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Kamis,29 November 2007 12:19 | Artikel | 7981 Views | 0 Comments
A CHALLENGE OF TELEVISION ERA:“EVANGELISATION USING STORIES AND PICTURES”
Introduction 
I still remember most of stories I heard from catechists when I was a little boy though it was more than 35 years ago. Through the stories, either folklore, life stories, or stories from the Holy Bible, my faith of Jesus Christ grew. At that time oral tradition was still very powerful. A catechist built his reputation through his competency of telling stories and his work in Kampong’s. It seemed that, stories and a catechists’ figure (his/her good reputation/leadership) played a very important role for faith/religious education. This conviction was confirmed since I joined Crec-AVEX, Lyon-France courses in 1992. In this article I want to share my experience and reflection on the challenge of television era for religious education in the Indonesian context.

Today we have switched to the second oral tradition, a television era. We have to admit that television has become part of our daily life. In 1996, there were already 90 millions people in Indonesia who has had a television set. Since 1994, the number of television has increased around 650,000 units/year. So, it can be calculated that in 2007 there are 97,150,000 people of Indonesia has a television set. If one television set is for two people, the amount of people watching television will be around 190 millions people or 86% of the total sum of Indonesian population. At the same time, television stations are also increasing either in national level, in province, and in regency. However, I do not put my attention on the quantity of television, but emphasize on the fact that “television” has structured our mind, life style, and also communication style. This is the context that should be considered if we plan to conduct an evangelisation. We should really understand the language of television.

In this article, I will focus more on the language or the way of communication we should apply in our evangelisation so that it will affect our followers adversely. In particular, there will be an explanation of reasons to choose stories and picture in this television era. This is what Fr. Ruedi Hofmann SJ called as “narrative experiential”. In line with my work in audio visual/television, evangelisation in television era is the focus of this article. I propose kind of stories and pictures to be used to evangelise the crucified Jesus. At the end, I will also describe audio-visually how I organize a symbolic way as process of formation for catechists.

The Nature of Evangelisation as Communication
According to Black Jay and Frederick Whitney, communication is a process where each person is involved in exchanging meanings. In this process, an individual (communicator) conveys a stimulus to change other’s attitude. Communication is happened if information moves from one place to another place. Communication is not only about conveying messages verbally, directly, and with intentional meaning, it is also a process where people influence each other. Communication activity among individual should be understood as a process which needs at least two elements, namely an incident outside the individual (stimulus) and an individual who will react. There is a message sender and a message receiver. Reaction from the receiver is called feedback.

Mass communication can be defined as a means whereby mass produced messages are transmitted to large, anonymous, and heterogeneous masses of people. Television is an example of mass media. Each audience, regardless of its size, is composed of many individual persons, each of whom is a separate thinker reacting to the medium’s message in a different fashion and viewing the message through his or her own separate lens. Each person lens is ground from personal experience, educational background, and pre-disposition. Based on symbolic interaction, meaning is created and sustained by interaction in which participants assign meaning to their own and other’s actions by the use of symbols. Though television is instrumental, ideas and information actually is disseminated through words and interpersonal networking. Meaning dissemination is not simply sending or receiving information, it is a result of receiving and sending activity through social interaction. Thus, evangelisation as a communication process is an activity of managing messages (happiness/salvation) aimed at creating meaning (religious).

The Coming of New Era
Indonesian people now live in the newest communication era which brings with it permanent effect on the way they are listening. John Killinger, a professor Homiletic at Vanderbit Divinity School of Nashville, Tenese, stated that:

“For one thing, the world has become a mediaville. We live with television, stereo, video tape, recording machines, computer, camera, projectors, synthesizers, printing machines, duplicating machines – every imaginable mechanical extension of the self. More than anything …… they have changed the time which we live.”

The statement was based on the context of United States of America in the year of 1975, but it has been applied to Indonesia for 32 years later.

Michael Rognes, the author of Preaching to a TV Generation, said something similarly:

“The predominant feature of this revolution is television, which in the latest 40 years has become the primary medium for public communication. It is a vastly different medium of communication from reading, and it is even quite different from person-to-person speaking.”

Our previous society has the characteristic of oral, spoken. History and culture are inherited by story tellers and poets by directly speaking to the audiences. In oral tradition, languages are poetic, as rhythm made people easy to remember. The development of print media was initiated by Gutenberg almost 500 years ago has changed oral tradition to a predominantly print tradition. Poetic languages and pictures was changed by prosaic languages which emphasize on logic and linear.

