The Martian

Just yesterday I went with my fam to watch The Martian. Loved it. I’ve loved this kind of science fiction from a very young age. I suspect that the future of our species is to be multi-planetary and enjoy reflecting on this.

In this interactive interview, author Andy Weir talked to IEEE Spectrum Senior Editor Stephen Cass about his book The Martian and movie adaptation.


Do we need a politically active Progressive Christianity?

To reach Millennials, do we need a politically-active, “progressive” Christianity?

That’s the advice given in two articles about reaching millennials written by a Millennial.
Sure, being a millennial does NOT make someone an expert in reaching millennials.
And yes, the titles of the articles Churches Could Fill Their Pews With Millennials If They Did Just This and Christianity Needs a Progressive Revolution) might indicate a certain naiveté.

Those of you who actually know how hard it is to “fill the pews” will be tempted to dismiss these articles. You will correctly surmise that the author, as the title suggests, thinks there is a one ingredient formula to “filling the pews” with Millenials. You know that’s too simplistic.

Others of you may dismiss it because you know  “filling the pews” with Millennial is not the goal anyway.

But, as the GOP and DNC debates and the upcoming presidential elections take center stage, it’s a political season in the USA again. And, the author seems well intentioned, good hearted, and motivated. So, let’s stop for a moment and consider this question: Do we need a politically-active Progressive Christianity in order to reach Millennials?

As the second title suggests, the author believes that Christianity needs a progressive revolution. In the USA, theologically conservative people often identify closely with politically conservative ideology. That’s often a problem.

For example, how does a religious movement that has at its core a story of immigrants — Abraham was an immigrant, Moses and Israel were immigrants, Jesus was the ultimate immigrant, and the church is instructed to migrate to the nations and is characterized as pilgrims and strangers in the world — and that is called upon to love the stranger and the foreigner not lean towards favoring immigrants?

Or, how does a faith commanded to be stewards of creation not take the world’s ecosystem seriously?

Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish the church’s message from the conservative message. In part, it’s because the American experience is seasoned with biblical influences. In part, it’s because of syncretism. We have married gospel and culture and sometimes can’t tell the difference.

The author of the article believes that, because Millennials tend towards more liberal politics, the key to reaching millennials is to create politically active progressive churches.

Is a counterpart to the religious right what we really need to reach millennials?

In the article, the author describes a bit of his experience when returning to his former church.

“…this was an LGBT-accepting church. Nobody mentioned hell or punishment, nor was abortion ever a topic. On paper, it was the perfect church for me.

I haven’t been back since that visit and don’t intend to. I still feel bad because many of the members were noticeably excited to have me as a new, younger member, but it simply did not offer what I am looking for in a church — and what I’m certain most people my age are also looking for.”

I know what you’re thinking. The author is projecting his own preferences on other Millennials. (I’m sure that Conservative and Libertarian Millenials might have different ideas about how to reach their own generation).  But let’s stay with it. Here are a couple of more excerpts to give the gist.

“The church I briefly attended … met all the criteria that someone like me should require: welcoming, friendly, not dogmatic.

So what were they missing?”

Millennials are not interested in a celestial Jesus with a permanent smile and open arms, unconcerned with the goings-on of planet Earth. We’ve heard about that Jesus our entire lives, and we’re not buying it.”

And lastly,

“Those of us that are amenable to the idea of joining a congregation want it to mean something. We want more than just a group of people to sing songs and hold hands with. Those of us that are open to such things are the same ones who are active and engaged in the world around us, which, unfortunately for mainline denominations, includes politics.”

Here’s what I’m hearing. From the point of view of the author, millennials want churches that serve the progressive agenda. If churches do this one thing, then millennials will flock back to church.

What is this church like?

It seems (from the second article, Christianity Needs a Progressive Revolution) that what the author wants is a Christian church for people like him — one that…

  • stands with Planned Parenthood (that sells baby parts for a profit)
  • rises up to silence the heroes who fight for the lives of the most vulnerable among us, namely pre-born infants,
  • limits liberty and advocates for the (failed) economic socialist/Marxist agenda, an economics fueled by envy and class hatred
  • (in keeping with the progressive agenda) will make the saying “all human lives matter” a form of hate speech, and
  • champions the “right” to indulge any individual desire regardless of its consequences to society, especially children.

In other words, he wants a church that will be as polarized as American politics. That way, he and his progressive peers will have somewhere they can go to church.

Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?

Do we really want to tie the noose of these political positions around the neck of the church? Sure, we could have created this same list reflecting “leftist” sympathies. But why? I’m not trying to be sympathetic to “leftist” intentions. I’m suggesting we should not seek to intentionally tie the message of the gospel and Christ to a political flavor. We do this too much already without intention.

In this second article, he concludes with this thought,

“What millennials want, and what Christians need, is to not be safe. Christians should be on the front lines of all of these issues and more, fighting for God’s justice. As I said before: political action is worship, and social justice is love.”

Is political action worship? Which political actions?
Is social justice love? What kind of society will this envisioned “justice” create?

I’m starting to suspect that political “leftism” or “progressivism” has become a fast growing religion. The author is here demonstrating a good strategy. He would like to conscript the church into the progressive movement. In other words, political progressives like the author want to evangelize the church to their vision of the world.

So, what do you think?

Is a politically active progressive church what is needed to reach millennials? While it’s true that the church is declining in attendance, where Millennials  are  being reached, it isn’t by progressive churches. My understanding is that, where they are being reached, it is through conservative mega-churches — far more than progressive or emerging churches.

