Greg Reynolds on Christian Media Ecology

Posted by T on June 01, 2009

This book (see biblio info at bottom) is an introduction to “media ecology” by OPC pastor Greg Reynolds, based on his D. Min. dissertation. It is an analysis of the media of communication and how these media shape, alter, and even become a component of the content of the message communicated. The thesis of the book is to make application of the insights obtained from this study to the nature of worship, especially preaching.

The subject is an analysis of the sociological constituting of our world, with a focus on the medium of communication. The world and our consciousness of it have changed by virtue of the technological changes making mass-communication possible. As an entry into thinking about this, consider the difference between watching a movie and “reading the book.” Even if the story conveyed is identical, reflection shows there are significant differences in what has taken place in having the story “communicated.” The movie presents images created by someone else; reading involves creation of images by the reader himself. In the movie, real time marches forward inexorably as the viewer sits passively; in reading, it is under the control of the reader — one pauses to reflect;  one sets the book down to be continued later. Likewise, the fictional time-pacing within the movie is determined by the editor; in the book, it is at least partly determined by the imagination of the reader, not the invisible editor.

This aspect of the analysis — the “media ecology” proper — fits in nicely with the agrarian critique of modernity. There are analogies, for example, with transportation. Acquiring a horse meant that a round trip to the county seat might could be done in a single day rather than requiring an overnight. But the car allows sons to leave for a job in a distant city, never to come back. Once-bustling towns are now ghost towns, the only jobs left being the strip of fast-food joints along the interstate exit. Technology has brought a qualitative, not merely quantitative change to our way of living. We need to rethink whether the Amish have a true and valid insight, and not always write them off as having “stopped technology” at a merely arbitrary point.

A second major aspect of the subject Reynolds discusses is the study of mass communication by academics on the one hand, and by manipulators on the other. In turn, the latter category includes mass-marketing on the one hand, and political manipulation on the other. More on this below.

With the stage set, Reynolds is able to use the insights obtained to launch a strong attack on the methods of the church-growth movement, showing the inadvertent evils attendant upon the very fact that modern multi-media is used, in contrast to the methods of worship described in Scripture.

The Regulative Principle of Worship as defined by the Westminster Confession specifies that certain elements of worship are required by Scripture, elements not specified are forbidden, and a third category, “circumstances,” is subject to wisdom.  Reynolds argues (303-305) that the result of his analysis is that modern multi-media cannot be put into that third, “neutral” category, and thus we should regard them as forbidden.

In evaluating the work, I proceed chiastically. The commitment to the Regulative Principle is encouraging coming from a bright star like Rev. Reynolds, who is a scintillating conversationalist and a preacher that is at once engaging and searching, combining the best of Francis Schaeffer’s broad cultural concerns with a stronger attachment to the vantillian critical method. I had the pleasure of “hanging out” with him a number of times during my sojourn in New Hampshire in 1996. Those of our readers that reside anywhere near Manchester, New Hampshire should visit Amoskeag church and become a member there if not already a member of a true church somewhere else.

Reynolds’ work on the Regulative Principle in connection with media ecology sheds new light on elements of our form of worship that at first glance may appear to be dusty relics of a bygone century. For example, though the focus of his study is the preaching of the word, a new insight is also gained into the “genius” if you will of the reading of the Word (381-3) as a distinct element of worship, the performance of which moreover is restricted by our standards to the pastor in his executive function as an agent of the holy catholic church manifested in presbytery. A naturalistic approach might suggest that an age of universal literacy and Bible dissemination might render that element superfluous, requiring instead that members read the word privately and dispense with the public reading. Not so, Reynolds’ research shows. There is a mode of receiving the word of God which is instantiated in that element indispensably. This book makes an important contribution in the area of worship theory.

Unfortunately, the evaluation of the secular role of mass-media falls a bit short due to the dots that are not connected. The threads are already confusing because the distinction between study of media as such must be combined with study of the deliberate use thereof to manipulate the masses toward an end hidden from those being manipulated. And this involves both the practitioner — the actual creator of propaganda — and the theoretician — who performs studies with human guinea pigs to determine the most effective methods. We need to take note of the fact that the names of the movers and shakers of the theory and practice of the manipulation of the masses using technologies both new and old look like an attendance list at the Convention of Hebrew Congregations.

