RPM, Volume 12, Number 20, May 16 to May 22 2010

The Cult of Information*

By Scott Schuleit

*This article was influenced, in part, by a perceptive article in the November 2000 issue of Tabletalk entitled Drowning in Information by Ken Myers.
Every single day we're besieged by information. A thousand options scream at us, vying for our attention. This raging confluence of information is channeled through a variety of mediums, including magazines, newspapers, billboards, televisions, radios and the internet. Our culture (and world culture in general) is becoming increasingly voracious for the consumption of information. We've always been, to some degree, interested in the dissemination of data, but perhaps in our day, never has the world seen such an obsessive desire for more and more of it. How is this rising influx of information affecting us?

First of all, the information itself—the content, is often trivial, if not debase, which affects our thinking, which in turn, affects our actions. I would say that only a small portion of it is truly meaningful. In relation to this, when the information is meaningful, it is often seen as being trivial due to the way our postmodern culture looks upon reality. If truth is wholly dependent upon cultural constructions or one's own personal, subjective perceptions, then the entire stratum of truth becomes weightless. Truth becomes whatever the person wants it to be rather than being seen for what it truly is—as something objective, universal, external and independent from any cultural or personal beliefs. We now have floating pieces of information unattached to any system of thought because in the minds of many within our society there is no such thing as a universal hierarchy of truth. In short, we've become dumb. Relativism empowers the trivial, fostering an emphasis on particulars divorced from generalities, on the floating of ideas unmoored from the structure of contextual considerations.

True knowledge and the ability to truly think requires an objective understanding of truth, wherein one can analyze, connect, abstract, compare and place ideas into various categories and an overarching framework that is valid for all. Instead of true knowledge (and true wisdom) which requires some level of serious interaction with others, we now have a fragmented culture of subjectively-minded people filled with facts and bits of trivia, living in relation to one another, yet becoming more and more internally isolated from each other, which leads to an increasing external fracturing and isolation as well. As a result of this disintegration, in a pathetic and sad attempt to connect with others, we've become, in general, debase, reveling in the sensuous, pursuing crass, debauch and superficial (and often sinful) methods to thrill ourselves into feeling and to connect with people.

One of the ways in which we now strive to connect with a community (a growing global community) is by incessantly listening to the radio, watching television, chatting on our cell-phones, texting and using the internet. Within the cult of information, these aspects of our culture have become prominent idols. Radio hosts, actors, comedians and distant souls in chat rooms have become our family. In the end, these efforts leave us increasingly isolated and lonely, restless and hostile.

Another problem involves the degenerative nature of certain programs and the efforts programmers make with more and more violent, bizarre and sexually explicit content—like various shock-oriented productions and so-called reality shows—in an increasing attempt to entertain, stimulate and make us feel involved within their spurious versions of what a community should be. The programmers sense our cravings and deliver the product. In time, though the fleeting pleasures become less and less, like true drug-addicts we lust for more, and thus, become more and more deeply ensnared by various programs and the means by which they are transmitted.

The cult of information also affects us by the very speed of its expression—through its sheer, garish, bombardment. The flickering chaos of swift imagery assaults us constantly. The speed of the information rifled at us renders us incapable of sustaining serious thought. At the current rate it's being fired at us we simply cannot handle it. A realization of this truth requires a humble posture regarding the limitations of our humanity, a recognition and contentment regarding the stature of man. God created us with some wonderful capacities, but our potential is far less than the spurious, astronomical ideals (empowered by the lies of evolutionary philosophy) regarding the potential of man being propagated in our culture. We simply cannot legitimately deal with all the information being shoveled our way. It's impossible, even for a great genius. We can't process it all. As a result, our brains, to some degree, simply shutdown and we become lethargic, listless. This fact should be included among the reasons why we live in an unthinking culture. We've become benumbed, drugged into a mindless torpor, yet we love that which enslaves us, for it delivers a temporary anesthetic effect, cushioning us from various despised realities, particularly those that expose our sinful desires. We love to intoxicate our minds and insulate ourselves from truth, including the hated reality of our sinful condition before a righteous and holy God. At a very deep level, the cult of information is empowered by the fact that mankind, lest their deeds be exposed, loves darkness rather than light and therefore, rather than repent from their sins and trust in Christ to the saving of their souls, flees from the light.

With regards to the cult of information, what should our stance be? I'm certainly not encouraging extreme ascetic measures, nor am I advocating casual accommodation, but, rather, serious measures (depending on our singular situation) to reduce the information level in our lives. Fasting from information is a good way to engender a sense of proportion and perspective regarding what is important. Separating ourselves from the river of rushing information will help us to see it more clearly and, consequently, more capable of sorting out the good from the bad and the meaningful from the superfluous. Personally, as a Christian, fasting from movies/television (you may need to fast from something else) for a season has often, if not always, deepened my walk with the Lord. It's difficult to fast from those things we've become used to, (and for some addicted to) especially at first, but the benefits are many, including the ability to think more clearly and to enter into and sustain a more restful state of mind. As a culture we need to learn to relax and reflect, to take some time out for leisure. One cultural myth that needs to be obliterated is the idea that nothing is being achieved if I'm not working, which tends to be generally defined in our culture as keeping physically busy. This myth implies an invalid and limited definition of work, and furthermore, as a generalization, is simply wrong. Go out for a walk and allow yourself to be enchanted by the night stars. Read a great work of literature. Write a poem. Listen to a symphony. If you haven't done so already, concern yourself more with the goodness of God's creation and those aspects of culture that engender a more thoughtful, restful, intelligent, creative, and God-honoring cast of mind.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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