In 1985 NYU Professor Neil Postman observed an America that was, in his words, imprisoned by its own need for amusement. He was an outspoken critic of the television, a device that he considered to be having a debilitating effect on the population because, in his opinion, television places it’s viewers in such a passive state. Public discourse requires thinking, he said, and watching people think is not a performing art. He wrote a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death that contained these lines:
Americans no longer to talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images… When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk: culture-death is a clear possibility…People will come to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
Unfortunately, some 33 years later, few would argue that this description of our culture isn’t shockingly accurate.
This is the water we swim in, I’m somewhat amazed that there is a category for “binge-able” shows on most streaming services. It is at least worth noting that before now there has been no time in human history that the word “binge” had a positive connotation. Binging is not a good thing!
There is an entire economic system that exists to encourage us to develop unhealthy appetites; to condition us to sit passively and wait for the next bit of amusement. Swipe right if you like it, swipe left if you don’t.
As a follower of Jesus, our leader, we must acknowledge that he was profoundly uninterested in marketing himself or his message. He was profoundly uninterested in presenting true spirituality as something that could be added to a life or gained passively. For Jesus, eternal life is available today, but we have to be all in. Knowing God must be the absolute center of True Life, the Only Thing. Jesus was about total, unflinching commitment. This was not popular at the time. It hasn’t become any more popular.
Join us on Sunday AM as we take a look at the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel. In it, we encounter a couple of ways that human nature, even as we consider spiritual matters, defers to amusement over formation.
See you Sunday!