‘Propaganda’ is an ugly word. It conjures images of the Third Reich, Tokyo Rose, and the Soviet-era news agency, TASS. The dictionary defines it as:
Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
As a boy, I pitied the Soviet people –oppressed by their own government and media through a systematic campaign of selective reporting, misinformation, and outright manipulation. I was glad to live in a free society with a free press where government and media trafficked only in facts. Propaganda was the tool of tyrants. Or so I thought.
But propaganda has a long and varied place in the history of communication. Words have power even swords cannot wield. Men are more easily compelled to yield freedoms and convictions to words, ideas, and slogans than brute force. Especially when they believe these words, ideas, and slogans are unadulterated with bias or ulterior motives.
We pity those under the thumb of propaganda as we scroll mindlessly through highly curated social media, censored news feeds, Instagram influencers, and clairvoyant popup ads. We decry media bias and quickly fall in line with whatever our feed feeds us to think. The hubris that tells us ‘we are invulnerable to propaganda’ is what makes us even more vulnerable.
What is worse, the more our lives are mediated by our devices, the more propagandized we become. John Stonestreet recently noted in an interview on The World and Everything In It, “we have been catechized by our devices – to react and not think.” He explains.
Think of how many times a story makes everyone breathlessly angry. And just a few hours or days later, the larger context comes out, either through more video being released, and suddenly realize the entire story is wrong. Or the entire story that you reacted to was wrong. Now, I don’t know any way around that other than have better habits than everybody else. Don’t feel like you have to tweet about something because somebody, you know, says, anybody who doesn’t speak up is complicit. That’s bogus language, based on a society that is addicted to quick takes an outrage instead of the truth.
Words are powerful. Ideas have consequences. Satan’s war against God, against Truth, and against the Church began in the Garden of Eden as a war of words. As Adam and Eve stood gazing at the forbidden fruit, Satan voices a new possibility. “Did God really say?” Perhaps God did not mean it? Perhaps God cannot be trusted? Perhaps we must look elsewhere for truth?
Satan’s tactics have not changed. He is a liar and the father of lies. Lying is his native speech. He is not merely trying to win us to his position or gain our support by his propaganda, he wants us dead. He hates us because we bear God’s image. His repeated failure to secure God’s throne has not wearied him. On the contrary, he is more enraged than ever.
Revelation 13 unfolds this rage. Two beasts emerge. One from the sea and one from the earth. An unholy Trinity of counterfeits to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit emerge in the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth. They are poor counterfeits but they lead the world astray to make war against the Church.
The first beast is a wild brute. He unleashes Satan’s fury by a frontal assault against the church — pursuing, crushing, and destroying. But Satan also has a more subtle strategy. A second beast arises from the earth. He appears as a lamb with two small horns, but speaks with the voice of a dragon. While he looks gentle, harmless, and trustworthy, his words are anything but. Through this beast, Satan assaults the Church in the realm of ideas and words, forever working to foster suspicion of God.
How careful are you to test the spirits of this age? To view your world, not through your devices, but through the Word of God? Join us this week as we examine Revelation 13:11-18 and consider the call to resist Satan’s ministry of propaganda.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at The Arkansas DreamCenter at 1116 Daisy L Gatson Bates Drive in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.