WARNING: I don't know which is worse: the disease or the cure!
(hat tip: Participatory Bible Study Blog)
Following up on last week's post about Google's contributions to the Echo-chamber, I want to expand on one point:
What are the responses of Christian web ministries when their websites get less hits because people self-select "Saddleback" or "CrossWalk" and drive up their narrow viewpoints on the search lists?I started to think about this more. As more and more people turn to the Internets for answers, what if the top 10 hits on theological questions become the most read and thus the "standard?" Read on to see what the tyranny of a search-savvy viewpoint might become.
This becomes more and more likely with the emergence of Google offering the top results in searches to Wikipedia. Nick Carr ran some google searches for a year or so and documented wikipedia entries moving into the top spot of those searches in a year's time. Should we worry about this? Maybe. (hat tap: Andrew Sullivan)
[W]hat we seem to have here is evidence of a fundamental failure of the Web as an information-delivery service. Three things have happened, in a blink of history's eye: (1) a single medium, the Web, has come to dominate the storage and supply of information, (2) a single search engine, Google, has come to dominate the navigation of that medium, and (3) a single information source, Wikipedia, has come to dominate the results served up by that search engine. Even if you adore the Web, Google, and Wikipedia - and I admit there's much to adore - you have to wonder if the transformation of the Net from a radically heterogeneous information source to a radically homogeneous one is a good thing.Hmm. While Wikipedia's mystique is of a huuge number of editors, a populist ideal, the reality (from our "What the Church can Learn from Wikipedia" series) is that a small number of editors really put together the pages. So, in other words, the top search result in Google isn't written by computers, but by small groups of Wikipedia gatherers and editors.
Is culture best served by an information triumvirate?
Is this bad? With any ownership of information by a small group of people, I would worry. I would worry about a group of evangelical Christians rewriting the Atonement entry of Wikipedia to be entirely blood atonement, which is not representative of all of Christianity, yet it gets top billing in Google.
Jonathan Brink wonders the same thing on his post called "the End of Myth" where he describes how control of information (historically the Magisterium) begats myths to sustain that control:
The power of myth is essentially this: If I control truth, and you want to know truth, you need me. And if you need me, I can tell you what to think, how to act, and even where to give your money. I can even create visions of a hell that exists when you don’t follow me. I can in essence control you through fear. And when the cost is your soul, the weight gets increased exponentially. And worse, I don’t need to be right. I just need you to believe I’m right...See the relationship? For the Magisterium, they controlled information flow and propogated myth that reinforced their position. For Google, they control information flow, allegedly by computers, but wikipedia is clearly edited by a small group of humans.
Magisterium power lies in the control of information. To protect orthodoxy, the Magisterium essentially withheld Scripture from people, providing it in a foreign language.
What it means to me is that any theological viewpoint that receives strong SEO (search engine optimization) can become the new "truth." If you can get that viewpoint to the top of google searches, or better to cover the majority of the first page of results, then that becomes more and more "truth." And this alliance between Wikipeda and Google can perpetuate this narrow viewpoint and bury (send to a lower ranking) theological viewpoints that do not agree with the SEO viewpoint.
I'm not wearing a tinfoil hat, this is happening today. Search for the United Methodist Church on Google and the Wikipedia entry comes up #1 (ABOVE the umc.org website! Seriously!). Thus the publicly editable website is above the UMC-written doctrine. But to the point: in the section on "beliefs on homosexuality" (click here), there's very little nuance of the doctrine. A UM friend of mine edited the section to better reflect the conflicting doctrines on this issue. Within hours, it was deleted and the monolithic viewpoint restored. This kept on for several days until the UM gave up. So, to any gay UMs wanting to see themselves in UM doctrine, they did not see it because of one or two people who kept reverting the UM Wikipedia article to its monolithic viewpoint.
So, the tyranny of the SEO Church is that any theological viewpoint which receives higher status thanks to SEO efforts (either coordinated or consequential) becomes more "true" and read than opposing viewpoints. It doesn't become more true in fact or validity, but like the Magisterium, true in our belief that it is true.
Whew. Tinfoil hats on. I have more to write about this, but that's the gist. Thoughts so far to help me focus this conversation a bit?
Only one way to find out: challenge the nightstand in dejarik. If you win and your arms are ripped off...then yes, it was Chewbacca.
Some people try things out in their church and look for feedback online. I try out my crazy ideas online and use the feedback to make my local church ministry more awesome.
