The Medium and the Message

Now that the dust has settled here in blog-land, or at least this little portion of it, let’s continue our ride into what will soon be tomorrow.

Truth is, I was a little overwhelmed with the response to “The Truth Is Out There” and have let it play itself for a time. It was an exciting ride and I am ready for some “regular” food after the exotic cuisine of the past few weeks. There was some deep stuff being touched upon and my hope is that we are all in a better place today that we were in yesterday.

What I have learned from all of this is that there is a big group of people, past and present in my life, who make up the body of Christ as I know it. And that we can organize ourselves to meet the needs of the moment and take care of some of the past’s oversights.

Also, I have learned that we are all in some sort of process of figuring out who we are and what part we play in the bigger scheme of things. We have all been hurt by authority and that most of us are longing for the truth of the gospel to be manifest in our lives.

I began an entry yesterday but it took a wrong turn and was really much to personal to post. The point I was trying to make was a good one and when I figure out how to make it more general, I will let it tell its story.

Several years ago I read a book entitled “Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television” by Gerry Mander. I don’t know why this info popped into my mind specifically, but some of the thoughts he presented seem to be relevant based on what we are all collectively trying to understand about the modern church and how it is supposed to look.

Since I no longer seem to have the book in my “library’ I went to the net to find some stuff about it to jog my memory a little bit. The following quote is rather long but describes the first argument put forth by the book’s author and will be a stepping stone for us to leap off of.

“To start, Mander keeps things simple.
Although he refers to various studies throughout the book, much of his
argumentation is based on good old solid common sense. For instance, he
notes early on that television can be used only for certain purposes,
most of which are detrimental. To drive this point home, he draws an
analogy to the existence of firearms in modern society. He notes that
guns have a very specific purpose and they actually predetermine their
use as well as the people who use them. Guns are for killing things,
plain and simple. And the majority of people who end up using guns are
people who kill.

The technology predetermines the outcome.
The same, argues Mander, can be said of television. It is simply a
matter of mapping TV’s form and function in order arrive at conclusions
concerning the detrimental nature of its influence.

Mander’s first argument centers on the
mediation of experience. Speaking not so much about television and more
so about how society has progressed, he explains that as humans have
moved more and more into controlled living and working environments, we
have lost touch with true direct experience. To his mind, this has led
to a crisis in knowledge. Everything is interpreted and processed and
packaged to the point that the true nature of things is completely
lost. This alienating experience narrows the field of vision on life.” Source Link

In other words, much of what we percieve to be “reality”on TV is actually someone else’s perception of it. And therein, as Holmes would say, lies the rub. I am not a deep thinker—yet I do have the ability to see patterns and then begin to tie things together in order to reach an understanding of what is going on around me.

And don’t get me wrong—I like TV. Maybe not the TV you like but what feels good to me. I was a “thirty something” guy and an “X-Files” and “Twilight Zone” fan. Most of the shows I have enjoyed (other than Sienfeld) have been taken off the air just after I have gotten attached to them. I liked “Joan of Arcadia” even though I was never really sure if the producers even had a clue as to who God really is.

The point being that what we have perceived as real is really something that we have been spoon fed in order for some production company to make money. And even to the degree that “reality” is presented to us, it is divorced from its roots and therefore not really “real” any more. We can’t really think that we understand the effect of AIDS in Africa just because we have seen a documentary on the subject. Mander would say just the opposite occurs. Because we have seen and processed the information about it, we think we have first hand knowledge about it—and the reality is that is furthest thing from the truth.

Most of us (present company excluded) have not been to Africa and will never be. So to say that we “understand” what is going on there is an understatement of large propoortions.

As I pondered this dynamic, I began to extrapolate this information into the local church and what we have all experienced within this construct the past several years.

And, having reached this point, I will end with a question: Is what we perceive to be the world-wide local church (the organization) something that is only a representation of the reality of a relationship with God and not the real thing. Is is something we have substituted for actualy having a first hand knowledge of the Living God. And if that is so, what can we expect to gain from it?

