God Does Not Post to YouTube? Dr. Read Schuchardt on the Morality of Media

A reader named Adam posted a few videos from Wheaton College of Professor Read Schuchardt’s chapel presentation in which he addresses several issues with our media and electronically saturated culture (see his notes for additional quotes from the lectures) . For some background, Dr. Schuchardt is a well known in the Media Ecology Society and is a keen observer of electronic culture, though he himself chooses not to have a TV at home for he and his five kids. Below are two short videos that some great one-liners and observations of media culture.

God Does Not Post to YouTube

Highlights:

  • From Neil Postman, “it’s a strange injunction to include as a part of an ethical system [the commandment against images] unless the author assumed a connection between the forms of human communication and the quality of a culture.”
  • Video screens may condition us to be willing to listen only if we can tolerate looking.
  • We live now in an age that says: “A picture never lies. Seeing is believing.” This is the opposite of faith. This is proof. Faith is the evidence of things not seen.
  • You have to be there. You have to speak in as un-mediated a manner as possible. And you have to do the work of the gospel.

No Attention Span Needed

Highlights:

  • In a world where everything is vying for your attention, nothing has the power to grab you.
  • It’s easy for advertisers to create desires you didn’t have to make you buy products you don’t need with money you haven’t earned to buy impress people you can’t stand.
  • Everyone benefits from this system – except for you.
  • Twitter is addictive, powerful, and entertaining. Since when did addictive, powerful, and entertaining become the measure of goodness, truth, or beauty? The Bible is really only one of those.
  • If we care about what we take into our mouths, we should also care about our media diets – what we take into our minds.
  • Google puffs up, but love builds up.

I found these via Adam’s blog The Second Eclectic, so please go check out his site. It’s full of great observations and comments on media culture.

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

9 thoughts on “God Does Not Post to YouTube? Dr. Read Schuchardt on the Morality of Media”

  1. Wow that first video was really good. Except does that rule out sharing the gospel over the phone? Television ministries?

    Personally speaking, my grandma saw Billy Graham on TV like 50 years ago, and responded to God then. She still loves Jesus today…

  2. “No attention span needed.” Very thought-provoking and challenging. And yet… much of what he says could be applied (with modification) to the print culture that has been dominant in Western culture and Christianity for the the past few centuries. For example, the way Western Christians read the Bible has already been modified – by lectionaries that only give us a few verses when read in church, by devotional aids like Bible-reading notes that give us a few verses and a couple of paragraphs of comment. And this is in print, and well before the internet, twitter etc. Is the impact of electronic media as negative as these clips from Dr. Schuchardt imply? (and I realize these ARE just extracts from something longer).

    1. You’re absolutely right. Almost all books on technology (Dr. Schuchardt writes from the “media ecology” perspective) frame the discussion with roughly four stages of communication technology (oral, written, print, and digital). Each of these technologies impacts language, communication, and human being. I would bet Dr. Schuchardt would agree with you that the printed Bible is still as much impact on society than digital technologies.

  3. First of all, wow. That was fantastic. I was blown away by some of the parallels and conclusions that he draws.

    However, I’m left with more questions that answers and I can’t decide if I entirely agree with everything it seemed he was communicating.

    Is he saying that audio is better than video? He seems to suggest it. I agreed with some of his points (we are lead to believe that seeing is believing, we feel that we won’t listen if we don’t like what we see, etc.), but language itself is visual. Words are symbols that represent pictures. When we hear words, we visualize their meaning. Jesus used stories and word pictures to communicate during his ministry. Can we really say that listening is “better” than seeing?

    Also, he read a quote that seemed to suggest that the medium is important rather than just the truth it communicates. This seems to be echoes by a comment above about someone getting saved after seeing Billy Graham on TV. I have always viewed communication technology as morally neutral and equally valid. The thing that makes it good or bad is the truth that one uses it to communicate. If the medium plays into the worth of something (rather than just the truth it communicates), then what can we say about music? What style of music is the best? How can we decide?

    Finally, about written media, God did WRITE the 10 commandments down. He WROTE judgment on a wall to judge a Babylonian king. He commanded that new kings must make a copy of the WRITTEN law when they became king so that they would know it more thoroughly. There are studies that show that reading increases vocabulary and IQ. I’ve heard it said that “Text is still the king of media,” and I agree. Can’t reading a story produce the same mental images that hearing a story produces?

    I don’t have a lot of answers… just questions. I’m curious to see what everyone thinks of some of this.

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