Back in November, I wrote about the effect a fake New York Times had on people and I wondered what would happen if we did something similar in the church: Using Fake News as the Good News.
Well, I tried it this past Sunday. Here's what happened.
Note: yes, there's a lot of "I" language in this. While the laity are very involved in worship, I made this a pastoral secret effort that surprised even the most well-connected of people. I would not recommend it, it was a lot of work!
So, there you have it. Questions about our experiment, or ideas you want to share about your own? Discuss.
Image via WikipediaOne of the last acts that President Bush took in the past few months was to issue a "health care conscience rule" that would shield individuals from performing functions of their jobs that they found "morally objectionable." Sounds pretty decent, right? I'd hate to be told that my job involved neutering dolphins or that I would be forced to drink alcohol as a pastor? That would be good, right?
Well, it would be, except in the following cases this kind of "conscience" shield are at the intersections of religion and morality.
- As a small case, a Christian bus driver refused to drive a bus that had an atheist advertisement on the side. I think s/he missed a great opportunity to provide a different sort of witness while on the job!
- As a scarily-more-common case, Pharmacists can refuse to dispense birth control or morning-after pills because of their religious beliefs about abortion or contraception.
- And on the ridiculously extreme front, a nurse admitted removing an IUD because considered them to be a type of abortion. Um, besides the medical facts, this is scary!
I beg to differ.
So tell me what is moral about this scenario: What if you are the only pharmacist in a rural town...and you refuse to give out birth control? What sort of moral choice are you forcing on people who then have to drive to the next town or county? We in urban America don't have this difficulty, but it is very real in rural America.
I've got a dozen other scenarios, but the round point is this: if you are in a profession, then you have an obligation to act professionally. Any medical person now knows that part of the job of being a pharmacist is dealing with birth control and RU-486s, so if you find that morally-objectionable, work in another field! Because your "morals" are getting in the way of patients' rights:
"This ['conscience rule'] is a very significant threat to patients' rights in the United States," said Lois Uttley of the MergerWatch project, who is helping organize a conference in New York to plot a counterstrategy. "We need to protect the patient's right to use their own religious or ethical values to make medical decisions."
In short, pharmacists have a level of control over their patients' lives. By choosing to control their actions by refusing to fill prescriptions one finds "morally objectionable" you are exerting power-over a person, which is not the power that Christ calls us to. The Apostle Paul calls us to be made perfect in weakness, in offering ourselves as powerless. This is none of that.
Thoughts on this controversy? If you found yourself in a profession that forced you to make morally-objectionable actions, would you get out of the profession or just stop offering care to those in need?
As readers here at HX know, the Echo Chamber is the box we build for ourselves in our customizable world where we watch news shows or read internet sites where the "angle" of the writing agrees with us. We are reinforcing our ideologies by reading websites that speak to those ideologies.
Why is this a problem? In this Echo-Chamber, it is very difficult for people to get dissonant messages into our lifestyle. It is very difficult for Christians to get their message of the love of God to people whose lifestyle is a closed system. If there was any one aspect of people's lifestyles that you could say "yeah, that's what Hacking Christianity talks about," it's probably this concept.
Alas, Google has two features now that encourage this type of lifestyle:
- SearchWiki. You may see this already, the "up" arrows after posts. While this is allegedly an algorhythm to allow Google to know if you "found what you searched for" it also leads to preference given to particular sites that reinforce your worldview. If you search for "Barack Obama" and give an "up" vote to a Fox News clip, then the likelihood of a fox news result being returned for you later gets an uptick.
- Even more chamber-ish is Preferred Sites. This is when you see a result from a website you like, then you can click this and get more results from that website. Again, you are more likely to get search results, even on mundane topics, from websites that appeal to your ideology or lifestyle.
Thoughts? Are custom search engines limiting our searches or ensuring that "we get what we search for?" And what are the responses of Christian web ministries when their websites get less hits because people self-select "Saddleback" or "CrossWalk" and drive up their narrow viewpoints on the search lists?
Discuss. Oh, and if anyone wants to make HX to their preferred site, be my guest. I have no shame.
This is not a partisan moment. This is a historic moment.
(video removed after inauguration because it breaks the site)
My church staff will be watching this tomorrow. Why? Because when my kids ask me "where were you when our first black President was sworn in?" I don't have to say "I was writing the bulletin."
