Woods and Patton majorly seek to express the opportunities incorporated in the refining of a knowledgeable sensibility of prophetic truth, in regards to personal engagement with popular media and technology. For some, this might mean thinking about the very definition of prophetic truth in media for the first time, and for others, it may be analyzing, establishing, and creating prophetic overtones within a vast array of media.
The authors clearly lay the foundation of the importance of prophecy within media and closely relate the roles of those desiring to be faithful stewards through critiquing, creating, and/or consuming today’s mass media. The call to interpret the importance not only of media content, but also that of its inhabited technology source becomes quite apparent. As a result, the constraints of technological capabilities of such devices as cell phones, video games, radio, and television all bring about unique “benefits and burdens” apart from the actual delivered content that is further discussed chapter to chapter. (xxxvi) Aside from the variation of message ability through a specific medium, Prophetically Incorrect also relays the message that prophetic voices come in unexpected ways, at unexpected times, and from unexpected sources.
Before answering how they believe Christians should go about engaging media in North American culture, the authors frame the pattern of travel and consistency that media must fall into in order to receive a popular and positive reception in North American culture:
In this model, the popular means for the media being produced would be the Zeitgeist, which feeds the demands of popular culture for the sake of receptivity to a population. The Zeitgeist must then be formulated into the Framing Story, or ethical make-up of the culture through which Woods and Patton feel directly pertains the to people’s desire for “impulse gratification”, the “good life”, and an obvious promise to maintain the overall living standard. (p. 6) After falling into the necessary parameters required to be within the cultures’ Ethos of Consumerism, the message finally reaches the step in the overall communication process of fulfilling what the book titles the Priestly Function.(See Graph) In mass media, the main hope for every message is acceptance, which the authors believe is clearly through the least objectionable material; The role of the Priestly Function in mass media is to simply and efficiently “preach to the choir”. It quickly becomes obvious that any message opposing that of mass medias, is ultimately in for an all-uphill battle.
After interpreting and examining just how Christian Media falls into the same processes as other media in relation to the three-part theory, it then becomes possible to try and find personal placement of oneself as a Christian in the midst of the rapidly moving media-dependent culture. All Christians fall into subcultures, called tribes, which oppose others and believe in their own personal methodology and taste within critiquing, creating, and consuming; among those tribes there comes a division of two consistent people-categories: Proclaimers and Transformers.(p.8) “Proclaimers promote evangelism and edification as chief functions of Christian media”, which sets the church as the recipient of the Gospel who feels indebted to placing morally unquestionable content with an underlined Gospel message; it is quite common to find proclaimers creating Christian styles and versions of different media as a way to tribally reinterpret , teach, mediate, and/or settle discomfort. Transformers, on the other hand, regard evangelism through media important, but try to resist holding the church in opposition to society and rather see the “church in dialogue with the world”; the emphasis, in contrast to proclaimers, tends to place the transformers as seeing themselves as responsible for forming and informing culture, trying to redeem institutions within culture, and ultimately becoming responsible for facets such as popular media. (p. 9) Both proclaimers and transformers have laundry lists of strengths and weaknesses, and the authors continually refer to these types for the remainder of the book.
After laying down basic terminology and subject framework, the emphasis of the authors shifts to clarity on how to technically bring prophetic truth into the media structure. The description and definition of what a prophet and prophecy actually are, become laid out essentially as whom, or that, which brings forth truth to the surrounding culture in a profound manner. In order to clarify the concept of truth and what is considered profound the book consistently refers to the prophets of the Biblical Canon, especially those in the Old Testament. The specific characteristics that stand out in the language and messages of Biblical prophets are broken down into specific categories of Talk that the authors then highlight, relay, and expound upon; those such areas are Truth to Power Talk, Imaginative Talk, Hopeful Talk, Connected Talk, Provocative Talk, Courageous Talk, and Compassionate Talk.(pp. 26-32) The titles merely speak for themselves and create more definitive pockets to observe within prophetic truth coming from what are classified as lower case ‘p’ prophets of today versus the capital ‘P’ Prophets of the inspired word of God.
Woods and Patton do not bring about the vast foundation of this whole media-mannered image without abruptly turning to descriptively emphasize how Christians are to go from being unaware of the demand for their involvement in bringing prophetic truth into media, to being burdened with the same burden that God placed on the hearts of their spiritual forefathers of the Judeo-Christian faith. The burden fundamentally arrives with the disciplined approach to understanding and feeling the discomfort of cultural greed, social injustice, religious hypocrisy, and the considerable gap between what is evident in culture and the detachment that has been created out of societies’ denial of the just Shalom and promised reality of God. The emphasis of engaging the media-shaped culture later becomes one that is not merely for Gospel communication only, but for essential truths from Christ and the promises of God; “God also intended it [popular media] for forming and informing culture in ways that promote Shalom. (p. 83)
Identifying the central issue of “alienation” as stemming from sin within the authors Christian theology, the “Plight of Humanity” is then addressed falling into separated categories of alienation with everything from Alienation from Self, Alienation from Others, and Alienation from the Environment.(pp. 54-60) The types of alienation brought about by individuals in the society itself become transmitted through the media and multiplied, the authors then charge the prophetic critic of the out-coming media to fulfilling the description of one whom is impatient, agitated by, and passionate about disregarding false message and regaining moral ground lost by alienation.
The identification of alienation and a need for communication eventually manifests itself as a major issue, but the intensified responsibility for the now-aware critic becomes hurdling the obstacles of the peoples’ unwavering morals and utter spiritual complacency. The authors turn to the methods of the prophets once again in reference to their repetitious methods of what is titled in the book as “the Faithful Practice of Shock Therapy.”(p. 101) From the descriptive and crass language of the Prophet Ezekiel, to the Sunday-preached-message of Tony Campolo, the ability of shock to convince complacent people of majorly disregarded issues has rarely failed to deepen the understanding or emotion of its recipients.(p. 104) The calling of the authors is to clearly evaluate ones self and prior conscious and subconscious views on cultural media, consume media appropriately, learn to critique media with a prophetic intent, and become effective in struggling against the pre-determined opposition and weakness in mass media even at the expense of personal dignity. The calling is to recognize prophecy and the truths underlying the values given to man by God through scripture, and act as the prophets by standing up for not only the Gospel, but at time social issues and cultural norms.