Paying Attention: Branded to be Just One of the Herd

NewImprovedIt is the sign of our times – our thoughts are owned by corporate America.  Their ubiquitous advertising and sponsorship means we cannot help but have to view or listen to their paid propagandizing.  We are the ones who pay to be brainwashed.   Your favorite football team is on the air and each referee’s call is brought to you by your cellular company, and the 20 yards closest to the end zone is owned by a ketchup manufacturer.  “Sportscasters” are simply corporate spokespersons.    The propaganda never stops playing so that you never forget to go out and spend.   In America it’s patriotic to spend your way into debt so that the economy expands like a balloon.  Is that an empty promise?

I have mostly stopped watching television, not from any high moral standards.  I cannot abide the commercials.   I also no longer tune in to commercial radio.   Talk show hosts, political pundits and Fox News are wasting their breath.   I can still in this country exercise self control and keep my mind free from commercial thought control. 

I am however harassed when on the Internet as banners and pop-ups endeavor to distract me from the content I want to read.   This morning for example the browser homepage had as one of its rotating “news” items:

Spice Up Your Kitchen

It’s where People Always Gather

Why not Install a Flat-Screen TV?

1984Ah yes, in Orwellian 1984 fashion we need to have the TV screens everywhere we are or meet to tell us what to think and what to talk about.   Everyone always feared “they” would be constantly monitoring us, but instead we freely offer our souls, hearts and minds as we endlessly monitor the monitors.  Put that TV in the kitchen if you haven’t already – its there to dominate your conversation.   Perhaps they will soon figure out how to continuously stream those airwaves right into your brain so you won’t even need a TV and thus will never suffer the dreaded television withdrawal.

Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 RSV).

But He didn’t apparently anticipate American culture where in the midst of every two or three (even in the kitchen!) there will be a television blathering about corporate products you will soon believe you chose to have.  The ideas and the desire were all planted in your brain by the omnipresent and forever turned on TV.   Jesus will not be heard or even noticed above the din of the television.  (In line at the grocery store one day several older teen girls were talking, one was totally amazed to discover that there was an “on” button on her car radio – she was not aware that you could turn it off – why would you?)

Timothy Leary promoted LSD with his “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”  Television wants us to turn on the TV, tune in to whatever is playing, and detach from critical thinking and just absorb.

As the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy sang in their “Television, the Drug of the Nation“:

One Nation under God

has turned into

One Nation under the influence

of one drug

 Television, the drug of the Nation

Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

TV It has been said that commercial radio and television is really about the networks producing a content that will keep you tuned in to the station between commercials.   They do want you to follow the Scriptural exhortation:  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”  ( James 1:22 RSV).    Buy the brand don’t just listen to the commercials.  The effective commercial gets you to give your money to the corporate advertizer/sponsor.  

Not only that, but you then become a walking commercial yourself, brandishing the proper Logo.  You bought the goods so you could advertize their company.  It is paid advertizing at its finest.  You paid to be able to walk around advertizing their product.

Tom Hodgkison,  quoted by Neil Boorman in his BONFIRE OF THE BRANDS: HOW I LEARNED TO LIVE WITHOUT LABELS, quips:

It’s surely the mark of an individual to refuse to be branded. It’s daft to spend money on Nike clothes. The mark of a moron. Anyone who does so has been merely duped by the million-dollar marketing campaigns. To buy Nike shows a sheep-like nature and a lack of imagination and style.

 Who in their right mind would want to be branded, like a cow? A brand identifies you as someone else’s property. It is the mark of a tamed and exploited animal. Brands promise freedom but they deliver the opposite: the worst kind of slavish conformity.

Ahhh…. but this is a free country with a free market – we are free to want and buy exactly what corporate America decides we should crave and consume as well as advertize for them since they are after all our corporate sponsors.

This message brought to you by ………….

Divine Considerateness – How God Speaks to Us

Reading OTAntiochThis is the second and concluding blog in which I am commenting on Robert Hill’s READING THE OLD TESTAMENT IN ANTIOCH.  The first blog was titled Reading the Old Testament in Ancient Antioch.   I ended the first blog with Hill’s comment:

The Scriptures, like the Incarnation, come to us as a gesture of divine considerateness, sygkatavasis—a loving gesture with nothing patronizing about it, nothing to suggest ‘condescension’ … The Incarnation, after all, does not represent a patronizing gesture on God’s part towards human beings—only love and concern.”  (pp 36-37)

So God speaks to us through people, using words, phrases and ideas that we are capable of understanding.    God realizes that His human creatures are not always attuned to spiritual realities and so He adapts His message in the Scriptures to our materialist limits.  It is because God loves us that He finds the way to communicate with us even when it means He has to use phrases and methods (such as anthropomorphic appearances) which don’t do full justice to His divinity.

…that the concreteness (paxetes) of the language is required by the materialism of the listener/reader, that it was particularly necessary in the early stages of revelation history, that in Scripture God uses simple ways of speech to accommodate our limitations, that while the concern in such acts of considerateness is not primarily with the dignity proper to God, we should not remain at the level of banal vocabulary or think of God in human terms, and – eminently—that the prime analogue of divine considerateness is that (other) Incarnation of the Word in the person of Jesus.”(p 39)

rublevtrinityGod speaking to us through human writers using human images was done in fact to prepare all people for the incarnation of the Word in Jesus.  God’s goal is to lift us up to communion with God as Trinity not to get us stuck in literalistic thinking in which we drag God down to crude and banal images of Him as human.

Chrysostom expresses his own deep appreciation of scriptural koinonia (my note – fellowship, communion).  For him the biblical authors are the means by which communication (omolia  my note, discourse or homily) with God occurs, a communication which can be withheld…”  (p 36)

The Scriptures are thus the means by which God communicates with us.  For this reason the Antiochian Fathers were concerned with making an accurate reading of the text.  They tended to shy away from allegorizing every text (something more common in the Alexandrian tradition), but they felt they were called to discover the Holy Spirit’s intended meaning in a text so realized that it was necessary to get beyond the literal reading of the Scriptures at points to be able to see what God was revealing.   The “spiritual” reading of a text would be seen as the literal reading of the text if that is how God intended for us to read it.  Chrysostom says,

“’There is a great treasure stored up in the Scriptures, concealed beneath the surface,’ he tells his congregation in Homily 45; so there is need of study so that we can learn the force hidden beneath the surface.”  (p 153)

So when, where and with who is the proper time to study the Scriptures in order to drink deeply of the living water stored in them?  Chrysostom answers,

ScriptureAny time must be considered suitable for discourse on spiritual topics.  If we have a precise realization of this, we will be able while relaxing at home, both before eating and after eating, to take the Scriptures in our hands and gain benefit from them and provide spiritual nourishment for our soul… This is our salvation, this is spiritual treasure, this security.  If we thus strengthen ourselves each day – by reading (anagnosis), by listening, by spiritual discourse (dialexis) – we will be able to remain unconquered, and render the snares of the devil ineffectual.”  (p 184)

We render ourselves capable of hearing God’s voice by a frequent and regular reading of God’s Word.   The continual reading of God’s Word opens our hearts and minds to recognizing God’s voice and thus allowing God’s Word to implant itself in us and to bear spiritual fruit to the glory of God.