In Europe during the Middle Ages (1100 – 1453), priests and monks devoted their lives to translating and preserving liturgical texts. Beginning in 1450, with the help of partner Johann Fust, Johan Gutenberg (1398 – 1468), of Germany, printed several books, and in 1456 – the Bible, to the delight of Europeans. In 1476, William Caxton of England (1415 – 1492) did the same with his small rudimentary press. These innovations had the effects of revolutionizing Europe and the world.
The American Experience
In the American colonies of the 1800s, from the use of ponies, pigeons, trains and steamboats to deliver news to printing presses was followed by the telegraph. On May 24, 1844, through its invention, Samuel F.B. Morse (1791 -1872) sent the message: “What hath God Wrought?” in telegraphic code. His dots and dashes laid the foundation of electronic voice transmissions. Morse’s prophetic saying, has come down through history as having far reaching ramifications, for the world’s mass communication systems. Wendell Phillips (1811 – 1884), an American abolitionist and advocate for Native Americans, observed, “What gun powder did for war the printing press has done for the mind.”
In Europe, Gutenberg and Caxton were important figures in the development of printing. Morse’s invention of the telegraph later revolutionized news gathering and these discoveries had profound effects on the electronic media. Societies around the world could point to such developments as shaping their nations’ destinies.
Joseph Prince (b. 1963), a senior pastor of New Creation Church in Singapore, one of Asia’s biggest churches, remarked: “Television, radio, social media. The 24/7 news cycle plows forward mercilessly on our desks, in our cars and in our pockets. Thousands and thousands of messages and voices bombard us from the moment we wake, fighting for our attention. All we see and hear, all day long, is news. And most of it is bad.”
In 1964, Marshall McLuhan (1911 – 1980), a Canadian critic described what he foresaw as a “Global Village” taking shape. He pointed out the readily accessible nature of media that’s used for a variety of purposes, much of it good. Ban Ki-moon (b. 1944) current Secretary-General of the United Nations wrote, “Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance.” With such objectives Ban Ki-moon could well be describing the mass media’s role in nation building. The media is ubiquitous and its impact on nations is great. When one considers Morse’s prophetic saying it’s clear that there’s even an outreach into our spiritual lives. This not only comes in the form of liturgical texts, but via radio, TV, film and social media.