We can begin the story with the massive, national full-court press that was put in place by the Chosen Tribe in 1913-15 to exonerate rapist-sodomite-murderer Leo Frank, just because he was a jew. Though newspapers — a medium invented in the 17th century — were at the heart of this campaign, their coordinated use for manipulating public opinion probably never reached such focused intensity before the Frank case.   The mass-media campaign was led by Adolph Jew Ochs, publisher of the New York Times (though the murder took place in Atlanta). In addition to carefully-orchestrated press releases let out simultaneously by all the jew-controlled newspapers across the country, the services of Albert Jew Lasker (son-in-law of Sears and Roebuck chairman Julius Jew Rosenwald) were put into service. Lasker was an expert at national media “campaigns” to establish brand name recognition such as Quaker Oats and Budweiser Beer. Lasker came up with the slogan “the truth is on the march” which became, as if by magic, the rallying cry by the national media to get Frank off the hook. Likewise, allegations of Atlanta mobs chanting phrases like “Kill the jew or we’ll kill you” were simply made up out of whole cloth, without any factual basis. Newspapers that stood with the legal system against Frank were boycotted. William Randolph Hearst succumbed to the pressure and became a shabbes goy for the campaign, along with others hired for the purpose. Financing came from a variety of sources, especially from Jacob Jew Schiff, notable later as a major financier of the Russian Revolution. The goy detective William Burns was paid a pretty penny to “get to the bottom of the case,” arriving in town with lots of media fanfare to that effect, while in reality, his job was to spread walking-around money to bribe witnesses to recant their testimony. In the end, the men of Atlanta prevailed, and such was the jewish rage at one of their own being executed, that the so-called Anti-Defamation League was founded.

Reynolds missed this story, but the strands involving armchair academics and wartime “social researchers” he does pick up on are also part of the story, albeit less dramatic. It is a story that starts before the Frank incident with Karl Jew Marx and Sigmund Jew Freud. In the decade leading up to WW2, the story continues with studies of the effectiveness of radio in influencing public opinion and elections. Paul Jew Lazarsfeld invented the “focus group” and questionnaires to evaluate audience responses. “The Kate Smith War Bond drive, promoted by CBS in 1943, demonstrated the power of feigned personal concern in identifying with and manipulating a mass audience” (91).  Kurt Jew Lewin was one of the founders of social psychology. “The one who controls the flow of information through a medium (‘channel’) dictates the shape and content of messages” (93). His disciple Leon Jew Festinger continued the social research. The story is peppered also with wry neo-con pop critics like Neil Jew Postman, Allan Jew Bloom and Joshua Jew Meyrowitz as well as explicitly destructive critics like Jacques Jew Derrida and Stanley Jew Fish. In between was the “Frankfurter School” consisting of men like Herbert Jew Marcuse who wrote arcane books making leftism appealing to young shickse and Theodore Jew Adorno who worked on rhetorically preempting Aryan push-back by creating and propagating the theory of the “authoritarian personality.”  I am passing over various rabbit-trails like Shannon’s channel measure of information, which is properly an electrical engineering concept.

The jewish exploitation — and to large extent creation — of mass-manipulation by psychological study and marketing practice evidently has two main goals: personal or tribal enrichment, and neutralization of Christian civilization as a way to reduce the chance of harmful reaction by the goyish masses. It involved, in addition to the takeover of university sociology departments and creation of new ones, tireless agitation in favor of massive third-world immigration and the elimination of every trace of Christianity from public schools and the public square, as one can read about by surfing around on the ADL’s own website (click the story decade by decade and marvel).

Of course, goyim also have their place in the story — some, that were in the wrong place at the wrong time (esp. WW2); some, of the “usual culprits” of the City of Man, that provided financing, most notably the Rockefeller empire (136); others, like Reynolds’ personal hero Marshall McLuhan, were properly critical.

But how did Reynolds miss the main thread of the story? Partly, it is because of his acceptance of the odious judeo-christian myth (77, 137) popularized by Francis Schaeffer. As a result, jews are repeatedly not distinguished from “Germans” (73, 79) or “Europeans” (69). Partly, it perhaps must be attributed to the very success of the mass-media manipulation that is the subject of the book!

In fairness, the “media ecology” and its relation to worship is the strength and the main purpose of the book: the rest could have been excised without loss to the thesis, and perhaps should be in a subsequent edition.

Nonetheless, the story of the manipulators is important in its own right, and I hope many of our people will get this book as an introductory survey, and then do further research to connect more of the dots. To know that one is being manipulated, and understand even a little about how, is already an antidote to its poisonous effect. Eliminating the parasites can follow when enough people wake up and get wise.

Greg Reynolds, The Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures: Preaching in the Electronic Age (Eugene: Wipf and Stock) 2001.

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