Amusing Ourselves to Death
by Neil Postman
To the best of my knowledge, Neil Postman, the author of Amusing Ourselves to Death, is not a Christian—but you’d never guess that based on the Christian response to his book. I have yet to meet a Christian who has read this work but doesn’t gush about it. One such devotee is a fellow faculty member for Worldview Academy, Jay Winslow.
Jay loves to remind students that they are “verbivores,” or word-eaters, because he believes this is a crucial way in which men are image-bearers of their Creator. What is one of the most incredible things about mankind? We can express difficult concepts in such a way that other men can grasp those concepts! And to do this, we must use words.
How does God manifest Himself to men? First, through His Word in scripture, and then, most significantly, through the Logos—the Word made Flesh—Jesus Christ! In light of this, is it any surprise to find that our Creator made us in such a way that we depend daily on language?
Postman doesn’t say all this, of course, but he does warn Americans not to abandon reading. He calls his work “a lamentation about the most significant American cultural fact of the second half of the twentieth century: the decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television.” In other words, he believes it is a crisis that Americans are moving from a “word-centered” to an “image-centered” culture.
Postman’s excellent book spells out many of the dangers created by this move. For example, he laments the fact that children from the Age of Television forget that one test of a worldview is its internal consistency: “The fundamental assumption of that world [the world of television] is not coherence but discontinuity. And in a world of discontinuities, contradiction is useless as a test of truth or merit, because contradiction does not exist.”
Sounds like something Jay Winslow might have said! And that’s the point: Postman’s passionate defense of reading makes the most sense to people who believe God made us to be readers—to “people of the Book.”
by Jeff Baldwin