Wednesday, April 29, 2015

TV News: The Lectionary of Olympianity

Television is the Bible of Olympianity in our day. Not only is it the normative source of our society’s shared beliefs, values, norms, and goals. Not only is it the normative structure of the Olympian personality that smolders darkly inside us all. It is also the source of the Grand Narrative: the master story through which we understand our world and in which we all have our place.

Americans watch TV an average of 35 hours each week. In other words, Americans devote themselves wholeheartedly to the six false Olympian gods of power by immersing themselves in the Olympian Bible an average of 5 hours each day.

How are we as churches and Christians doing in our devotion to Jesus? If we are immersing ourselves in the Olympian Bible 35 hours each week, how does that compare to the time we are immersing ourselves in the Christian Bible? As Jesus said, where our treasure is, there our heart will also be. Are we too wholehearted in our devotion to the gods? Are we too virtually heartless in our devotion to listening for the words which Jesus seeks to speak to us today through his Bible?

Not only are television programming and ads the Bible of Olympianity today. Television news is the lectionary of Olympianity today.

A lection is a reading. A lectionary is a list of readings. Many Christian denominations follow a weekly lectionary. This is a list of four readings, taken from the Bible, which are read each Sunday during worship. They give structure to the liturgical year. There are special readings for Christmas and Easter and set readings for all other minor celebrations and ordinary Sundays.

Olympianity doesn’t have a set of readings. That would be much too verbally oriented. Only Jesus reveals himself through words. In purposeful contrast, Olympianity has a set of watchings. The images, the visual content of these watchings, is brought to us through TV news.

The Olympian lectionary, like the Church one, structures the Olympian year by highlighting important holydays (holidays). One of these Olympian holydays is misleadingly called Christmas. Olympians, however, don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus on that day. Using the same name for the day as Christians, Olympians actually celebrate Vulcan, god of technology, and Bacchus, god of consumption, on that day. TV news tells Olympians which technological gadgets virtuous Olympians will purchase that year for families and friends to best celebrate the holyday.

The Olympian lectionary, however, has many holydays that Church calendars lack. One of these is Super Bowl Sunday. This too is a major festival dedicated to Vulcan and Bacchus. The other gods make their appearances as well. Mars, god of war, has some fighter planes fly over the sacred ground where the festival is being held. The victorious saints of the festival then talk with the President who represents Jupiter and gives them the god’s blessing.

TV news provides daily lectionary watchings as well. Within the Grand Narrative provided by all TV programming and ads, TV news tells us which stories are important today. If it’s on TV news, it’s important; if it’s not, it’s not. TV news tells us which earthquakes, plane crashes, battles, crimes, outbreaks of disease, sports contests, celebrity scandals, elections, consumer products, and even weather forecasts we need to know about to remain relevant. If we don’t, we’re not.

Sadly, churches and Christians demonstrate their devotion to the Olympian gods by following the Olympian lectionary of TV news. The content of our Sunday worship, and the topics of our daily conversations, are all set by it. We measure the relevance of our Church lectionary readings by their correspondence to Olympian lectionary watchings rather than understanding that the biblical witnesses would find the whole Olympian charade distressing.

Faithful witness to Jesus is never a moral question. It’s always a spiritual one; that is, a question of who we are devoted to. As Christians and churches, are we devoting ourselves to the six false Olympian gods or to Jesus? So our approach to TV as Olympian Bible, and to TV news as Olympian lectionary, can’t simply be a laying down of the moral law by saying: Thou shalt not watch TV.

Instead, we have to ask ourselves the more difficult and improvisational question: how might we best share the light, love, and vitality of Jesus with our Olympian neighbors in this intensely Olympian society in which we live? When, where, how, and with whom is watching TV, and immersing ourselves in other mass media, meaningful as a faithful witness to Jesus?

Copyright © 2015 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.