“What the masses term truth is that information which is most familiar. . .
The rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious. In the long run only he will achieve basic results in influencing public opinion who is able to reduce problems to the simplest terms and who has the courage to keep forever repeating them in this simplified form despite the objections of intellectuals.”
—Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda as quoted in Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion by Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson, pg. 136, Freeman, 1992.
These ideas make me ask, how can we as Christians counter the familiar, simple, repetitious, primitive, of advertisers, politicians, and yes, even preachers (!) of our age? I think the answer is that we can’t, and that we’ve spent far too much time trying! Christian preaching and witness is not meant to compete with ideological propaganda. The Word of Jesus Christ creates for itself the place for witness. We live the Christian life not in reaction to this world, but in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. When we always have one eye toward the world’s propaganda, even where it is most offensive, destructive, and oppressive, we are tempted to use Jesus as competition. Remember that the devil offered all the world’s kingdoms to Jesus in an instant. We should never seek for Jesus what he refused himself.
The audacity of our modern mind—-of late capitalism, communism, the Suez and Panama Canals, the Space Race, and yes even the dream of the United Nations, is the firm belief that the material world is firmly in our grasp and that we humans are limitless in our potential. Many of the architects for all of these accomplishments believed that they were fulfilling God’s word to Adam that he be a steward of creation. If we have an answer as Christians to modernism and postmodernism, I think it should be that we accept God’s Word of New Creation in Christ, namely that we repent of our will to be God and our right to control the material world, and that within the Church we refuse to exist as pawns of the Spirit of the Age.
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