. . . actually, it is worse than that.
Not knowing who the Beatles were in the 1960s would have had little impact upon the reality of daily life. It might have left one open to mockery, but it would not have affected how one communicated, how one did business, how one heard news, how one went shopping, how one managed one’s finances, how one presented oneself to the world.
As great as the Beatles were, their influence did not change the way we lived. The Internet, on the other hand, has had a profound impact in almost every area of human activity – it has, at once, shrunk and expanded the world. Nothing is now remote, but infinite knowledge is now available.
Profound social and ethical issues are raised by questions that range from who controls information on a global basis to what intimate details are being shared in social networks. Massive opportunities arise for those who are in the business of communicating a message.
Christians, reputedly in the business of being concerned at the issues confronting humanity and alleging that they have news to share with the world, might reasonably be expected to have some interest in the Internet.
In fact, serious Christians could surely be assumed to be running to keep up with all the developments. Mobile broadband, Wifi hotspots, social networking, iPhone appliances: these are changing the way we live, the way we communicate, the friends we have. Amongst the vast raft of complex issues, virtual relationships pose questions about personal morality; online trading poses questions about business morality; blog smear campaigns pose questions about political morality; the list is potentially endless.
Imagine yourself as a Christian who believed in changing the world: wouldn’t you be saying, ‘we need to look at these issues’. Wouldn’t you be saying, ‘this is where our young people are; we need to be here’? Wouldn’t you be saying, ‘there are an awful lot of people using the Net for an awful lot of thing; I think we should be there in the middle of it all”.
If you were part of a church committee and you wanted to engage with the 21st Century world, you would surely be urging that resources be devoted to taking the church to where the people are. Mission work has shifted from distant lands to cyber space; but the church cannot comprehend that the world has changed.
The Church of Ireland so struggles with the 21st Century that this morning it approved the disbandment of its Internet Committee (a colleague announced this on his Facebook page using his iPhone). Perhaps the committee had been very limited in its remit, and perhaps more might have been achieved, but instead of strengthening its resources and expanding its work, the Church of Ireland Standing Committee agreed that the Internet Committee should cease to exist.
It is a decision that is hard to comprehend. It demonstrates a disconnectedness from reality on a par with the legendary magistrate who asked in the 1960s, “who are the Beatles?” More than that, it demonstrates a turning of the back on the world that Jesus came to save.