What Would Jesus Blog?

Tag: Discipleship

Simulation

by on Nov.07, 2010, under Digital Eucharist?

This week at work, Craig and I were talking about authenticity, and how so much of what companies rely on is the feel of authenticity, rather than genuinely being authentic. How much do consumers realise it, and how much do they care? They rely on simulation – much of human endeavour does. The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard explored this in his later life – in particular in Simulation & Simulacra. Incidentally, it’s the book Neo takes the minidisk out of in The Matrix in the scene before he notices the girl with the white rabbit tattoo – the concepts for that film are so based on S&S, I’m glad they payed homage!

Baudrillard describes three levels, or orders, of simulation. The first he describes as ‘natural, naturalistic simulacra: based on image, imitation and counterfeiting’ – a very healthy process of seeing what exists, and copying it for artistic effect or enhancement. Taking a photograph of something produces a likeness of that thing, but it doesn’t claim to be anything more than a photograph. No matter how much you want it to be case, you’ll never have Jeri Ryan on your bedroom wall, but you can have a damn fine poster that makes the room infinitely geekier. Just me then?

The second he describes in terms of the simulation obscuring the real, as a way in which the real can be hidden. The example he gives is the efforts that industrial operations go to in order to hide the level of exploitation inherent in production from the workers, and how a nations that relies on heavy industry might typically try to keep the workers’ dreams modest in order to avoid discontent. If workers could see how much they were being exploited, they would rebel – so the simulation is used to hide the reality, and although they can see that it’s a simulation, they cannot see what’s real to compare.

The third order, the hyper-reality, he describes as concerning ‘simulation simulacra: based on information, the model, cybernetic play’. The simulation replaces the real such that the real is no longer the source of the simulation but rather the product, or the replacement. What can be perceived is the simulation that claims to be reality – the shallow image of what exists has been detached from what exists to be a shallow image, which in and of itself, is all that can be seen. This is distinctly unhealthy, and is the greatest threat to authenticity in contemporary society as it is difficult to distinguish the simulation from the real, and often the simulation offers what appears to be all the benefits of the real without the inherent complexities.

What’s worrying is times when I see hints of third-order simulacra in everyday life – friendship defined by Facebook, relationships defined by the outward appearance rather than what’s beneath. My generation seem to be fairly adept at telling the difference – we see simulations for what they are, for the most part. The generations coming up behind us – well, that’s what another blog post is for :)

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Thesis

by on Nov.07, 2010, under Digital Eucharist?

For anyone who’s interested, my MA thesis can be downloaded here: Digital Eucharist. Plan is to blog my way through the research I did for it in a slightly more accessible format than a 15k word PDF :)

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Church & Technology

by on Apr.16, 2009, under Uncategorized

I’m currently looking for a job (if anyone needs a techie with an MA, within range of Manchester, get in touch!). It’s caused me to take a good look at what I’m good at, what I want to do, what I think God wants me to do, and where God appears to be working. Not much then!

Looking around the Christian jobs scene, a lot of places seem to want youth workers. I’m not a youth worker. A lot seem to want lay workers, a now-deprecated term that encompasses a whole range of ministries but mostly seem to involve families, vulnerable people, Fresh Expressions, that kind of thing. I think I could do that, I think I’d enjoy it and be good at it, but I don’t feel called to it. Doing this MA at Cliff has taught me loads about where the future of the church lies, and has changed the way I approach church forever, but it’s also taught me that being a techie is a good thing and that actually, it’s where my heart has always been. After my BSc I was disillusioned with IT (thank you Manchester School of Computer Science), but being at Cliff has brought my worlds together. I’m a rare breed of Christian techie – I’m a qualified one! I find myself frustrated at the way churches abuse technology – they either ignore it or elevate it to the position of second saviour, rather than embracing it cautiously as they should.

We live in a world shaped by technology, and that’s both a fantastic thing and a terrible thing. The same technology that brings people together across huge distances lends itself to shallow relationships and approximations of community. The way in which we understand our place in the world is changing – where we’re going isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just that any upheaval like this can be hard to adapt to. The projector at the front of the church isn’t going to bring the kids flooding in – likewise the church ignores Facebook at its peril.

I live in a world of God and technology – I know both, and I love both. That’s where my future lies. That’s what God’s set me up for. That’s where I’m going. I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t matter if I pay my way working in IT or in the church – I can do God’s work in either, and I’m happy to go with the flow (of the Holy Spirit, I hasten to add!). Exactly where God’s taking me, only He knows – but I guess I’ve just got to trust him. I want to work with churches, to show them how they can use technology to serve the world, to disciple their flocks, to reach out to others and to serve God more faithfully. For now I do that in my spare time, in the future I’d like to see it be a job but maybe that’s not where I’m best placed. Maybe those who need me most can’t pay for me, and those who would pay wouldn’t understand. All in God’s hands. All in God’s hands.

I also realised that I’m terrifically good at nothing in particular. I’ve looked at a few jobs and I tick all the boxes except the specialism of that particular job. I work well in any position in a team, I’ve got great IT skills, I can organise stuff, I can work with external partners, all that kind of stuff….but not in any particular context. Meh, I’ll get there!

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!AUDACIOUS CITY CHURCH

by on Feb.08, 2009, under Uncategorized

Yes, there’s a reason the title’s all in capitals! Cat and I went there this morning…it was an experience to say the least. Both of us left feeling really stressed, myself rather disturbed, and both partially deafened…yet at the same time I couldn’t help but see God doing cool stuff.

We must have shaken about five hands on our way to our seats, but I’m afraid to say the welcome ended there – barely anyone around us talked to us and all the regulars were up the front. Can’t blame the church for that though, I’m sure I’ve cold-shouldered a few people at Reach over the years. The service started with a rather cool video and about 30 minutes of very high-energy sung worship incorporating equally high-energy prayers into a very professional outfit – with plenty of space down the front for a mass of jumping bodies. A very long church notices followed, and the rather cool !A-TV – a five minute video with the latest news. There’s certainly plenty going on at that church – the booklet about it was several pages long and includes loads of interest groups, hang-out-in-coffee-shops groups, small groups, training, prayer sessions, youth stuff, a church plant the other side of Europe and all kinds of cool things.

The sermon was, well, an experience. This guy shouted at us with great passion and zeal for about 45 minutes about how we are made in the image of God and we should start acting like God’s respresentation here on earth. Great content, good exegesis, and even I only found a few minor things to pick him up on theologically, and they were certainly open to interpretation. He just shouted. Continually. We closed with a song and quickly made our exit….the traffic noise of central Manchester suddenly was as silence to our ears!

It was very, very slick – too much so IMO. It was far too programmed for my liking – certainly we should give God the best we can but I’m not convinced that slick programming is his idea of the best. The people there obviously love God and the church obviously sustains them so it’s doing great work – and it’s odd, I love loud gigs but maybe I’m just getting old and found this morning’s experience too much loud and too much going on to feel I could ever be at home. Plus, above anything else, it just didn’t feel right. Not like ‘Satan is in control’ not right but ‘This isn’t where I’m meant to be’ right. That settled it – I guess reach will always be a kind of home to me. Doesn’t help Cat though – her search continues!

(Techie note – if you ever feel the need to put every single aspect of your work through a compressor, resist. They’re great for a lot of things but having spent two hours listening to finely compressed loudness I found myself crying out for some dynamics! And yes, that’s why the title’s in CAPITALS – it really was church out loud!)

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Life is a dancefloor…

by on Jan.07, 2009, under What Would Jesus Blog?

Or rather, the life of the people of God is much like a Shakespearean play – at least in one of the illustrations I’ve used in this essay I’m working on. I have no idea who first introduced me to this idea but I absolutely love it and I think it fits really well.

Think of the life of the people of God as if it were a Shakespearean play that is missing its fourth act, and we are filling in the gaps with our very existence. The first three acts are known – the characters are laid down, there’s more than enough in the Bible and in the testimony of literally millions of Christians over the years to have a good idea of who God is and how he reacts when his people do all kinds of horrible stuff against him, and good stuff for him. The final act is known – although not all New Testament eschatological writing is about the apocalypse by any means – and we know how it ends, new heaven and new earth and all that.

So what does this mean? Instead of rulebooks and lists of dos and don’ts (which many of today’s churches often make implicit rather than explicit – I hate it!) we need to put ourselves, both individually and corporately, in the place of an actor playing the part of the Christian in that fourth act. Does what we do line up with what God has praised in the past? Are we the people God wants us to be? Of course not – but the closer we get to God, the more we know and love Him, the more natural playing his supporting cast becomes. This isn’t a new idea at all – but one that we need to consider before we go on our next witch-hunt.

Incidentally, I went to see Yes Man with Mike the other day – it’s a great film, very funny but there’s one scene a few minutes in that I think really sums up the approach to evangelism that far too many churches take – Jim Carey’s character gets converted to this life-changing ethos by being publically humiiated, shouted down and pressured into accepting, but then doesn’t have the understanding of the concepts required to live it properly. I just can’t help but think of seeing people give their lives to Christ at rallies and the like and the church not being ready to disciple them properly – and comparing their testimony to that of people who got in with groups of Christians and over time saw a difference in them, and then accepted it for themselves. No judgement here on which is better – both bring people to Christ so both are good but I think they present different challenges that churches just aren’t ready for.

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