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52 Responses to The Medium and the Message

  1. melody says:

    are you trying to start something up again? lol…these are the kinds of questions that provoke…personally for me…when we look to the local church as a representation of Christ…we need be careful…we are flawed, Christ is not…we can move forward to be more like the one we seek, but we will never attain the fullness of His perfection…we are fooling ourselves if we look to the local organized church to meet that goal…when that happens, surely the rapture will come…but, hey thats another whole debateable discussion probably shouldnt even get into…

  2. melody says:

    this thought just came to mind…Taste and see that the Lord is good…sugar, splenda, sugar, splenda?The real deal…you just can’t substitute it no matter how hard you try…

  3. Ben Cotten says:

    I’m not sure I buy Mander’s logic here. He seems to be assigning moral value to objects who’s value depends on how humanity uses them. Like his reference to guns. Guns are made for killing. But, his assumption is that all killing is immoral. But that’s a HUMAN decision. The morality or immorality of that decision rests on the human making it. The same goes for the television. The moral value of the tv is determined by how it’s used, not the other way around. Throwing out the tv won’t remove my propensity for laziness and avoidance of reality. I’ll just find another way to feed it (like reading blogs…). This has been my concern as we have discussed church polity here. The *root* cause of the abuses in the church must be brought back to people. Human flesh and blood sinning against each other and against God. Jesus didn’t come to “seek and save” our bilaws! He came for people because people are sinful and need redemption. Do I prefer the house church/simple church model of government? No I don’t, but I recognize that as an opinion — a preference. I don’t think churches that follow that methodology are unGodly. I grew up in a house church and I fully appreciate it’s value. I feel the same way about elder led churches, cell churches, mega churches, etc. All of them have weaknesses and strengths. I fear that we can too easily just replace one dogmatic tradition (pastor/elders) with another (no pastor/no elders). And in the end be no better off because we have missed the point. Regardless of your tradition (new or old), a system of government will never be the source of your problem, nor will it be the solution. The Body of Christ is a large and complex organism. Isn’t there room for variety?

  4. Terry Henry says:

    Ben: I am not trying to throw anything out at this point—I just want to come to some sort of understanding of what I am into and a part of. I remember Keith Green saying on one of his recordings that this one thing he’s learned, that if you’d been burned, the Lord was not the one to blame. My life has been like this lyric from a Bob Dylan song:
    You lose yourself, you reappear
    You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
    Alone you stand with nobody near
    When a trembling distant voice, unclear
    Startles your sleeping ears to hear
    That somebody thinks
    They really found you.
    Nor do I want to go looking for something that is not really there. I am not against organizations—like I have said before, if there weren’t any I would probably create some of my own. It’s kind of like that picture of Moses and the Isrealites at the foot of the mountain as the smoke and lightening show was going on. They were fearful for their lives and told Moses that they would do anything that he told them—just don’t make us get any closer and talk with God ourselves, etc. My 22 years at the church in mention were not all bad. We were part of something bigger than ourselves and found a safe-haven for our family. But the mis-understanding of Godly authority and the subsequent abuse of same left hundreds of people wounded and wondering about this thing called church. Did I enable some of that abuse and even welcomed it in the name of unity and submission—YES! Do I want to visit that place again—NO! I am for variety—if only for the reason that I am different enough to know that for you to understand me will take knowing that God created us all very unique. My experience has been that lip service is given to variety but the reality has been that it is either the leadership way or the highway. It has not been how the leadership can serve the body but how the body can serve the ideals of the leadership. To most, it looks good from the outside but is full of holes on the inside. I have been more comfortable with the “charismatic” church model which tends to go to the extreme—and maybe I have allowed this model to get further into me than I should have and therein lies the rub and the depth of wounding as well.

  5. Ben Cotten says:

    “I have been more comfortable with the “charismatic” church model which tends to go to the extreme—and maybe I have allowed this model to get further into me than I should have and therein lies the rub and the depth of wounding as well.” I know the feeling! I remember feeling very “let down” by some people that I looked up to too much. It turned out to be a good thing for me… to discover that no system, style or man was able to protect me or keep me safe. My life is in God’s hands and He must be my source. I look back and there are moments I can remember when I had an opportunity to object in a Godly way, and didn’t. I knew things were wrong even in my small circle of influence on campus, and often participated in things that I look at now with a measure of disgust. It’s the gift and curse of hindsight. And, like you, I don’t look at it as all bad. I had as rich and full a college experience as anyone could ask for. I discovered who I was and made friends that encouraged me to not live small. And folks like Reed T. and Greg M. *demonstrated* to me what real leadership is. Those things are all still with me.

  6. Carey says:

    Here’s a passage from the entry that started this:”What I have learned from all of this is that there is a big group of people, past and present in my life, who make up the body of Christ as I know it. And that we can organize ourselves to meet the needs of the moment and take care of some of the past’s oversights.” So, I look forward to the day we can do this in person instead of online.How about… at your house, sometime?Carey

  7. It is human nature to want a leader. Did not the Israelites demand a king?And let’s face it – YHWH accommodated that predisposition – but not without warning.The caveat: Where there is selfish ambition [the Absalom type] and jealousy [the Saul type] there will be chaos of every sort.

