Monday, November 30, 2009

To Video Clip, or Not to Video Clip

I was asked to comment on this:

I see preachers who believe deeply in preaching use visual images as one more resource for effective communication. When it is used well, it is simply another illustrative tool that helps engage young adults with truth in a visual language they understand. In that sense, it follows in the tradition of Jesus' own preaching and teaching, which was not only packed with word-crafted images, but filled with object lessons (coins, wheat fields, fig trees and so on) that would be quite comparable to the use of a brief video clip in our own age. . . let's not attack or belittle those faithful preachers in a new generation who find such tools helpful as they seek to proclaim the Word of God.

Kent comments:

I don’t think it is an attack on anyone to point out that reliance on multi-media presentations could threaten preaching.  Multi-media presentations are always designed at some level to be entertaining.  But that is not the heart of the problem.  As many have pointed out, when we watch video clips our minds become passive.  This is significantly and qualitatively different from the active engagement required when we listen to a live presentation by a human speaker or when we read.

While I would not claim that this distinction means preachers should never use video clips, for example, it does suggest that we must be very careful indeed with a medium that makes us passive, and that (especially in our culture) signals ‘entertainment’ to most people.

Your counter-claim is that this ‘follows in the tradition of Jesus’ own preaching and teaching’ because he used object lessons.  But object lessons are not in the same category as video clips.  Jesus’ object lessons did not place people in the passive mode that our video-TV-movie medium does – in fact, Jesus approach did just the opposite.

The mere fact that some people ‘seek to proclaim the Word of God’ does not by itself mean that any technique they might use is neutral.  The claim that ‘a new generation finds such tools helpful’ could just as well be explained by the observation that some in recent generations are addicted to entertainment and do not like to engage in the mental effort required to follow preaching.  How much to pander to that attitude when preaching is debatable, but the existence and dangers of that attitude cannot be denied.

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