Being in town meant that I would not be missing our Sunday at church. While there is a definite downside to not getting away for the weekend, I could sense how God was using the words spoken through Francis Chan and Doug Fields to enlarge my heart further for my students. Maybe it was nothing revolutionary for them — I’m sure I still managed to lull them to sleep during the sermon today — but I’m praying that, by the grace of God, my love and prayers for them would ever increase.
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After a full day at church, I hustled over to the Town & Country and caught the Q+A part of Shane Hipps’ first seminar. I chatted briefly with him and wandered with him over to his next seminar (which turned out to be a good thing, because I never would have found the seminar room on my own. I’m really bad with maps and have managed to get lost several times this weekend) which expanded on several of the ideas in his book The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture, which I highly recommend.
One of the most important things Shane discussed was the oft-referenced idea, “The methods change but the Message stays the same.” This speaks to our efforts to adapt new ways of bringing the timeless, eternal Truth of the Gospel to different peoples and cultures. Unfortunately, though the sentiment is sincere and well-intentioned, it is also false.
As Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” Shane did a fantastic presentation of McLuhan’s life, thoughts on media and the future and how this impacts us as followers of Christ. We must be clear-eyed about the ways in which the media we use — and not only Media Shout or MySpace — fundamentally alters the message we are trying to convey. I saw this illustrated at every general session — although I was often sitting only several yards from the speaker, I found myself (and saw most of those around me) watching the giant screens rather than the actual person in front of us. Shane gave a great quote about this: The screen always wins — it’s almost a creepy, bizarro take on “Love Wins” but it’s so true.
Although this seminar was very much about our current media culture, Shane was really addressing worldviews. And, even to take a step back further from that, Shane was addressing the forces at work that shape our worldview. Another McLuhan quote is helpful here: “We become what we behold.”
The printing press ushered in an age of linear, sequential, uniform, repeatable thinking as normative. And, in the modern world, we find this repeated in unexpected places — from the assembly line of cars and cookies, to the orderly, linear pews in our churches, to reducing the entirety of the Gospel into a sequential formula (e.g., Repentance of sins + Acceptance of Christ = Salvation to heaven).
However, the world in which we live changed long before the advent of the internet. Shane argues that the invention of the telegraph, photograph and radio began a dramatic shift in how we see the world. The telegraph, or “Victorian Internet,” broke the relationship between transportation and communication. The photograph recalls the stained glass of the Middle Ages — consider the difference between seeing the printed words, “The boy is sad” versus this photograph of a sad boy. The words are rational, linear and left-brained; the photo is intuitive, non-linear, right-brained — qualities that describe the shift toward postmodernism.
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I will interact more in the future with some of these thoughts. Shane’s seminar today triggered quite a few thoughts that I’d like to work through — especially regarding the built-in fluidity and ability of Asian Americans to navigate between and through different cultures. He was extremely gracious in fielding all manner of questions, and taking time out to chat with me a bit before leaving to catch his flight. It was interesting to listen to the line of questions that people raised afterward — questions about doctrine, defending our faith and jumping straight to the “take-home” revealed their linear, sequential, rationalistic mindset.
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I’m getting packed up just in case we need to clear out of here because of the wildfires raging around here. Please keep us in prayer.