Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely. —Edward Tufte
In recent years PowerPoint has become a dominant force in worshiping communities across the theological and liturgical spectrum. In churches smitten with the Microsoft wonder, its power to affect the sensibilities of worshipers and thus to shape congregational identity is almost never discussed.
A tacit assumption is that PowerPoint computer presentations are merely a means to an end, a value-neutral tool used for innocent, perhaps even noble purposes: enlarging text for the hard of seeing; reducing the demand for and thus the production of printed materials; and bringing younger people, who spend much of their lives in front of screens—TV, computer, cell phone, PDA—into worship. But PowerPoint is not value-neutral. As information design analyst Edward Tufte has argued, PowerPoint promotes a kind of cognitive style that routinely disrupts, dominates and trivializes content.
Debra Dean Murphy is assistant professor of religion at West Virginia Wesleyan College and author of Teaching That Transforms: Worship as the Heart of Christian Education (Wipf and Stock). She blogs at Intersections, part of the CCblogs network.