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October 19, 2007

Virtual Virtue and Real Presence

When a "virtual presence" replaces an incarnated presence, it may be that our virtue is virtual as well, says by Brian McLaren. I am particularly challenged b McLuhan's observation that "every technological innovation is an amputation" - we lose something even while we gain. The question to be pondered is whether the loss is greater than the gain. McLaren seems to suggest that we might be crossing the point of return in different ways:

I've had a couple of semi-sleepless nights lately because some members of my congregation got into trouble and needed my pastoral help. Their situation seems so messy, so ugly, so intractable, and I feel the weight of trying to help them get through it with their faith intact. I confess, though, that I've wished at times I could be one of those pastors who never actually has to deal with people, who simply "shows up" (interesting term) on screen, not in person.

I am certainly not against "video venues." Nor am I against Christian websites. Nor (obviously) am I against the use of books and journals (like the one that connects us here). I am for the thoughtful and careful use of technology in ministry, whether we're talking about the printing press, the telephone, radio, the internet, or satellites.

But we would be foolish to rush into new technologies unaware of their unintended consequences, the side effects that Marshall McLuhan began warning about back in the 1960s and 1970s (see Shane Hipps's The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church, Zondervan, 2006).

Every technological innovation, McLuhan would say, is an amputation. For example, with the invention of the wheel or lever or chain saw, we use our muscles less. With the invention of the calculator, our mental computational skills grow rusty. While microphones help us whisper to thousands, they also make it less necessary for us to learn enunciation and vocal projection. And spell-checkers … make it EZ for us never to lern the lie of the grammaratical land.

What of technologies that in a sense amputate presence? The television and the DVD, the videoconference and perhaps increasingly, the hologram, project our presence, but do they in some way amputate presence as well?

I recently heard someone say that preaching is going the way of the Eucharist: we're moving from "real presence" to "virtual presence." The preacher seen via projection or download is "with us," but only in an abstract sense.

Projection is a fascinating word, especially when contrasted with incarnation. I imagine the first chapter of the fourth gospel reading, "the Word was projected into our world to be observed among us," and I wonder what difference it would have made.

One difference: you can't crucify a digital image. And that, to me, is one of the great amputations that comes from "virtual presence" or "projected presence" replacing incarnational presence. Looking back on my years as a pastor, I have to say that preaching was relatively easy and fun. But being close to people, being present in a community, often was downright agonizing.

Many of us have thought to ourselves, Ministry would be great if it weren't for the people, and increasingly it has become possible to "have a ministry" without ever having to actually live, in your flesh, with people in their flesh. In fact, vicarious ministries (via books, radio, TV, or whatever) have a higher status in the minds of many than the work of actually being with people who argue, fail, disagree, react, sin, attack, have emotional breakdowns, get sick, call you at 2 a.m., betray you, try your patience, and eventually die and leave you in grief.

That loss of "real presence" is bad for the church, no doubt. But I can't help but think it's also bad for us as pastors and leaders too. Because if our ministry is only virtual, it may be that our virtue is virtual as well.

When we can't get hurt, when we can't sacrifice, when we can't share the pain of people in their actual presence and in "real time," something in us may be getting amputated. Paul spoke of "glorying" in his afflictions for the sake of those he served.

That's good for us to remember if we start envying the "virtual pastors."
source: Christianity Today

Posted by gary at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2007

Bury me with...

British charity Age Concern, which promotes the interests of elderly people, polled more than 100,000 of its customers and found that being buried with their pet's ashes was the most common funeral rite request. However, some of the other requests represent an interesting fear.

The top eight requests were:
1. To be cremated with their pet's ashes;
2. To have a mobile phone in the coffin;
3. To ensure they are dead;
4. For a mirror to be held over the face to check for signs of breathing;
5. To be cremated naked;
6. To be buried in their own garden;
7. To be buried with their teeth in;
8. To be buried with all their savings.

Number eight suggests that there are still those who want to argue that you can take it with you.

Me? Do what you want with my body when I'm gone, as I'm not going to have much use for it!!

ABC news

Posted by gary at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2007

Bob Dylan take-off

Every poster card is a palindrome... quite amazing

Posted by gary at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2007

Something to blow your mind

The Right Brain vs Left Brain test ... do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

spinning lady.gif

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

uses logic.............................. uses feeling
detail oriented......................... "big picture" oriented
facts rule.............................. imagination rules
words and language...................... symbols and images
present and past........................ present and future
math and science........................ philosophy & religion
can comprehend.......................... can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
knowing................................. believes
acknowledges............................ appreciates
order/pattern perception................ spatial perception
knows object name....................... knows object function
reality based........................... fantasy based
forms strategies........................ presents possibilities
practical............................... impetuous
safe.................................... risk taking

Source: Perth Now

Posted by gary at 08:42 PM | Comments (3)

October 11, 2007

Latest on Dawn Rowan

The latest news is not encouraging:

Posted by gary at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2007

Are you tired of shopping around for that church that fully meets your needs? Then check out the ever-popular “Me Church…where it’s all about you.” This is the church you’ve been searching for–unquestioningly dedicated to meeting your every need. While you are in church, your car gets a wash, a buff and an oil change! You’ll receive free tickets to the Super Bowl! And they sing all you favorite worship songs: “It’s All About Me,” “There Is None Like Me,” and “I Am Why I Sing.” Your church-shopping days are over!

From our good friends at MSA, visit their blog space, sign up for their seed sampler.

Posted by gary at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2007


Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn't seem to be working.

Posted by gary at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2007


Burma's generals have brought their brutal iron hand down on peaceful monks and protesters -- but in response, a massive global outcry is gathering pace. The roar of global public opinion is being heard in hundreds of protests outside Chinese and Burmese embassies, people round the world wearing the monks' color red, and on the internet - where our petition has exploded to over 200,000 signers in just 72 hours.

People power can win this. Burma's powerful sponsor China can halt the crackdown, if it believes that its international reputation and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing depend on it. To convince the Chinese government and other key countries, Avaaz is launching a major global and Asian ad campaign on Wednesday, including full page ads in the Financial Times and other newspapers, that will deliver our message and the number of signers. We need 1 million voices to be the global roar that will get China's attention. If every one of us forwards this email to just 20 friends, we'll reach our target in the next 72 hours. Please sign the petition at the link below - if you haven't already - and forward this message to everyone you care about:

The pressure is working - already, there are signs of splits in the Burmese Army, as some soldiers refuse to attack their own people. The brutal top General, Than Shwe, has reportedly moved his family out of the country – he must fear his rule may crumble.

The Burmese people are showing incredible courage in the face of horror. We're broadcasting updates on our effort over the radio into Burma itself – telling the people that growing numbers of us stand with them. Let's do everything we can to help them – we have hours, not days, to do it. Please sign the petition and forward this email to at least 20 friends right now. Scroll down our petition page for details of times and events to join in the massive wave of demonstrations happening around the world at Burmese and Chinese embassies.

A support rally is planned for this Saturday at noon in Melbourne (Federation Square). I will be conducting a wedding at that time, otherwise I would be there.

Posted by gary at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

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