April 24, 2007
Spiritual Formation and the Message of the Medium
I recently heard a snippet of a radio interview with an author who was talking about the spiritual formation practice of lectio divina. (I didn't hear enough of it to catch the author's name, but I think she might have been one of our authors.) Two things struck me. One was that when she read the passage (part of the Sermon on the Mount), it was several paragraphs of text - far more Scripture than I usually hear on Christian radio, which might at most give a sound bite "verse of the day." The other thing was that when she paused to let listeners reflect on the Scripture passage, the radio silence was eerily uncomfortable. The host felt like she needed to break in and fill the dead air, and actually, in one case they cut to a commercial.
In other words, Christian radio is not the right medium for lectio divina. Radio does many things well - music, traffic, weather, conversation - but it is not the best medium for contemplation or reflection. The medium itself fights against silence. And the temporal nature of broadcast media makes it difficult to stop and think. There is no "pause" button on a car radio.
This is why print books remain essential in an age of iPods. The book allows for meditation and reflection. You can reread a passage that you want to mull over and digest. You can make marginal notes on the page. You can set the book down, close your eyes and pray if you want, and then pick up right where you left off. You can even toss the book across the room if you disagree with it. The tangibility of the published book itself contributes to the experience of the content.
This is not to say that books are a superior medium to others - obviously, every medium has its own pros and cons. But this brief radio interlude reminded me of why I read and edit books on spiritual formation. In our busy, cacophonous, multimedia culture, the invitation to "take up and read" still beckons.