Part 2 (look here for part 1)
If Marshall McLuhan’s dictum, “the medium is the message,” is helpful (as Shane Hipps argues), then we must go all the way down; we must dig into the materiality of the medium. We must investigate the conditions that make possible the process of production. Hidden powers are physically remembered in the pieces of technology we use.
Most popular discussions of technology and worship fail to explore the realities of material production–the where, when, why, and how of invention and assembly. From reading these books on media and worship, one would assume that technologies magically appear–created out of nothing. Since electronic devices are available, we have to figure out ways to make them liturgically productive. The problem, according to Eileen D. Crowley, is that “Most churches lag at least twenty years or more behind the art world in the kind of media art they create or purchase and in how they imagine that media might be integrated within worship” (32). Our churches are not on the cutting edge of media. Our liturgical media is passé. We have failed to encourage the development of artists who makes use of anything at their disposal to lead us into an “experience of the Holy” (32) (more…)
September 2, 2008
culture, Ethics, Media
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I’m participating in AMBS’s conversation on technology and worship. I have to put together a paper. Below are my initial reflections as I work towards something of substance. I would appreciate any critical engagement. Am I going in a helpful direction? Should I turn around while I still can? Thanks.
Why not start with Karl Barth? In his essay, “Church and Culture” (in Theology and Church, London: SCM, 1962), Barth disallows any uncritical approval of culture, nor does take a consistent stand against culture. As usual, Barth makes things complicated. On the one side of the dialectic, Barth takes up the ax of John the Baptist: “Christian preaching…has met every culture, however supposedly rich and mature, with ultimate sharp skepticism” (quoted in T.J. Gorringe, Furthering Humanity: A Theology of Culture, p. 18). But later in that same essay Barth has no patience for a spiritualism that ignores our cultural milieu. There is no room, Barth writes, “for a basic blindness to the possibility that culture may be revelatory, that it can be filled with promise.” The seeds of God’s kingdom proliferate throughout the world. Barth pursues the same line of thinking in Church Dogmatics IV/3, where he claims that if “all things are created in and through Jesus” (Colossians 1:16-17), then, as Prof. Peter Dula puts it, “there is nowhere, not even the mouth of an ass, that we cannot expect to find words reflecting the light of the Word” (Peter Dula, “A Theology of Interfaith Bridge Building,” p. 164 in Borders and Bridges: Mennonite Witness in a Religiously Diverse World). Barth goes on to call these diverse worldly witnesses to God’s kingdom “secular parables” (CD IV/3, p. 115). The earth and human culture resound with echoes of the one Word of God which speaks into existence the kingdom of God. Therefore we must pay attention to the places we inhabit, the cultures that permeate us. “The Church,” he writes, “will be alert for the signs which, perhaps in many cultural achievements, announce that the kingdom approaches” (20). The kingdom does come. The question Barth poses to the church is whether she is ready to receive it, however strange it may appear.
It’s a strange possibility to consider how the pieces of culture called ‘technology’ may display God’s kingdom, if only parabolically. Barth won’t let us rule out an abstract category like “technology” without serious engagement in particular technological machineries–he calls them “cultural achievements.” Nor will he take up every new sophisticated invention as a chance for the kingdom to make headway. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism.
In The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture (Zondervan, 2005), pastor Shane Hipps critically considers the place of technologies in worship. He carefully steers clear of many church leaders who welcome any and every form of technology as the panacea for dying churches. Blindly welcoming technology into church life turns worship into another capitalist commodity. We then become one show among many where Christians can find “new experiences to consume” (15). In Modernity, writes Hipps, “churches heeded consumer demands and sough to reinvent church. They either had to compete in the consumer marketplace on the consumer’s terms or face extinction. In the spirit of modernity, these churches reincarnated themselves as highly competent vendors of religious programs and services” (99). But the answer, according to Hipps, is not a reactionary turn against all forms of technology. “I’m not arguing for some Luddite strategy of literally destroying media” (65). Instead, we carefully and communally discern how modern technologies can aid us as we embody the good news of Christ. In Hipps’ words, “We learn to understand the power of our technologies to shape us, thereby regaining power over them” (122). (more…)
August 26, 2008
Church, communication, Consumerism, culture, Economics, Media, poverty, Wealth
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Like an episode of C.O.P.S. the names here have been changed to protect the innocent.
