August 22, 2014

The Medium is not the Message

OrthodoxNet.com editor Chris Banescu has posted a brilliant response to a priest’s criticism of Web communications:

Chris Banescu

Chris Banescu

The many faults Fr. George finds with the Internet and the blogosphere are mostly true, but morally meaningless. Yes, the web and instant Internet communications can suffer from all the troubles and ills he outlined. Yes, free men will abuse their freedom and lie and insult. Yes, some will try to muddy the waters and distract from the truth. So what? That’s freedom, that’s democracy, that’s life! The right not to be offended does not exist in the Constitution. For freedom to exist and democracy to thrive such things must and will always exist. We must deal with it, not run away from it.

The mountain of truthful information, solid reporting, trustworthy testimony, and ethically sound reflections and insights, would never have seen the light of day without the power of the Internet. The positive and constructive impact OCANews.org has had on the Holy Orthodox Church stands as a testament to the power of liberty and the functionality of the medium. Should a few poorly worded and irresponsible posts in the public comments of the website overshadow the thousands of other solid, thoughtful, and intelligent posts, and the hundreds of excellent reflections and articles posted? To hear Fr. George explain it, just a few tares justify the removal of all the wheat also. I seem to recall a different Gospel message.

What is at issue in all the exchanges and multiple spiritual, moral, and financial crisis threatening the Orthodox Church is the lack of truth, lack of ethics, lack of integrity, and lack of Christ. Christ warned us to be watchful and discerning. He taught that “You shall know them by their fruits!” OCANews.org showed us exactly what “fruits” were produced by these false prophets. Many of those who claimed to follow, preach, and practice His word, were actually impostors who squandered His Talents to fuel their greed and lavish lifestyles, used His teachings to excuse corruption (moral, spiritual, and financial) and enable abusers, and misused their authority to escape accountability and liability.

Read The Medium is not the Message on ONet.

Comments

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Bravo Chris! excellent analysis! Keep up the good work. especially all of you in the AOCNA. Don’t let up, your people need you.

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    Nick Katich says:

    Chris should be congratulated for an excellent analysis. In contemplating those who criticize the use of the internet, I’m reminded of the Papal Court that tried to suppress printed books by requiring printers to obtain a Papal license in order to operate the printing press. Trying to Control the flow of ideas is an attack on the dignity of humanity. Church leaders should stop trying to emulate the Obamas of the world.

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    Andrew says:

    Chris is fast becoming a go-to voice in the Orthodox World.

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    As far as he goes, I think Fr George is correct in his analysis of the internet. There is a way established body of social scientific research that raises many of the points he does especially about the potential pitfalls of the anonymity of the internet and the tendency of people to respond quickly and without due deliberation.

    But these concerns and the other raised by Fr George address only the limitations of the internet as a tool. They do not, in my view, make the internet an inappropriate vehicle for disseminating information about the Gospel or the internal life of the Church. And I dare say Fr George would agree with me since, in spite of the limitations that he describes, he too makes use of the internet to advance his own views about how the internal life of the Church should be structured.

    But it is not only with the internet that we see a convergence of medium and message. This is also the case with the Church. Much more so than with any other communication technology, the Church is both messenger and message. We both proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are also the message we proclaim. Try as we might, I’m not sure that we can separate the message from its messenger.

    Certainly in the case of Jesus Christ we see a harmony of Message and Messenger. In the Church something similar happens. Reasonably people look to the life of the Church for evidence that the Gospel is true.

    Reflecting on Jesus’ words (“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9.42), St Augustine asks “And who is not terrified . . . by the threat of punishment uttered so vehemently by the lips of the Lord himself?” (City of God, 21.9)

    Like it or not, the Scriptures, the fathers and human experience all tell us that any dissonance between the Gospel and the life of the preacher harms not only those who listen to the sermon but the one who preaches the sermon. Granting that everything Fr George says about the internet is true without qualification, “comments posted still stand and fall on their own merits” as you rightly point out.

    While it is comforting to blame the internet, the real problem is (again as you point out) “is the lack of truth, lack of ethics, lack of integrity, and lack of Christ.” But if this is true, then I need to disagree with Chris’s analysis on one point.

    Yes, there that has become the norm for many in the Church. This being true I would have to disagree with you on one point. Yes, “ravenous wolves forsook their sacramental duties and instead of laying down their lives for the sheep, used their sacred positions to abuse, mistreat, and scatter the sheep.” But it is easy to forget that these men came from within the Church and that, in a certain sense, we got the leaders we deserved.

    What I mean by this is that while these men’s sins are their own, it is also true true that in many of our parishes the Gospel is not preached because no one wishes to hear the Gospel. We are all together to self-satisfied, more willing to defend Orthodoxy the proclaim Christ. As a brother priest expressed it to me one day. “I’ve come to realize that in the parish we talk a great deal about ‘the parish,” that is about St X’s Orthodox Church. We talk somewhat less, but still quite a lot, about Orthodoxy. And about Jesus Christ, about him we speak very little if at all.”

    So here is the question: Do we want lay and clergy leaders who tirelessly and fearlessly proclaim Christ? And, as a secondary question because the medium is the message, do we want parishes where Christ is not only tirelessly and fearlessly proclaimed but where the Gospel is the reason for our gathering?

    In Christ,

    +Fr Gregory

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