As I am sitting here, today, my mind has wandered down one of those rabbit holes I seem to visit every so often. And lucky you…you get to read about it (as if there is nothing better to do). My lovely wife, Lauri Lee, has said many times that she would hate to have my mind. She says it would drive her nuts to feel the need to dig so deep on so many subjects that will likely bear no relevance to the life we are living today. LOL…gotta love her!! She says she much prefers a mind that is relatively quiet and does not get worked up over much of anything…to which I respond….BORING!!
In 1440, a man named Johannes Gutenberg invented something called the printing press. And in 1455, he used it to print the Gutenberg Bible (otherwise known as “the 42-line Bible”). Now that may not seem terribly significant, to most people, but I have heard many Christian scholars and historians say that the invention of the printing press was, by far, the most significant event in history, regarding the spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world at-large. And I believe that is, quite likely, an understatement. Over the next couple of centuries, there was an explosion of new translations in various languages and they were being sent out, all around the world, as fast as they could print them. The fruit produced from those seeds of faith…I suspect is more than we can even imagine.
The ability to mass-produce Bibles led to incalculable changes in the way people interacted with each other (some good..some bad) in nations all over the globe. Some have even said that without the printing press, the American Revolution may never have happened (at least at that time). Without the widespread availability of Bibles in English, there may not have been the backlash against the Church of England which led to so many people picking up their lives and moving to this newly discovered land, in hopes of finding a place to raise their families in a way that allowed them to worship God as they saw fit, not as the throne of England insisted. The ripples in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, caused by Gutenberg’s press in Germany, had travelled all the way across it, to this brand new world, and there was no looking back. Everything had changed.
Now for the rabbit hole, glad you stuck around. The first photgraphic image was taken by a man named Joseph Nicephore Niepce around 1814. In 1827, a man named Sir Charles Wheatstone first used the word, “microphone,” to describe the stethoscope, but the first real microphone was invented in 1876, in conjunction with the development of the telephone. The first “moving picture” was made by Thomas Edison in 1889…and the first feature-length motion picture with sound was made in 1927. It was called “The Jazz Singer” (Neil Diamond starred in a remake of this movie not too long ago). I guess it would be hard to imagine a movie about a singer without sound, right?
So, I mentioned all of that to say that only over the last hundred years or so, have we seen the technological advancements of photography, video and sound recording effect our world in countless ways. And as is usually the case, not always in a positive way.
Oh sure, there have been the great developments like movies, radio, television, stage productions and the like. I can hardly imagine what my life would have been like without the advent of recorded music, which has been a huge inspiration to me with people like Elvis, The Beatles and so many others. And of course, now we have the Internet and cell phones and social media apps like Facebook, a Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. I am guessing you are beginning to see where I am going with this.
I was born in June of 1954, smack-dab in the middle of what is called the years of the “baby boomers,” which was from around 1945 (right at the end of WWII) to around 1965 (during Viet Nam). My parents’ generation became known as “The Greatest Generation,” having come out of the Great Depression, lived through Pearl Harbor and then became the ones who fought for freedom against the Germans and the Japanese, at the same time. Plus, the American Dream became a reality for more people than ever before, during those days, as well. My generation, on the other hand, became known as “The Me Generation.” And I am not so sure they meant that in a good way. Just sayin’.
I am wondering, how much of what caused us to become “The Me Generation” can be directly attributed to the accelerated use of things like cameras and microphones. Now, I am not saying cameras and microphones are evil, let’s not go there. As we see with so many other things, it is not the device that’s bad, but how people end up using them. That is the problem. Let’s take a quick look at how these devices became larger and larger parts of our daily lives and how quickly they began to change who we are…as a society.
First, as I mentioned earlier, there was the arrival of things like radio, TV and movies. These are basically good things, of course. I love a good movie or TV show…and radio played a huge role in my early years. It is largely why I play music to this very day. For me it all started with the car radio, in the late 50s and early 60s, and once The Beatles landed on the Ed Sullivan Show, my world had changed forever. With the help of radio, TV cameras and microphones…look how four boys with guitars from Liverpool England changed everything from hairstyles, to the clothes we wore and even what we wore on our feet (not to mention their impact on the social and moral issues of the day). And of course, millions of young men on both sides of the ocean couldn’t wait to get their hands on a guitar or a set of drums (around that time, I had just started accordion lessons…guess I missed the memo…accordions were no longer cool…lol). Those ripples of change had become a tsunami.
