I see the value in my screen time, but I also see deep spiritual value in unplugging electronics and plugging in to God in our midst.
via Step Away From the Screen | SPIRIT.
I’ve been reading David Weinberger’s Too Big To Know. Lots of things in it distract me (in a good way) as DW constantly makes points that cause me to sit on a point for a bit and consider how we do such and such with the way we perceive the Web as a church.
The place here, in this article, as much as I can affirm the need to “step away ” from the screen to be “with others” where “God in our midst”, I often sense that there is not a wide enough net cast in such thought re: WHERE God is. God is in the Net to the same extent that he is OFFLINE to the same extent that he/she is not attenuated or ignored OFFLINE or ONLINE. Inother words, 1) God is there , regardless of our attention. 2) God is sensed or not sensed relative to our attention/availability/consciousness/acknowledgment that he is THERE/NOT THERE. And this is true OFFLINE or ONLINE. There are times Face to Face when I am not present with those to whom I am Physically prescenced. When I am MOST present to OTHERS, I am closest to God, who is in our midst. Less present to others, LESS sense of God. Usually. Same thing online. The more “present” I am in terms of healthy interchange and “sensing” the online persons with whom I am interacting, the more one might say that God is “in ourmidst”. The “midst” is of a diffetrent character, but it is, nonetheless, a “midst”.
What is exciting me about “Too Big To Know” is not only an accurate and well articulated account of my own experience of the possibilities for the Net, but an exploration of the way we can think theologically about the Net as we consider the medium. My studies twenty years ago of such writings as Eisenstein on the Printing Press and Walter Ong in “Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word” and similar studies since have given me a ripe appetite for what David Weinberger writes in Too Big To Know. And it is the perfect study to really immerse me in exploration of how the Church can benefit from such socio-psychological studiesof the culture of print (and the move toward and inhabiting of the culture of the Net). The notions of knowledge are being usurped, and the rise of the theological postmoderns (often found in the “Emergent” movement) are a church-based testimony to that reality.
This evolution of the concept of what constitutes knowledge is seen to a degree in things like “Step Away From The Screen”. I read a lot of these, to see what kind of argument they’re making. I see FAR fewer instances of “Step Away from your Bible reading”, although the world of The Book can “fence us in” from more “FTF, relational” experience as do SCREENS/computers. And I want to press home the notion that “the Screen” does the purpose of text better than text itself, alone, can do. When I say “the purpose of text”, I refer to the story that the writer is trying to tell. I think of the closing sentence of the Gospel of John:
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written. –John 21:25
I sense in that the feeling of “this Gospel has tried to give an account of the life of Jesus, but it’s so much more than this”. The sense that the linear story doesn’t quite capture it. (I even considered how it’s probably not even true that “all the books in the world could not contain the “deeds” of Jesus. What Jesus DID could easily be chronicled. It would be a long book, but what Jesus DID would not be that much, but perhaps the intended dialogue that his life invites as we pursue the meaning of the story is what the author was describing as somewhat “uncapturable”. Not that the Net can do that either, but it can surely capture more, and lead us to more dialogue and enable a wider conversation than books could ever do.
I think that in this way, God is certainly “in our midst” in participatory online communities, and it seems to me that online theological conversation is much closer to “fellowship” than individual Bible reading. And this is not because I don’t see value in “reading the Bible”. But it is because I find the Biblical story to have much more to say as I hear it through the experiences and lives of others, or am able to share my sense of it with others.