We'll let the Simpsons start this one out: (via Atheist Media Blog)
I was also asked this during Children's Time once. While we cannot answer the question with certainty given that...well, we don't know, there IS some biblical evidence:
- In the Creation story narrative, the humans are kicked out of Paradise. Animals are not kicked out of paradise. Thus, they will be in paradise (Genesis 1+2)
- In the Jonah narrative, when the city of Ninevah is told to repent or be destroyed, they all put on sackcloth...including the animals! Thus animals were included in the redemption of Ninevah. (Jonah 3:8, 4:11)
But he curses at the same time he preaches Calvinism. He talks about masturbation as easily as he quotes Ecclesiastes 9:10 (look it up for a ha-ha moment). And his cool-kid version of "everything is determined by God and humans are worms" reaches beyond Seattle to the world via facebook and youtube short videos (search for Mars Hill on youtube to check it out).
I would hesitate to claim this as a hack for Christianity: he removes the puritanical prohibitions of dress, piercings, and form. But he embraces the Calvinistic theology and puritanical understandings of woman's place in society and rejects Jesus' non-violence.
Since I'm on an anti-purpose-driven-life kick, my Methodist upbringing obviously can't handle Calvinism. Can you imagine Wesley writing this :
You are not captain of your soul or master of your fate but a depraved worm whose hard work and good deeds will get you nowhere, because God marked you for heaven or condemned you to hell before the beginning of time.Yeah, me neither. I walked out of a United Methodist event where we played a bible study by Mars Hill because the underlying theology is completely antithetical to Wesleyan company.
Anywho, this is an open thread. Comments on Mars Hill and his idea of hacking Christianity? What do you think about him and his ministry? Read the article (bonus for UM Pastor Katie Ladd's mention!) and sound off!
Oh, the joy of the internets. This makes me cringe, but it's clearly awesome that these pastors have waaaaay fun in their parish.
Yes it's a parody of Veggietales "The Pirates Who Won't Do Anything"
(hat tip: MMI)
While clearly a joke at an atheist meeting, this video of a "de-baptism" moment actually made me chuckle...then stop and think.
Did you watch the young girl? When the "de-baptism" via a hairdryer was over she raised up her hands and said "I can see!" The people laughed at her clever correlation between baptism and healing miracles.
I laughed too, even at my chosen religion's expense. But as I laughed, I realized something powerful: remembering our baptisms is to reaffirm a God who heals us. I think like this video, many of us de-baptize Jesus and do not see what Jesus' baptism really was. If we connect healing and baptisms, then we fully understand what Jesus' baptism really was.
When we talk about healing, we often conflate two terms: disease and illness. In Arthur Kleinman's 1980s book Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture, we have a clarification between the two:
Disease refers to a malfunctioning of biological and/or psychological processes, while the term illness refers to the psychosocial experience and meaning of the perceived disease...Viewed from this perspective, illness is the shaping of disease into behavior and experience. It is created by personal, social, and cultural reactions to disease. (pg. 72)As John Crossan comments on the above passage in his book God and Empire,
Thus, diseases are cured, while illnesses are healed. Sometimes a disease can be cured, but very often the best that can be done is to heal the illness that surrounds it. Crossan goes on to talk about the movie Philadelphia, starring Tom Cruise as Beckett, a gay lawyer with AIDS. He concludes with this connection:
My students all understood that Beckett's disease cannot be cured, but they could also see eventually that his illness is being healed by the support of his partner, his family...Curing is not available, but healing is still possible.Seen in this light, the healing power of Jesus Christ may not come in wild moments when the blind can see, but comes in the constant care and concern given to healing the illness, the walking and coping that we struggle with daily. When we offer love and care to those who find themselves unloveable, we are co-healing their illness with Christ. Their disease is in the hands of God and of Science, but we can do something about their illness.
I have done one too many funerals for people that have passed away too early in life from cancer. A God who heals disease is not my understanding of God, though I certainly leave room for God to act as God will. However, a God who heals illness, who offers us pathways and possibilities that lead to a healing of the illness surrounding a disease and perhaps leading to a regression and healing of the disease...that's a God I believe in and that's the call to nurturing and healing that I understand to be part of Christian mission and ministry.
In summary, healing can be understood as more than a one-time healing of a disease, but as a process of coming to terms with an illness in helpful ways that bring forth the Spirit in another.