  8. Terry Henry says:

    You are so very right. And in trying to figure out the past several years in order to move on, I feel that I have fallen behind. It’s subtle—but the feeling of not being able to see around the corner is ever present. Like being in debt and not being able to make enough money to get out of the hole.I guess that is part human nature as well.Why sheep keep listening to wolves and not the shepherd is almost beyond me at this point.I am just trying to once again locate the sheep-fold.

  9. Ben Cotten says:

    “Why sheep keep listening to wolves and not the shepherd is almost beyond me at this point.I am just trying to once again locate the sheep-fold.”Ditto and well said.

  10. Terry Henry says:

    I guess part of what the Lord is doing in all of this (or at least what I see in front of my face at the moment) is to bring me to a place of compassionate acceptance and away from a place of perfectionistic expectation. I have expected more of myself and therefore am disapointed that I allowed myself to be abused and end up in this place of deep wounding and disillusionment. In all this I am beginning to see that a healthy person can’t expect a “depressed” person to pick themselves up and be better by quickly applying some sort of positive thought patterns or a few Bible verses—no matter how sincere. The ride has been a lot bumpier than I would have thought.

  11. The Church Lady says:

    His grace is sufficient for thee and the rest of us too…It is refreshing to know someone who thinks as carefully as you do Terry.You have unique giftings – so needed in the mile wide – inch deep world we live in.

  12. Terry Henry says:

    I begin to understand the place from where much art, poetry and music comes from and the frustration I have read about that results in being able to see or feel something yet lack the means or discipline to express it or give it shape. Or still yet feel that I have fallen short or missed the mark completely. What comes to mind is: Ecc. 1:18 – Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain. I take it that this means “our” wisdom and knowledge and not the kind we get from God which is: “…better than jewels; And all desirable things cannot compare with her.” I certainly need more the latter and less of the former.

  13. I have expected more of myself and therefore am disapointed that I allowed myself to be abused and end up in this place of deep wounding and disillusionment.Oh, Terry. I hurt for you. You were doing what you believed to be the right thing, and now God is showing you something better. There need be no condemnation in that.Please remember that you are not alone. Not only with regard to those of us who have been through the fire as well, but of even greater importance: our High Priest experienced the pain of being wounded in the most extreme ways and is completely able to sympathize with you.By His stripes you are healed.Now, please don’t misunderstand. I don’t “expect [you] to pick [yourself] up and be better by quickly applying some sort of positive thought patterns or a few Bible verses” but I do believe that part of our encouragement of one another in the body of Christ is to remind each other of the truth when one is down and hurt.I weep with you, brother. But I also long to help you bear your burdens, and in so doing fulfill the law of Christ.I, and many others like me…

  14. Terry Henry says:

    I guess I just might be flying through a dark cloud which is currently obscuring my vision/hope and if I keep on a direct course, I will soon be on the other side where the sun is shining and the rain has passed.Thanks for the encouragement—I didn’t know that this would get so up close and personal.

  15. Ben Cotten says:

    Terry,It strikes me as I chew the cud in my mind over the discussions here over recent weeks that the only way any of us have any hope of coming out of all this with our heads on straight is to find healing by way of forgiveness. I don’t think any of us (myself included) can analyze the situation correctly unless we can remove the lens of wounding that clouds our judgment.As you write so openly here about your own confusion, regret, and sadness I feel somewhat overwhelmed with the desire to tell you that I forgive you.I desperately hope that doesn’t sound like a haughty or arrogant thing to say. I hesitate to say it for fear that the intentions of my heart will be lost in the blog translation and will come off as an accusation. I’ll trust you to give me the benefit of the doubt?I forgive you, Terry. I was a member of that church and the Cox family. I can’t speak for everyone, only myself. I hold no ill will towards you. If any of my offense towards that church and it’s leadership has held you in any measure of bondage, know that I hold NOTHING over you!I don’t think you see the power in your humble admission of any personal culpability in what happened. It’s the thing that many of those hurt by this long to hear. What you are doing is not only helping you make sense of recent events, but it is setting people free. You are tying up a loose end that has been dangling for some time.Would you in turn forgive me?

  16. Terry Henry says:

    I will and do.You are right—the way up is down.

  17. Sorry I missed out on this post – I’ve been away all week and not had access to a computer (refreshing in a way). I don’t have much to say here except that your post reminds me of the words to the Rich Mullins song “Hard to Get”. “I’m reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve led me here Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led”We’ve all failed in the past and we will all fail in the days to come – that’s just who we are this side of eternity. But I hope that in all my failings I can relate to those last words “where I’m lost enough to let myself be led”.

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