Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

Third Daughters at Smashwords
Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook or Smashwords
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook or Smashwords
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Emerging or Post Christian

I have recently read Phyllis Tickle's "The Great Emergence," which of course brought a flood of thoughts into my head. First, let me talk about the book a little and then about the thoughts which is sparked.

The book is... well, light in some areas and thought-provoking in others. The book attempts to cover the last two thousand years in history, western history that is. Western history with an eye towards trends in religious thought and development. The book itself is an easy read, although her sentence structure and thought processes are a bit muddled at times. Towards the end of the book it begins to play out and the themes she creates earlier on in the book finally emerge. I am not sure if it is the best book on the subject but it is an adequate introduction. Because church history is my area of study, I felt it was lacking in some areas. I don't think she misrepresented church history, but she does not give a detailed account. OK, now to the subject of the book.

The book looks back at the last two thousand years of history and brings out a trend or cycle. Every 500 years, roughly speaking, there is an event that radically changes the face of the western world, and specifically the church. Of course we are coming up or in the midst of the next five hundred year mark and so the book attempts to flesh out current trends of the course of the next five hundred years. So here is a break down of the last four cycles:

1.0-500 Christ: the birth of Christianity which ushered in a new religion that over the next five hundred years became the dominant religion.

2. 500-1000 Holy Roman Church: with the fall of the Roman Empire and Rome itself, there was an economic, political and religious vacuum which the church was able to step in and take control of. With the birth of monasteries, western thought and culture was preserved and carried forward.

3. 1000-1500 The Great Schism: The eastern church and the western church split over theological and ideological themes. This is the when the west flourished in thought and development, especially as the crusades brought back knowledge from the east.

4. 1500- 2000: The Great Reformation: The church had become authoritarian and oppressive. Scholarship had moved beyond the church as a final authority. People, Martin Luther in particular, stood against the church, calling for reform. What happened was the creation of Protestantism and its thousands of denominations where the Bible became the final authority, not church dogma.

And now, 2000- present: What is being called The Great Emergence. What it is and who is involved, or what effects it will have over time is still unknown.

My thoughts:
This book fails to take into account the other forces that were at work in each of the epochs. Martin Luther was a success not because of his ideas alone, but because he had the backing of German princes who tired of the Church tithing them to death and the Holy Roman Empire taxing them to death. The advent of western science and shifts in technology combined with the emergence of a middle class which could rival the Nobility in wealth and power all called for a shift to occur. Martin Luther has just become the rally cry of the religious historians. But the history of that time period is much more complex.

The book does give credit to modern shifts in science, technology and world views. But when we stand so close in history to the events, it is hard to tell which events will be the hallmarks of the age and which will pass quietly into the past. Certainly tomorrow a greater event can occur that overshadows anything over the last hundred years. Or perhaps Christ will return and the whole question will be mute.

It appears that things happen every five hundred years to shake up the world and what settles out is different than what was before. That which shakes the world is hard to define. Science, technology and culture are all shifting. In the west, eastern ideas about religion, life, and death are forcing people to think differently. In the east, Christianity and western economic and political thought are forcing people to change their worldviews. And the realization that we are one people all inhabiting the same planet is having a major impact on the world. As the west moves towards post-Christian thoughts and practices, it is incorporating ideas from the east but also from science. And what is emerging is spreading that new gospel in new ways through technology. It is there in the blending that I think the next flower will blossom. I think this new epoch will emerge out of a blending of east/west, science/religion and the break down of dualism. Philosophy, theology and politics will all have to be rethought in light of new technology and new responsibility towards the whole. It is not us/them, or you/me... but rather we. This new thought will include the greater environment as part of the human being.

Another theme which is overlooked in the book is that each epoch is also ushered in with violence. That which was before does not want to change into that which is coming and so lashes out violently to stop the change. The usual response is to lash back with self defense and often violence, as well to bring in the radical change. History settles out and forgets the names and faces of the dead on both sides. Today war still rages. But how does that warfare fit into changing times and thoughts? And who is waging the war: the old stalwarts refusing to change, or the revolutionaries helping to emerge a new worldview? This is one of those moments when we stand too close in time to know what history will say in the future about today.

What will emerge will blend the threads of the current trends into a new fabric of reality that will greatly challenge and frustrate that which was. It cannot be just the continuation of what was, but must be an internal change with external consequences. And again, beccause we stand so close, it is hard to say what or who will force that change; but change is occurring.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Garbage day and economic justice

Tuesday is garbage day. Not that big of a day unless you forget to take the can to the street and it is extra full. But I also think that it is a sign of the times.



I remember as a kid garbage day was a big deal. The big white truck would roll up with two guys holding on to the back for dear life. The truck would stop at the cans: one, two or three metal cans all piled with bags, boxes and loose garbage. The men would jump off the back of the truck, toss the garbage into the back, pull a lever and press a button. Then the truck would whirl and whine and an arm would somehow push all that garbage up inside... I mean what action! and those brave men holding on to the truck as it sped down the road to the next house.



And then sometime in high school the trucks went robotic.



Now a big arm drops down, grabs the one big green plastic can and scoops it up dumping its contents straight into the top of the truck. Very smooth and efficient. And if you have more than will fit in the one can... perhaps your neighbor has a little room, or wait until next week, or wait until the city has a special clean up day.



But even all of that is not the point.



With the new fancy robotic arm trucks, the work force diminished by two thirds. Now all you need is a driver. So what happened to the two men who risked life and limb on the back of the truck? Now that we don't pay for them, do we get a discount rate on garbage pick up? No, because the city had to buy new trucks and matching cans. But certainly by now the trucks have been paid off. And there is the rub... with technology and the workplace, technology and economic growth, technology and societal development. I am not anti-technology. I just think we need to use some wisdom when it comes to incorporating technology into our lives.

The idea of introducing technology into the workplace, or society as a whole is to save time. At work, time is money. Save time to save money. Does that money saved make it down the ladder to the consumer, or just into the pocketbooks of the CEO, managers and board members? Business is business. I would hope that good business is wise business. But it appears that good business is concerned less with its workforce, its effect on society and the environment, than with profit margins. Can we have just and responsible business within capitalism?

Let us return to the garbage men. Cities are not businesses, they are people gathered together to join in creating a better place through mutual consent, work and cooperation. A city is more than just buildings, politicians and people. A city is a commune. And above all shouldn't the city be more concerned with its people then with anything else? So does laying off two thirds of the garbage men help the people in general or harm them? How do we evaluate this question? Are one hundred people out of work worth saving millions of dollars? Have those savings even really taken place? What is the long term result? Would I pay higher taxes to insure that a neighbor or myself stays employed? Perhaps not... but does the promised savings of technology really come through? Who can I ask?

Maybe, just maybe, rolling the can out to the street should not be a moment of philosophical reflection. Maybe it is just garbage day. But if I don't think these thoughts and ask these questions then who will?