Same with Baptism. I don't understand baptism as the washing away of a disease or the cleansing of Original Sin. God has already done that with God's grace (prevenient, for the Methodists taking score at home). Baptism is not a one-time event where the clouds part and a dove come down. Rather, Baptism is a process that establishes the baseline and every moment after that is steps that remind us to seek personal holiness in our lives: to deal with the "illness" so to speak. As my friend Will Green wrote yesterday:
Sometimes it feels that baptism is an act of entering a church and becoming a member. Sometimes people think that baptism is a necessary precursor to being saved. Sometimes it is seen as a promise to be a good parent. Sometimes baptism is thought to be an expression of mercy to children and newborns.In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks of his two baptisms. Really. His first was in the river with John, yes. But Jesus seems to speak of a second baptism in Mark 10:38. The disciples ask to be on the left and right of him...not knowing that Jesus would be crucified between two criminals! Jesus speaks of a cup from which he must drink, and a baptism with which he must be baptized. Everything in this passage is prophesying his death and the most-likely end of anyone who wants to emulate Jesus.
I think that baptism is way to claim the power of the Holy Spirit in one's life. Living as a disciple of Jesus Christ connects us to God and being connected to God affects our life.
I take from this passage what Marjorie Suchocki took from it in God, Christ, Church: that the baptism of Jesus began in the river with John and concluded in the rain on Golgotha. His three-year baptism is his anointing as the Christ and it is in his life and death that we are made one with Christ. It was not a one-time event but a process of discovery, faith, and fidelity to the God who walks with us.
So it is with us. We are not baptized, dunked, made into cookie-cutter Christians and God is happy. As Peter Rollins writes in How to (not) Speak of God, that's like giving a lover of nuts a thousand nuts without any center: giving to God the "saved" bodies of baptized Christians without the fearsome spirit of charity and missions that comes from a lifetime of identifying with Christ. Our baptism must be understood as a process that nurtures, heals, and forgives us for a lifetime, and it is powerful to remember. If God who acts in our lives acts in process not phenomena, then our baptism is not a one-time phenomena but a process of seeking personal holiness.
Do you see the connection? Baptism is not the healing of a disease, but the coping with an illness: the power of the Holy Spirit given to us to help us cope with our troubles and feel connected to a God who is beyond our knowledge. Because it is a process, the presence of a congregation affirming a baptism is necessary to say that "we will walk through this healing with you and be accountable to you and you to us."
This Sunday is liturgically the Baptism of Jesus Sunday. Let's not give into the temptation to say that it happened as a historical event and be done with it. Remember that Jesus's baptism sustained a life of struggle, healing, teaching, and power. Let us all remember our own baptisms and the waysin which we can live out ministries of healing, nurturing, and struggling for justice. In doing so, we resist the temptation to De-Baptize Jesus and relegate his baptism to a one-time event, but instead fully recognize his baptism that carried him from the river to the cross and will carry us from whatever pits of despair we are in to the left and right sides of Jesus, our Christ.
Whew. That was two hours of writing I didn't expect. Time for bed. Thoughts?
So here's the top religious and secular blogs you should read in 2009, because apparently they get mentioned or read alot here at Hacking Christianity (in alphabetical order by first name):
- Adam Walker Cleaveland's Pomomusings
- Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish
- Blake Coffee's Church Whisperer
- Blake Huggins
- Church Marketing Sucks (group blog)
- Emerging Women (group blog)
- Feministing (group blog)
- Jan Edmiston's A Church for Starving Artists
- Jenny Smith's Jouney On (no relation)
- Jeremy Pryor's From Eden to Zion
- Jonathan Brink's Missio Dei
- Methoblog (group blog)
- Pam Spaulding's House Blend
Peter Rollins has a blog post up of political readings during Advent.His first one deals with the Genesis Creation myth as a political protest against the Egyptians. Inspirational!
Check it out.
(hat tip: Blake Huggins)
I don't care what you believe.
Just believe it.
- Shepherd Book, Serenity
Rule #145 of Hacking Christianity: if you are clergy, please don't pose for pictures of you partying it up in a nightclub both surrounded by women and drinking $10k bottles of champagne. And then, even if you do on the DL, don't get them uploaded to the internets. It's just embarrassing.
However, I will be very interested to hear how this guy reconciles blowing thousands of dollars on a nightclub night with his call to ministry to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the stranger. Though he states that he does that sort of ministry already and earned all spent money through his business advocating for hemophiliacs, I'm not convinced such wastefulness is reconcilable with ministry.
