In this article, Ong reviews Marshall McLuhan's 1951 book The Mechanical Bride:  Folklore of Industrial Man and discusses how McLuhan's work is relevant to contemporary Catholic theology.

In the first part of the article, Ong explains that McLuhan uses an "assorted-goods" approach in his book, pairing images of advertising with his own copy to discuss the symbols of "industrial man," all of which can be found in popular culture.  Out of these symbols, two primary themes (or myths, as Ong puts it) emerge:  mechanics and sex.  In addition to mechanics and sex, McLuhan also identifies a third theme, that of death.  These themes, McLuhan asserts, are the result of an industrialized society.

In the second part of the article, Ong turns his attention to how what McLuhan says about these themes and its relevancy to Catholic theology.  Summarizing many of the ideas in "American Catholicism and America," Ong explains that Catholics occupy a strange place in American society; they possess a "minority mentality" which makes them reluctant to discuss themselves in a critical, historically aware manner but also makes them engage freely the so-called materialistic aspects of American culture.

In this culture, Ong goes on to say, the primary myth of nature has been replaced with the myth of the machine, which results in a gap between life and liturgy wider than that present in the Middle Ages (when most people were almost entirely "ignorant" about theology).  Yet, there are connections between life and liturgy in the industrial age, Ong suggests; the notion of serving another is present in both the industrial workplace and Christian theology.  While McLuhan never discusses theological issues directly, Ong believes that people can learn something new by looking at theological issues through the lens of industrial society, and that people can do this without fear of having to throw out all their old beliefs.

At the end of the article, after Ong has assured readers that they can embrace the new world without letting go of their beliefs, Ong returns to the format of McLuhan's book and clarifies that while its "hop-skip-and-jump" approach will give it a popular appeal, McLuhan does not run the risk of becoming cliche.  Ong's discussion here may remind readers of "Bogey Sticks for Pogo Men," in which Ong notes that objects which become popular are often first avant-garde, only enough time has passed that people no longer see the objects as strange and unusual anymore.  McLuhan's book does not take this route, Ong asserts; rather, it approaches symbols of the industrial age with a strong critical awareness.
 

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