Open Source, Mac Culture and Change-Agents

Tonight in our Spirituality and Technology class a lot of subjects were brought up and discussed and while it’s quite hard to follow the conversation everywhere, because I have no clue what they are talking about, a few issues did stand out and I thought I’d ponder them out loud to try and tease out some of the ideas we were talking about.

1. We conversed a bit about open-source and while it works with Wikipedia, Linux and maybe a few pieces of web development, the real question is can it work with the system of our lives. It’s easy to have open source information. The internet prepared us for that and Google made it a reality. People can challenge and say anything nowadays. However when it comes to for instance the way we have morals, or our government structures; is an open source concept really going to help? Can you imagine having open-source morality? Would it work? Could we have a morality section in Wikipedia that was edited and built upon? With all the pig-headed people around, yes mostly Christians, we’d probably get stuck on homosexuality. Democracy is somewhat disguised as open-source government, but whether we like it or not democracy is more like choosing the lesser of two evils every four years or so as opposed to constantly changing and adding to our country to make it better.

2. In class I pointed out the Mac commercials and how they reinforce the idea of technology as culture. The way Mac portrays a Mac is cool, hip, fun and entertaining with no cares in the world while a PC is unattractive, confused, boring and is always worried about what will affect him next. Mac is trying and have been quite successful of making a culture based on their product and they have quite a large following that desires to be in acquaintance with that culture.

3. Does one need to be part of culture to change it? Does in fact being inside our culture automatically make us susceptible to all its weaknesses making us weak? I would argue that to effectively change culture for the better we need to utilize where culture exists now. We can’t simply look in from the outside and critique it without ever experiencing it. Revolutionaries throughout history mastered the culture that they were in and that gave them authority with the people that were around them and authority to change the face of culture. If we don’t understand, if we aren’t living within our culture we are completely irrelevant and unable to make any significant change to it. The Christian message takes a similar stance in that it took God sending himself in Jesus to earth, to live on earth with the same feelings, temptations and desires, and then and only then could he truly save and redeem the culture. A good point was made in class to that those that go into culture alone to try to change it will most likely fail, however if communities take on missions to change culture, and they team together the likelihood of success is a lot more probably. This again, seems similar to the Christian church. The Christian church is called to be that community that unites together as one voice to bring about a new culture (kingdom would be the proper biblical usage).

4 Comments

  • This response is based mostly on the conversation in point 3.

    I was thinking about JS Bach. He was a master of music in the Baroque era. He perfected the art of renaissance counterpoint. His preludes and fugues were to the letter – his chorale writing was harmonically predictable, yet completely satisfying. He is still, today, considered to be one of the most exceptional composers to have ever breathed.

    Bach was an objective artist. He took what was and he desired more of that existing reality. He reworked and readjusted what already existed until it more perfectly fit his criteria of what it should be!

    But while Albert Schweitzer insists that this is how we can look back at Bach (as an objective artist) I wonder if we can’t see that extra step – Bach’s redefining of what was – as revolutionary in a sense. Bach took what “was” in culture and helped to redefine what would come after it.

    I think this is precisely what we need to do as Christians. We need to be so versed and understanding of the culture around us (while upholding the moral standard God has for us) that we are able to run with culture – but then I think that God call us to keep running – – to the front of the pack. The church ought to set trends that are birthed from an understanding of what is rather than a desire to “stand out”.

    But – then I think that God loves culture – – some people will disagree – – – “In the world but not of it”…maybe they think that we ought to stay out of touch with culture and let God himself personally send angels from heaven…yeah that doesn’t sound like the great commission to me!

    I guess some people go too far and embrace culture at the detriment of their mission as Christians – but – how many of us sacrifice our mission anyways by being ignorant, cliquey (is this a word?) and self-righteous.

    Interesting post Nathan C. Interesting post.

  • My responce too is in answer to # 3.

    Traditionally I’ve gone to churches which have been quite reactionary towards popular culture. When I was living in Mississauga I went to a church which had almost nothing to do with the culture…if I were to take a friend to church there they’d probably find the whole thing way to austere. I didn’t mind though, I like austere. Bleak is beautiful.

    Now that I’m in Toronto I’m going to a church which is much less austere and as such there are people other than those who’s families have been in Reformed churches since Calvin. It’s refreshing to see people from the community walk into church and feel comforable enough to stay, question and worship and not be scared away by haunting 16th century melodies and a sermon which is so dense that it sounds more like a lecture than a sermon.

    Nonetheless I’m always somewhat frightened when people start talking about Christians relating to culture. The Antithesis, which God has placed within humanity, exists still. I can think of no one who illustrates this point better than Karl Barth (ironically). During the ’30s when the Nazi party was tightening their grip on the lives of it’s citizens, Barth saw the writing on the wall and decided that it was going to get worse before it got better. He observed that the liberal theology of that day in Europe was powerless to adaquately address the gathering storm inasmuch as the theology that he knew was basically the same nationalistic and collectivist thinking of early 20th centry Europe but expressed theologically.

    I wonder sometimes if the theology and methedologies being used my many of the more avant garde churches will find themselves in the same boat. Let’s be honest…there’s a lot which PoMo has to offer that’s not good. I won’t list any of what I see as not good because I don’t want to talk about that, but I’m sure you agree that it’s not all good. How do the churches which have embraced this culture then act prophetically and call the world to “repentance” (note the quotation marks)?

  • Damn it, I thought this was a techie blog, trust Nathan to get all spiritual.

  • The inside/outside question is certainly perplexing. It is perhaps impossible to ever be outside of one’s culture. So any attempts to “revolutionize” a particular cultural space inevitably brings with it varying degrees of collusion, compromises and cross influences that can be both productive and damaging. I think that the real challenge is to maintain a critical vision that allows one to constantly assess both one’s inner assumptions, positions and states of being AND the particular cultural space within which one is embedded (and seeking to change). This, I think, makes all the difference between tyranny and productive cultural change/emancipation.

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