Does Christianity Provide Advice or News?

Often times people will ask me if I am religious, or to what religion do I adhere. I do not say it, but I want to respond by saying I am not religious; rather, I am gospel, but that sounds funny. Even though it sounds funny, I think the distinction is worth making.

Advice Vs. News

Religion tells us what we must do in order for God to accept us, which is advice. When someone gives you advice, they often are telling you how you can be accepted by someone. For example, if you go on a job interview, a recruiter will usually tell you to get a hair cut, put on a suit and tie, bring a professionally printed resume, smile, shake their hand, and be polite to everyone you meet. Essentially, they are giving you advice on how to get your potential employer to think you are a worthy candidate.

In contrast, the Gospel tells us not what we must do, but what God has done, which is news. Think about it like this: When the 10 o’clock news comes on, they are not providing you with advice on what should happen in the city, they are telling you what happened that day. Likewise, the Gospel does not provide us with a set of rules or rituals we must follow in order to be accepted by God; rather, it tells us that God sent His Son, His only begotten Son, Jesus, to pay for the sins of mankind, which He was able to do because He lived a perfect life, enabling Him to be the perfect sacrifice for mankind. He willingly faced the cross, dying in our place, in order to reconcile mankind to God. The judgment we deserve, Jesus took in our place, so our relationship with God could be restored, and so God could remain a God of justice.

So then, when all other religions tell us what we must do in order for God to accept us, they are essentially giving us advice; not so with Christianity. Instead of giving us advice, Christianity gives us news, good news, that when believed, will restore man’s relationship with God.

We Often Live As If Christianity Provides Advice

So if Christianity provides news instead of advice, why do those who call themselves Christians live as if Christianity is providing advice? Christians often live like Christianity is giving advice by asking questions such as:

How often and for how long do I have to read my Bible? How many people do I have to tell about the gospel? How much money do I have to tithe every month? How many times do I have to forgive others? How far is too far when it comes to sex before marriage? How many times a month do I have to go to church?

All of these questions, and others like them, show that one is treating Christianity as advice instead of news, and proves they do not understand the gospel message. They do not understand we, as Christians, should live differently not in order for God to accept us, but because we are already accepted. As Christians, we should want to live lives that reflect the commands in God’s Word because we have been redeemed and our hearts have been changed. As a result, we should see God’s law and commands, not as a set of rules we must follow or else, but as guidelines for how to live as those who are God’s people.

Conclusion

If you are questioning Christianity, then you need to understand that it is not like other religions. Christianity does not give a set of guidelines or rules one must follow, it gives good news that Jesus has accomplished what we could never accomplish, which is to reconcile man’s relationship with God.

On the other hand, if you are a Christian, you need to understand that obeying God’s rules do not earn you favor with God, nor do obeying His rules secure your salvation. Rather, one should obey God’s commands and law because they delight in God and want to bring Him glory.

Entertainment is the Supraideology of all Discourse on TV

I have been reading through Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death for sometime now, and I came across this quote:

“Entertainment is the surpraideology of all discourse on television” (87).

Postman’s quote reveals that no matter what the show is about its main purpose is our amusement and pleasure. Simply put everything on TV is entertainment.

On TV, All Subject Matter is Entertaining

Postman believes television “has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representative of all experience” (87).  In other words, “all subject matter is presented as entertaining” (87).

Jack Johnson’s song The News speaks to Postman’s claim. Here are a few choice lyrics:

A billion people died on the news tonight
But not so many cried at the terrible sight
Who’s the one to decide that it would be alright
To put the music behind the news tonight
Well mama said
You can’t believe everything you hear
The diagetic world is so unclear
Why don’t the newscasters cry when they read about people who die?
At least they could be decent enough to put just a tear in their eyes

Johnson recognizes that even the nightly news is entertainment first and informative second.

We are just as guilty as the Newscasters in Johnson’s song. Why?

Because to us, the news is not to be taken seriously, it is entertainment. Where did we learn this from? The show itself teaches us.

Think about it

The most attractive people are selected, the music is exciting, the commercials are fun and light hearted, the video footage is high quality, and the banter between the newscasters is exciting, not to mention you are given only a few seconds to process the events presented before you are ushered off to think about another story presented in the same way. It is no wonder the newscasters never shed a tear, nor anyone at home.

What does this do to our society?

(1) I teaches us that life is all about entertainment.

If we are not entertained, then we are not living.

(2) It teaches us there is no place for feelings.

Especially, the kind of feelings that should surface when someone dies.

(3) It provides us with a kind of morbid craving.

Nothing short of a terrible accident or someone hurting themselves will entertain us. It is no wonder shows and movies such as Jackass and Faces of Death are a regular attraction. We have been taught that death and pain are entertainment, and we learned it from something as innocent as the nightly news.

Technology is not Bad

You may not come to the same conclusions that I have. I believe, however, these ideas will give you something to think about the next time you turn on the 10 o’clock news.

Not only should we think when we turn on the news, but also when we use any piece of technology. Each piece of technology affects us in different ways. Sometimes the effects are good and sometimes they are bad. Let me be clear, I am not saying technology is bad. I use it everyday. What I am saying is understanding how it affects us is important, so we can approach it in a discerning manner.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with Postman?
  2. Have you ever thought about how the technology you use affects you?
  3. Do you believe the medium also contributes to the message, or do you see the medium as neutral?

Resource

Post adapted from Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net