This blog is part of a series of reflections on Jay Y. Kim’s necessary book, Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age.”
Here at Interfaithfulness we talk about building bridges, with our mission statement, “Building Bridges Where History Builds Walls.” We build bridges to a better tomorrow.
But how can we help God's people bridge to a better communal tomorrow?
Let's begin by looking at today. With our world overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have had to settle for virtual meetings. We’re glad we have the technology. It is like manna in our wilderness. But manna got old real fast. And when you had too much of it, it got wormy. Sounds like virtual reality doesn’t it? It’s getting wormy on us.
In his first chapter of Analog Church, “Slow and Steady: Why Go Analog?” Jay Kim reminds us of three benefits of our digital, virtual world:
1. Speed. We have access to what we want when we want, as quickly as our fingers can type and scroll.
2. Choices. We have access to an endless array of options when it comes to just about anything.
3. Individualism. Everything, from online profiles to gadgets, is endlessly customizable, allowing us to emphasize our preferences and personalities. (Kim, Jay Y. Analog Church (p. 15). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition).
But he reminds us of how these very blessings are reshaping and damaging our spiritual growth and communal sense, robbing us of the necessary benefits of face to face association.
Kim alerts is to how technology has always impacted how the people of God gather and grow . . . or not. The past fifty years serve as a warning to us of how our technology may determine the shape of our spirituality, to our detriment:
Television sets began to dominate American homes and gave rise to the broadcast age. Right around this time, church buildings and sanctuary began to resemble television studios – big stage, bright lights, multiple screens, and seating arranged for audiences rather than a community of congregants. (Kim, Jay Y., Analog Church (p. 16). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition).
Actually, here at Interfaithfulness, and CHAI, The CHavurah Action Initiative, we insist the goal is beyond being congregants. We need modalities that support us being family to one another. That is why we speak of "Households of faith among Jews and Christians."
Do you agree that we need structures to support our being family together?
Look for more blogs in this series, stimulated by Jay Y. Kim’s challenging book.
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While I agree with the assertions here, the question remains not so much "why" it would be better to transition from virtual to physical community interaction, but "how" to accomplish it, and at what cost. As is beginning to become clear, the costs will include adamant political resistance and active physical resistance against overbearing governmental authorities and cultural tyrants. It will require active defiance, and likely much perseverance in the face of persecution and imprisonment. It will require public assertion of a number of legal truths drawn from the US Constitution, as well as moral truths drawn from the Jewish scriptures that include the Tenach and the apostolic writings. All this will be pitched against apparently well-meaning people who believe they are doing what is right and healthy when they persecute us. We are already facing a kulturkampf of strong delusion and superstition about the pandemic and about numerous other matters. Christians and Jews in the USA will find themselves facing challenges not unlike those of the underground church in PRC China. Even Jews in Israel are faced with fear-filled pandemic delusions that deny natural liberties and rationality -- and in Israel we lack a codified constitutional document that guarantees rights as does the US Constitution. Physical community is a source of strength under such harsh conditions that cannot be provided remotely via the internet, though virtual interaction may add to its strength if used well.