This past week I have been reading an interesting book entitled “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” Written twenty five years ago, Neil Postman gives prophetic insight into the impact of television on our society. One such consequence is the over emphasis on image.
In the days of the printed word, people would decide the merits of extending the war in Afghanistan by examining the pros and cons as given by the printed page. But in this day and age public opinion will be decided by competing photos of coffins draped with American flags and the happy smiles of women liberated from the Taliban. There is no reasoned discussion, so much as men and women moved by the power of images.
Here’s another example let’s say I wanted to sell $100 basketball shoes. In the age of the printed page, I would have to provide reasons why it is in the best interest of the consumer to pay such a considerable expense for shoes. I would discuss the durability of the shoes as well as the safety features which would prevent ankle injuries. But in the age of television, no reasoning is needed. I just need to film the humorous escapades of the Lebron James and Kobe Bryant muppets. No reason, no discourse, no argument. Buy these shoes because the muppets make you laugh!
Image is everything. Studies have shown that we elect the presidential candidate who is most pleasing to the eye. A recent column in the Kansas City Star suggests that a certain coach’s obesity may lead to his dismissal. The fans are reluctant to listen to his side of the story because they would rather not look at him roaming the sidelines.
As a pastor this concerns me. This emphasis on image dulls our discernment and irrationally exalts external appeal. We will believe who we want to believe because we like their manner, dress, style, voice, and looks. This leaves us wide open to deception.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul battles for the soul of his church who seems to be taken by certain heretics. Note their appeal.
2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
These heretics mastered the art of appearing as good god fearing Christian men. With happy smiles and soothing words they wiggled their way into the hearts of the hearers injecting their poison at close range. This is nothing new as Paul points out in the next verse.
2 Corinthians 11:14 for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
Satan and his servants use the power of image to endear themselves to their audience and then twist and torture the gospel.
In a television age, we are prone to believe the actor who says “I am not a doctor but I play one on TV.” They don’t have to be a good doctor they just have to look like a good doctor.
This is dangerous as Christians will believe someone if they look like they have good doctrine. How often have you heard some says “I know that people who believe (insert heresy) are saved, because (insert heretic) is such a godly man!” We no longer focus on the message, but the messenger. And if the messenger pleases the senses, we will be prone to believe him no matter what he says. Looking like you have good doctrine is not the same as actually having good doctrine.
Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.