Sudhin Vartak is 26. A writer and editor by profession, he now works in web design and development. He maintains a passion to work among the underprivileged, having spent 2 years working with street kids in Mumbai and Pune, India. His interests are reading, writing, watching really good movies and trekking through the Himalayas. He holds a long standing dream to cycle around the world.
There is no question that media, all media, is important and extremely relevant in today’s world. The ancient Christian Media, the Bible, is still very relevant to millions of Christians today. There is no doubt about that. The very important question is how effective is the 21st century Christian media in espousing the ancient message.
It’s very ironic that the Bible’s 2000-year-old message is still very relevant, young and constant but our means to express and broadcast the message rapidly changes, evolves and grows old. It’s a sign of the times we live in. It’s a world where the media bombards our senses and influences our ways and means.
We experience today’s world through the lens of speech, through printed word and mostly through our television sets. As Christian media professionals and as lay Christians, we cannot deride this trend. Fortunately, many have not. But sadly, among those numbers are many who are not very relevant to today’s world.
Relevance is a very essential word to all media professionals, across all mediums, visual, aural and print. If you’re not relevant to your customer and your audience, forget it! You might as well not exist. Advertisers know it’s all about keeping the customer happy. It does not mean we plunge into a materialistic rat race and forget all else.
We know the bottom line is important but for us the buck does not stop there. Our work, our calling, our vision, whatever we choose to call it, goes further and delves deeper. When our vocations inspire change and brings hope to millions, we better get our act together. I’m not asking you to change yourselves and your work. I’m very deferentially asking you us and me to be better versions of us.
Yes, people are looking for hope and meaning. It’s the tired old cliché. But we have realized that hope has become commercially available. It’s being offered to us as a fragrance in a bottle of perfume, in an overpriced aromatic candle and in an aquarium of colorful fishes. There are numerous television shows, films, beauty magazines and cosmetic products selling us hope. And people are buying. So why should people choose us! And I’m not asking you a question.
If we want people to choose us and what we have to say, we need to be relevant and we need to innovate. The Christian media must not be this fringe industry, like we are perceived to be. Let’s not ghettoize ourselves. Let’s be mainstream. There’s nothing wrong in that. All of our media must be new and modern and must employ modern means to reach out to today’s world, especially the youth. All of our language cannot be dry and evangelistic. We need to think out of the box.
The quality of our programming and publication must change. We need quality. We need world-class production values. Most importantly, we need creativity. We need a committed and creative work force that will think differently to get the collective attentions of Christians and Non-Christians around the world. This applies to both the visual and print media.
There is a need for a modern, young and vibrant language. And let’s not preach to the young. We resent it. Instead utilize us. We have a greater role to play, especially in today’s context. Many of you are digital immigrants, born into a world without computers; you’ve migrated to using them. This current generation and the ones to come will be digital natives. They’re born into a world where computers and such technology are the norm and not the exception. This young, vivacious generation can bring a tremendous change to all Christian media. Give us a chance to do so. I’m quite sure we won’t disappoint.
We need to advertise ourselves. The reason advertising makes so much money and is so expensive is because visuals speak strongly. Let’s use new media like websites and e-letters to get our message out. It’s happening daily and needs to happen more. It needs to happen without people, especially the young, feeling preached to. How do we stand out? How do we compete with the collective billions of Hollywood and Bollywood? More importantly, do we need to compete with them!
Why can’t we co-exist? It is time for us to realize that media no longer influences our culture. It is our culture. Unless we start living in outer space we cannot opt out of it. And I know for fact, even the astronauts on the international space station use e-mail. We must adapt to new media. It is and can be an even better tool, both of education and entertainment. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not about peer pressure from the other side. It’s not about being what secular media wants us to be. It’s about a new and more interesting way of being us.
While most entertainment is seen as amusement, it’s real and more subliminal purpose is education. A teenager enters adolescence with the media’s entertainment as his friend and his teacher. Entertainment teaches us more than the school, the family and the church does. Think about it!
You were entertained when Bill Clinton had his fall from grace and you were educated on America’s legal system. You were entertained in George Bush’s Shock and Awe bombardment of Iraq and you were educated in the brutality and cruelty of war. Entertainment is not a bad word. It’s a good one, especially for us.
Many of your teenaged children know so much about everything. Sex, politics, music, terrorism, newest products, latest trends. They know it all. I’m quite sure the majority of you have not spoken to your kids about these things. But they know. The media, through its very glamorous and exciting entertainment has educated them. And it’s not an indictment of them; it’s just the way it is.
Someone once told me, the reason Christian media felt so boring, is because all we had was the pulpit. He’s wrong. We have the pulpit and the whole world. Christianity, since it’s very inception was destined to be a religion of magnanimous reach. The early Christians were the fore bearers to today’s Christian studios. The work remains the same.
The time has changed. Attitudes and lifestyles have changed. I wonder what’s more difficult. Was it more difficult for the early Christians to spread a new message, a new way of life and living, in an old way 2000 years ago, or is it more difficult for us now, to spread an old message, in new, innovative ways. The challenges must have been the same. I guess we’ll never know the answer. But that remains irrelevant. What’s relevant is now, the 21st century, 2006 and beyond. What’s relevant is what we do today, tomorrow and the day after.
A good film, a great song, a provocative book has the power to break your heart, or perhaps more important, it has the power to open it. As Christians we need to find that power, that spirit within ourselves. Then we need to make others realize that. That perhaps is the Christian media’s most important purpose. It must be recognized and celebrated. It will live on.