More and more Christians are becoming interested in the world of publishing, syndication, writing, and art. Mass Communication is entirely different from the Academic world. Medical, Theology, and Education tend to respect people for their academic degrees. However, authors, artists, entertainers, syndicates, cartoonists—advancement in these careers depend more on whether you “got it” or not. For them, your pedigree doesn’t matter, only your work and your relationships in the industry. You don’t achieve these things without dedication.
Authors and artists may want to emphasize their portfolios. As an opinion writer, if you get published by a large company or syndicated, you’re regarded as an expert, regardless of your school transcripts. As a pundit, you may need to get along well with other pundits, while taking pot shots at them just the same. Facebook, blogosphere, tweetosphere—Social Media is similar to Mass Media: Notice to get noticed. Some news organizations promote within their ranks based on cronyism, but not all. The Media industry is a bit more “real” in this sense than the academic-driven worlds because it puts the power of notoriety in your own hands rather than needing approval of an academic establishment with its systems and boxed-thinking.
Is media credible? Academians may not think so, partially because they want to defend their profession. The Emergent Church movement grew largely form its presence in media rather than the academic world. But, then it flopped because the masses were’t fooled. Part of this is because of the embryonic state of the Christian stake in Mass Media. Even than, it was independent thinkers in Christian Radio and Television who saved the day from some of the strange, Emergent ideas, proving how powerless Seminaries can be in defending truth. We have academic watchdogs in the Christian community, like the Christian Research Journal and Don Carson, but they weren’t as widely read as Emergent literature.
In my humble opinion, Christianity is over-run with academic recognition and needs more of a published-based form of notoriety among it’s leaders and key figures. Any PhD can get his papers published in a journal, but how many people will actually read it?
Higher education is an easy rout to get ahead in the “Professional Christian” world, without having to prove one’s self in the field. Some guy wants to speak at events, so he gets an MDiv, boom! He gets invited to speak and work at more places, all because he could memorize books and write long-winded papers. Maybe he learned from real life, maybe not. Too many Christian leaders teach based on theory that doesn’t work in people’s real lives. This has affected the Church.
Even respected thinkers like Ravi Zacharias and Fraces Shaffer were known for more than their school transcripts. Much of their recognition came from Christian leaders in Mass Media, not the consonants after their names.
Part of the dysfunction among the Christian community stems from this obsession with seminary and theory, with no concern for practical living—something you can’t get a degree in… well, hopefully not. I wouldn’t trust a man who knocked on my door and said, “I have a PhD in Practical Living.” What do you think a “Ministry” degree is? Do you trust and distrust religious leaders based on their papers and grades or based on the fruits in their lives? Theory and academics aren’t bad, but there is no substitute for real life experience.
Perhaps a gentle mix of both academics and media would be good for the Christian community. Most people know about seminary, but do you know how the news media actually operates?