What Would Jesus Blog?

Archive for April, 2012

It’s all just as messy as it’s meant to be!

by on Apr.24, 2012, under Uncategorized

So, I’ve finally gotten around to a bit of reading this evening; at Tim’s recommendation, I’m ploughing through Culture Making┬áin the hope that Crouch will come to some kind of point sometime soon. I’m 120 pages in, and I’m assured it’s coming in about 60 more! I’ve just read through some chapters that talk about the beginning and the end of the Bible story – from Eden to the new Jerusalem, and how in the middle, God constantly gives his created people enough space to be creative, to make mistakes, to turn away or to turn towards him.

Any time I think about the Biblical narrative as a single story I’m brought back to the idea that God’s big story for creation is like a Shakespeare play for which the fourth act has been mostly lost. We know the first three acts; we know how it all starts and we have stories that have developed our characters. We know the final act; we know how it ends. We know Shakespeare; we know what he’s like. Our role in the story is to act in a way that fits in with that fourth act; to draw on our experience and creativity to produce something that fits into the gap. It’s because of this that I’m convinced that narrative theology is so important – it’s possible to argue almost anything with the Bible, but if it doesn’t fit into the story of the Bible and what we know of God outside of Scripture, it’s probably wrong.

I find myself arguing against principles with this on a regular basis, even if the person I’m arguing with believes in the same end result as me. Let’s take a classic example; drug abuse. It’s possible to synthesise a great Biblical argument that drug abuse is wrong – Paul talks about personal responsibility with alcohol, the body is described as a temple, and so on; a nice, neat, logical argument. Unfortunately, I distrust nice, neat, logical arguments when they relate to God. They don’t fit. Throughout the Bible, doing theology seems to be the messiest affair possible; and I’m pretty sure it’s intentional. The least obvious people were chosen for the biggest jobs; Israel was a tiny nation that was constantly kept small but had to fend off rich, advanced empires from all angles; they had to rely on God in very public, very obvious, very pragmatic ways to make their faith work, and as a result they played a pivotal role. They kept on messing it up, and God kept on finding ways to make it right; they had to be creative to survive, but to learn to rely on God as well.

Rather than trying to synthesise an argument against drug abuse, I’ll make a much less coherent argument that draws from lots of sources. Scripture says the body is a temple, but it also talks about Jesus feeding guests at a wedding wine that was probably laced with THC and opiates. Well, there goes a British cultural norm for drug acceptability! Paul talks about not getting drunk, and I know from the experience of myself and others, that being drunk can lead to doing stupid things. So, I conclude, unsurprisingly, that it’s not a good idea. Is it wrong to abuse drugs? I have no idea; I don’t think it’s a case of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ anywhere as much as we think it is. Is it a good idea? Does it fit with what I know of God? Definitely not.

Thinking about issues like this feels messy. And it feeling messy feels like it fits. Theology is messy!

Leave a Comment more...

Is there such a thing as Digital Culture?

by on Apr.02, 2012, under Uncategorized

A friend recently posed a common question on Facebook – ‘How do we live with integrity in a digital culture?’. ‘Ah ha!’, I thought, ‘I can contribute to this discussion!’. What I wrote surprised me, but rather than hijacking her Facebook wall with my ramblings, I’m going to blog instead. Incidentally, if you don’t follow her on Twitter, do – @revjoannecox.

My answer, slightly abridged, was “I’d have to ask for more clarity on what you mean by ‘a digital culture’. We live in cultures that use digitally mediated communications at various levels, and those that do not see digital communication as ‘special’ are those that I would consider to be ‘digital cultures’, but the same rules regarding integrity apply as to those cultures where digital comms aren’t prevalent. I often find it unhelpful to define a culture by its digital-ness, as that’s not usually its defining characteristic. IMHO.”

Let me give you some background. A lot of the current thinking on how the church should address such issues comes from the early writing on the subject (Carega – eMinistry, etc), when the way in which the Internet was seen was as another world, one entered through the portal of a computer, and interacted with and then left along. Although there’s been a lot of writing since, it’s largely been from a slightly adversarial position, as if these new ways of communicating were something a bit scary, something to be treated with suspicion, and with a greater impact in and of themselves than we’d give them credit for. To an extent, that’s true.

Empiricist technophiles will typically describe a communications medium as neutral – flashes of light going down a piece of glass (which is basically what fiber optic is!) aren’t intelligent enough to be good or evil, they’re just light. Those of a more philosophical bent will look at the technology as a cultural artefact – what does it mean for a technology to exist, how does its existence change the shape of the world? For me, it’s a question of people. How do people behave in a reality where this technology exists? What do they make from the world around them?

There’s nothing new about the changes that we’re seeing. They’re nothing scarier than what’s come before. So we live in a world where I can have a video chat with someone the other side of the world, commit fraud in the UK from Nigeria, and read the guy upstairs’ email because he doesn’t understand wireless security. What do we make of that? How does that change things? For one of the cultures that I’m part of, the Nottingham alternative scene, that means that our events can be organised and promoted with minimal financial cost, that the music we listen to in clubs can equally come from YouTube videos as the DJs CD collection, and we relate to each other as much over Facebook chat and SMS as we do going round to each others houses to drink. Is this a ‘digital culture’? Definitely. What does it mean to live with integrity (implicitly, I’m taking this to be in a Christian context) in this culture? It means investing in relationships – sometimes mediated through SMS or MSN, sometimes face-to-face. It’s different from a culture where Facebook didn’t exist, because I can find out things about someone ‘from them’ without ever actually interacting with them; but actually, being aware of that means that I realise that I’m equipped for this. I can do relationships, the digital bit is just another way to interact.

I’m up to my 600 words at which point even I stop reading. I’m sure I’ll think about this more.

Leave a Comment more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...