Television, Media, and Asceticism
“Attend to thyself, and keep thy heart diligently” ~ Deuteronomy 4:9 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” ~ Matthew 6:22-23 “Hearing, ye shall hear and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive, for the heart of these people is waxed gross” (Isaiah 6:9).
1. Asceticism of the Eyes and Ears - “Having promised us a technological utopia, our ubiquitous and intrusive cyberculture has instead precipitated a spiritual crisis … Living in a culture of organized distractions, our thoughts are isolated and disconnected, preventing us from seeing and experiencing the wholeness of life.” ~ Fr. Maximos Constas - “Our changing technological environment generates a need for ever more stimulation. The content of the stimulation almost becomes irrelevant. Our distractibility seems to indicate that we are agnostic on the question of what is worth paying attention to—that is, what to value.” ~ Matthew Crawford (The World Beyond Your Head) 2. TV: Our Greatest Influence in Life - “It is a truism to say that the media in general, and TV in particular…are incomparably the greatest single influence in our society today, exerted at all social, economic and cultural levels” (Muggeridge 23). - “If it is the case, as I believe, that what we still call Western civilization is fast disintegrating, then the media are playing a major role in the process by carrying out…a mighty brainwashing operation, whereby all traditional standards and values are being denigrated to the point of disappearing, leaving a moral vacuum in which the very concepts of Good and Evil have ceased to have any validity” (Muggeridge 23). - “Future historians will surely see us as having created in the media a Frankenstein monster which no one knows how to control or direct, and marvel that we should have so meekly subjected ourselves to its destructive and often malign influence” (Muggeridge 23). 3. Living in a Fantasy - “There are no studies that could be mounted capable of convincing me that the eight years of a normal life-span that an average Western man spends looking at the television screen have no appreciable influence on his mores or way of evaluating his existence” (Muggeridge 28). - “The prevailing impression I have come to have of the contemporary scene is of an ever-widening chasm between the fantasy in terms of which the media induce us to live, and the reality of our existence as made in the image of God, as sojourners in time whose true habitat is eternity” (Muggeridge 30). 4. The Cult of Consumerism - “A cult of consumption; the supermarkets with soft music playing, its temples; the so-persuasive voices, ‘Buy this! Eat this! Wear this! Drink this!’ of priests and priestesses; the transformation wrought by adopting such a diet, using such gadgets, stretching out on such a bed, the miracles; with Music for plainsong, computers for oracles, cash-registers ringing in the offertory” (Muggeridge 55). - Doctrine: Belief in progress - Mysticism: sex - Conversion: education 5. Seeing Through Healthy Eyes - “The media have created, and belong to, a world of fantasy; the more dangerous because it purports to be, and is largely taken as being, the real world. Christ, on the other hand, proclaimed a new dimension of reality, so that Christendom, based on this reality, could emerge from the fantasy of a decomposing Roman civilization” (Muggeridge 60). 6. What To Do About It 1) Sacramentalism: “Seek endlessly for God and for his hand in all creation, in the tiniest atom or electron as in the wide expanse of the universe…So, looking, we find him, find him, we love him.” 2) Asceticism: “Live abstemiously. Living otherwise…imprisons us in a tiny dark dungeon of the go, and involves us in the pitiless servitude of the senses. So, imprisoned and enslaved, we are cut off from God and from the light of his love.” 3) Love: “Love and consider all men and women as brothers and sisters.” Learning to see "persons." 4) Study: “Read the Bible and related literature.” 5) Intentional Faith: “Know Jesus Christ and follow his Way”
*The following notes are taken from Christ and the Media by Malcolm Muggeridge, 1977.