Marshall McLuhan on Media and Faith, With FTP Founder Father Patrick Peyton

In his 1970s show “Matter of Faith,” Family Theater Productions founder Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., did an extended interview with media visionary Marshall McLuhan, who originated the phrase, “The medium is the message.”

Here’s how his official Website describes McLuhan (whose birthday is July 21):

McLuhan was still a twenty-year old undergraduate at the University of Manitoba, in western Canada, in the dirty thirties, when he wrote in his diary that he would never become an academic. He was learning in spite of his professors, but he would become a professor of English in spite of himself. After Manitoba, graduate work at Cambridge University planted the seed for McLuhan’s eventual move toward media analysis. Looking back on both his own Cambridge years and the longer history of the institution, he reflected that a principal aim of the faculty could be summarized as the training of perception, a phrase that aptly summarizes his own aim throughout his career.

McLuhan was also an adult convert to Catholicism. Said McLuhan:

I was reading [G.K.] Chesterton, and [Christopher] Dawson and [Jacques] Maritain and those people. That’s how I came in.

I had no instruction even from clergy at any time but there was a friend of mine who said, ‘Well, since you don’t believe in Christianity’ – I was an agnostic – he said ‘you could pray to God the Father. So you pray to God the Father and simply ask to be shown.’ And so I did.

And I didn’t know what I was going to be shown, all I said was, ‘Show me,’ and I didn’t ask to be relieved of any problems. I had no problems. I had no belief and no problems.

Well I was shown in a quite amazing way and quite unexpected: I was arguing about religion with a whole group of grad students one night at Wisconsin and one of them said to me suddenly, ‘Why aren’t you a Catholic?’ and I shut up because I didn’t know. Up to that moment, it had never occurred to me that I would ever become a Catholic. But I was suddenly caught. I became a Catholic at once within a few days.

In the three videos below, McLuhan — who had a prescient view of how man and modern media intersected, even though he’s speaking before the internet — talks to Father Peyton about how the instantaneous and enveloping nature of modern media affects man’s mind, heart and soul.

Here McLuhan discusses the value of the replay, the effects media has on interpersonal relationships, and faith and resonance.

Here McLuhan discusses resonance, joining the Church, and the Church as a source of nourishment.

Here McLuhan discusses women as victims of sexism, the mother’s role, and the nuclear family.

Looks like McLuhan and Father Peyton were well ahead of their time!

Image: Family Theater Productions

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