Ask HX: Are Hacks like Trojan Horses?

In an email conversation, a reader pointed me towards Mark Batterson, who writes about technology being a trojan horse that allows the Gospel to reach new people and get past their defenses that cause people to run and scream when anything "religious" comes their way.  From Mark:

Here's a thought: technology is a Trojan Horse.

Blogs and podcasts are Trojan horses that get behind the impregnable defense mechanisms that keep people out of church. Why? Because they are non-threatening. Blog visitors can remain "anonymous" as long as they want to or need to. Podcast listeners can download and check us out while they work out or hang out or commute to work.
My emailer asked if Mark and I were onto two sides of the same coin with my hacks which attempt to open up the Christian system on one side and Mark's idea of Trojan horses slipping past defenses on another.

Great question.  I would have to read more stuff about where Mark is going with Trojan horses, but they are remarkably similar.  The difference is nitpicky...we are simply writing from two different systems.

ChurchMarketingSucks defines what Mark means by Trojan Horse:
Trojan horse (n.)
Etymology: The idea appears to have originated with Mark Batterson and has been communicated by him on numerous occasions.
Definition: A method used to bypass the innate and learned defenses of individuals, specifically in regards to their tendency to use defense mechanisms when faced by the local church.
Examples: Servant evangelism, more comfortable locations for services, use of familiar technology or creating a welcoming atmosphere.
Thus, Mark's focus is on beating through the defenses of prejudgments that see church as boring, unhip, and a bit scary to interact with. The tool (be it technology or a book) allows Mark to circumvent those prejudgments to get the message across.  By "conquering" the prejudgment, a Trojan allows Christianity to be seen in a new way.

In comparison, hacks (as explored here on HX) are changes in the makeup of Christian systems.  They are focused not on others' perceptions but on how Christianity as a system becomes more open and accessible.  I feel like hacks are less about marketing and more about systemic change, one action or event at a time.

For instance, lets look at the Bible Illuminated from both these perspectives.

  • From Mark's perspective, it is a Trojan Horse.  It takes an object that people would usually not pick up (a bible) and turns it into a magazine which people would pick up.  People's prejudgments are circumvented and they are exposed to the Gospel in a way they wouldn't have normally.
  • From HX's perspective, it is a bible.hack.  It takes a part of the system (a bible) and pairs it with contemporary form (magazine) and content (internet phenomena of mash-ups).  Bibles, which have been relegated to hardbound books or ridiculous biblezines, is found in a new form which transforms what Christians AND non-Christians alike think about the Bible.  

Ultimately, I think we are both saying the same thing, but using different metaphors.  Mark uses a military analogy, whereas I use a nerd analogy.  I think the nitpicky difference is that trojan horses are focused on non-Christians, while hacks are focused on the Christian system itself.  By opening the Christian system, both disenfranchised Christians and non-theists can see Christianity in a new light...and it doesn't take a gimmick or marketing technique to do it!  They are both components of the same whole and both useful to radically hack Christianity.

So, dear anonymous reader, there's your answer.  Thoughts from the peanut gallery?


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