In defense of words


The written word is no longer the dominate mode of communication for our society according to according to Mercer Schuchardt, writing in Leadership Journal. We are an image infatuate people. This infatuation with image has spilled over into the church, one of our cultural institutions long a guardian of the value and worth of words.

You might wonder, is not the church’s commission to make the Good News of the Kingdom of God accessible to people in our culture, to make it relevant to them? Doesn’t the use of image aid in that critical mission? 

There is some merit in the first question. However, as postulated, it seems to place the “seeker” at the center of things, as the one whose judgment alone is worthy of consideration. In many ways, I think the church (in it’s public worship) is called to a deliberate irrelevancy, a peculiarity that sets it apart from the cultural waters in which it swims. There are times and places for accommodation (perhaps even in certain ways in a worship service), but accommodation ought not to be the focus of the church’s worship.

In response to the second, perhaps. However, with Neil Postman, we have to ask this question: “A preacher who confines himself to considering how a medium can increase his audience will miss the significant question: In what sense do new media alter what is meant by religion, by church, even by God?”

Schuchardt points out some of the detrimental effects of relying on image in worship, effects that ironically help to produce the crowd of people who tend to come to these sorts of services.

  1. Disincarnation
  2. Distraction
  3. Instant gratification
  4. Narcissism
  5. Passivity
  6. Mental lethargy
Image and technology draw us, as Nicholas Carr has put it, into the shallows. At least this is the result when we engage image and technology in a casual and unintentional way, shepherded by the cultural forces dominated by the profound influence of marketers.
 So let’s step back. Take a breath. Let’s envision how to move forward and embrace words, and the Word, in such a way as to language primacy and use image in it’s service.


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