Theology After Google and the (Missing) Missio Dei (Part 2)

To follow up with Part 1 of this post, I’ve been reflecting on some struggles I’ve had with the overall assumptions or posture of the conference. For instance, in an ecclesiological sense, some of the content offered at Theology After Google (TAG) has been shared as how we can use social media to connect to the generations that are up and coming. I felt as though some of it bordered on methodological as a means to connect to said generations to the current structure of an institutional, western, and Christian religion. Theologian, screen writer and director Craig Detweiler made the comparison of Cheat Code books in gaming communities and the possibility that gamers could use concordances in Christianity much the same way.  I found this problematic, bordering on the same kind of religious engagement that I’m trying to free myself from. Inferred in this is that people can be subsumed into the kinds of religious structure that already exist, but with a culturally relevant approach. It seems to leave out the aspect of loving the other that institutionalized religion have promulgated: this person/these people become our “project” to convert, where we clothe our efforts in the language/cultural memes of the proselytes.

Perhaps our conversation here at TAG is rooted in the Missio Dei (I would proffer this as a possibility of the follks facilitating our time here. . .).  That is, it’s assumed that the content of this conference is rooted in the the micro sense of the Missio Dei. The question is, then, what is a macro perspective of the Missio Dei in Web 2.o? How is God working in Web 2.o in the Global sense? If the Missio Dei is something we are to participate in, it seems that we must do some serious reflection on where God is at work in this place.  Someone mentioned at the conference that 25% of the global population is online. There is something of the Missio Dei in this, no? How do we understand life as a rich nation-state community that holds the highest percentage of cards in the realm of technology (along with a great deal more realms)? Where is the sense of Justice and Mercy and Grace in Web 2.0 as it pertains to pointing folks to God? How do we participate in Social Media where we aren’t primarily talking to ourselves? Is the Missio Dei being identified in these places?

To bring specific issues into the light, how does the technological growth rate effect the environment? How does the Google server farm aggregate effect our eco-foot print? What of our consumptive practices to remain connected to the broader culture and it’s draw on resources and effects as throw away products (think: cell phones)? This connects with the issue of capitalism and how we make decisions to participate in it.  Peter and I, both from the Anabaptist community, had a conversation about these things at a break at the conference Friday morning. There are bigger issues of lifestyle and justice and living out of our faith that are at stake. Do we want our children to potentially grow up with an entitlement to PlayStation 4? Further, how do we push against a capitalistic economik that requires an underclass to produce our “needs”? African American’s and Latino immigrants – not to overlook the offshore MNC factories in non-western nations – work 2-3 jobs or 16 hour days, both at minimum wage – just to survive to enable us to have the goods that make digital culture possible.

Where is the Missio Dei in the context of these macro perspectives? Where are these questions theologically here at TAG?

Thoughts? Is there any truth in this rant?

~ by Brian Shope on March 12, 2010.

5 Responses to “Theology After Google and the (Missing) Missio Dei (Part 2)”

  1. So much truth . . .

    The conversation at TAG was about leveraging new technologies to articulate a public progressive theology in the networked North American context. The awareness of the global digital divide is so important, but TAG wanted to talk about this context, the 25%, because if the networked, 2.0, Google world passes the church by, then that other 75% will be worse off as well.

    Deitweller’s cheat code analogy annoyed me too, mostly because kids don’t use cheat codes to actually “cheat”; they use them for fun. And they use them as social capital in their peer networks.

    And as for justice issues, I feel so complicit. Where do you think the computers and the phones and the servers are made? Where are the raw materials for these technologies mined? (hint: it’s not in the western hemisphere or the global north).

  2. I wondered if I was missing something of the core content of conference; I had read rather late that the conference(even after?) that Philip Clayton wanted to do just that: how has Google shaped theological discourse in contemporary society? I had the panicked heart rate as one who had just inserted his virtual foot in his mouth, but then settled on the conviction that I would have posted similarly had I been more fully aware of Clayton’s intention. I wholeheartedly agree that a Western culture passing by church 1.0 would effect the body of faith in other context’s.

    But as you’ve said, “I feel so complicit”. Me too! I wasn’t as transparent in the post about that, but it is part of my life as a capitalistic U.S. citizen. I vote with my dollars, every time I buy. (All the more poignant seeing that, as you mentioned, our tech is assembled by low-wage laborers in other countries.) I think it incumbent upon us in the west, as we navigate our host culture and the manner with which God is at work in the micro sense via Google and social media, that we also ask the larger questions of the 75% so as not to continue in ongoing complicity. At least blindly…

  3. The global perspective is an important one and I think working for justice in this is important. But if the church closes its doors, we lose the opportunity to work for that justice (as church). Having been in a declining church settings for several years, I have seen the results of the Body of Christ’s refusal to adapt. And church after church after church closes its doors and the gospel is preached and heard less and less. Before the church can bring about the social changes needed so that this laptop I’m using wasn’t made with slave labor, the church is going to have to miss the iceberg.

    But I would share your anxiety about all of this if my thinking around TAG was meant to develop church online. But all of the TAG-like things I have been trying only use the web to draw people together in real time, face to face. “The church is not the media, its the people.” A “distributed network” ecclessial model that encourages innovation by its members based on a “platform” firmly developed with God’s mission at its heart may “work” better than a mid-20th century business model because that’s the way the culture is developing in North America.

  4. Jonathon, I responded to both of your posts on Part 1…

  5. […] Brian Shope wrote about Missio Dei after TAG in a way that was clarifying for me here, at his blog, Pacing the […]

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