In this 2009 book published by Zondervan, Shane Hipps , Lead Pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church builds upon his previous book (2006), The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and the Church. My review of that book here.
Covering almost the same ground as his previous book, Hipps draws heavily from the theories of Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman. The main thesis of this book is very relevant for the Church. “Instead of simply resisting or caving in to (electronic) cultural forces, we are invited to study and understand them. Only then will we learn to use them rather than be used by them” (p.182).
This is a call for the Church to understand the power of the media and its positive and negative influences. Using his background in marketing, Hipps gave his readers a good overview of the consequences of the media. He defines the media as McLuhan did; that any technology that expands our senses and communication.
He suggests that the print media is what defined Western linear thinking. This was superseded by the image media which leads to postmodernism and now the electronic media which leads to virtual communities and virtual relationships. Two worthwhile quotes are “if oral culture is tribal and literate culture is individual, the electronic age is essentially a tribe of individuals” (p.107) and “if oral culture is intensely connected or empathic and print culture is distant or detached, then our electronic experience creates a kind of empathy at a distance” (p.108). Each media has its technological base from which it creates a cultural community around its uses and abuses.
Hipps’ book, like his previous one is good in descriptive but not in prescriptive concerning how technology shapes our faith. Most of us are aware that technology does indeed shape our faith and we even agree with McLuhann that the “media is the message.” What we want to know is how do we make sure that the message is not corrupted by the media. This is a good book in the ongoing dialogue of the Church and culture.