Postmodernism 201

This will be part three of four in a brief examination of postmodernism and its promise and pitfalls for Christianity. In this post I will look at the proliferation of information technologies as the third phenomena. This phenomena is probably the easiest to recognize in our culture, but I'll bet you didn't see it as a hallmark of postmodernity. However, when you place it side-by-side with the demise of meta-narratives it is easy to see its influence. Information technology has made the world a much smaller place. I might even say that the way in which we receive and perceive things is radically is different due to the ability of news to travel from one end of the earth to another with relative ease. Despite the lack of boldness in this statement, there are multiple things to consider when it comes to information technology.

First, Christianity no longer dominates the news media as the only valid perspective on issues. By saying this I realize that as far as we (US Americans) go, the media is still dominated by a white middle class Christian perspective. This is debatable for sure, but I am talking about the ethos from which most news arises rather than the particulars. In this country, no matter how much Christians bitch about secularism or humanistic approaches, we are largely shaded by this generic consumer version of Christianity that sticks to just about everything we report. In fact, I would point to the outcry over "secular humanism" as the proof that the way we report "news" is changing to a more global perspective. In the future, I believe that global perspectives will continue to make in roads in US American reporting. This will cause "Christian jingoists" to froth at the mouth (we can see a lot this already occurring when people adopt global views that are then construed as "anti-American" through a more conservative arm of the press). However, given the rapidity of reporting the US will continually be thrust into the global spotlight where it can either begin to realize its impact on the global culture and other countries or become politically "obsolete," much like a large obstinate Grandpa Simpson. As you may or may not know, Grandpa Simpson is the older slightly crazed member of the Simpson family. He is often seen as a forgotten part of the family whose ravings about the good old days are summarily dismissed. To be sure, he has some nostalgic value and occasionally contributes, but on the large part his influence is discounted because of his inability to "get with the times."

Second, information technology changes the way we communicate with one another. Take this blog for instance. Without the technology there would be no way of communicating these thoughts to you (though some of you might find this a good thing), unless we somehow connected in "real" life. My thoughts would be shared (or not shared) instead with a smaller group of insiders. Now, my thoughts go out for the world to read. As you might already understand, this can be both a good and bad thing. Those who find themselves on at the extreme edges of conversation now have a place to vent their views upon the world. However, there is also the possibility for greater accountability for what one says due to the ability of others to offer correcting points of view. The downside to this, as it has been reported recently, is that while we communicate with more people we actually have fewer close friends. Therefore, our communities become larger but more impersonal. This is the dual-edged sword of information technology. You get information rapidly, but most of this information can come across as lacking human depthfulness.

Finally, we have focused on the information part, the information technology part, and now we should look at solely the role of technology. Obviously I am no ludite. However, I am beginning to believe that technology has its limits. First, technology has greatly increased our productivity and even eased some of the repetitive tasks that humans undertake. However, it has not entirely lived up to its promise. Instead of alleviating stress and offering more free time, we have taken the time technology saves us and demanded more from those who use it. Productivity has become the buzzword for life, trouncing the promised relaxation that technology would provide. US Americans now work more hours per week and take less vacation than any other country in the developed world. Moreover, these increases have taken place since the dawn of the "technological revolution." Furthermore, technology has invaded churches with this same need for productivity. I may be wrong, but I have always thought that churches were meant to be the counter-cultural conscience of humanity. We were supposed to speak out against injustice and the consumerism that drives a shallowness in our culture. Instead, we use technology to prove our culture "relevance" and our ability to abide within the constraints of a common cultural paradigm. While I am not a ludite, I may be a liturgical ludite. I don't think PowerPoint presentations set us apart or make worship more valuable, nor do I think contemporary music makes us relevant. Technology can be used for great good in the church (you try writing a sermon by hand or typewriter); moreover, it can provide a valuable resource for reaching out to others and letting them know what we stand for. However, much of the usage today is merely an incompetant attempt at a "relevant" theology or liturgy that does nothing to set Christianity or worship apart from a run of the mill country club gathering.

I will add the fourth installment later this week. I leave you with one question. Namely, how will/does technology help/hinder the churches ability to adapt/stand against the pre-dominant ethos in the United States?

grace and peace...



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