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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.

Michelle Strucke is a MA degree candidate at the American University in Cairo, Egypt in International Human Rights Law.


Rev. Deborah Streeter, UCC minister and professor of UCC Polity at Pacific School of Religion: 

Scripture:  “ …Listen to me, be silent, and I will teach you wisdom" Job 33:33.

Reflection:

My local church recently hosted a “Lenten Silent Day.”  The intention was, my pastor said, “to fast from speaking.”  We spent the day in silence, but it wasn’t as if we did nothing.  A pastor helped us cut and create two large paper banners for Easter. We made cards for a local groups of foster kids, packed lunches for homeless, did healing prayer together, read, wrote – ie we weren’t just sitting around; we were doing creative, reflective work – and we were just silent!

That is for me a model for the Screen Free Media Fast during Holy Week April 18 – 24, 2011: turn it off or turn it down, but don’t feel that we are strangled or silenced.  We can simply create and engage in new ways.

When our kids were 11 and 15 we moved from the suburbs to a rural area with no cable.  We could have gotten satellite, but we decided to take a media fast, no TV, to see if we could break our addiction to TV and learn to entertain ourselves in those long dark evenings and isolated weekends.  Of course we soon got computer access, but we still chose, as a family, to find other things to do besides looking at a screen. My kids, now on their own and living in big cities, are well aware of information and technology.  But they walk a lot, read a lot, and neither owns a TV.  

Likewise, I can always connect through a myriad of technologies and find things out.  But I have chosen a life that also includes blessed silence, creativity, neighbors and redwoods; all calling me outside of my house and away from my screens.  

Prayer:  Jesus, we call you word and image of God and seek to learn about God from your example.  We thank you for all the ways we experience you, especially in silence. 

Rev. Deborah Streeter is a UCC minister who teaches UCC Polity at Pacific School of Religion.  She is also a volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and connects religious communities with ocean stewardship. 

The Rev. Jim Antal, Massachusetts Conference Minister and board member, United Church of Christ Office of Communication Inc.

“There can be no more appropriate time than next week for all of us – whatever faith tradition we may claim – to enter into the “brave old world” of un-mediated connection… with one another, with God’s creation, and with the God of many names.“

and MSR candidate at the Pacific School of Religion: 

"Our religious, philosophical, and social principles converge when thinking about family and community. This year in the wake of a transformative season of fasting and contemplation, Free Screen Week coincides with Holy Week and Passover. We encourage wide promotion and participation in this timely and beneficial activity so that we may return to the basics of relating to one another with human sensitivity and response and in new venues to do so. We also welcome stories how creatively this activity was embraced.”

Will you pledge to take this week of from screens? Join the Media Fast by pledging here: