Christ-centered Life and Christ-centered Media
Pr. V P Philip
We live in a media saturated world. It gives different magnitude to Christian life. In one way we can use mass media for the growth of our personal spiritual life and it might help us get enormously involved in mission activities. On the other hand it causes degeneration of our moral and spiritual life due to the polluted contents of mass media.
The challenge of a Christian is to lead a life true to the Word of God, that not only guides us in the right way and helps us discern the contents of mass media. Media is basically a technology. Technology is neutral. As Richard Landers rightly points, “Technology in itself is neutral and should not be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is the uses to which we put new scientific developments that enhance or degrade personal well-being and prosperity.” R. A. Buchanan also affirms this by saying “Technology is essentially amoral, a thing apart from values, an instrument which can be used for good or ill.” Here our aim is to lead a life which is centered around our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ and engage in an activity to ‘fill’ the mass media (technology) with the same content.
Christian life itself is a life with Jesus Christ. We walk and work with Christ. We live in Christ and living for Christ. Apostle Paul states it rightly, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom 6:8). He further explains the meaning of a life with Jesus Christ by saying, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). In a Christ-centered life we discern that “disgrace for the sake Christ is of greater value than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26). It is life long process to “choose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25). Its life that we will, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Eph. 6: 10). Christ-centered life is based on Kingdom values, but the values of mass media are based on the values of ‘this world’.
Challenges of Mass Media
As we discussed, media, being a technology is neutral. But modern mass media contented with unwanted information and the majority of the cyber space is polluted with unwanted sites. The basic functions of mass media are (a) to give information, (b) to give education, and (c) to give entertainment. Today, information has to be presented in an entertaining way, this can underestimate serious news. Information is now become ‘infotainment’. Mass media is becoming a challenge to the moral and spiritual life of the people. For example, television can enrich the family life by drawing the family members together and also helps in extending their relationship with the neighbors and the whole community as a whole. It helps in improving the general knowledge, religious knowledge and thus favors people to nurture both moral and spiritual life. Not only do these positive aspects frame the qualities of television but some of the offenses that would harm the family life are:
l By propagating degrading values and models of behavior,
l By broadcasting pornography and graphic depictions of brutal violence,
l By spreading distorted, manipulative accounts of news events and current issues,
l By carrying exploitative advertising and glorifying false visions of life that abstract the realization of respect, justice, and peace.
And television can also isolate family members within their private worlds, by cutting into their inter personal relationships - between parents and children.
In the same way, internet also carries unwanted and polluted information. Pornography has become a gigantic threat to the new generation. It is viewed as immoral because it portrays ‘private’ as public, encourages people to exchange sex for money. It exploits women by representing them as being sexually active. It is said by the medical authorities, pornography resulted in the damage of brain structure and behavior. It also affects relationships negatively and finally results in the increase of sex related violence.
Advertisements in the mass media are also becoming a threat to human life with exaggerated performance. Moreover, the cinema and serials are also affecting the life, character and priorities of the people. Especially, the younger generation learn wrong lessons from the ‘colorful’ stories. And they identify themselves with the characters of the cinema and engage in immoral activities.
Relevance of Christian Communication
Communication is basically sharing. The word ‘communication’ is derived from the Latin noun ‘communis’ and latin verb ‘communicare’, which means ‘to make common’. Communication is like a bridge which connects the two sides of a river. According to Jurgen Ruesch, “Communication is the process that links discontinuous parts of the living world to one another”. Communication is the central theme of the Bible. As Viggo Sogaard says “Christian religions itself is a religion of communication with a communicator God who has utilized a wide variety of media. The Bible is a narrative of this communication of God to mankind”. The task of Christian communication is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ all over the world.
The World Association for Christian Communication in its document on Communication highlights that “Jesus announced the coming of God’s Kingdom and commissioned us to proclaim the Good News to all people until the end of time. Hearing the Good News, living by it and witnessing to it, is the basic call of all Christians”.
What is the relevance of Christian communication in a media saturated world? Information and communication are drastically changing the world we live in. Instead of promoting unity and solidarity, public communication now tends to reinforce divisions, widen the gap between rich and poor, consolidate oppression, and distort reality in order to maintain a system of domination and subject the silenced masses to media manipulation. Yet we need to understand that communication is a gift of God to humanity. The need of the time is to create and highlight the Christian principles of communication. All media needs to be evaluated on the basis of its content. Our challenge is to present Jesus Christ and His teaching through the media.
Jesus, The Perfect Communicator
Jesus is God’s perfect communication to the world. The World Council of Churches in its Vancouver document on communication says that “Jesus Christ is God’s communication at its clearest, costliest and most demanding”. The theme of Christian communication is ‘the Word of life’. Christian communication is about Jesus Christ- the Life of the world”. Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the kingdom of God. John Edapilly says that “The communication in Jesus Christ was universal and eternal. It was meant to be up to the ends of the world and until the end of time. Being the perfect communicator, Jesus Christ made the best use of all existing media of communication and developed the most efficient network of communication”. Jesus used three fold communication methods in His ministry - preaching teaching and healing. His communication was receptor-oriented. He never focused on himself. God in Jesus moved into the receptor’s ‘frame of reference’. Jesus’ communication was need oriented. He used different types of communication to convey the message of Kingdom of God. The disciples of Jesus preached about the ‘Christ who is crucified and resurrected’.
Relevance of Christ-Centered media in the Age of Globalization
Globalization is a modern term used to describe the change in societies and the world economy that result from dramatically increased international trade and cultural exchange. Michael Traber comments that globalization is undoubtedly a continuation of Western imperialism, whether economic, political, technological or broadly cultural. It refers to the inevitable interconnectedness of cultures, economics, communities, societies, nations and races at international level. Media and globalization are closely linked”. First of all, media is one of the means by which we experience globalization. And globalization is speeding up the fundamental technological change that we are seeing in media world, and it allows new ideas and technological innovation to spread around the globe.
Commodification of life is the aftermath of globalization and is highly advertisement oriented. Media cultivates a culture that makes life of little value in this age of globalization.
Features of Christ-centered media
What are the features of Christ-centered media? Christ centered media should be value based. It should propagate the principles of a God-fearing life, the significance of love and sharing, and the values of the Kingdom of God. Christ-centered media means Christ-contented media. Teachings of Jesus give light and life to the people. It helps us the face the new challenges. The content of this message is for the eternal life.
Modern media needs to be reality-oriented rather than ‘constructed reality’ (means false stories). Media constructs reality. Christ- oriented media should be an alternative media that will challenge today’s mainstream media.
Presenting Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is our focus. When presenting programs we must give importance to the teachings of Christ. It gives us a strong hope to face the challenges of the modern world.
Christ-centered media needs to promote media education which is basically reading the media. The purpose of media education is to analyze both the advantages and disadvantages of modern media. It also focuses how to use media for a meaningful life.
Many of the current programs need to be revamped and revitalized to encourage character formation in people.
Christ-centered media should create a community of ‘koinonia’ based on Christian principles. When present media strives to re-establish divisions and tensions in society, Christian media should promote ‘koinonia’.
Our nation is facing many challenges like, communalism, terrorism and other national calamities. In this context Christ-centered media should result in the national integration.