Nowadays, sophisticated technologies provides new wide possibilities of communication. The transfer of oral tradition into printed tradition took several centuries, whereas television has bullied its way past all other forms of communication in a very short time. Now, television has become the predominant means not only for giving information but also for entertaining for almost people in the world. In other words, television has resulted on a massive change on the way people listen, learn, and think. Television combines vision and sense of hearing, in such a dynamic way so it is very different from speaking and reading activities.

Father Pierre Babin, OMI, a professor on audio-visual communication at Crec-AVEX, Catholic University of Lyon, France, in his book The New Era in Religious Communication, explains that television mainly emphasizes on symbolic language to conceptual language. Symbolic language is a language of temptation before it is a language of explanation. Symbolic language vibrates not only soul, but heart and body also. Symbolic language is a language full of resonance, rhythm, stories, imagination, suggestions, and connections. Whereas, conceptual language is a form of language which provides abstract, limited, and fixed mental representation of reality.

According to Babin, television works based on symbolic way principles. Television using imagination, pictures, intuition, stories, songs, and experiences which is being shared. Evangelisation, according to Babin, can be actualised in two ways, namely catechetical (instructional) and symbolic way. However, in this television era, if we plan to do the evangelisation by means of television, we should apply symbolic language. The approach of symbolic language is full of colour, imagination, and stories which deeply impress our emotion. The main goal is not intellectual understanding, but participation of the heart and conversion. Faith in this era should be met with the realization of the importance of eyes, or human personal interiority. Only faith that are built on the based of personal interiority will stand and grow. The symbolic way is the most appropriate for giving ground to the word of God in our modern society, a TV generation.

To emphasize the importance of symbolic way, I would like to refer to the theory of Narrative Paradigm Walter Fisher, a professor at Communication Arts and Sciences, University of Southern California. Fisher stated that all forms of human communication should be viewed as story which is composed by history, culture, and human characters. Basically, human being are “animals” who like to tell stories. Most of religious traditions are inherited from generation to generation through retold stories. From the view point of narrative, however, values are the essence of a story.

This statement is also supported by William F. Fore in his book Mythmakers: Gospel, Culture and the Media. Parable is a common story which contains extraordinary and important truths. Metaphors is words that help us to see common things by using extraordinary ways. According to Fore, human being make a decision based on good reasons which can be formed through history, biography, culture, and characters. Rationality of stories is determined by coherence and the nature of being trusted of a story. Stories coherence is related to how the story seems possible for the audiences.

We often judge the coherence of story by comparing one story to another stories we had heard that deal with the same theme. That a story is considered as reliable, is closely related to the capacity of the story to make words in it to vibrate “the string of life” of the audiences. A story is reliable if it is similar to the experience of the audiences, in accordance with the story of life which is possible to be told.

Fisher believes that a story is reliable because it is consisted of logic reasons to guide our future actions. When we enter into a story, we are stepping characters that ought to be our characters. If communication is considered as narrative, we do not need special training to judge whether a story reliable or containing truth. Intuitively, human being understand how to use and judge a story. Stories are very strong to convey public morality arguments which is related to basic questions of good and bad, life and death, ideas about personhood, and the way human being experience their life.

Television performs a lot of stories. This fact is emphasized by Sarah Kozloff in her article “Narrative Theory and Television”. Most of television programs – either sitcom, action films, soap-opera, and short-series films – are programs with narrative style. Even programs which are not categorized as fiction entertainment and have other purposes such as instructional programs, education, or debates tend to apply narrative method to reach its goals. Advertisements on television are also performed in narrative forms. The advertisements are usually short with perfect pictures and sound and broadcasted many times. They are expensive, but very effective and succeed in pushing the audiences to buy the products which are being advertised. Also video clips are often performed by following the plot of the lyric. Documentary films about nature tend to follow the stories of animals lives (as usually can be watched on National Geographic Channel and Discovery Channel). The above considerations inspire us how to apply television and the language of television if we want to do religious education or evangelisation in this era.