For now, I leave you with a picture-perfect violation of rule #145 of the Hacking Christianity Guidebook. You are welcome.
We at Hacking Christianity looooove subversive actions, don't we? So here's a fun one for local churches or groups that deal in contentious areas.
For every minute/day or whatever increment that the "other side" is actively participating, speaking, protesting, etc...get people to donate money to your cause per increment.
Here's two examples. While these two are specifically about marriage equality, they can easily be translated into whatever issue or stance you want to take.
- Boston held a Fred Phelps-a-thon which raised money per minute that Fred Phelps was picketing a Laramie Project in Massachusetts. They raised over $4,500 in the 45 minutes that Phelps was there.
- The same organization is holding a Rick-a-thon that will raise money for every second that Rick Warren is giving the inaugural prayer.
Regardless of your opinion on these issues, the fun and subversiveness of this kind of protest can be translated to any side of any issue...but I challenge you to turn hate into love. This is a clever way to do that, so while it's not specifically about a Christian system, it's clever enough that lets call it an action.hack!
Image by ~ Phil Moore via FlickrEver read something then wonder "where did I read that?"
- If it is in the internets, you can search for it. Online digitized information is easy to find.
- But if it is trapped away from the internets in a self-contained, totally hack-proof vault known as a.....book, then good luck finding it.
- While reading a book, when I hit a poignant passage or topic, I will write on the back page the topic and a page number.
- For example, while reading Seth Godin's Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, I wrote "Storytelling (15)" to remind me that a good note on storytelling is on page 15.
- Continuing the example, while reading I added page 138 to the topic when it was relevant, so it became "Storytelling (15) (138)"
- Here's the compiled entry under STORYTELLING
- "Marketing is the act of telling stories about the things we make" (15)
- "[Leaders] give people stories they can tell themselves" (138)
- Here's my online digital notes of Tribes, grouped by category. Yes, you will see this again as a blog series in February.
PS: Blake, your blog now comes up as an automatic link in Zemanta AND your twitter icon shows up in the images. How cool are you...and how creepy is that?
The difficulty with giving money to churches today is that in the internet age, designated giving is easy. ThinkChristian has a good discussion going about the tension between supporting the church infrastructure and giving to particular causes that you believe in. Check it out.
The discussion revolves around that people like their money to go to projects they believe in. Giving to Doctors without Borders or Red Cross or other charities...the money goes to support those causes, right?
But when people give to the church, there's this perception that it is diluted into maintenance and not mission. Maybe some will go to the AIDS ministry or the Food Shelter, but it also goes to that decrepit building that is always cold where I sit in the pew, or that pastor that I don't always agree with, or the utility company really gets my tithe anyway.
Maybe we need to hack this perceived difference between giving to causes and candidates...and giving to the church. It would seem that Candidate Jesus would raise more money than the Church of Jesus these days!
There's this concept that money gets diffused when given to the church and not for charities. But in reality, donations to charities are diffused. They have to have a secretary. They pay for office and web space. But still the perception is that "at least my money is going towards an effort I 100% agree with." So a donation to a cause is less diffused than giving to my local church.
And then there's the big winner this year in designated giving: Barack Obama. His online donations were embarrassingly huge, mostly from small donors (probably the ones who think an hour at church merits less of a gift than a movie ticket of equivalent time). But when we give to Barack Obama in small donations, we aren't giving again 100% to the man. We are paying for the entire campaign infrastructure.
But that doesn't matter to us. We are giving to a candidate, a person we believe in. If it pays for the gas for 100 miles in an RV, fine. So long as it is ethically done, where the money goes doesn't matter, because we are a part of the movement.
So, why the discrepancy? People get so concerned about paying for the infrastructure of churches, but not social actions or candidates' infrastructure.
So how are we to hack this perception in the public eye that money to a church gets diffused while money to other groups doesn't. I know that tithing is a spiritual discipline and is more about discipleship than it is an act of giving. But for those who are not in that framework yet, how can we hack this perception? How can we reframe this mentality in the church?
I see a dark, dark path if we start to polarize our programs into extremes, either anti-abortion rallies or pro-marriage-equality programs to draw money from the extreme activist ends (who are most likely to give because they are convicted). That's not the Church Universal.
So, how does your local church deal with designated giving and the need for general giving to support the infrastructure of the ministry? Discuss.