Hamilton is in N.E. Baltimore, which is in Maryland, which is in the Eastern United States located in North America. I’ve lived here for two years. I never thought I’d be an urbanite but it’s come to suit me just fine. I like the ice cream trucks, the mixed culture, a plethora of restaurants, the ease of commuting all over the city and burbs in minutes.
I wouldn’t say Hamilton is “The Hood”. It’s one zip code south of the county, the next town south is one of the better places to live in Baltimore, Lauraville, which insulates us. But like all urban areas there are very little guarantees. Some nights it’s quiet, other nights I can hear teenagers swearing loudly at 2am and there’s usually empty beer containers on my lawn in the morning. It’s easy to see that our relative peace hangs by a thread, whether it be the bloods graffiti or the drunks stumbling through our backyards at 11 pm, our quiet community is quietly at war.
But this isn’t a post about Hamilton. Or about urban warfare. Or about gangs. It’s about kids and watching them grow up in a weird ecclectic neighborhood. (more…)
July 27, 2008
Bigotry, children, City, Community, Contemplation, culture, Dumb Stuff., Education, Race, Uncategorized, Urban Ministry
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I have a confession to make: I’ve never looked at porn. Okay, that’s a lie. But here’s the truth…….I’ve never sought out porn. Ever. Sure, there have been times in High School when a guy flipped me a rag, or in college when I went to a party and some guys were watching porn. And, like the rest of the 21st century world, I’ve accidently googled it from time to time. But I’ve never bought it, rented it, or pay-per-viewed it.
When I admit this fact about myself I get asked “Don’t you like it?”, “Are you not into chicks?”, “What’s the deal?”. Honestly, I never thought porn was good thing. I became a Christian at 19 so I had plenty of heathen years to look at this shit but I never thought it was right. Yeah, I’d probably like it. I’d probably like crack too.
I consider myself lucky. I’ve never met a guy who is in my position; who by 28 has been so “clean” of the stuff. Women might not know it, and maybe I’m letting the cat out of the bag here, but nearly all guys, universally, look at porn. Sorry to blow your cover fellas.
Anyway, an old Pastor of mine moved out to Arizona a couple years ago to start yet another church. He met this girl who used to be a very successful porn star. She comes to his church and is very vocal about her past. I’d post her myspace and what-have-you but I don’t feel like it’d be appropiate. So my old Pastor likes to make movies and they thought it’d be cool to make sort of an “inspired on a true story” type flick about this girl. They posted a “making of” online. (more…)
July 5, 2008
Bigotry, Biographical, Blog, culture, Dumb Stuff., Pornography, Sex, Sexism
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Is Christian unity in the public square an important goal to work toward? Here at seminary there are many people thinking about denominationalism as a theological issue/concern. I went to a conference to think about some of these issues. It was called Envision 08 (www.ev08.org) I helped out with a workshop on Sexuality and Faith. There were many young evangelical Christians who are freeing themselves from the grip of right wing politics there. The conversation was familiar to an Anabaptist like me, but it was like watching people hear the Good News for the first time. Everyone was so excited that faith meant more than rigid rules, hierarchy, and supporting the U.S.A.
The Declaration below, coming from “Envision: the Gospel, Politics, and the Future” at Princeton University June 8-10, 2008, began with an online dialogue of approximately 100 participants on June 2 about religion, social change, and politics. On June 8, a diverse panel of scholars discussed the results of the dialogue.
