Posted by: proregno | April 19, 2016

Boekbekendstelling: Discipleship in the Age of the Spectacle

Discipleship in the Age of the Spectacle

We have one life to live, and there are many things that Christians should be doing and saying as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The watchword for serious disciples is “get real,” not “get virtual.” – Kevin Vanhoozer

Die boek se naam waarna ek verwys is eintlik:

Pictures at a Theological Exhibition: Scenes of the Church’s Worship, Witness and Wisdom

geskryf deur dr. Kevin J. Vanhoozer.

Tydens my lesing by die KGKSA konferensie, het ek na hierdie boek verwys, spesifiek na die onderhoud wat met die skrywer gedoen is onder die treffende titel (wat ‘n uitdaging is vir die kerk van Christus):

Discipleship in the Age of the Spectacle: An Interview with Kevin Vanhoozer on Technology

My lesing se titel was “Kerkreformasie – wat is nodig?“, en een van die punte wat ek genoem het wat nodig is vir kerkreformasie, was die belangrikheid om ons tye te verstaan, veral die sosiale media en tegnologiese rewolusie van ons tyd:

As ons as kerk dan reg verstaan dat God se Woord bepaal wat ons moet verkondig en hoe ons dit moet doen, dan kan ons en moet ons met wysheid na ons tye en mense kyk aan wie ons die evangelie moet bedien.

Die Skrif roep ons op om die tye te onderskei, Filp.1:10

Totius het gesê (?), ons moet eksegese doen met die Skrif in een hand en koerant in ander hand, sodat ons met wysheid dus ou en nuwe dinge na vore kan bring vir die Here se kerk, sy kinders.

Maar ons moet net aanhou onthou, dit is een ding om die kultuur probeer verstaan, ‘n totaal ander ding om die Bybel deur die kultuur te lees, dit moet andersom wees.

Daarom moet predikante, ouderlinge, ouers, ens. boeke ook lees om die lidmate se lewens te verstaan, ons tydsgees.

Skrywers soos Neil Postman (Amusing ourselves to Death), AW Hunt (The Vanishing Word: the veneration of visual imagery in the postmodern world) en nou Kevin Vanhoozer help ons om ons tye te verstaan, sodat ons die Evangelie vir ons tye kan bring.”

Hier is ‘n paar aanhalings uit die onderhoud met Vanhoozer wat u dalk kan motiveer om die boek self aan te skaf as dit vrygestel word (beklemtonings is bygevoeg):

The simple truth is that much of what is going through our heads and before our senses is not the story of Jesus, but some other story — perhaps of a celebrity or, what is more likely, the most recent YouTube sensation. I recently read in a TIME magazine story about the CEO of YouTube that more than 400 hours of video content is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Images and videos clamor for our attention throughout the day. As earlier ages moved from orality to literacy, we may be witnessing a tectonic cultural shift to “videocy.” We may not be programmers, but we make up what we could call the “digitality”: We are people of pixels.

Studies show that Americans spend on average about five and a half hours a day with digital media of one kind or another. Apparently female students at Baylor University admit to using their cell phones about ten hours a day. Sherry Turkle has sounded the alarm in her book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. As with video games, the net effect of the new digital communications technology is deleterious on interpersonal interaction.

Turkle believes that when people become absorbed in their devices, they lose the ability to be alone and to cultivate their inner lives. Those who suffer from an impoverished inner life have more difficulty empathizing with others, perhaps because they’re oblivious to them. I’ve seen children as young as four and five totally engrossed with their video games at restaurants while their parents are busy texting on their smartphones. What used to be a shared experience has become another way to be alone together. ….

Disciples who want to follow Jesus in the 21st century need to wake up and to stay awake. One way to do this is to be aware (mindful) of the nature and effects of our new communications technologies. We need to understand what the modern communication culture is doing to us — what kind of humanity it is cultivating and what kind of spirits it is forming. Just as gaming can be addictive, so can the apps for your smartphone. Did you know, for example, that to design a good app you need not only software architects, but applied psychologists and behavioral economists too?   ……

Back to your question: How does 3D subvert the imagination? Well, imagine having a servant or a robot that would do all your physical work for you: wash the dishes, open doors, carry out the trash. After some time, your muscles would atrophy. You would lose the ability to lift things on your own. You would have less rather than more capacity.

Something similar, I think, happens in our age of special effects. Nothing is left to the imagination. Computers generate more details than the eye can process. Contrast that with the way the Bible tells stories, where there are typically gaps for the reader to fill in. Less is more: The Bible’s reticence to color in the details actually makes it more liable to be understood in a variety of different times and places. If we let an artist or filmmaker supply all the details, our imaginations begin to atrophy. It’s the difference between passive and active reading. Why is being a passive spectator detrimental to the Christian life? Let me suggest three reasons.

First, these image-making technologies contribute to what the Peruvian novelist and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa calls a “culture of spectacle.” Llosa observes that, in the past, the purpose of culture was edification: building society by civilizing one person at a time, teaching them character and values of good citizenship. In contrast, a culture of spectacle serves mainly to cure boredom: to distract and entertain. The problem with cultures of spectacle is that they fall prey to the law of diminishing returns. One has to find an ever-faster, steeper rollercoaster to keep the thrill alive. The dinosaurs have to be bigger; the destruction has to be on a grander scale. Eventually the spectacular special effects dull our senses to the marvels of the everyday. In addition, all these special effects make the ministry of the word — speaking into air — appear weak and uninteresting.

Second, well-meaning Christians who want to tell others about Jesus are tempted to use the cultural forms of the day, perhaps without asking whether the forms are suitable vehicles for the cruciform content. Think for example, of the number of cinematic retellings of biblical stories that rely on special effects (e.g., Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings). And did you know that there is a whole genre of Christian superhero comic books? Do Christians need superheroes? I don’t think so. The people in the roll call of faith (Hebrews 11) had no superpowers, only the obedience of faith.

The third and perhaps most important cause for concern is that the church’s imagination is in danger of being captured by spectacular images that owe more to contemporary culture than to Christian faith. The vocation of discipleship is learning to view our world with biblical categories and then learning to live into that reality. The challenge at present is knowing how to do that in a culture of spectacle where the special effects seem more real than everyday life and where images of the good life or worldly success (fame! riches! power! a good singing voice!) tend to colonize our imaginations and lead us to idolize them in our hearts. …..

Don’t get me wrong: Disciples need vigorous imaginations. I believe Scripture sets our imaginations free from the culture of spectacle so that we can see the world as it truly is: a good but fallen creation in which God’s kingdom is advancing in mysterious and often quite unspectacular ways. Jesus was able to convey this with simple stories: parables. What’s striking about the parables is not the special effects but the extraordinary in the ordinary. The Christian imagination is not distracted by superficial surface images (spectacle) but penetrates to the depth dimension of things. No computer-generated special effects come close to doing justice to what Paul sets out in Ephesians 1: God’s plan to unite all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). Can you imagine that? ….

Calvin called the Bible the “spectacles of faith.” If he were around today, perhaps he would say that the Bible is the “software of faith.” It’s one thing to have data, quite another to process it. As Eliot suggests, we moderns are awash in information. The question is how to process or make sense of it all. It’s so easy to lose perspective when one is subject to the tyranny of the immediate. Wretched analog thinker that I am! Who shall deliver me from the megabytes of this data (cf. Romans 7:24)?

One spiritual consequence of ignoring God’s revelation is that we lose perspective on our lives — the proverbial big picture — and with it, wisdom. Bereft of the perspective of eternity, we feel overwhelmed by temporal things and tyranny of the immediate. What is overwhelming is not only the amount of information in front of us but also the number of choices we have to make. ….

One of the problems with globalization, transportation and communications technology, and modernity in general is that these benefits also come with a cost: displacedness. Skype may make the world our oyster, but the result of our ability to talk to people anywhere in the world instantaneously, or to travel to the other side of the planet in a matter of hours, is a loss of the sense of belonging to any one particular place. Distance is no longer an impediment. That’s potentially a good thing, to be sure. But, on the other hand, our connectedness to places near and far makes it harder for any one place to feel like home. And it’s not only individuals who no longer feel as if they truly belong anywhere; our whole culture is suffering from what Oliver O’Donovan calls a “loss of a sense of place.”

What has place to do with face-to-face conversations? Everything. The local church is a community that assembles in a particular place. Our communications technology is indifferent to place: It has conquered space. We can talk instantaneously to people anywhere on the planet, or in orbit around the plant, or on the moon. The distance between things is no longer significant. Or is it?

The local church inhabits a particular place on earth. This is not insignificant. Human beings are embodied souls. Our bodies locate us: Our position is fixed. We can be physically present only at one place at a time. And that, I think, is the beginning of the answer to your question. Just as in the Lord’s Supper we celebrate the “real presence” of the body of Christ, we also celebrate our “real presence” to one another. When the believing assembly gathers, it does more than fill up empty space. No, the church as a gathered assembly says and does things that give meaning to place. A place allows persons to interact with one another.

In one sense, the most important space in a church is the space between people: that betweenness is the condition for meaningful personal interaction. There’s something sad about having to pass the peace of Christ electronically rather than by personal embrace. Face-to-face fellowship is necessary if members of a local church are to be really present to, for, and with one another. It is hard to partake of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:17) unless we are sitting at the same Table. ….

Two anxieties drive much of what we do today: status anxiety (what will people think of me?) and the newer disconnection anxiety, which is tied to FOMO (fear of missing out). Put briefly: I connect, therefore I am. The question, however, is: connect to what? I’m afraid that, for many, the answer too often is the empire of the entertainment-industrial complex. We live in what has been described as an “attention economy,” and the Sunday morning sermon seems weak in comparison to a Safari surfing session. The latter enables us to ride the waves of popular culture and opinion. The sobering question for the disciple is whether our attention is being drawn to something worthwhile.

Spectacles are ephemeral, which is why those who suffer from FOMO are always on the lookout for The Next Big Thing. Disciples who are awake to reality have their attention fixed on the only breaking news that ultimately matters; namely, the news that the kingdom of God has broken into our world in Jesus Christ. This breaking news demands our sustained attention and a wide-awake imagination.

Vanhoozer se boek kan hier bestel word: Pictures at a Theological Exibition


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  1. […] Boekbekendstelling: Discipleship in the Age of the Spectacle […]


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