How Technology Shapes Your Faith
Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith
by Shane Hipps
Zondervan (2009), 208 pages
FES Library book call number: 261.53 HIP
There are many different mediums and forms in which we can use to deliver a message. Now more than ever, we are all being challenged to be more creative with how we package our message. Church pastors are exploring different ways to engage their congregation online, many big name companies are venturing onto social media in hopes of connecting more directly with their audience; the Singapore government even utilised innovative approaches to celebrate National Day. We often assume that while the method changes, the message stays the same.
In Flickering Pixels, this assumption is challenged through the survey of different technological advancements throughout history, and how they shape society and the church. These case studies show how the method and message are inseparable.
One interesting example explored was the adoption of the writing system that shifted the church from a communal spirituality to a privatised faith. Before writing was invented, the retention and continuation of knowledge depended on storytelling within the community. When society started to read and write, the communities were no longer necessary to retain information. An individual spent more time alone. This led to certain spiritual disciplines being favoured in the church – things that were done alone and in private. This also reduced the gospel to an individual salvation, one that emphasised more on personal morality and a personal relationship with Jesus, neglecting the communal aspects.
In my own application, I see the shift between communal and individual faith when observing sung worship. Sung worship is commonly done communally, in a congregation or fellowship, where we sing praises to God as one voice. As the group is led by the worship leader, and the music fills the room, there is a feeling of solidarity and community. As technology affords us with more convenience, many fellowships, especially in smaller groups, utilise Youtube videos to lead the worship time. While the message, in this case the song and music, remains the same, the medium has changed. With eyes glued to the screen, people become less engaged with the worship. Youtube worship videos feel more like a private activity, something you listen to in your room as you surf the web. The communal experience is lost.
The ideas presented in this book invites me to be more mindful about the medium in which I give and receive information. When I want a quick summary of a certain book of the Bible, the choice between reading through the Bible – the enduring Word, or going onto Youtube to watch the Bible Project would shape the way I think and understand the passage. It is amazing to see how vastly different our communication methods vary, and how different methods both shape and are shaped by society and culture.
After establishing that the medium cannot be separated from the message, the book brings up the idea of Christians being the chosen medium for God’s message to the world. While we are familiar with the message that we are to proclaim to the world, we have also to remember that we, the medium, are too the message.
The book writes,
“We are the message, in all our hypocrisy and fear, in all our giftedness and hope, in all our brokenness and bitterness, in all our faith and love, in all our gossip and self-righteousness, in all our grace and gratitude.”
While being mindful about the mediums used when giving and receiving information, we also have to be mindful about ourselves as mediums of God’s message. While we contemplate the implications of different mediums used around us, we too should contemplate the implications of our lives, and in extension the church, being expressions of God’s message. I am now challenged to live an authentic life reflective of the grace and mercy of God.
FES Staff worker
NUS VCF Graduate 2019