If you’ve read my past reviews, you know that they’re really perspectives. I don’t generally take a lot of time to thoroughly analyze the substance and soundness of the author’s argument. Rather, I like to look at the character of the argument, whether or not I agree with everything, and with that raise questions for the reader to consider.

(And there is plenty that I disagree with Mr. Postman about. But that’s not the primary issue here. What he provided us with is a set of working principles for helping us both understand some of the cultural shifts around us and enough awareness to help us avoid becoming too much a part of the problem.)

There are some works which are prescient. Though written for a different generation they still speak today. Amusing Ourselves to Death is one of those rare examples of this. Though the times have changed and the technologies that he addresses have been built upon, what has happened to American society, even to the church, continues as an extension to his points.

The structure of Mr. Postman’s argument is pretty clear: The medium is the message. It is, of course, more complicated and nuanced than that. He is (or shall I say was) not one to dismiss content and perhaps give precedence to relationship principles over relationship content. Rather, his approach might be restated as “the metaphor is the medium that can corrupt or overwhelm the message.”

The “metaphor” is the structure that we wrap around the message. In popular culture, his target, it was printed material, images, celebrity, and electronic information.  A little over two centuries ago life was without distraction and the idea of the philosopher/patriot/citizen was not so far-fetched as it is today. People would stand for hours to hear substantive discussions on topics of significance.

But information was slowly reduced to the trivial as books gave way to newspapers and newspapers gave way to radio and radio gave way to television and finally computers. Each of these had to do something to capture the customer’s attention to the point where what is “news” is merely disconnected bits of information. “And now this” is the theme of newscasts everywhere. It is even the functional principle behind a Facebook or Twitter (“X”) scroll. “Here … Look at this! Oh, that’s not important … THIS is important!” and on and on.

This represents the problem of our information age. But this information age is not just about the computer or smart devices. It’s about being deluged with information with the assumption that having enough information will create the wisdom needed to handle the hard questions of life. But as we saw in the last paragraph, the problem of the irrelevancy of the past has caused us to forget the principles that might bring us the solutions needed. Instead we build a dependence on a political (government at all levels, including education) elite that is also the dispenser of said information. Without knowing it we have become slaves under the guise of “democracy.”

Churches are not immune. What is the metaphor of church life, even in the historic evangelical world? Is it to lift up the Word and the teaching of the Word in worship of God, as we have in the liturgical churches? Or is the worship center a multi-purpose room, not anything sanctified for worship, where the theatrical structure tells you where the focus is placed? There are many, many questions that could take a book that someone else has probably already written, so I won’t belabor the point. Needless to say, some introspection, or should I say self-judgement, is due the Lord whom we worship.

Probably my favorite characteristic of this book is that Mr. Postman wrote plainly. He didn’t mince word out of politeness. That’s a characteristic of too few authors.

I would highly recommend reading this book. Get it here.