August 21, 2010

The Google Generation and Christian Mysticism (Digital Culture and the Church – Pt 3)

Posted in Digital Culture and the Church at 2:01 am by billgepford

John Meunier raised some good questions on the last post, so I thought I would postpone my next post (on the use of the Internet in Evangelism) and take a second to respond to those questions.

Some of the aspects of the new digital culture could adversely affect the way the church operates, if they are not handled prayerfully and intelligently.  A short attention span, for instance, can relegate Christianity to a mere aspect of our character, instead of its underpinnings.  Faith should never be one of the many competing thoughts fighting for a persons’ attention; it should be the foundation upon which our lives are based.

However, I would argue that some aspects of the new digital culture are neutral –they are simply the context from which people come.  I don’t believe that we can expect people to come to Christianity only after they have sanitized their lives of all the busyness.  If they truly are part of the makeup of the population, like I believe they are, then there is no question that they will have to be factored into any evangelistic, outward-focused church.

All that said, I think we might see a resurgence of Christian Mysticism in the future, as all this ADD generation (of which I am a part) begins to long for something big enough to truly capture their focus.  Nothing is bigger than God, so if we are ever to center in on anything, it will have to be that.  I can see people reacting to this obsession with multitasking by swinging far towards the other end of the spectrum and searching for something that will so envelop their consciousness that they lose track of all other distractions.  As is, we are already seeing the fringes of a reaction to multitasking – what would happen if over-caffeinated, ADD kids of the Google generation (I’m one of them) discovered the works of Teresa of Avila or Ludolph of Saxony?  This semester I’m taking a class that has a heavy emphasis on both Evangelism and Mysticism, so perhaps there will be more posts spawned by that.

Eventually, it would be great if people could get to the point where they empty themselves of anything but God (following the traditions of the Ancient Mystics), but I don’t see that as something that will connect with those outside the Church.  Jesus was very careful when he crafted his parables to appeal to those outside the Church; we must do the same in appealing to non-Christians as well, and therefore we must take the norms of the new generation into account in order to maintain rhetorical sensitivity and relevance in our evangelism.  Christians are called to stand in the gap between the divine and the profane – we have to be able to speak the language of the Google generation, but we must also point them to the eternal God.  Agree/Disagree?

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3 Comments »

  1. soma said,

    Thank you for talking about a higher way and it is not about punishment and damnation. I feel people set up these alarms, but they are all only about security and power. Christian Mysticism transcends these tensions, anxieties and conflicts and flows into acceptance and love for all.

  2. isbn:978-1-60911-248-6

    Mystical experiences prove the greatness of God

    Thanks!

  3. billgepford said,

    Thanks, both of you!

    @Linda: I like the way you said that – ‘Mystical experiences prove the greatness of God.’ I’ve seen people try to use mystical experience as proof of God, which didnt always work; however, they absolutely prove the majesty and awe-inspiring size of God.


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