God and the Internet
|Top Anglican prelate
says sex is for married, says a headline in the
Washington Times. Yes, its now front-page news when
the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, gives a measured restatement
of what, until recently, all Christians took for granted.
I do not find any justification, from the Bible or the entire Christian tradition, for sexual activity outside marriage, Archbishop Carey told an audience at the Virginia Theological Seminary. Thus, same-sex relationships in my view cannot be on par with marriage, and the church should resist any diminishing of the fundamental sacramentum of marriage.
Even speaking to seminarians, the archbishop felt obliged to assume a tentative tone: in my view as if an ancient orthodoxy were only his personal opinion. Not that his statement didnt take some nerve; it did. Thats the point. Many of the clergy who agree with him would hesitate to say so aloud.
Such is the power of fads in our time, when media-borne ideas can suddenly exert great pressure on old institutions. Only a few years ago, same-sex marriage would have seemed an absurdity, especially to religious people who believe in a divine design informing nature. Now its already making inroads in the law and even in some churches.
The principle of authority is that there are immutable truths and rules that even the most powerful must respect. Authority is often confused with power, but real authority is a check on those who currently hold power, as the Constitution is supposed to restrain our rulers from acting like dictators. If the government can change the meaning of the Constitution, constitutional authority becomes a nullity. If the clergy of our day can revise old Christian doctrines, Christian doctrine becomes a series of fads what the comedian Flip Wilson used to call the Church of Whats Happening Now.
The mass media have spread the assumption that fads can be moral imperatives. They create an illusory world in which the past hardly exists, especially the Christian past.
Those media are less useful for communication, in the sense of conversational give-and-take, than for propaganda. The rise of mass media has proved especially useful for tyrants who are determined to obliterate historical memory and create masses of manipulable people, as Stalin used his media monopoly to rewrite history and science.
Just as freedom depends on keeping political power carefully divided, it requires media that are not only independent but diverse. In the recent era of media giants when three networks dominated the airwaves ideological diversity was minimal. Were now moving into an era of media fragmentation, for which we should be deeply grateful. It means the end of the liberal opinion cartel.
CBSs 60 Minutes recently ran a short piece about alarming myths propagated on the Internet. But the great virtue of the Internet, as opposed to the big networks, is that anyone can get a piece of the action. You can actually talk back, contradict, argue, without buying your own network. There is far more interaction real communication than was ever possible on the big networks. On the Internet, falsehood is harder to spread, and easier to correct, than on the centralized media of the recent past.
John Henry Newman, a nineteenth-century Anglican who converted to Catholicism (and eventually became a cardinal), observed that during the Arian heresy of the fourth century, the Churchs elite, including most bishops, had largely embraced Arianism. It was the laity who defended orthodoxy and finally prevailed.
In the same way, the grassroots media are now rising up against the elite media. Of course the new media have their own absurd fads, but because of the actual diversity of those media and we all want diversity, dont we? absurdity cant get a monopoly. Just as important, it cant create the illusion of consensus. To listen to some of the network talk shows, youd think America was populated exclusively by liberals (and responsible conservatives who might as well be liberals).
The real trouble with the media age is that there havent been enough media. Fortunately, thats no longer true. And liberal fads are no longer likely to pass for official truths.
|Copyright © 2007 by the
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation.
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation
Archive Table of Contents
Return to the SOBRANS home page.
|FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.|