Thursday, December 27, 2007

On 'doing God' or not

Should be writing essay(s) in this pause in the festivities, but I read an interesting article the other day. Matthew Parris talks a lot of sense sometimes. Here he is on how it matters whether or not our politicians believe in God:

We non-believers are always puzzled by protests that strong religious conviction could be without huge influence in the way a man lives his public as well as his private life. We read the Gospels (sometimes with more attention than believers seem to); we learn about Judaic beliefs in God's purpose for the Jews and for mankind; we hear and try to understand the claims of Islam; and it strikes us that these belief systems make enormous claims on their adherents, with the most profound practical consequences.

...We think it matters. It genuinely pains us to seem to insult nice Anglicans, decent Methodists, quiet Catholics, moderate Muslims and liberal Jews, but we don't think they're representative of their faiths militant.

The rest of the article is here. I totally disagree with his stance (he thinks it's a bad thing when politicians believe in God) but I couldn't agree more about the silly idea that it simply makes no difference.

Those Christians living in Nick Clegg's constituency should take note. It matters.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The government we deserve? (updated)

Matthew Mason's post here hits the spot in my opinion. If we have complaints about the government we might need to first ask questions about the Church.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Towards the redemption of television

Still not sure I know the answer to the question I posed in the previous post. But the points below seem like good things to be getting on with, some more long term than others, some more specific than others.

These points are part-stolen, part-adapted from Schultze's "Redeeming Television."

1. Christians should be discriminating viewers of TV.
Rather than start by blaming the television industry or some other institution, Schultze suggests getting our own TV habits in order first. Christians must be discerning, and Christian parents in particular must teach and train their families to make careful, considered viewing choices. Discernment means finding the good to enjoy. Discernment means balancing television appropriately with all the priorities and tasks we have in life.

2. Christians should push for televisual literacy in education.
The medium we choose shapes the message. Communication methods encourage certain patterns of thought, certain ways of learning, certain kinds of worldview. Television is biased in a certain way, just as print is. Television, as it currently stands, tends towards fragmentation/ incoherence, the valuing of entertainment as the way to communicate anything, and a bunch of other things. People more aware of these tendencies are in a better position to interpret these inherent (whether intended or accidental) messages.

3. Christians should be active in TV protest.

Whether writing in to the BBC, or filling in the market researcher’s form, or signing the appropriate petition, Christians should make known their views on television as it currently stands. These views, of course, should come from analysis of television from the perspective of a biblical worldview. It might be that some Christians should voice their ‘protest’ by exercising their consumer choice in not buying a TV license.

4. Christians should work to redeem television’s institutions.

TV belongs to God. The technology, but also the institutions, the personnel, the programmes. Christians who are talented and thus inclined should enter the industry and seek to change priorities, make Christ’s values known, bring others to Christ, and live out their Christian faith within the TV world. Living with integrity within any sphere dominated by more secular (or just confused in a sort of postmodern way) agendas will be extremely difficult, and Christians must be prepared to lose their jobs for the sake of doing so. But it might also turn out that some are able to change some things for the good. Christians in the media world need help, encouragement, challenge, not suspicion from well-meaning Pastors.

5. Christians should work to provide alternatives to secular television.
One of the problems with Christian television is that it is often an inferior version of the secular. Just like a lot of Christian pop music. Rather, Christian television should pursue aesthetic and artistic excellency. Christian TV programmes should be good, not cringeworthy. Christian TV should be innovative, creative, not merely a low budget version of Trisha with a sheen of ‘God-talk’. This is probably where we’re ‘furthest back.’ So much work needs to be done in the area of a Christian perspective on beauty/ aesthetics/ art/ story-telling before Christian cultural produce can be more like what it should be.

6. Christians should prioritise evangelism and holistic discipleship.

Ultimately, bringing TV to glorify God comes from the transformation of people into God-glorifiers in all areas of their lives. Preaching Christ (the whole Christ that is) will always be the first stone in the jar.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Redeeming Television?

“Redemptive cultural discourse seeks to redeem culture from a fallen world, to rehabilitate, to reconfigure, and to reorient culture to the glory and service of God, that is, to cause culture to affirm God as the awesome and beautiful Lord of creation.” (Here for full article)

Here's probably the biggest question I have coming away from my own seminar on television. What does the above look like in the case of television?

Some people might think television is simply irredeemable (others might get itchy at the use of the language of redemption for anything other than people, but I might blog on that another day).

And for sure, human technology is not neutral, nothing is.

And certainly there's a whole load of godless bilge out there on the box.

But then they're not necessarily evil in and of themselves either. Rather, they're biased (thanks to Doug Wilson, via David Batchelor for this) - prone to certain specific temptations and tendencies. Like money.

And that doesn't mean TV is irredeemable.


Television has come in for a lot of bad press. It is the drug of the nation, the tool for numbing us into mindless obedience to the status quo in the hands of the establishment. It causes obesity, family breakdown and postmodernism.

Or, on the other hand, it is the mechanism through which God speaks to us in the questions, struggles, doubts, hopes, dreams, confessions of the nation. It is the 'common grace donkey' through which we hear God's prophetic voice calling us into dealings with him.

These, and related matters, were discussed in a seminar I had to lead this past Wednesday on media. I chose to focus on television because it is really really popular, and really really easy to have a go at. I wanted to see what, positively and negatively, a Christian worldview could make of television. In the end I got far more questions than answers. Matters for further though/ action/ study include:
  • What is the proper relationship between words and images? I suspect the answer starts to be answered once we engage with the specifics of the relationship between God's general revelation and his special revelation, between the two halves of Psalm 19.
  • Relatedly, since God gave us a book not a video, are text-based cultures the bees knees? Are they better than image-based ones? Better than oral cultures? Are they the only sort of culture the gospel produces?
  • Relatedly again, should we be seeking to go backwards (to text) or forwards (from image). What would moving on from the negatives of a very visual culture mean?
  • How do we evangelise and disciple post-literates and illiterates? And people with very different learning styles?
  • How do we help people engage critically and christianly with television? How do we help them 'tame' it and use it with moderation?
  • How do we disciple those Christians already working within the media world and encourage them to have a transformative, provocative, positive Christian presence and witness in that sphere?
Answers on a postcard to the usual address please.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christianophobia in Public Life (updated)

Interesting BBC article here about a debate being held in Westminster today.

What's more, here is a BBC report on some of what was said at the debate and the website of the MP who called for it.