Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Medium is the Message

The need to communicate has been a part of life from the beginning of time, from the first word-of-mouth exchanges to the written messages of more recent times, and from our even more recent television, Internet, and smart phone culture of today. Any individual with the use of an electronic device can now either set up a personal blog or access the growing number of interactive social media to wield the same, and sometimes greater, influence globally than many giant media corporations have in the past. This expanded, sophisticated use of mass media will play an increasingly important role in our world, with potentially detrimental consequences, according to a scholar on the media who spoke at a recent meeting of the Korean bishops. He discussed how the porn industry has taken advantage of our enhanced mass media to distort and sensationalize sex in efforts to reach our most vulnerable citizens, our younger people who are always on the lookout for new experiences and delving into rebellious behavior. It is an area, he warned, that requires serious pastoral concerns.

The media has influenced not only how the porn industry operates today but how many other areas of life have been affected, including, he reported, the recent downtrend in priestly vocations. What would be the most effective measures to deal with the overall media problem? he asked. The morally healthy intentions of our hearts are fostered by what comes in from the outside, he said. So the suggestive images that flood the mass media are going to influence our young people.

The bishops at the meeting agreed and began a discussion of how to deal with the  situation, especially with an internet culture liberally sprinkled with lewdness and the sensationalizing displays in the media of mindless hedonism within society itself.

However, despite the obvious problems there is little that has been done by the Church to deal with the problems, no education provided for making us more media-savy, and not any great advances in the sex education of our young people. Without allocating  personnel and finances to help solve the problem, the Church can do little to compete with the way the mass media  has infiltrated and influenced society, the scholar said.  

The young people who have been influenced by the mass media to accept a distorted value system are not going to be open to accepting the teachings of the Church. Since our young people's understanding of sex and morality is often formed by the media's distorted value system, governed by the always present financial bottom line, this is where our efforts have to be applied. Like the effort made under the dictatorship  to maximize and monitor the influence of the government over its citizens, the same effort needs to be made, he said, to restrain the power of a disturbingly secular culture and mass media. Educating our citizens to this reality should not be limited to a one-time approach but be ongoing. A sister working in this area says we should have the same concern for the increasingly polluted social environment the mass media has created that we have for our natural  environment.  One priest said that the number of abortions and suicides is influenced by popular culture and that the Church, according to the priest, has said little on the influence of the mass media on this matter.

In teaching the social gospel, we should not limit the topics to politics, finances, and social problems but deal also with the values of popular culture, both the good and the bad values. Discerning one from the other should be an ongoing educational priority for society and, especially, for the Church. 


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