2017, May 12-13
“The Word, Words, and the World” was the title of our QVI inaugural event within the “Media and Journalism” Guild. Sixteen people (six nationalities) joined us on this 24-hour journey and five more for part of the time. This Think Tank, held in Salzburg (Austria), was more than just bait to fish bigger topics out of the wide ocean of “language”. Deep conversations provided a foretaste on how words and the Word of God still influence our society today. Our main aim was not to find consensus and talk about “the” truth, but to look at the mass of information around us, share “our world”, gather wisdom and help one another to distinguish the origins of our worldviews.
When God created the world, he used words and these words brought reality into being. The gospel of John describes “reality” incarnated in Jesus: He brings the Word and he is the Word. He brings the Life and he is the Life. He shows the Truth and he is the Truth.
Through education, books, films, conversations etc. our minds are shaped: fake news, alternative facts, and Post-truth are not a totally new phenomenon, but the result of our cultural and social integration. Postmodernity questions the existence of truth itself.
Internet and technologies accelerate our lives, and channels of information have a much stronger influence. On the one hand echo chambers and algorithms reconfirm our thinking and on the other hand we have more opportunities to inform ourselves, to participate in democracy, to speak out loud and correct news.
A Panel Discussion delivered precious food for thought. The four participants testified to a spiritual battle we live in. Vaclav Havel, a former President of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and later Czech Republic (1993-2003), summarized it well: “Refuse to live the lie, live the truth.”
Jeff Fountain, initiator of the Schuman Centre (Netherlands), lead us profoundly through the discussion around the proposition. “Influenced by the Word?”: The Bible has shaped Europe in the past and still shapes our lives daily, which can be attested in our unified languages, idioms and proverbs, literature (literacy), justification, hospitality (hospitals), time and history etc. Christ-centred men like Schuman, Adenauer, and Buchman built up Europe after World War II. Jeff concludes: “We need to be rooted in the past, looking to the future and be engaged in the presence.”
A journalist, who currently serves in India, accompanied us (transmitted online via Webinar) deeper into the issue of “About the words!”. Many Asians tell old stories in new ways, however, who listens to them? The Media has changed and is fragmented and there is technological change. The truth and the lies of this world are a chance for us Christians to speak out loud and introduce the truth of Christ to them. Why not strengthen legacy institutions and start Christian publishing houses in Europe?
We used the “Worldcafé” method to collect deeper thoughts on the different levels of information. The task for each of the three groups was to highlight and add ideas worth keeping in the discussion. In the end they distilled the quintessence of the whole Think Tank. After the presentations, the participants received two stickers to vote for their favourite topic.
In summary we concluded, “To tell a better story”.
We see two main target areas for further discussion: On the one side stands the journalist (active role) and on the other side the consumer (passive role). Both parties have to be open to the people around them, work hard to be clearly understood, and try to build bridges.
How can we exit the scenario of living in an echo chamber, and if not, how can we influence this situation?
Regular webinars, think tanks, and symposia with experts of Media will support consolidation and development of this initial work from the Christians perspective.
Author: Verena Grafinger