Wednesday, September 28, 2011

From The Garden To The City Blog Tour - #5

Right now I am sitting in Nashville, TN in someone’s upper room (literally – we don’t really do hotels…we much more prefer the cheaper route aka a bed and breakfast) preparing for the American Association of Christian Counselors world conference taking place the remainder of this week.  I’m sitting on a bed connected to free wireless the only thing that could make this better would be a good cup of coffee…

This is a great thing for several reasons.  One, I’m a country music buff…I LOVE this stuff.  Especially the old Nashville types, Johnny Cash is my favorite…I got to go to the Ryman Auditorium today…VERY COOL.  Johnny Cash, June Carter, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley transformed music from hillbilly music and bluegrass to rock and roll.  All of that began here in Nashville.  Two, because of the awesomeness of technology I'm still able to share this blog post with you guys even though I'm not at home.

Some of you might be thinking that I’m just sharing just so I can say I’m in Nashville and you would be right – but I’m not – well I am, but I’m not just doing that.  In the book John starts out by discussing the jumbled mess that is the definition of technology.  Our word technology comes from two Greek words téchnē which means “craft, skill or art” and logia “which refers to the systematic study of a subject.”  So, according to the ancient Greeks music is technology.  The distinction between fine arts and technology didn’t happen until the 1600’s.  But in 1650, everything changed.  A little thing called The Industrial Revolution.  Then it wasn’t long until technology exploded and a better definition was needed.

“To help comprehend the enormous complexity of technology today, philosopher Stephen J. Kline has broken it down into four discernable layers” (pg 60).


Technology as Hardware

This is the most basic tech.  We are talking hardware type things shovels, clocks, guns, belts, and cans of Pepsi Max.  “…any physical object that does not occur naturally in our world counts as technological hardware” (pg 60).

Technology as Manufacturing

This layer of tech pans out and distinguishes between hardware and the tools and machines that make that hardware.  “This includes everything from the people running the machines to the electrical grid powering the plant to the legislation that regulates the industry” (pg 61).  This layer holds considerable significance because it did not exist before The Industrial Revolution.

Technology as Methodology

This is actually “…the knowledge and know-how necessary for making technological products” (pg 62).  This includes the “IT guy” (in my church this is also known as ‘the associate’ but I like to call him, me).  One theologian even exposes our need for technology.  We apply technological thinking to everything that we do!  “For example, when we apply La Technique (technological thinking) to the Great Commission to ‘make disciples,’ the result is often the creation of a ‘discipleship program’” (pg 63).  Then, we Christian Educators (again, this is me) and church staff try and “push” our members through these programs.  That way, when they come out the other side they will be “disciples.”  Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way because, as John points out, we can’t treat the human soul like a machine.

Technology as Social Usage

This final layer is how we use technology.  The customs and social rules around how we treat tech, the example that John uses is the social media program Twitter.  Originally Twitter was intended for a way to send mass text messages.  But, Twitter users (I’m one of them!  Follow me here) started using Twitter in a way that the designers did not expect.  Users began using Twitter less with text messaging and more time was spent on the actual site and via third party programs.  Twitter was also being used more for two way conversation instead of mass communication.  “…technology can also shape entire cultures, and in turn be shaped by those cultures” (pg 65).

John Dyer then takes all of these various layers for technology and condenses it into a working definition.  
 “…‘the human activity of using tools to transform God’s creation for practice purposes’” (pg 68).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

From The Garden To The City Blog Tour - #4

It’s interesting….that while this book is about technology…I don’t find myself reminiscing on tech that much after reading it. 
This chapter is called Reflection (you can unlock it here).  I have affection for several things; one of those things is church ritual.  I LOVE liturgy – I own several books on liturgical services – simply to have them to study and learn.  In this chapter John talks a lot about culture.  

