The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture

After my little ad deconstruction contest, inspired by my juxtaposition of Sam Van Eman’s book, On Earth As It Is In Advertising and the super-bowl ads, I felt like it was an excellent time to do a bitter of commercial hype (if you don’t get the allusion, you’re not paying attention) for a very important new book. Just the description of this book should set you a-quakin’ and we should be very glad for books such as this.
The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, The Gospel and the Church is by Shane Hipps (Zondervan) $18.99. Hipps is the pastor of a Mennonite Church (which describes itself as missional, urban, and Anabaptist.) He has worked in advertising so he knows that world from the inside; his Anabaptist vision gives him the principled scruples to say no to some stuff. My hunch is he takes Romans 12:1-2 more seriously than most and, if this makes sense to you, this book ought to have been published by Brazos.
Still, with a forward by Brian McLaren, and blurbs from Len Sweet and Doug Pagitt, all insisting that traditionalists and emergent folk need to hear this warning about the dangers of a faith that is overly shaped by the forms and values of media, it seems that this book is aimed firstly at the emergent community. The emergent conferences, I’ve been told, went from hyped mediated to less so, and the visual circus atmosphere proved so surreal that even the hipsters complained. So, perhaps this book is a natural evolution of the kinds of cultural discernment that is happening amongst the emerging generation.
I wonder if the less postmodern and more typical “contemporary” services–ordinary folks who are just now getting around to using PowerPoint— might need it more. I think this book is going to help many sorts of congregations.
Two themes seem to animate this book: Marshal McLuhan’s theories (“the medium is the message” you know) and the notion that the local church must embody real, daily practices that show and give flesh to the realities of the reign of God. It is not against media although it invites us to think seriously about it’s role and the implications of it all (read the wonderful section about media in Marva Dawn’s powerful and important Is It a Lost Cause: Having the Heart of God for the Church’s Children for one good prophetic word against the electronic culture.)
I think this new study of the broader impact of technology and the call for communities of faith to be reflective, informed by McLuhan, could be very, very helpful for any kinds of congregations. Just as Quentin Schultze’s Habits of the High-Tech Heart ask individuals to attend to the spiritual virtues needed in our hot-wired, e-culture, and his High-Tech Worship? invites worship teams to be discerning and balanced in using presentational technologies in worship, The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture invites us all, as individuals, families, parachurch groups and congregations, to be wise in discerning how the media shapes us all, and may erode the very truth of the gospel we profess.
As Sweet says on the back, “In the ancient tradition of the ‘jeremiad’, this book issues a wake-up call to the traditional church and a warning to the emerging church—remember the rock from whence you were hew, or else be invisibly mutilated by media.”
The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, The Gospel, and The Church Shane Hipps (Zondervan) $18.99