The Medium and the Light: Reflections on Religion by Marshall McLuhan
edited by Eric McLuhan and Jacek Szklarek
(Stoddart, 1999, 248 pages)
Marshall McLuhan, literary scholar and media guru, is famous for his phrase “The medium is the message.” He communicated a deep understanding of the way that electronic media like TV and film not only change the delivery systems that present information and entertainment but also transform the recipients. McLuhan’s theories about “hot” and “cold” media were essential for understanding twentieth century media, and many of his observations about the nature of technology were prophetic in their anticipation of the internet and digital technology.
This collection brings out the religious character of McLuhan’s work. These letters, essays, lectures, and interviews reveal many things about McLuhan’s religious biography and about the theological principles of his thought. As a convert to Catholicism, McLuhan took his faith very seriously, though his major works contain no obvious theological overtones. Statements like this, however, reveal just how integral a part his theological viewpoint informed his views on media:
“In Jesus Christ, there is no distance or separation between the medium and the message: it is the one case where we can say that the medium and the message are fully one and the same” (103).
McLuhan’s Catholic humanism is a major, though neglected, part of his legacy. These essays should be very relevant to those with an interest in media studies, religion and culture, or literary studies.