Reflecting on McLuhan's "message is the medium" (and Hipps)

I am taking an intensive class through Biblical called “Ministry and Media”.  It’s being taught by Pastor Tim Lucas from Liquid Church and we are encouraged to blog of course.

One of the books we are reading and posting feedback on our class site is The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture by Shane Hipps (who was at Fermi’s Q Conference – fantastic).

This was the assignment that we were to respond to:
“Marshal McLuhan famously observed, “The medium is the message.”  Yet, a lot of evangelicals claim media is value neutral.  Do you think media affects us as powerfully as Hipps suggests?  Or do you think it is truly neutral?  Give some examples of ways media has impacted you powerfully (for good or for ill).  In a well-thought out paragraph, show your interaction with the text we’re reading!”

Here was my response:

Like everyone, I agree with McLuhan and love the idea. Though it’s rare that I would defend an established evangelical opinion, especially one concerning the view on technology, I’d like to unpack this a little. Evangelicals are scared to death of watering down the message. If they believed in tattoos, they’d get Rev. 22:18-19 inked (“If anyone adds anything [to this book] … God will add to him the plagues ….”). Kidding (sorta) but our modern “interpretation” puts a great deal of fear in us that results in guarding the message. There is almost a theological reason to disagree with McLuhan.

In a sermon I preached this Mother’s Day, I said something to the effect of “The Gospel is changing”. I learned quickly that the “bolts of lightening” were not electric at all but were pews being thrown from the balcony. “I said, wait the resurrection is still true but the way my parents understood the Gospel is different then how I understand it … which is different then how my child(ren) will understand it … Jesus still died and was raised BUT understanding that is different….”. As they elderly women dismounted from the projection screen that they partially tore off, I tried to use the example that Rob Bell has regarding the idea of having a “personal relationship with God”. He reminds us that it is a new idea to the church, it’s an invention from this century’s evangelical movement. This revelation of course resulted in the biggest offering ever collected …

This based on a true story account did not end in tragedy because for many of them, the message was still in tact. Surprisingly, I did receive several positive comments from the “Silent” Generation because they saw their grandchildren in these thoughts.

Like everyone’s above comments, aside from the periodic data loss, I have had a fantastic experience with media and technology. Ipods, podcasts, ezines, blogs, have helped me grow spiritually in addition to the written word (and frankly with no help from the televangelists. But may those who are blessed by it be blessed by it). Hipps makes mention of the local Ft. Worth pastor who insisted the spiritually successful have a daily quiet time with the Lord, part of my normal morning ritual includes listening to sermons via podcasts as I am applying deodorant and hair gel. And though I’m not spiritually successful and couldn’t imagine making such a legalistic statement, I feel what that guy was trying to say.