Computers are changing the way we think. "Calm, focused,
undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of
mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short,
disjointed, often overlapping bursts—the faster, the better." This is
probably not a good thing, says Nicholas Carr.
A writer in the Century some years ago recalled in passing the
era when mail was delivered twice a day. He noted, somewhat
whimsically, how that practice ensured at least two hopeful moments in
A bore, they tell us, is someone who, when you ask him how he is, tells you. “Let me tell you about my operation,” he says. To that familiar definition, our culture has added another: a bore is anyone who relates the details of an airplane incident.
On a recent trip to the University of Notre Dame to speak at a conference on “Religion, Spirituality and Business,” I stopped at a toll-road fast-food, fast-fuel station. A theme of my address was to be that “the market has won,” that it is all-enveloping, all-embracing, intrusive, unavoidable.
Has the advent of the Internet and computer technology led congregations toward the “virtual church,” undermining the face-to-face relationships that have long characterized congregational life? Two recent studies, one supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the other by the Indianapolis Center for Congregations, suggest not.
Seminaries that use computers in teaching are often tempted in one of two directions. They either oversell the importance of the technology or underutilize it. They either promise the congregational equivalent of a flight simulator, or else use PowerPoint as a glorified overhead projector.
Each week pastors experience exhilarating opportunities and make agonizing decisions. Often the moments of decision erupt unexpectedly. There is no time to prepare. That was the case for Pastor Charlotte Robinson last fall at her church in Almond Springs, California.
In 1993, not so terribly long ago, I signed up for my first e-mail account. I remember using it to compose and exchange haikus with other novice faculty about our daily travails, to keep up with friends from graduate school, and to sign up for more electronic mailing lists than I could possibly follow.
Over the past year I have been speaking with different groups about biblical narrative in the age of Twitter. As more and more people find Facebook updates, text messages and 140-character tweets adequate for their communication needs, who will retain the skills to read the lengthy, complex, ancient stories that have given rise to three major world religions?