Evangelisation in Television Era
The activities of faith proclamation is included in evangelisation. The essence of evangelisation which is intended by Catholic Church is proclaiming Good News of resurrection that Jesus Christ is the Good News from God. Jesus Alvarez Gomez in his book, A New Evangelisation For the Third Millennium, formulated the meaning of evangelisation clearly. According to Gomez, evangelisation is announcing to all people of all times and places in a comprehensive and believable way, what God’s Words, became man in Jesus of Nazareth, reveals to us about God and His loving relation with humanity.

The above definition is not in line with the concept of evangelisation in local context, like in Indonesia, as the definition is exclusive. Based on this, Local Churches can develop their concept of evangelisation based on the concepts which has been formulated by universal Church. In a more inclusive meaning, evangelisation is all kind of efforts to proclaim and realize values of God’s Kingdom as has been taught by Jesus Christ by means of His words and actions. Evangelisation is a mission, and a mission is considered as a pilgrimage which exploring creativity to find God who works in this world. In this context, evangelisation as a communication activity is sharing (managing) experiences about God who save us (message) aimed at creating meaning (faith that God save human being by giving even Himself).

If we read the Gospel completely, we will find how Jesus was very communicative in proclaiming God’s Kingdom. Jesus did not talk like the teachers of Law. “The people who heard Him were amazed at the way he taught, for he wasn’t like the teachers of Law” (Mark 1:22). Jesus did not ask the teachings of the teachers of Law. Jesus admitted their power. Their teachings were also true. “The teachers of Law and the Pharisees are the authorized interpreters of Moses’ Law. So you must obey and follow everything they tell you to do; do not, however, imitate their actions, because they don’t practise what they preach” (Matthew 23:2-3). Though their teachings were true but it meant nothing. Jesus said, “ I tell you, then, that you will be able to enter the Kingdom of heaven only if you are more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires.” (Matthew 5:20)

In other words, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees did not experience fully their own teachings. They did not share their experiences. It meant that they did not communicate appropriately. Jesus communicated to many people by preaching and doing His holy works. Jesus comprehended His teachings fully, and at the same time also shared His experiences. The ways Jesus communicate were correct. When Jesus used the Holy Bible, He did not use His knowledge about the Holy Bible as teachings which created dependency among His audiences. On the contrary, Jesus asked them to see and think, so that they would make decision based on their consideration and conscience.

Jesus gave chances to His audiences to make his/her own best choices. “Jesus used parables to tell all these things to the crowds; he would not say a thing to them without using a parable” (Matthew 13:34). The principles of using parables has also been used by electronic media, particularly on television. On television, there are a lot of parables or stories from the Holy Bible, life stories, folklores, and also fictions.

Heinrich Krauss in his article, “Holy Bible’s Stories for Television”, explains that bible stories contain a lot of religious and human experiences. These experiences are indeed very useful for modern society if they performed on television creatively without loosing its spiritual truths. If we are now using television as evangelisation, it is suggested that we do not teach our audiences, but tells them a story. Why? Because the parishioners now are very much influenced by images or pictures and not by words, oral language, or written expression. That’s why, story as television language is more interesting than instructional languages.

The using of television for evangelisation has been recommended by Catholic Church with the document of Aetatis Novae (1992). The priests and catechists are asked to broaden their understanding about communication media including television and realize their understanding in the form of practical policies and programs which are possible to be carried out. Aetatis Novae also emphasizes that it is not enough to just use media to disseminate Christian messages and authentic Church teachings. It is necessary that we integrate the message of Holy Bible in a new culture which created by modern communication (television, for example). According to Mgr. I. Suharyo, Pr. (Bishop of Archdiocese of Semarang, Indonesia), if Holy Bible is proclaimed in an usual away, it means nothing. That’s why, it is suggested to find the ways of touching the sensitivity of this modern society.

Stories and Pictures: of what kind?
If we are to hold on to narrative experiential methods, we can use three kind of stories, those are Holy Bible stories, folklores, and life stories. The questions arise is what kind of stories or pictures should we use if we want to proclaim Jesus that has been crucified. It should be noted that stories and pictures in television language serve as the most important element and cannot be separated one to another. At least, there are three possibilities. The first, we can tell our stories about Jesus Christ inspired by the Holy Bible. The second, we can tell the stories about the oppressed poor people as the actual manifestation of Jesus who has been crucified in this era. The third, we can tell the stories of lives of Christian communities who suffer for the people they are served.

If we choose the first, we can make use of films about Jesus which were produced by famous film directors: The Gospel according to Saint Matthew (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1964), Jesus of Nazareth (Franco Zeffirelli), Godspell (David Greene, 1972), Jesus Christ Super Star (Norman Jewison, 1973), The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese, 1988), Jesus from Montreal (Dénys Arcand, 1989), and The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2003). By watching the films, the description of Jesus who suffered at crucifixion touch people’s hearts.

As an illustration, we can learn from the phenomena of The Passion of the Christ, a film which functioned as a show and also reflection for millions of people in the world. Christians watched this film to reflect the misery of Jesus Christ during the Holy Week of 2004. The film, which is stared by James Caviezel and Monica Belluci describes the reconstruction of the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life before He was crucified, invites the audiences to see the history of Jesus. He who is believed by Christians as Christ the Saviour has in fact lived in a period of time, with every possible context of certain era and culture.

The film received controversy, however, many people are helped in renew their faith that through Jesus Christ, God has redeemed the world. Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz OP, from Michigan, for example, recommended the film: “This film will always echo in the hearts of many people, the film is a great Love Story. After watching the film, I just can only gazed upward full with faith and devotion, as I know that He is the One who loves me.” Both for the people who believe or they who do not believe in Jesus the Saviour, Jesus chose peace; faced by hatred, Jesus chose love, and faced by sin, Jesus chose forgiveness. Besides using the work of Mel Gibson and other well-known films, we are challenged to create others interesting stories based on the four Holy Bible, either in the form of dramas, dance dramas, and other form of arts.

Now, we talk about the second. In the midst of our society there are a lot of people or groups who suffer from misery and poverty as the result of structural injustice, either farmers, street children, urban people who are moved by modernization, or the refugees. In the countries in the third world, these people reaches the number of hundreds millions. They are the people who by Jon Sobrino and C.S. Song called as “the crucified people”. With them, Jesus identified Himself (Matthew 25:31-46).

Mgr. Romero once also said that the oppressed farmers in El Salvador are the picture of Divine victims and Jesus identified Himself as one of them. Ignacio Ellacuría, a Jesuit martyr in El Salvador, has ever said that these crucified people were the repercussion of the suffer servant of Jehovah. Jesus who resurrect is the historical Christ. Christ who was born, lived, cured, comforted, died, and resurrected, not only once, not only tenth time, not only thousand time, but again and again, as long as there are people who need to be cured, to be saved from their misery, and to be strengthened to live in the midst of suffer, and will accept life in front of death.

The life stories of people who suffer and are oppressed can be told in the form of stories and pictures which are presented in such a way so that it will serve as discourse which will move people to do something. Aren’t stories and pictures have spectacular strength? As one example, the stories and pictures of Iraq soldiers who had been insulting sexually by American soldiers. The pictures has shocked the world. Also the story about Nirmala, an Indonesian woman labour who was tortured by her boss in Malaysia. A lot of people have been touched by the strength of stories and pictures, haven’t they? Contextual evangelisation surely should pay attention to the stories of the oppressed and alienated. The purpose is to ask the faith parishioners to know Jesus through the suffer and the crucified people will be free from their cross.

Besides the first and the second, we can also use the third model. In Catholic Church there are hundreds, even thousands, Saints and martyrs. Their life stories can be retold in the form of stories and pictures. Usually, the Saints and martyrs are they who experienced their lives by suffering as the manifestation of their love towards Jesus Christ. We can use several good films about them: The Mission, Mgr. Romero, Mother Theresa, St. Francis Assisi, St. Ignatius de Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Theresa, Jean d’Arc, and other films. Including in the third is the stories of the Christians who in this era actualise their faith by serving the sufferers.

Closing
The explanation above presented some ideas to start the discourse of finding the model of evangelisation in television era. Indeed, while exploring the models, we have to remember that the effectiveness of evangelisation is also determined by Church testimonies. As far as the lives of Christians serve as good stories and build good images, people in this era will believe in the evangelisation.

Besides telling stories, Churches need to work on something. Because those lives testimonies that will precede stories. The first Christians followers were known as the people who told stories, and not the people who discussed about the truth of the stories. On the Pentecost, many of them believed Peters’ message and were baptized, and about three thousands people were added to the group that day (Acts 2:41) and they became the first followers. What is the meaning of this story for us? Can it be said that Churches have to continuously learn to tell testimonies by means of communication which can be accepted by more and more people? ***