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In this section we focus on the media and how pastors and congregations can become more effective in functioning in relation to the "public consciousness" created by the media. We also want to be of help to media professionals who are wondering about how best to cover issues having to do with faith and religion.
When people walk into church to hear a sermon their minds are already significantly influenced by what they have been seeing on television or listening to on the radio or reading in newspapers and magazines. How words are used in the public media determines how they will be heard by listeners to a sermon. So it is best to be very lucid about how words are being used in public discourse. But reading, or tracking, the actual meanings through the media is not always so easy. We will be trying to do so in various ways here.
The domination of the media over public space and consciousness is demonstrated in the image at the top right. It is a view from above Shinjuku storefronts and traffic at dusk in Tokyo. (The image is available at FotoSearch.)
The role of the media in society has become more and more important in the modern world. The Enlightenment belief in and constitutional implementation of freedom of the press has now generated a massive institutional framework of media corporations in which media professionals work. Never before in history have so few had so much power over the minds of so many.
The idea of "freedom of the press" has now become a means more to justify this great power of media institutions more than belief in an independent role for writers. The press has been so captured by economic motives that it is difficult to find real, authentic "independent" media resources.
Within this context, it has become especially important for the people of faith to intentionally think about the media and how it influences the public context in which we live and work. The media powerfully influence the internal public consciousness of individual persons, the subjectivity of the self, the very persons to whom pastors must try to preach the gospel each Sunday. It is vitally important to discern the spirits which enter the minds and hearts of people in congregations through the media.
This is especially true in the case of the various right wing radio and television commentators. Listen carefully to these commentators; you will hear them attack the weakest members of society as the source of the problems in the country. You will hear them glorify strength and military might. You will hear them justify the power of the wealthy over democratic processes. You will even hear many of them claim that they are god-fearing Christians who are promoting what God wants for the United States. It is important for religious leaders to explicitly encourage their people not to listen to such commentators or take them seriously. They are primarily entertainers trying to gain an audience by making outrageous statements.
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