What difference did media make in the Reformation? What kinds of media were used? How did it impact the Reformation? How does media influence spreading the gospel today?
The Renaissance introduced new media and messages, but they are often confused as one and the same. Media are tools that take the shape of the message they carry, which the Roman Catholic Church happily employed decorating churches with the art of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. However, these same media broadcast the corruption of the Church to all and the illusion of infallibility vanished.
In a sense, the media of education and theater broke the Church's monopoly and embraced a secular and material world. Theology made way for rhetoric and passion plays made way for Shakespeare. As the Middle Ages came to an end, the messages of humanism and individualism slowly pushed Christendom from the center of all life's activity.
By the 15th century the stage was almost literally set for the Reformation. As literacy increased Europe craved new ideas and the new media that spread them farther and faster than ever before. The works of Erasmus and Luther fed that hunger far beyond their churches as moveable type and Gutenberg's press copied them in local vernaculars. Luther barely lived to start a church outside of Roman Catholicism, but those who questioned the authority of the pope soon joined him. Politics and finances swayed rulers to join and defy the Holy Roman Empire.
Today, more media exist than ever and sadly Christians are still the worst advertisement for Christianity. Christians are chasing the culture by creating knock-offs of every media, or developing church marketing practices. Instead of pining for the pre-renaissance days when the Church monopolized the media we should stick to the message of Jesus Christ. The gospel was, is, and always will be the greatest story ever told...because it's true. If we follow the words of Christ, word-of-mouth will do the rest. So while it may seem that, “Whoever controls the media; the images; controls the culture,” we need to stop trying to beat the world at its own game. In the end it's the message that will ultimately triumph in the media wars.