As a result of some recent conversations, I picked up Neil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. I stayed up and read about a third of it last night with delight. A number of questions were fostered in the back of my mind. I guess the ultimate question, that I hope gets answered (or at least clarified) is how we should respond to the onslaught of new technology. I recognise that a culture can be dominated by a technopoly, as our North American culture surely is. But how do we either neglect technological innovations when necessary, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Or, how do we accept new technologies without being swept up in the tide, ultimately to be overwhelmed? Christians are notoriously ones who jump on a bandwagon after everyone has jumped off. And, we’re the ones who gluttonously accept cultural phenomena without a second thought about the damage done to us and our community.

Tim Challies has a through provoking post (Don’t Take Your iPod to Church – is this a play on Johnny Cash’s “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town??) asking his readers not to bring their e-bible readers to church with them. His rationale is along the McLuhan-esque, “The medium is the message” line. Recently Tim’s interests have gravitated to technology. He also recently wrote a book on discernment, and knowing him personally, I see that he is quite a discerning and wise guy (the latter in both senses of the phrase!). I’m anxious to read Tim’s thoughts on these issues as I think they’ll be challenging and careful.

Is taking an e-reader to church a signal of the church’s captivity to technopoly, or is it a means of utilising a tool towards a positive end? I honestly don’t know at this point, but I’m anxious to find out. Hopefully Tim’ll be of use. If not, I’ll punch him in the arm at church in the coming weeks.



Filed under culture

3 responses to “Technology

  1. I wonder if there was any controversy in the church over the transition from scrolls to bound books? I mean, now we look at the printing press and what not as a single edged blessing… but there must have been some luddites (even among the non-establishment people) back then.

    I myself prefer to be fairly low-tech at church. I guess its sort of like camping, getting away from some of the gadgets. As an Information Technology professional, I naturally hate technology. So I try to avoid it at church. It’s one of my few refuges from being buried in it. I guess its my weekly sanctuary from ipods, phones, desktops, laptops, and what not. I’m thinking about transitioning my sermon recording technique to LPs. Think about it, avoid some of the digital-ness *and* outreach to retro people as well!

    It would be hard and futile and not a good idea to force people to go low-tech at church.. But all these devices sometimes become a bit of a burden and a distraction, and its getting increasingly hard to escape from them! As for ereaders an what not…I don’t know that its necessarily either a signal of captivity or a very positive end. It’s probably just a mildly convenient development that helps in some ways and gets a bit suffocating in the final analysis.

  2. On the printing press, Postman has an interesting observation about the inability to control technology. Gutenberg was a strong Roman Catholic, yet Luther credits the printing press with spreading the Protestant Reformation. Something Gutenberg would surely not have appreciated!
    You are right about not forcing people to go low-tech, Challies’ basic plea is to do it willfully.

  3. ben

    Didn’t the church have a serious kerfuffle with organs many years ago? I don’t think its so far off from the issue at hand.

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