When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back at you. (Friedrich Nietzsche)Sometimes, my best blog post/sermon ideas come to me while I'm in the shower. I'm not sure that what follows is one of those - but it did occur to me while I was trying to get shampoo out of my rapidly thinning hair, so I guess that's gotta count for something. Right?
The title of the post comes from The Lord of the Rings (which we can also blame for Dungeons & Dragons, large chunks of prog rock, and Peter Jackson's remake of "King Kong")... it's one of the names of the "big bad", Sauron. More importantly for my purposes, it's a phrase that seems to aptly describe the new realities of television in a world full of smartphones and massive amounts of bandwidth.
Between the 24 hour news cycle and the ability to stream content at will, we live in a world where the lidless eye is (as the name would suggest) always open. Scarier still is the fact that the lidless eye truly peers at us without blinking... with our television sets hooked up to DVR boxes and our iPhones harvesting a couple of Santa's worth of cookies, we are feeding information about ourselves, our habits and our tastes into the voracious maw of a variety of companies & entities.
Now, I'm not here to advocate dropping off the grid or even exiling your TV to the junkyard. We are not going to be able to put the genie back in the bottle... and, while I'm pretty much over pop-ads and 95% of the videos on YouTube, I don't ever want to go back to watching TV without a DVR. What do I want to suggest that this lidless eye reality has a profound effect on how we "do church" and/or "walk with Jesus".
We have, I think, a trio of options when attempting to speak "capital T" Truth into the lives of those around us:
- We can attempt to out-shout & out-sensationalize the culture. We can be flashier, bigger & louder.
- We can run away & hide. We can demonize the culture & the technology that carries it into our lives.
- We can be the voice of reason & faith. We can engage the culture with wit, wisdom & the heart of Jesus.
Quickie Applications (for church leaders):
- Bigger/louder isn't necessarily bad - there are times when we need to attract attention to the truth. When our volume is always goes to "11", however, it's easier for people - both Christian & non-Christian - to tune us out.
- There are times for contemplative retreat & silence - but walling ourselves off from the culture means that we will cease to be "salt & light" (Matthew 5:13-16) to a world around us who needs to hear & experience the love & grace of Jesus Christ.
- Engaging the culture is not an event - it's a lifestyle that has to be modeled and taught.
Quickie Applications (for Christians in general):
- You don't have to shout, literally or metaphorically. You don't have to win every argument. Not every theologically questionable statement needs you to bump/set/spike it back in their virtual faces with a Bible verse and and an alliterative cliche.
- You need to listen to people who you don't agree with - whether it's politics, theology, philosophy, culturally.. or if you just think they're wrong about their taste in music. The only way we get a chance to speak truth in a way that will be heard is to listen first. You don't have agree with their pseudo-Gnostic beliefs, their love for Coldplay and/or support the politician they campaigned for... but you do have to treat them with respect.
- Engaging the culture is not an event - it's a lifestyle that has to be chosen & prayerfully lived out.
I've written about this subject before... you may be interested in reading: