Don’t ask Marshall McLuhan what he believes. “I never make value judgments,” the scholarly Canadian process-prober told several hundred evangelical radio-TV communicators last month.

He ventured some tentative observations, however, about the propagation of Christianity in the modern world. “As Gospel salesmen,” McLuhan said, “remember that you are selling something that most people are terrified of … The Gospel has long been sold by the aid of very bad news, namely hell fire. And I think we’re going to find that an indispensable dimension of it … Christ never failed to harp on that note. And I think you’ll find that you’re not going to sell very much Gospel without a lot of bad news.”

McLuhan’s point was that people prefer bad news to good news because bad news provides them with a “survival emotion” while good news threatens them with change, “and most people don’t want to be different at all.”

The 58-year-old McLuhan’s comments on the communication of the Gospel came across with rare (for him) clarity. Much of the rest of his talk appeared to baffle the audience in the Congressional Ballroom of Washington’s Statler Hilton Hotel. The occasion was the twenty-seventh annual convention of National Religious Broadcasters, and tall, distinguished-looking McLuhan, one of the most enigmatic but nevertheless charismatic figures of our time, seemed to be relishing the moment. Though a media theoretician, he has rarely spoken out on religious communication.

“The most violent form of violence is prayer,” he declared. “The Kingdom of God suffereth violence, and that is the only way anyone ever got in. Prayer as violence is as important a notion as the medium is the message. Prayer is petition which consists of banging and slamming on ...

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