One area the church, theologians and it’s congregants are woefully slow to analyze but find a daily bombardment is propaganda. Propaganda is used by those who have capital and power in an attempt to influence society, culture, individuals or organizations of the value of a cause, policy, war, set of emotional responses to an enemy and the ideological emotions toward state, religion or commerce. This attempt is an appeal to emotions as opposed to rational/impartial information gathering. It is important in a time when corporations, churches and governments have unlimited resources in attempting to manipulate public consensus that the church walk carefully and judiciously into each of the concentrations of power within our community.
The term itself finds its origin in the Roman Catholic church of the 17th century. It was an arm of the church functioning to bring Catholicism to regions that were non-Catholic. Yet, using emotional responses is nothing new to Protestanism itself. The pamphlets of Lutheranism showing the Pope shitting out the antichrist, witch trials and centuries of end time marketers point the finger to our church as also one of its originators, if not perfecters. The use of technology has been a mark of Protestant evangelism and also part of our inherit survival. The striving for relevancy smacks of capitulation with capitalistic moors that benefit a few, but continually leaving the masses indentured to small pockets of power and influence.
Modern governments have always used fear to some extent or another, but the advent of 20th century strides in our understanding of human psychology have moved propaganda into greater avenues. One does not have to live mentally in a dystopian science fiction novel or hang around conspiracy groups to know that some of what we hear, learn and are told is tinged with propaganda. Much of it patently untrue or something we hate to say in our culture, a lie.
It is patently untrue that if a woman uses a certain type of shampoo she will have an orgasm, that the fiscal cliff has to do with debt, or that there is substantive spirituality behind a miniseries called The Bible with music inspired by the show. Operators are standing by. Many will say Lord, Lord…
Anyone who spends substantive time in the United States Capital will be struck by how obtuse a machine propaganda has become in our landscape. Literally millions of dollars are spent honing a message in focus groups so that people will retweet the Democrat Party’s morning talking points. The cacophony of talking heads who are sent out to media outlets to say the exact same words for their side is striking and belies a lack of attention that we have in judging the independence of our political class. We currently have two partisan “news” networks and one whose shallowness toward independence is stunning.
Could we say that the Historic Protestant church is any better? Current progressives parroting political operatives and conservatives plowing the same fields that have honed their power in multiple administrations. In the church we are more than content to rely on 17th century decision making processes and having narrow tolerance for practical theology beyond a limited structure. Sociologically the parliamentarians stay strictly parliamentarian, the congregationalists stay strictly congregational, the episcopate stay strictly to the episcopate and we stand watching the Spirit pass us by with new ways of discernment, collaboration and consensus. Robert has set his book of rules firmly next to the Bible on our lecterns and to defy him is blasphemy. Ethnically, politically, socio-economically, sexually and equally we are watching critical moments of human rights and values spiritually move beyond our casserole dishes. In our desperation to “attract” people to come into our doors we contract with new marketing and branding. Hoping that the next writer from Zondervan will fit the bill. We invest in Wall Street as “Good Stewardship” while portions of our communities loose their homes and wonder. We have bought into listening to and spewing out propaganda instead of the life giving truth of good news.
If surely the truth shall set us free and wisdom is crying to us on every street corner we must strip ourselves of the fetters that propaganda enslaves us to and return to our freedom in Christ. This is a real freedom in which we discern the Spirit of this age in looking toward a new way, in truth toward life. We can no longer afford to be duped by the principalities, powers and rulers of darkness of this world. They will not bring salvation. We look for freedom in the one in whose way is the promise of life and life in abundance. Anything less is trading tin for gold, chimeras for the divine.