But that was only the tip of the iceberg. Cameras had started changing, many years before that, the way we thought about ourselves and our families. There were wedding pictures, baby pictures, newspaper pictures, even popular cards featuring pictures of our famous sports stars. We were finding more and more ways to memorialize not only ourselves, but those we idolized, as well. The boys wanted to be like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jim Brown, Muhammed Ali, or Rocky Marciano (and a couple of decades later, many wanted to be like John Lennon, Mick Jagger or Chuck Berry, too). And the girls, they were being baited to think they had to look like Marilyn Monroe or Annette Funicello, if they wanted to be popular with the boys. Needless to say, cameras and microphones were changing social standards, even to the point of who our young people wanted to be like someday. And that led to a whole host of other problems, of course.
But still there were even deeper and darker effects from these technological advances. In the 50s, there was the arrival of “girly magazines” like Playboy, which were fairly tame in the beginning (by today’s standards of what is decent or acceptable). Now we have become quite comfortable with the slogan, “Sex Sells,” and trust me, there is no shortage of buyers. A study was done in 2015, that found out that revenues from the sale of pornography, just in the US alone totaled more than the revenues of the NFL, the NBA, MLB, the NHL and NASCAR combined. Just let that sink in for a minute. And, of course, pornography (along with other things like alcoholism and drug use) is pointed to as a major factor in the rise in divorce rates and single-parent homes, too. And we know the domino effect that has resulted from those staggering statistics…not good.
And with the advent of television (especially the 24/7 behemoth we have come to know as “cable news,” we have become a nation that is hugely impacted by “sound bytes.” No one seems to care about hearing the whole story any more…just a “juicy headline” (usually made even juicier than the story, itself, to grab more ratings or clicks…to increase profit) is more than enough to form an opinion. Nowadays, there are even media outlets that specialize in publicizing salacious stories that do not even have to be based on actual events. Why let the real facts get in the way of a great story that SELLS?? I’m sure you have heard of members of the paparazzi getting paid millions for a compromising photo of a celebrity or a politician “caught red-handed.” It has been said that the paparazzi played a part in the crash that killed Princess Diana. Yes, all of this fanaticism and hunger for “the dirt” has not only gotten out-of-hand, it has become downright dangerous (especially for the victims of these types of attacks).
Remember the slogan, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you?” Well, that certainly has gone the way of the Edsel and the hoola-hoop. Nowadays, words (even if they are not true), once publicized, can ruin your life. And those who create these types of stories or photos, they are not the least bit concerned about the damage they well cause (rightly or wrongly). It is all about getting that big “payday.” And those of us who feed on such things only make it worse.
So, okay Bob, where are you going with all this talk about cameras and microphones…and the effects they have on the crazy world we live in? I’m glad you asked.
Those of us who seek God and embrace the teachings of the Bible are comfortable with the belief that God designed us with the innate ability and desire to “glorify God,” while it is the primary focus of God’s enemy, Satan, to get mankind to replace the desire to “glorify God” with the desire to put ourselves first and leave God with “the leftovers,” if anything at all.
And if we look back at the story of Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, we see that Cain became jealous of Abel. Why, you ask? They both brought an offering to God, but He was pleased with Abel’s gift because he brought the first fruits of his harvest. Cain had brought his “leftovers” to God, and that led to the world’s first murder when he killed his own brother. So, no, this is not really a new problem. But, it is certainly one that growing at an alarming rate.
Truth be told, it was prophesied almost two thousand years ago that this would not only be a problem that would grow exponentially in the final stages of man’s time on Earth, the Apostle Paul told us that this would be a major indicator that the time of Christ’s return:
“But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” [2 Timothy 3:1-4 CSB]
Sound familiar? “Lovers of self…without self-control…without love for what is good…conceited…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” My goodness, it sounds like Paul might have been watching the MTV Awards or the Golden Globes. Or he could have just spent an hour or so…scrolling through Instagram? Do folks really want to see what I had for lunch today…or the 89th picture I have posted of my dog? (Ok, I do post pictures of our mini-goldendoodle, Shiloh…but she is special…just sayin’) I think you get my drift…we have become a society of very self-absorbed people…and I believe Satan is much happier with this development than God is. Although, as I said in a blog post a few weeks ago, God is not surprised.
In conclusion, then, do I believe that the rise in popularity of the use of cameras and microphones is to blame for the downfall of morality and decency in our world? Of course not. Many things can be used for good and for evil. It depends on the intentions in the heart of the people that use them. And those of us who view and hear what others produce with those cameras and microphones need to be more aware of the dangers…and be careful not to blindly swallow the poison. The effects on you, your family, and those around you can be disastrous.
Maybe it would be a good idea to keep in mind a few more words from the Apostle Paul (maybe even put these up on the fridge):
“Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” [Romans 14:22]
(Author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)