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Archive for February 24th, 2016

The Triumph of Form over Substance

Posted by appolus on February 24, 2016

What do I mean by the triumph of form over substance? Well, it typically means that content or the subject does not matter, what matters is how a thing looks. In other words the subject itself does not have to have any depth or true meaning it only has to look good and feel good.

I would argue that this current political cycle is a perfect example of form triumphing over substance. The rise of Donald Trump is the rise of form over substance. He merely taps into the mood of the people and says what he needs to say to get elected. He is an amalgam of our personality cult culture and business and now politics. This is the end result of a long process that could only truly find its successful conclusion with the rise of media and especially social media.

Now there have been notable people from the previous century that gives us clues as to how we got here. If we look at Hitler we see a man who could never have arisen without the aid of radio and the camera and of course circumstances. The circumstances are obvious. There was social unrest caused by a financial meltdown. This of course was severely aggravated with the rise of socialism and communism throughout the world. Given these fears and others, the people turned to someone who promised to make Germany great again. Someone who would face the problems of the day head on. Now they knew that he held extreme views but their fears for their present situation overcame any misgivings they may have had for him. The basic premise throughout the ruling classes was ” he would at least sort out the Communists,” which of course he did yet they had unleashed a monster.

Along with all those reasons, Hitler could still not have come to power without the aid of media. Radio of course was the social media of the day. People gathered in their living rooms and listened to his captivating speeches. They also went to the movies and saw such productions as ” Triumph of the Will.” A movie about the rise of the Nazi party that combined music and clippings of speeches and rallies. It is purported to be the greatest propaganda movie of all time and truly shows the power of media, form over substance, to move a whole nation. And of course that power has only increased exponentially over the last 80 years.

The first ever televised interview of two politicians debating was in 1960 and was between Nixon and Kennedy. Unbeknownst to Nixon, Kennedy had the heat turned way up in the studio because he knew Nixon had a tendency to sweat. When they both sat down to debate, Kennedy looked cool and collected while Nixon sweated badly. This had a great effect on the viewing audience. No matter what one of these men you liked, it could easily be argued that Kennedy knew the value of form over substance, it was less about what they were saying and more about how they were coming across to the audience.

In the church we are living, for the greater part, with the triumph of form over substance and the evidence of that is the depth or lack thereof of Christianity in our society. While we have had no Hitlers in the church(many mini ones) we have had many charlatans that used the power of the media and the rules of entertainment to water down the message while promoting themselves. Now three of four generations into an entertainment driven church we are left with a shallowness of showmanship that engages the ” audience.” Tozer writes “The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.” I would argue that all across Christendom in the west we are seeing leaders who lead the people by providing entertainment.

Tragically we have seen that as the world goes so goes the church. Of course it should be the exact opposite, yet here we are. You will hear excuses about staying relevant and keeping up with technology and so on. I personally have nothing against technology but when it becomes an integral part of the “show” on a Sunday morning then you know that the plot has been lost. Today we are being driven by the form and not the substance. The cultural winds have simply taken a hold of the church and the church is being driven along by these winds towards what destination? What is the end for such a church? The complete amalgam of the world with the church. This is a tragedy. The church was supposed to be a counter-culture not a sub-culture.

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Posted in Christian, christian living, Christianity, church of scotland, Daily devotional, Devotions, end times, Jesus, pentecostal, revival, the remnant, the state of the church, theology, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »