Sunday, August 28, 2005

The 2 1/2 Foot Shelf at Notre Dame

Someone was quoting from some anti-Christian nutecase, and my wife happened across this:

Anti-Catholic Printed Material Collection (ANT)
University of Notre Dame Archives (UNDA)
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Contents: Anti-Catholic printed material and printed material concerning anti-Catholicism: books, pamphlets, leaflets, periodicals, offprints and printed ephemera.

Monday, August 22, 2005

In the Nature of a Wrench

James Kushiner blogs, over in Mere Comments:

Man in the West does not seem at peace with his biological nature and in many ways seeks to transcend it or frustrate it. He does not seem at peace with, say, the natural fertility of the sexual act.

But man seems to be at peace with the mechanization of himself. Perhaps it is because these changes have generally happened incrementally over time that he has gotten used to them. Many men think they must be good changes and believe that, just like evolution, these steps must be in the direction of evitable progress, a gradual improvement of the species.

Now, comments such as these set off my "liberal arts" detector. Those of us over on the technology end of the academy also talk about "appropriate technology" and the like; what we don't do is make noises of amazement that people seek out and use technology. Maybe it's because, as people who exert what mastery we have over the world, it is hard for us to imagine there is anything remarkable about what we've done ever since we were old enough to pick up tools.

But there's also that nagging matter of scripture. Technology as the fruit of mankind is prophesied at length in the first three chapters of Genesis; the ability to attempt to manage the world about us is one of the fundamental traits of humanity. On that both scripture and the world agree. And a mathematician such as myself sees the will to do nothing as simply a specific case of that management; it is yet an exercise of the will.

That is, in particular, why I find discussions of fertility and its control almost inevitably crippled by incomplete consideration. It is not just with steroids and rubber and the knife that we control fertility; in the larger picture, it is with vaccines and antibiotics and sanitation that we have made the biggest impact. I think that nobody would willing go back to a 17th or 15th century control of fertility through disease and war and famine.

The truth is that, yes, there are plenty of engineers out there who are completely blind to the implications of the devices they design. And unfortunately, there are as many lawmakers, and manufacturers, and writers and counselors who are blind. And there are many whose particular hammer is the universal tool-- engineers who can fix everything with technology, and writers who can fix everything with words.

But there are also plenty of people, all around, who do consider the implications of what they build or advocate. But they sin, and therefore do not think things through well; and the rest of humanity is so very cunning in their ability to pervert whatever the thoughtful people come up with. Thus it seems to me that one's "thoughtful" consideration is easily itself perverted into a sinful self-ratification. Nothing is more ironic than talk of the perils of technology, broadcast worldwide on the internet.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Obviously We're Looking For DIfferent Things

OK, so I have some competition in the how to do church websites department, with Tony Morgan's 10 Easy Ways to Keep Me from Visiting Your Church Because I Visited Your Website" (which I got to from titusonenine. And I notice his advice varies from mine in several significant aspects.

As I remarked earlier, people looking at parish websites do so with a variety of different intents. So, here I might be, heading off to Grainger, IN, and what would I (personally) do? Well, nothing that finds "Grainger Community Church"-- in fact, the very name indicates to me that (besides not being Episcopal) it's not going to do worship as I know it.

Which leads us to some of the points he drags out. A lot of them are common sense web design things, and while I hadn't thought about the "pink and doves" thing, he does have a point with that one. But then we come upon this:

Put a picture of your building on the main page. After all, ministry is all about the buildings. Ah, but buildings are about ministry, and the form of the building says volumes about what's going to happen inside. Everything about GCC's website-- but especially the few pictures of the building-- says "there will be no liturgy inside."

Which brings me to a point. There are three kinds of church visitors: people like me and (I must presume) Mr. Morgan, who are in town already knowing what kind of church they're looking for; people paying their respects (wedding, funeral, etc.) who most of all just need to be able to find the place; and raw seekers who maybe have no idea what they want. I'm not sure exactly what websites are supposed to do for the latter, partly because I haven't been one in any part of my adult life, but partly because it has always seemed to me that different people have sought along different roads.

Looking at websites like that of GCC or (another he mentions in a different post) Crossroads Community Church gives me a message, all right: there's no place for me, because I'm too old to go to rock concerts. And even when I was young enough, I would have used the internet (not available at the time) to exclude "community churches". And why not? Because

-- and this is the kicker --

by then I already knew enough to read all the theological decisions hidden in what people said about church. Ignoring the surface details of whether auditorium music will survive better than congregational hymnody (though I'll bet on the latter), there is theology hidden in the difference between what GCC says it does about church and what St. Paul's Random Episcopal says it does about church. And the funny thing is that protestant websites tend to be about hiding that difference to the degree that only the ecclesiological cognoscenti can discern what a parish is about. I happen to know that "community church" normally means "standard American evangelical theology", but what about the unchurched seeker?