Thinking Out Loud

August 2, 2012

The Value of Words

At this blog and at Christianity 201, I frequently re-blog material from other writers, sometimes in part, but at C201, usually in whole. Only once in a combined 3,000 posts at both have I ever had an author request their material be removed.

But heaven help me should I decide to use a comic or a cartoon here without permission. You may have noticed that the Wednesday Link List is not adorned with as many comic panels as it once was. I don’t know if the cartoonists are as litigious as the people who own rights to photographs, but their “permissions” pages are rather threatening and I don’t need the added tension.

Cartoons and comics take more technical savvy than just sitting at a keyboard typing words. It either requires expensive software or a drawing table with many types of pens and markers. But does the technical sophistication mean the finished cartoons are somehow worth more — and to be protected more — than the ideas and concepts conveyed in words?

Local churches increasingly use clips from popular movies to illustrate a sermon point or draw in listeners. Those movie clips have to be licensed for public performance, even if they’re only 90-seconds long. But the same churches that pay fees to show a brief scene from Spiderman don’t think twice about streaming a clip of Francis Chan teaching.

Does that mean that the technical sophistication of a major film — with sounds, costumes, lighting, big name cast, etc. — gives it a value that a man simply talking on a stage to a group of teenagers does not possess?

Similarly in church we pay license fees to project the lyrics to modern praise and worship choruses. I have no problem with this, and encourage churches to join CCLI. Better safe than sued. But then later, in the sermon,  the pastor’s onscreen notes will include several slides’ worth of an excerpt from a book by Max Lucado or N.T. Wright.

The books are actually subject to copyright, but no pastor ever thinks twice about copying out a couple of pages of text for use with PowerPoint or printed out for a sermon outline or for quoting in the church newsletter. Does that mean that worship song lyrics are somehow worth more than an author’s prose?

What I’m saying here is that I think we tend to worship the product of more complex technology more than the more simple rendering of straight talking or written text.

By so doing, we ascribe more value to things drawn, composed, acted out, etc., than we ascribe to the power of words.

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1 Comment »

  1. I would have to agree. It’s not how we transcribe the words, but the words themselves.

    Comment by ministry burnout — January 6, 2013 @ 11:57 pm


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