Last week I suggested the Bible presents Christianity as an ongoing two- way conversation between God and his people.
Lupe responded with an email that covered very well what I intended to say this week. I suggest you read her observations in the comment I added to last week’s post. She acknowledged the power of words and Word, showing how basic they are in expressing and sharing ourselves. I think they also have a creative power in shaping the minds of the listener and speaker.
She also provided a transition to what I wanted to say next. “Today’s challenge…is how to have “real” conversations, meaningful exchanges, in the global internetized Babel. Not in spite of it -as you and I would probably never have conversed in a different time- but in and with it.”
Scholars speak of three stages in language’s development: oral, textual, and electronic. Christianity has always given priority to the oral or spoken word. We believe face-to-face conversation is more dynamics in not only transmitting information but also changing people. When we proclaim, “In name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit I forgive your sins” or “The Lord God bless you and keep you” or “The Body of Christ, given for you” or “God loves you” or for that matter “I love you” or “I forgive you” my words change our lives forever. In a sense, every Word of God leads to repentance. Remember it originally meant “changing our minds”.
The second stage, epitomized by the printing press, led many to equate God’s Word with the Bible. In fact, a recent paraphrase was entitled The Living Word, a rather strange title for a fixed text. Christians thought their role was to find the one and only true meaning of a biblical passage. God’s Word was unchanging. This led some to a fundamentalism that regards the words in the Bible as literally spoken by God. Gone is the idea of the Bible as a record of how God spoke in the past that serves as a standard for judging how he speaks in the present.
Now the electronic third stage, as Lupe observed, presents a new challenge: how do we speak God’s Word on the Internet. Like face-to-face conversation the electronic is always changing. We write, update, erase, and improve. All is fluid and open to creativity.
However, cognitive scientists report the proliferation of information bombarding us has overcrowded and even physically changed some parts of our brain, making it difficult to think deeply. We have an excess of information but a scarcity of wisdom. “Facebook talk” is very self-centered, filled with what the writer is doing, thinking, and feeling. As Norma reminds us, it seems to have led to the dilemma of people interpreting the same biblical passage radically different. “Celebrity speak” can go on and on but leave us asking, “What was that really all about?” But perhaps the worse limitation is the loss of vulnerability. I can say “I love you” to someone on the other side of the world, but it does not have the commitment of the words spoken to someone standing physically before me.
Let’s see if we can help one another appreciate how this new electronic media, that is rapidly taking over our lives, can be used to speak God’s Word.