The medium is the message

Today is Marshall McLuhan’s birthday, so in his honour here is an article from the National Post on the way his Catholicism undergirded his media theory. I can picture McLuhan going to daily mass at St. Basil’s (across the road from St. Mike’s where I study) and then back to the coachhouse (behind TST) to refine his ideas about the “global village” and “hot media.” The street St. Michael’s is on has even been renamed “Marshall McLuhan Way,” a testament to his ongoing influence in Toronto and around the world. Here’s a quote from the article (thanks to my friend Rob Thomas for posting it on Facebook):

McLuhan’s Catholic faith is that God makes us holy through the sacraments – baptism and holy communion above all. The Catholic sacramental imagination, the conviction that God uses the tangible things of this world – water, oil, bread, wine – as means of grace, is arguably the key to McLuhan broader analysis of communication and culture.

As the article notes, “The Medium is the Message” is a christological formula – in Christ, form and content, Word and Flesh are united. For more on this, I recommend Inchausti’s book Subversive Orthodoxy (Brazos Press), which provides a helpful overview of McLuhan’s significance from a broadly Christian perspective. The “Catholic imagination” – it’s the reason why Flannery O’Connor is so great, and perhaps (as Skye Jethani has suggested) why many filmmakers influenced by Catholicism (Scorcese et al) are perhaps often better than would-be auteurs formed in non-sacramental traditions. But it can’t explain the greatness of Woody Allen, particularly this famous scene which seems appropriate on this McLuhanesque occasion:

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