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Postman Still Delivers: Amusing Ourselves to Death

Posted by Dr. Keith Stanglin on May 8, 2018 at 10:22 AM

Back in January, I had the privilege of speaking at the Northwest Expositor’s Seminar just outside of Portland, Oregon.  In addition to the main topic that I was invited to address, I was also asked to be prepared to recommend and briefly summarize a few books that are outside my field of scholarship.  In reality, almost nothing that is non-fiction is really irrelevant to a historical theologian.  But I get the idea—something not directly about church history or Christian theology.  

In fact, I quite enjoyed the preparation and came ready to talk about some of my favorite books.  Sadly, and for no apparent reason, I became violently ill and was prevented from speaking for only that one session.  The next day, after my recovery, I even offered to abbreviate my final session in order to make room for some book recommendations, but no one took me up on the offer.  So here I provide something that I would not have done in the limited time I had there—a selective summary of and then brief riff on themes related to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business(1985).

(If you have never read this book, please, don’t delay, open a new browser window right now and go purchase this book.  Then come back and continue reading.)

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Topics: Neil Postman, Television, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Brave New World, Technology

Ring Around the Collar and the Gospel: What's Your Story?

Posted by Dr. Todd Hall on January 4, 2018 at 11:39 AM

 

Human beings are “enstoried” creatures. We find ourselves inundated, moment by moment, with data of various kinds that must be interpreted, and the stories that we live within form the framework for our interpretation of the world around us. This can be true at the simplest level of life—I recognize and understand the different functions of a fork and a knife because of the narrative surrounding such implements (especially around proper table etiquette)—to the most profound of social difficulties—see, for example, the highly charged competing narratives on either side of various race issues in the United States. The stories we tell ourselves and that we live by thus have powerful implications for every facet of life, from ethics to epistemology to ontology. So what stories are we living by? (e.g., a grammarian lives by the story that this is an improperly built sentence in English; here, I am a deconstructionist: Down with the Binaries!)

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Topics: Discipleship, On-Topic Today, Technology, Teaching Moment

Confessions of a Smartphone User

Posted by Dr. Keith Stanglin on July 11, 2017 at 9:30 AM



Well, it happened.  I am now the reluctant and mostly unwilling owner of a portable, Orwellian telescreen, or, as most people call it, a smartphone.  In view of the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and for cathartic ends, I will now engage in the jeremiad that I have effectively deferred for the last few years.  Caveat lector: if imprecation and lament are not your thing, do not read any further.

There have been a few memorable moments over the years that have irreversibly affected my opinion of cellphones.  In 1993, when I was 16 years old, I worked part time at the A&W inside Town East Mall in Mesquite, Texas.  One slow, quiet weeknight just before closing, I vividly remember the sound of loud talking approaching, but it was unusual, for all I heard was one voice.  Sure enough, when the woman turned the corner and became visible to me, I could see her speaking into a (probably rather large) mobile phone.  I don’t know if she was always a loud talker, or if she was just wanting to be seen.   

Back then, having a cellphone at all was a bit of a status symbol, mostly for business people or those with disposable income.  But I remember thinking at that very moment how obnoxious it was for someone to walk around like that and inflict their conversation on the whole Food Court.  I had never seen that before, and I hoped to never have to see it again.  (Insert chuckle.)

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Topics: Personal, On-Topic Today, Technology

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