The Medium is Still the Message

In the April 8 issue of The Christian Century (the print issue gets out to me well in advance of the website being updated) there’s an interview with the pastor of Barack Obama’s church. No, not Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but Otis Moss III, who has recently taken over the day-to-day leadership of Trinity United Church of Christ from Wright.  Moss is 36 and the son of a man who served at Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta with MLK.

One question put to Moss was: How is pastoring different for you than it was for your father’s generation?

My dad’s generation did not embrace television the way it might have. It left that medium to the prosperity gospel preachers. That means that an entire generation has been raised and educated by the Benny Hinns and the Creflo Dollars of the world. If my father’s generation had embraced television, then the standard bearers of that medium would be preachers who emphasize hope for the poor instead of those who treat Jesus as a cosmic bellhop.  Now we have to play catch-up. They have both the microphone and the megaphone…..The Kingian idea of the beloved community is one that we pull out now only for King Day, I guess. Otherwise it is lost. We have to struggle with it. Love will force you to change your doctrine and to engage those who hate you. People don’t want to do that.

Moss’s answer to this question is something I think about every week. I see the local Assembly of God, Seventh Day Adventist, and Brazilian Pentecostal church on my local cable access television.  Not to mention some guy who sits in a coffee shop and quotes from the Bible (out of context) and rails against liberals and how unpatriotic anyone is who dares question the war in Iraq. Their worship services run two and three times a week.  I see them, and sometimes watch for while, as I am searching for PBS or the Red Sox (again, thankfully), or the NASCAR race (you have no IDEA how huge a fan my son is) or just turning on the television to get the DVD ready.  These churches are on constantly.  And the message they are preaching is not Kingian beloved community.  It is not inclusive, it is not welcoming, and it is very dogmatic and creedal.

What if, just suppose, a Unitarian Universalist preacher were on local cable access every week? It doesn’t take much.  Most local cable access station require a yearly membership fee, usually in the $50 range, some as high as $100, but most lower.  With membership comes the opportunity to borrow the equipment and use the studio.  Even a digital camcorder can now make something that can be turned into a half-hour program with just a little editing.

The TIME magazine advertising is great and all, but I wonder if our money and energy wouldn’t be better spent investing in camcorders and computer equipment and money at the congregational level so that each congregation had the hardware, training and know-how, and funding to:

1. produce and air worship service or at least sermons on local cable television and then post them on the Internet on services such as YouTube.

2. have well designed and user friendly websites (many do, but many still do not)

More people, especially younger people, get their news and information today from the Internet than from newspapers or television and in local communities, it never ceases to amaze me how many people watch local cable television.

My modest proposal for the day.

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One thought on “The Medium is Still the Message

  1. I’m with you.

    I also think we could develop a group that could film sermons intended for a national broadcast (see my site uuplanet.tv) which could also be distributed nationally to all cable stations. Each church could secure funding to air the sermons on cable access, but simply download the videos for each week.

    Keep in touch on this. If you haven’t, via my site uuplanet.com I have an email newsletter for people interested in producing UU TV. Love to have you and your readers join us.

    Best, Peter

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