refusing to bake Trump’s cake

BuzzFeed announced that it would not honor a $1.3 million advertising contract with the Republican Party because Donald Trump is going to be the nominee.  I suspect other businesses will have similar qualms, as we are already seeing with some rock musicians not letting Trump’s campaign play their songs.  So how is that any different, asks Mollie Hemingway, from a Christian baker refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding?

She says that businesses should have the right to express their moral objections by not selling to certain clients, but asks why media corporations–including BuzzFeed–demonize the little guys who do this, while doing it themselves on a much bigger scale?

[Read more…]

How Luther invented mass media

Media historian Andrew Pettegree has written a new book entitled Brand Luther:  How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of  Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe—and Started the Protestant Reformation.

He tells about how Luther, along with his collaborator the artist and printer LUCAS CRANACH, used the printing press in such a way that the Reformation went viral.  He shows how the two used visual design to, in effect, “brand” the publications.  Luther became the most published author ever, though, in the words of reviewer Ronald K. Rittgers, “he never made a pfennig from his publications.”

Of Luther’s writing style, Rittgers writes, “Unlike the typical theology books of his day, Luther’s early works were clear, engaging, entertaining, and accessible (he frequently wrote in German). And above all, they were brief.”

This is a book I want to read.  The review is excerpted and linked to after the jump, and I have links to Amazon. [Read more…]

Liberals who now work for Putin

Remember Ed Schultz, the liberal talker on MSNBC, who praised all things Obama and Clinton, and who ridiculed Trump and condemned Vladimir Putin (whom he called derisively “Putie”)?  Well, now he works for RT America, Putin’s propaganda cable network.  Now he has nothing good to say about Obama and Clinton and is now, at his new master’s behest, praising Trump.

Larry King, the former CNN icon, also works for Putin.  So does Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota, professional wrestler, and radio talk show host.  (He is arguably not a liberal, but was something of a populist precursor to Trump, on the state level.)  Also working for Putin is, disturbingly, Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s equivalent of the CIA.

Michael Crowley has a story about this in Politico, excerpted and linked to after the jump.  He also discusses the connections between Putin and Trump. [Read more…]

“Is God Dead?” 50 years–and 439 years–later

This month 50 years ago, in 1966, Time Magazine featured its cover-story entitled “Is God Dead?” The article was about the “Christian atheists,” such as Thomas J. J. Altizer, of the theology faculty at Emory, who argued that the traditional deity is no longer relevant to the modern age and that we need to find new modes of spirituality for a new era.

Leigh Eric Schmidt has written a perceptive article on the impact of that cover story and of the theological fad that it discussed.  He says that it contributed to the rise of evangelicalism, as people sought a more robust understanding of God than was being taught in liberal seminaries.  Mainline Protestantism once exerted genuine cultural leadership and the public was attentive to its theological scholarship.  (Time also had cover stories on Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr.)  But Schmidt observes that the “Is God Dead?” story was mainline Protestantism’s last hurrah.

So, fifty years later, God is not dead.  Altizer is not dead either, hanging on at 88.  Time is also hanging on, despite big drops in circulation and the competition of the internet.  Mainline liberal Protestantism has also been dwindling in numbers and relevance, though you wouldn’t know that from academic religion departments.

After the jump, though, I offer a passage from the Formula of Concord, Article VIII, on the person of Christ, which discusses the death of God in a completely different way.  It takes up the controversy at the time of whether we can say that “God died on the Cross.”  Zwingli and others said that only the human nature of Christ suffered and died, and that we cannot ascribe such limitations to God (scriptural language to the contrary being merely a figure of speech).  But Luther insisted that because of the incarnation and the communication of the attributes of Christ’s two natures, it is true that the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, did suffer and die.  Otherwise, another human death could not help us.  We can indeed say that God died on the Cross.  But then He rose again. [Read more…]

When journalists try to be theologians

G. Shane Morris has a great piece in the Federalist about how journalists have been lecturing us on theological questions while knowing nothing about what they are talking about.  (The article includes a definitive discussion of why Christians do not, in fact, worship the same deity as Muslims, contrary to what the media has been saying in the Wheaton case.) [Read more…]


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