Last week the Oscar-winning actress Ellen Page was trending in all news and social media channels. At the Human Right Campaign– conference “Time to thrive” she came out as a lesbian. The youtube video was seen by over 4.000.000 viewers after just one week.
In previous posts I already addressed the issue of social media in the daily life of our churches (e.g. here and here). In one of the articles we read this week, the author Stephen Garner enfolded the more underlying and fundamental topic of theology and internet in general. Garner approaches the discussion by defining theology following Kathryn Tanner:
„Christian theology must be comprehensive because all aspects of the universe are in some form of a relationship with God, then theology must nevertheless grapple with the Internet.”
Tanner argues the theologian should not attempt to become an expert in all things, but rather draw from the knowledge and wisdom of others who are already steeped in that field.
Theology as a relational event.
Does this mean, that theology itself enables and emerges relationsships? And in a connection of theology and technology, does this relationship relate humans to technology or humans with each other? Garner cites Ian Babour, who defines technology as “the application of organized knowledge to practical tasks by ordered systems of people and machine.” By doing so, he positively values technology as a facilitator of relations.
This approach is describes in three dimensions: Technology as liberator (like Arab spring), oppressor (mobbing and bullying) and instrument (as a tool). Garner opens a broad field of technology (applied to the internet) and seeks to link it with the reality of the church. I expected a further ecclesiological with a similar openness. Unfortunately Garner reduces his ecclesiological debate on the nature and purpose of the church. And grasps church as the organizational church (ecclesia visibilis). A turn towards the ecclesia invisibilis would have been far more fruitful. This would have opened a whole new dimension of the relationship of theology and technology (applied to the internet).
„In fact, we are separated from the other animals because we have phenomenal social skills that enable us to teach, learn, symathize, emote and build cultures, institutions, and the complex mental scaffolding of civilizations.
Who are we?
We are like spritual Grand Central stations.“
„We are junctions where millions of senstations, emotions, and signals interpenetrate every second. We are communication centers, and through some process we are not close to unterstanding, we have the ability to particlly govern this traffic – to shift attention from one thing to another, to choose and commit. We become fully ourselves only through the ever-richening interplay of our networks.We seek, more than anything else, to establish deeper and more complete connections.“
(David Brooks: The social animal: The hidden sources if love, character, and achievement)
Today the Church of England posted the results of a new survey by the Faith in Research Conference, who systematically researched for 18 month the church growth in the Church of England. The results were significant:
– Fresh Expressions of church are growing with around 21,000 people attending in the 10 surveyed areas of the 44 Church of England Dioceses. These new forms of church include Café Churches, churches in drop in centres, Messy Church and churches which meet in pubs and bars or out in the street. More than half (56%) meet not in churches and over half (52%) are run by non-ordained leaders.
– Weekly attendance in the Cathedrals grew by 35% between 2002 and 2012. In a survey of cathedral worshippers, peace and contemplation, worship and music and a friendly atmosphere were identified as the top three motivating factors for attending.
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury presented the suvey and commented the results: „There is every reason to be hopeful about the future of the Church of England, and indeed, all the churches in this country. There are many signs of growth, huge areas of development, and the church is – more than it has been for the last 60 years – demonstrating how essential it is to hold together our society.“