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Interfaith Reflections on the Role of Media in Our Lives
From the National Council of Churches USA:
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
─ Psalm 46:9-10a (NRSV)
God, our heads spin with raucous music, news updates, tweets and TXTs, interspersed with noisy ads that – as Brother Thomas said – treat all products with reverence due to the sacraments. Save us, God. Soothe us with silence. Amen.
My formative years came at the end of the golden age of radio and at the cusp of the golden age of television. My blogs are filled with nostalgic reminiscences of radio dramas that evoked dazzling images in my brain far superior to anything 3D BlueRay has yet achieved. And when I recall my childhood friends, I think first of Lucy and Desi and Fess Parker’s Davy Crockett.
I am not the only Boomer for whom media were as profoundly influential as our teachers. No two people had a greater impact on my life than John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and I remember them with affection, quote them to my children and choke-up on the anniversaries of their deaths. And yet I never met either man; their images and voices were merely flickers of light and sound on cathode ray tubes.
Media are pervasive. Just driving around, you can tell by the bowed heads, contorted hands and interrupted gait of passersby that they are TXTing. Others show by vague expressions that their brains are locked between the earphones of an MP3. None of this is inherently bad, except that it diverts you from the real human beings who you live and with whom you live. “A daydream,” Brother Thomas Merton said, “is an evasion,” and media create daydreams that don’t go away.
A week-long media fast can bring us closer to those we love. May God clear our heads of the daydreams and evasions that distract us.
Philip E. Jenks, Media Relations Specialist for the National Council of Churches USA, has been a communicator for newspapers, church communions or ecumenical councils for more than 35 years. He was chief communicator and editor for all media of American Baptist Churches USA from 1972-1992. For 20 years, he was the author of "The Little Scroll," a monthly commentary on church and society. Jenks was Communications Officer for the U.S. office of the World Council of Churches in New York from 1995 to 2003. He and his wife, the Rev. Martha M. Cruz, live in Port Chester, N.Y. The couple has six children and two grandchildren.
Reducing Television Consumption: A Muslim Perspective
By Michelle Strucke, Islamic Society of North America
As Muslims, time is a sacred gift God has given us, a gift of opportunities to worship Him, to do good deeds, to help others, and to make our lives full of meaning. As it says in the Chapter 103 of the Holy Qur’an, “Al-Asr,” “"By (the token of) time (through the ages). Verily mankind is in a state of loss, except those who have faith and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth and of patience and constancy." We are called upon by our Creator to use the time we are given to choose to intentionally, mindfully worship him through all our deeds.
Wasting time is among the gravest sins, because time is a special gift from our Creator and must be treasured and used according to His will. Islam is meant to be a complete way of life that encompasses every aspect, so living a life full of meaning requires awareness and conscientiousness at all levels of life. How we use our time is an illustration of our faith, and when we are questioned on the Last Day, we will be asked how we spent our time.
Making the choice to reduce television consumption gives us the opportunity to intentionally use that time for other things. As Muslims, our intentions are critical to how we experience reality. Our lives are defined by the many choices we make each moment and the opportunities to make those choices meaningful. When we do consume television, we must choose what our virtual reality can be. In a sea of images, we can choose those which represent goodness.
In a life that is full of opportunities, we can choose to partake in and to experience that which is beautiful, and to do so in beautiful ways. How do we do this? The change must come from within ourselves. Making “no-television” or “low-television” a lifestyle must be a positive and mindful experience, accomplished because we have more beautiful things that fill our lives. If our lives are empty, it is easy to allow television to fill them. We must, therefore, make a conscious decision to fill our lives with that which is good, beautiful, and beneficial, and to live our lives with consciousness, aware of our true reality and seeking to please God, the Most Merciful.
Will you pledge to take this week of from screens? Join the Media Fast by pledging here: