there is far more to this Christian life than getting it right. There is living it right. Learning the truth of God, the gospel, the scriptures involves understanding words, concepts, history. But living it means working through a world of deception, of doubt and suffering, a world of rejections and betrayal and idolatry.
We don’t grow and mature in our Christian life by sitting in a classroom and library, listening to lectures and reading books, or going to church and singing hymns and listening to sermons. We do it by taking the stuff of our ordinary lives, our parents and children, our spouses and friends, our workplaces and fellow workers, our dreams and fantasies, our attachments, our easily accessible gratifications, our depersonalizing of intimate relations, our commodification of living truths into idolatries, taking all this and placing it on the altar of refining fire–our God is a consuming fire–and finding it all stuff redeemed for a life of holiness. A life that is not reserved for nuns and monks but accessible to every Dick and Jane in every ordinary congregation.
Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning. That, quite simply is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.
One of the classes I’m in is Theology & Culture with Barry Taylor. I love it. We’re looking at the way in which God can be found in various aspects of culture. This week, we looked at media, and we noted how technological advances have revolutionized not just media and media communication, but how technology has also lent itself to a developing theology. Barry made the point that technological advances have laid the groundwork for imagination to play a more central part in shaping our realities; not that imagination (or vision, as someone else phrased it) was not previously involved in the process of seeing and working towards a better or alternate reality, but that it’s place is becoming more central and its potential is becoming more wide-ranging. At least, that’s how I understood his point.
A year ago, I wrote a paper on spirituality and technology in the 21st century. My basic point was that technology is a boon to us–it allows us to do so much more than we were ever able to–in this specific case, in terms of communication, with email, with social networking, with sites like YouTube and Twitter; but that we need to be aware of how it impacts us and how it influences us. This is a particular challenge since technology is such a part of our lies that it is often difficult to see what influence it has upon us. But we need to be active and proactive in engaging with culture, in seeing how God is working in the culture we inhabit, in the technological advances that we see and the benefits that they bring, as well as being aware of the pitfalls and risks. Media and technology and their benefits for culture and spirituality can only be properly enjoyed and appreciated if its challenges to culture and spirituality are also properly understood and engaged–the best way to engage is with an eye on the whole picture.
I love technology. As a musician, I love the convenience of being able to carry my entire music collection around on my laptop. I have over four thousand songs in my library, and assuming (generously) that a CD can hold fourteen or fifteen songs, that would equal almost three hundred CDs. As someone who lives on a different continent to most of my family and many of my closest friends, I appreciate th ease with which technological advances have allowed me to chat with friends over IM or talk to people long-distance for cheap (or free). As an activist, I love that the internet can be utilized to bring people together for a common goal, to share with and to encourage one another.
But I’m also distinctly aware of the challenges that technology poses: the temptation to avoid silence and contemplation having so much with which to distract myself, the tendency to waste time browsing inane websites (and there are A LOT), the abuse of the internet to spread falsehoods and malice, the multiplicity of creative TV shows that can take up much of one’s time (to the point where one doesn’t even take time to be creative oneself!).
As a church, as Christians, we need to be engaging with culture; we need to be seeking God in culture and seeing where he’s working. I think if we really open our eyes and look for him, we’ll be surprised where he shows up.
Speaking of media, there’s a new NBC drama that I love. It’s called “Kings,” and it’s based on the biblical story of David, translated to a fictional modern kingdom. Apart from the fact that Chris Egan, who plays David, seems to always have a look on his face as if you’ve just wounded him (I suppose that’s the natural look for a young, righteous hero), it’s been interesting to see how the writer Michael Green has brought this story to life for modern times. Here’s a teaser video for the premiere episode.