Ponderings with Doug – September 9, 2016


We are living through an information revolution and life will not be the same when the dust settles. If you are a history buff, take comfort this revolution happened once before. It is summed up in a silly story.

A man loved old books. He met an acquaintance who had just thrown away a Bible that had been stored in the attic of his ancestral home for generations. “I couldn’t read it,” the friend explained. “Somebody named Guten-something had printed it.” “Not Gutenberg!” the book lover exclaimed in horror. “That Bible was one of the first books ever printed. Why, a copy just sold for over two million dollars!” His friend was unimpressed. “Mine wouldn’t have brought a dollar. Some fellow named Martin Luther had scribbled all over it in German.”

Gutenberg’s printing press and the changes connected with it led to the Renaissance and then the Protestant Reformation. Many of the struggles the church and society have with each other are the mature plants of seeds sown during the printing revolution of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. If you are member of a Protestant or Free Church you can trace your church, not back to John the Baptist or to Jesus but to Johannas Gutenberg a German blacksmith.

The printing press freed knowledge and spirituality from the University and Cathedral. The masses could freely consume information.

The revolution today is similar. We call it the digital revolution. Rather than the masses consuming the information, we now produce it.

In this revolution knowledge, opinion, and even spirituality have become what you make it. In the digital world, you can be your own guru, monk, publisher, scholar, philosopher, talking head, fantasy sports expert, day trading broker and political insider. The first information revolution moved knowledge from public institutions to private consumption. One did not need to attend a lecture or a sermon; one could read in the privacy of their own dwelling. This second revolution is ironically retrograding in nature. In the digital world we have moved from private back to public.

Everything in our lives is made public. Our public exhibitionism is all done from the privacy of our desktops or devices. We can anonymously and without accountability express any opinion, weigh in on any debate and publish our opinions for the world to see. The town square, the barber and beauty shop have been replaced by the WiFi Hotspot. We now sit in a room filled with people on our devices ordering our world, while the big world keeps on spinning. This revolution is personal and private, yet we share the results without filters in public ways. Some newspapers and blogs have seen the danger of unfiltered opinion and removed the public comment sections of their electronic editions. Bubba sharing his opinion with Bambi over a beer is one thing, publishing it for public consumption another.

We are fire away at the ignorance of “them” while waxing eloquent about “our” virtues. “We” can do it better than “they” can. Just ask us.

After forty years of doing this, here is the truth. “Some people are saying,” means “The other day my wife said to me.” “Lots of people think,” means, “I think this and need to bolster my opinion with the notion that other people share my opinion.” When a politician says, “My constituents tell me.” That is simply a damn lie! Some people and lots of people are concerned about them and what they are doing. If they were more like us then we would be happy with them. This digital revolution has allowed the inmates to comment on and shape the public view of the asylum. And because no one wants to rock any boat these days, guess who is now running the asylum? No longer is the scholar, scientist, philosopher, or wise person the shaper of ideas. Bubba and his high speed bandwidth can get in the mix now! If lots of loud people get on public media they can fix the LSU offense.

Revolutions are messy and leave casualties. They are also the seedbed for great change.

Jesus started a revolution that is still going on. It is a revolution that can save our current revolution from leading us to self-centered disaster. Jesus calls his people to transformation and to be agents of transformation. He called us to be saved. Here is my uncomfortable thought for the article. How would Christians live differently if we believed that Jesus needs to save the world from us?

The British writer G.K. Chesterton gave a famous two word response when a newspaper asked its readers to share what they thought was wrong with the world.

“I am,” he wrote back.

Me too!