After attending the conference and hearing reports about the conversations that occurred throughout many aspects of the conference, the panel met and created the declaration. You can sign it if you want. (more…)
June 24, 2008
activism, Anabaptism, Change, Church, communication, culture, Current Events, Emerging Church, Environment, Ethics, Evangelism, Faith, Global Church, Group Identity, Healthcare, History, International Relations, Journalism, Media, New Monasticism, Politics, Roman Catholic, submergent, Theology, Tolerance, Tradition, Urban Ministry, Young Folks
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Pam Wilson of Operation Mercy wrote an insightful article about the proverb,
“Catch a man a fish you feed him a meal,
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Besides the fact that the proverb is sexist, it holds many false assumptions of how the poor should be helped. I have always had a problem with the proverb because it assumes that one should ignore the immediate need. But Ms. Wilson has a better overall approach.
June 19, 2008
activism, culture, Economics, Education, Ethics, Food, Gender, Love, poverty, Privilege, Race, Tradition
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Hi All, I need your help. I will be presenting at a North American Believer’s Church Conference in about a week and will be representing young adults….ha! This is an impossible task and an enormous responsibility. The context of the overall conference is, I believe, the “tension” between the individual congregation and the denomination. The theme of this particular workshop I’m presenting at is “Missional vision and practice of denominations together with congregations in the Believers Church family: Present-day issues and opportunities.”
The specific questions are:
1. How do young adults desire to engage in the church’s ministry of mission and evangelism?
2. Where do you see possibilities and problems in the church’s approach to mission in our day? Provide illustrations.
Well I have PLENTY to say on these topics but I desperately need the counsel of others of my generation/culture or those who are “young adult” at heart. Questions like these should be answered in community and not by an individual. If you have problems with the language in these questions, by all means, provide alternative language as you answer the question as you understand it. These questions are asked in the context of a discussion about the local (congregational) and global (denominational) roles of the mission of the church and a trend toward “local-centred” mission initiative and the way that a Believer’s Church self-understanding intersects with missional ecclesiology.
I don’t think I’ve ever introduced myself on YAR properly before. I was born in Canada, grew up in E. Africa, went to the US for college (EMU), then worked in Virginia, went to seminary in Manitoba, Canada, spent some time in Mozambique, worked for Mennonite Church Canada and am now headed for Israel/Palestine soon as an international worker for Mennonite Church Canada. Faith-wise, I consider myself Christian anabaptist, from a Mennonite/Methodist family and am currently inspired by emergent/missional writings when they’re real and down to earth. I am often disillusioned with the church but hopeful at the same time.
I’ll post some of my opinions on my topic once a discussion starts :) And I really would appreciate feedback.
June 6, 2008
Church, culture, Discipleship, Evangelism, Faith, Spiritual Life, Theology, Uncategorized, Young Folks
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Not everyone can or wants to go to every conference. This is a summary of a recent conference. I think sharing the info that we learn at conferences is important.
The “Everything Must Change” tour came to Goshen College on May 9-10. This seminar was lead by renowned evangelical leader in the emerging Christian church movement, Brian McLaren. His focus for the event was addressing the following questions: “What are the world’s top global crises?” and “What does the message of Jesus say to those crises?”
Early on in the seminar, McLaren related a story in which he was leading youth worship as a young adult. He asked the youth to help him create a list of the major concerns at their churches. Issues such as whether or not to have guitars as part of worship music were brought up. He then asked the youth to help him create a list of the issues that they considered the most pressing global concerns, and issues like nuclear disarmament and famine came up. A startling difference was apparent between the two lists. Just like he suggested in the narrative of his story, McLaren instigated a call for a breaking down of the secular/sacred divide and for the Church to be deeply involved in the issues on the second list, the global list. Those of us who attended the seminar were treated to and challenged by a multi-dimensional, mixed media approach to exploring how to understand and deal with interconnected global crisis issues of planet, poverty, and peacemaking. The fourth major crisis McLaren introduced was “purpose”. He explained the latter concept in his assertion that “the biggest problem in the world is the way that we think about the biggest problems in the world.” (more…)
June 2, 2008
activism, Books, Church, City, culture, Current Events, Education, Emerging Church, Environment, Evangelism, Faith, Foreign Policy, Global Church, God, Group Identity, Peace & Peacemaking, poverty, Stewardship, Theology, war, Young Folks
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ST’s post reminded me of a conversation I had last September with someone I’ve admired for his consistent commitment to justice-making over decades (peace and development work in Vietnam during the American War in that country, international and community interfaith work with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, etc).