As an example, I live in Westfield, IN.  Westfield was founded by Quakers.  The anti-slavery sentiment ran high in Westfield and it attributed to the vast number of churches in the area and thus, a high religious atmosphere.  There are stories of the Methodist women (from the church I currently serve – you can see our church history here) storming a local bar and burning it to the ground. 

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, is known for The Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  The Quadrilateral explains how we can know God.  One of the ways is tradition – how we’ve always done it – looking back over history shows us how we can know God.  The same can be said of culture, however as John points out:

“We don’t live in the Garden of Eden, and the things, images, and rituals of today’s cultures and subcultures don’t always reflect the values of our Creator.  The wickedness of much of today’s culture has led some to believe that culture is synonymous with worldliness.  Therefore it’s hard to believe that culture and technology actually existed in the garden” (pg 50).  

John shows that the first tools developed in Eden.  Adam created language and it changed things. Just last week, it was great to watch my son mull over, ponder, and finally categorize “the spinny zoo” (aka a merry-go-round).  Language was a tool for Adam – it shaped his culture.  It changed the lives of Eve and their children (pg 51).  

“Language is not only purposed for the transfer of information.  Another aspect of language that makes it more tool-like is that we actually use language to accomplish something” (pg 53). 

We do many things with language that cause change. God spoke the world into being – his tool to shape the world.

 “God designed the world in such a way to be cultivated and shaped by humanity, and when we create we are operating as God’s image bearers” (pg 54).

Check out this week's post on ChurchMag by Greg Deitz.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

From The Garden To The City Blog Tour - #3

“Technology, then, is the means by which we transform the world as it is into the world we desire.  What we often fail to notice is that it is not only the world that gets transformed by technology. We, too, are transformed….Indeed as John Culkin, a student of Marshall McLuhan, wrote, ‘We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us’” (pp. 35-36).

John opens this chapter with a discussion on imagination, in fact, that’s the title of this chapter.  He goes on to make an earth shattering statement that, while a truth that many people know, it needs to be said.  Essentially he states:  Most adults don’t have an imagination.  Some of adults really have no imagination to speak of; while others are ridiculously imaginative.   

I’m reminded of my son (well he’s my wife’s son too, but this is my blog and you guys don’t know my wife) whose imagination allows him to be a shark swimming in the sea one minute and a cat looking for a ball of string the next.  I too have an active imagination, but it differs from my son’s – I often see what could be…I see the world with a few new holes – just because someone tweeted about using a shovel (Confused?  You can read the Imagination chapter and get a better understanding of what I’m talking about).

Dyer goes in to much more detail and discusses the transforming power of technology and does a wonderful job in this chapter but I want to stay right here – because this concept speaks volumes about what this blog is all about.

I hope you read this chapter…if you haven’t click here….go ahead, I’ll wait. 
Did you read it?

Okay awesome….now that you’ve read it you should go and buy it (you can do that here).

I hope you bought it….if you didn’t and you REALLY want a copy…click on the Contact Me button on the left hand side of your screen and shoot me a quick message – and I will see what I can do for you.

The illustration of a shovel and the tool’s ability to transform not only the ground but also the worker – is what I want to discuss.

Love has that ability too.  Love transforms both “the lover” (the person who is “doing” the loving) and “the lovee” (the person who is being loved on).  See, when we redefine love (here’s the idea behind redefining love) from our own self-love to, what I’ll call, “other love” we start to see change.  You will begin to notice a difference in your own life and in the lives of those around you.  Thanks for that little indulgence – back to the book.

Then John goes Keanu Reeves on us…that’s right I’m talking about post-humanism.

“Our ultimate destiny, the post-humanists contend, is to transcend our weak biological bodies and be born again into eternal machines” (p 41).  
 Did anybody else see the Matrix?  If not, I would suggest you go to your local library and pick it up right now!  The central idea is that machines take over the world and enslave humans….blah, blah, blah….long story very short (spoiler alert…if you haven’t seen this movie don’t read these next few words) Neo (aka Keanu Reeves) is Jesus.  

