Tearing Down the Temple

Reactions to reading the book of Romans

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Romans 1:18-24. The Unholy City—XIV. One eye, all-seeing

The eye of the television camera sees all, but what it transmits is blindness.

During the blitz in London during World War II, the blackout jokes and gags abounded, despite (and no doubt, because of) the desperate circumstances. One cartoon in a popular magazine featured the invention of a handheld flashlight that cast a cone of darkness instead of light. Television has had a similar effect. It sheds its pall of darkness in order to cast relief on the one bright, shining object in the universe—self.

Come look in my mirror, it says. It would be too tedious to detail all the ways that this message is sent—endless, sordid soap operas; vapid talk shows; inane game shows; squalid dramas and morality plays about simplistic, cartoon characters with predictable solutions to their problems. Marshall McLuhan wrote a book about television called The Medium is the Message. I have not read it, and so I cannot comment on his argument. But the claim that the title makes is clearly false. The business of television is, no doubt, concerned with success and self-perpetuation, but while the message of the television medium is, “Seek me again,” the message of the television productions is, “Worship and adore yourself.”

All other messages are swamped in that all-consuming imperative. Who never spends money on self-adoration? No one I know. We all obey that order. In it, we become slaves of our vanity.

Once we are enslaved, other messages can reach us. They are a mixed bag, and it is a testimony to the strength of the medium that it can tolerate some messages that, if followed, would injure the interests of television. So, occasionally, Billy Graham or some other orthodox preacher can get on television and deliver a message that contains the core of the Gospel. While the medium is primarily preoccupied with vain things, it is not perfect in its mission. Occasionally, there are good things presented.

However, there are some messages that are too dangerous to be allowed on television. One of these is that your wealth, your comfort, your security, and your virtue cannot save you. This message is so dangerous that it must be refuted almost non-stop through every media outlet available, even supposedly Christian ones. Television promotions are constantly informing us of products, services, presentations, vitamins, insurance, cars, drinks, diets, etc., etc., that will save us—save us money, time, heartache, effort, save us from worry about the future, from early death, and so on. The Gospel, which will save us in a far more important way, is essentially shouted down. The bondage is almost complete.



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