Chuck Colson

A few weeks ago, one of the most astute media critics of our age, Neil Postman, died at the age of 72. In remembering the long-time New York  University professor, the press described Postman’s warnings about the dangers of mass communication.

In his devastating critique of television, titled Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman declared that television turns even the most tragic news into mere entertainment, delivered by “talking hairdos.”

Postman’s book was reviewed in all the right places, and it has been around for some time—but not once did we learn where Postman got his ideas. It turns out he got them from the Bible.

Postman’s thesis is that different media encourage different ways of thinking. The printed word requires sustained attention, logical analysis, and an active ima gination. But television, with its fast-moving images, encourages a short attention span, disjointed thinking, and purely emotional responses.

Postman says he first discovered the connection between media and thinking in the Bible when, as a young man, he was struck by the Old Testament words: “You shall not make for yourself a graven image.” Postman says he realized that the idea of a universal deity cannot be expressed in images, but only in words.

As he put it, “The God of the Jews was to exist in the Word and through the Word, an unprecedented conception requiring the highest order of abstract thinking.” This is the God Christians worship today—a God known principally through His Word and incarnate.

Many religions have a scripture, of course. Yet most teach that the way to contact the divine is through mystical visions, emotional experiences, or Eastern-style meditation. Judaic Christianity insists on the primacy of language.

Gene Edward Veith, in his book Reading Between the Lines, explains why: The heart of our religion is a relationship with God—and relationships thrive on communication. We can’t know people intimately by merely being in their presence, according to Veith. It takes conversation to share thoughts and personalities.

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson was the Chief Counsel for Richard Nixon and served time in prison for Watergate-related charges. In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions and denominations, has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families.
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