 But it’s the back story of The Matrix that I am most interested in.  Humans create machines to do their work…eventually the machines start to wonder why they have to take orders from us….the next thing you know….apocalypse.

You might be looking at that going – that’s not what he’s talking about!  Let me try to explain.  Humans made an attempt to “better their lives” with technology – in essence technology to save them – only to realize that technology is/was not the answer to their salvation.

So does technology save us?  No.  

Does that mean that Christians should ignore it?  

Demonize it?  

Sell their house and move under a rock?  

 “If it is true that technology has the capacity to shape the world that God made, as well as shape our bodies, minds, and souls, then it seems we should care deeply about our tools.  Moreover, if technology plays some role in the story of God redeeming his people, we should care all the more” (p 42).

Check out this post on ChurchMag by Wes Allen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001 - Ten Years Later....

My dad was a deputy sheriff for 27 years.  Law enforcement holds a special place in my heart - and it always will.  However, on this day 10 years ago, the danger of that profession came into focus.  I'm sure that you won't forget where you were on that Tuesday morning.  I remember watching in horror from the sales floor at my Central Illinois Staples store.

As night settled on that day it became apparent that life would never be the same.  In 2003 I had the opportunity to go to the WTC site.  What struck me the most was the silence.  Having been all over the city and being from a farm town, it was very loud.  Then suddenly from the moment that I stepped off the subway it was quiet. The symbol that was embedded in my mind and always will be this cross.

It's a symbol of peace in the midst of chaos.  It now stands at the 9/11 Memorial.  A conflict to say the least.  However, here it stands at the memorial unveiling:

Never matter your stance on the war - the memory of those who died need to be remembered.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

From The Garden To The City Blog Tour - #2

What the what?!  Wow.  I’d love to end my post here, but then it wouldn’t be much of a post, would it? 
In Chapter 1, John relates a ministry story involving a projector and Bible study.  Then he steps it up a notch and starts questioning long held “traditions” in Christian Education.  Now, because this is my field of expertise I was a little on edge, I was ready to jump all over him for stepping on my toes. 
“But, but, but…..but…..we’ve always done it this way!”  That little voice in my head is screaming.
The printed Bible…that’s what I was all up in arms about.  John says that his students didn’t bring their Bibles to youth group but instead were content to simply read it from the screen.   It concerned him at first…but then he realized that before the advent of the printing press people didn’t have their own Bibles they listened to the Word.  Nevertheless, I’m still all in an uproar.  Then, Dyer rocked me to my core with this statement: 

“While God’s words are eternal and unchanging, the tools we use to access those words do change, and those changes in technology also bring subtle changes to the practice of worship” (pg 25).
“It was different.”
That was the response from a recent visitor when asked what they thought of our worship service.
“I like to hold a hymnal.”
That story hit home today.  I was being just like that visitor – I was complaining because I thought it was “sacrilegious” that John was suggesting that we should be okay with students not bringing their Bibles to youth group.  Of my attitude, Dyer says this:
“Rather than taking our cues about technology from the Scriptures and the outline of God’s plan for humanity, we seem to be locked in a cycle of questioning the really, really new but accepting the just barely old.  We question the young for the blind acceptance of the latest gadgets, but we do so driving our computerized cars to and from church sipping on coffee grown on another continent” (pg 28).
Again – wow!  What a statement.  Dyer concludes with pointing out the progression of the Bible, and thus the title of the book. 
“At one end of this story is a pristine garden prepared by God for humankind to develop and transform.  At the other end is a glorious, heavenly city full of human creations, art, and technology.  At the center is our Savior Jesus Christ crucified on a cross, the most horrific of all technological distortions, built by transforming a tree from the natural world into a tool of death.  Yet in his resurrection, Christ redeemed even that tool, transforming it into the symbol of our faith that eternally portrays his power over death and sin” (pg 29).
To which, I must respond….
What the what.