Knowing that it can be easy to burn out or drift toward the mainstream, I was interested in how he’s sustained his passion and activism over the course of the years. His answers came almost faster than I could write. (more…)
May 17, 2008
activism, Art, Change, City, Community, culture, Discipleship, Environment, Faith, Family, Leadership, Peace & Peacemaking, Spiritual Life, Stories, Young Folks
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Last Thursday, I had a conversation with a professor and a fellow student that gave me a window on the Mennonite narratives on heterosexual privilege. We had discussed Obama’s speech and white privilege in class. After class, I asked about heterosexual privilege. My prof and classmate both responded that a concept of heterosexual privilege “trivialized racism” since the sufferings of African-American are so embedded in our culture (I guess with the implication that the sufferings of LGBTers aren’t). My prof even claimed that the bans against single-sex marriage and other anti-sodomy laws were not persecution, but just limited the “freedom” of LGBTers.
This was a quick conversation in passing, so I didn’t really have my wits about me to respond. These are both caring, intelligent people who care deeply about social justice issues. Yet, for some reason, they don’t consider queers a persecuted group. I realize that I also don’t know yet enough about the history of this issue to be really comfortable about a response. However, after more reflection and conversation, I do have a couple of responses / observations —
- I don’t think that my colleague’s response is really about “trivializing racism.” It’s about not defining the queer experience as a social justice issue. As soon as LGBT is defined as a social justice issue, then the Mennonite Church is on the wrong side of the issue. As long as we can keep this just about Scripture and not how Scripture has been used to persecute or block access to institutions, then the Mennonites can have it both ways — we can advocate for social justice and keep the gays out.
March 31, 2008
Bias, Bigotry, culture, Education, Exclusion, Fair, Group Identity, History, Language, LGBTQ, Nonviolence, Power, Privilege, Race, Sexism
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Tonight, as I was half-heartedly trying to do some reading for school and half-heartedly flipping through channels, I came across the first episode in a PBS series called Unnatural Causes…Is Inequality Making Us Sick? I didn’t catch the entire hour but there are three more episodes in the series and what I caught of the first one was very interesting. I thought it seemed loosely relevant to recent discussions here and wanted to point other YARs there. There’s a five minute trailer on the site so you can get a good sense of the series. No commentary and no questions from me right now, just a suggestion to check it out. There is also an independent site for the documentary here.
March 27, 2008
culture, Healthcare, Immigration, poverty, Power, Race, Wealth
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*This article was originally posted on Christarchy.com. The “Ostrich-thing” makes more sense if you visit me there.*
Advocacy groups are dumb. There. I said it. You don’t have to agree with me, especially if you are part of an advocacy group. But someone had to say it and seeing as I’m the only one around here to take notice I had to speak up. (more…)
March 13, 2008
activism, Awesome Stuff, culture, Current Events, Dumb Stuff., Ethics, History, Loyalty, Polarization, Politics, Uncategorized
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Future generations always demonize the ethical blinds of the past. It is easy for us to demonize the choices of Columbus or Andrew Jackson, because their culture treated other races as less than human. I am not excusing them, for there were others of their culture who did not accept those cultural blinds, but were able to accept all people as equal. Perhaps Stowe or Wilberforce had their own limitations, and were not as enlightened as, say, Archbishop Tutu or MLK Jr., but without the message and sacrifices of these, the latter would never have had the opportunity to speak.
All I am trying to say is that every age has their own cultural blinders that limit them from, what looks to outsiders, obvious moral choices. The ethical choices are always there, always a possibility, but the zeitgeist of each era causes a fog to appear, and only those who choose to clear the fog from their own minds are able to see it.
It would be easy, and probably profitable, to look back on history to see the zeitgeists of eons past to see how these limitations limit people’s obvious moral choices. What is more difficult is to apply this principle to our own age, to our own lives. What are our own cultural blinders that limit us to obvious moral choices? (more…)
January 30, 2008
Bias, Bigotry, Consumerism, culture, Economics, Ethics, Privilege, Tolerance, Wealth
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