Posted tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Obama, Community, and Technology

January 30, 2010

Yesterday, Devin Dwyer from ABC News reported on the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency from the religious perspective.  In his opening paragraph, Dwyer stated that the Obama attended church only three times during his first year.  Obviously, as the article later explains, it is quite difficult for the President to attend a gathering without causing great disruption and difficulty with the security and additional personnel.  In any case, what intrigued me the most was what followed.  Dywer writes:

But sources familiar with the president’s personal life say Obama remains a faithful Christian while in the White House, practicing his beliefs regularly in private with family and the aid of his BlackBerry.

This sentence, while intending to bolster confidence in Obama’s religious devotion, says something quite alarming about the day in which we live, specifically in two areas: the privatization of spirituality and the advent of mobile technology. It appears that the latter has been used to facilitate the former.

Just this past week, I led a breakout session at the Global Church Advancement (GCA) National Church Planting Seminar on technology, the new media, and the church during which we addressed the influence of technology on the church, not the least of which is the “luxury” of privatized spiritual experience apart from a covenanted community to which you share live and find your identity.  Ironically, in the case of Obama who is well-known for his practice as a community organizer, is deprived from the very community that is expressed and demonstrated among professing Christians.

But I wonder how much of this is true in the world around us at large?  How many people are seeking a more privatized spiritual experience not requiring them to live in community with other people and yet find greater access to “practice their beliefs” through mobile technology?  The rise of internet “churches,” live-streaming services on smart phones, and the readily accessible sermons on iTunes move the emphasis on the local expression of the body of Christ from being the church (as expressed in Scripture) to “going to church” (as expressed in Christendom) to having a downloadable religious experience at the comfort and confines of one’s own choosing (as expressed in postmodernism).

We need to answer the question whether it is possible to be a “faithful Christian” (as quoted above) in the absence of biblical community that is being circumvented through technology and a privation that says my spirituality is “between me and God.”  So I want to pose it to you in closing . . .

Is it possible to be a faithful Christian without regularly participating in biblical community?  Why or why not?

As a follow-up to that question, how should we think about the role of technology?  How can the advance of technology work for the advance of the local church, not the substitution of it?

“O god of our many understandings . . .”

January 19, 2009

Below is the invocation of the openly gay Episcopalian bishop, Gene Robinson, who addresses his prayer to the “god of our many understandings.”  Here is religious pluralism attempting to address a god who is not self-defined, but defined by ourselves–the ultimate reversal of making god into our image and addressing him to do what we find best.  Perhaps it would be more intellectually honest to pray to ourselves, since we are doing the creating here.

Notice that, in the four minute prayer, nothing is said of the nature of this god, and nothing is asked in reference of him doing what only a god could do.  The prayer is fundamentally ethical, not theological. It reflects not a desire to know the one true God and conform our lives to His will, but a prayer for God to understand us and conform his will to our ways. The requests for deliverance is not against sin, Satan, and self but rather social evils.  While it may be true that billions exist with less than a dollar a day, every human exists without forgiveness of sin apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ.  But that’s not the point. Mr. Robinson is “horrified” by the Christian prayers of the past and seeks to buck the trend by advocating “religious tolerance” for everyone who has a god of their own understanding.  Having said that, anyone who prays to a God who has defined Himself, who is eternally self-existent, eternal, and self-sufficient, well, that will not be tolerated.  Your prayers should be renounced and your God must not be addressed.  We don’t need to know and understand the God who has spoken and whose words shape reality; we need to self-actualize and shape our own realities with greater moral fortitude and faith in the supposed inherent goodness of man.  We are all victims, and so is the god of our many understandings.

In any case, here is the prayer, and here is the wake up call for all of us who call upon the Lord, maker of heaven and earth whose name is Jesus and whose glory He will not give to another.

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

– The Apostle Paul

HT :: CTLiveBlog