Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Evangelical Tabloid

It seems that one of the consequences of the societal changes I referred to in my last post is that some aspects of the culture are taking on more of a tabloid nature. For a long time, there's been a noticeable decline on conservative political radio programs, on conservative political web sites, and in other parts of our culture that have usually been thought of as traditional to some extent. You can see differences in a lot of contexts. There's more of a personal nature to things, such as a tendency to get overly emotional about certain individuals and to be overly focused on topics that are of a less significant and more personal nature (e.g., responses to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Hunter Biden, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). Or if a famous comedian, athlete, etc. says something that seems favorable to political conservatism, Christianity, or some other part of the culture that's more traditional, what that famous person said will get a lot of attention, much more than it should. Some web sites have a section highlighting which posts are the most popular at the moment, and what's most popular often resembles a tabloid far more than it ought to. Posts are getting more sensationalist headlines, and the audiences seem to like it and frequently take the bait. There's been a problem for years with even conservative radio programs and web sites, for example, having inappropriate ads, and that's gotten worse with the passing of time. (And not just in sexual contexts.) That's probably largely because the audiences like those kinds of ads so much and are responding favorably to them. There's also a problem with inappropriate photographs accompanying articles. Material and practices that used to be more associated with tabloids have become more mainstream. The examples of this type of thing go on and on. It's not universal, and it's occurred to different degrees in different contexts, but you see it to some extent in many places.

That includes Evangelicalism. Because people have delegated too much of their work to other individuals (as part of the shortcuts referred to in my last post), it's become more significant when somebody like pastor So-And-So exhibits some kind of perceived weakness. Therefore, a controversy that pastor is involved in gets more attention. And there are other factors involved, like the enjoyment people get from following scandals. They treat it like watching a soap opera. They like gawking at trainwrecks. Even if they didn't like it, they have a tendency to follow the crowd, and the crowd is chasing after scandals. There's also the fact that people like going after easy targets. You aren't risking much, and it gives you an easy sense of moral superiority to look down on a person who's done something that's widely agreed to be inappropriate.

There are other factors involved. I'm just giving some examples. And to whatever extent I'm wrong about how these problems have gotten worse in recent years, the fact remains that they are problems that exist to whatever degree. My main point is that the problem exists to some extent. I'm not suggesting that it's as bad as it could possibly be. And I'm not denying that the problem is accompanied by other things that are good. But it is a problem, and it needs to be addressed.

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