It isn’t enough for a church to be progressive. What the author wants is a politically-active progressive church. Is this what Christianity needs? Questions that come to mind are:

  • Will a politically active progressive church reach progressive (vs conservative or libertarian) millennials?
  • Will it reach them for Christ or for the progressive agenda?
  • Is the progressive agenda the 21st century equivalent of the agenda of Christ?

But is the progressive movement really where the action is? It takes a biblical imagination to understand that the halls of political power are not the locus of God’s activity. The action is found in those times and places where the resurrected Jesus by the power of the spirit calls women and men to follow him, where the darkness is cast out and the light enters, where the power of Satan is neutralized and the power of God sets people free, reconciles enemies, and heals the broken.

Let’s disregard the fact (as the author apparently has) that politically active progressive churches aren’t setting a high bar for reaching Millennials. While I’m sure there are some outstanding examples out there, I suspect that they’re worse at reaching Millennials than conservative churches. Just look at the author’s own experience. According to him, he won’t go back to his progressive church. Churches that apply the author’s advice don’t fare well with anybody much less with Millennials.

It seems proverbial that conservative churches do better at reaching Millennials than progressive churches. It’s a suspicion I’m going to check. I also suspect that conservative Mega-churches and high-impact church plants (that are not “mega”) do better at reaching Millennials than progressive, organic churches. That’s another suspicion worth fact checking.

But reaching Millennials and having them “fill our pews” isn’t the goal anyway. It isn’t enough to ask, how do we fill our pews with Millennials?

We must ask, for what are we seeking to reach Millennials?

Even if the author’s strategy of creating “politically active” progressive churches would work, no one needs a church that gives itself to the agenda of progressive Millennials in order to fill the pews. What every Millennial (and every church) really needs is to give themselves to the way of Christ.

I think this is what the author truly wants.

What Millennials need, what we all need, is not a progressive Christianity. That would be as creepy as a traditional and conservative Christianity. What we need is a humanity shaped by the power of the spirit of Christ to engaged the challenges of an unimaginable future together.

Jesus gave us a way to understand the world and to live in it. As far as I can tell, he doesn’t point to the left or to the right when it comes to political affiliation. He points forward towards a third way. The progressive and politically activist left is not the future and the church should not tie itself to it. Any millennials a progressive church reaches will be left in the dustbins. The political right is not the future either. Not.

The church, as tied to history and culture as it is, is about the future. In it believers are called to explore the contours of a future in which Christ is Lord. It is called to be an expression of that universal future today in the particular ecosystem of present relationships called the church. It is not called to be progressive or conservative. It is called to be faithful and hopeful and truthful to Christ and willing to risk following him to wherever he is taking the world.


Building a Society with a Robot demographic

Imagine demographic studies of urban areas in the future. Might they one day include robot populations in their data?
Tokyo’s Robot Restaurant is a novelty eatery populated by robots. And, Henn-na Hotel, the world’s first hotel staffed by robots is open for business.

And now, with the introduction of RoboCab, Japan is leading the world in creating an entire society that accommodates autonomous vehicles.

Here’s a link to a 59-second video:

Earth 2.0

Scientist Declares the Discovery of Earth 2.0 is Bad News for God

We’ve recently discovered a planet that is very similar to Earth in orbit around a star very similar to our Sun. It’s truly exciting to imagine the possibility that somewhere in the universe there may be others who are both like and unlike us.

A recent Huffington Post piece titled, Earth 2.0: Bad News for God, attempts a preemptive strike against those believers who will try to “rewrite” history in order to accommodate the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. The author, Jeff Schweitzer, is a Ph.D. in marine biology and neurophysiology. Here, in his own words, is the reason he wrote this article:

“let me speculate what would happen should we ever find evidence of life beyond earth even if you think such discovery unlikely. I would like here to preempt what will certainly be a re-write of history on the part of the world’s major religions. I predict with great confidence that all will come out and say such a discovery is completely consistent with religious teachings. My goal here is to declare this as nonsense before it happens. “

Makes you smile, doesn’t it?

The article is written as a “preemptive strike” against believers who will re-write history.

Not to get too basic here but “preemptive” means an action “taken as a measure against something possible, anticipated, or feared”.

It seems the Ph.D. in marine biology and neurophysiology came riding in to save the day, but the day had already passed.

Some religions, like Mormonism, will actually be reinforced by the discovery of Earth-like planets. Most Christians I know have world-views that easily accommodate life on Earth 2.0. They’re not waiting for some anticipated discovery to reassemble their beliefs. Their view of the cosmos is already big enough for other worlds. The worldview of many believers anticipates and expects life to flourish in the universe.

In fact, the articles cited in the piece itself (the Boston Globe and Live Science) point to the fact that extraterrestrial life and religion are often compatible.  Religion already accommodates the potentiality of extraterrestrial life.


Ok, so the author didn’t know that religious people (and religions) are all over the map when it comes to belief in life elsewhere in the universe.

But he couldn’t leave it there.

He had to write the article with a narrow swath of fundamentalists in mind.

That’s why I wrote this response to the Huff Post article. My question has nothing to do with intelligent life on other planets and their impact on Earth’s religions. My question is, What would happen to religion if we discovered intelligent life on this planet? And what would happen to science too!

The reason this question comes (again) to my mind is that this article demonstrates that achieving a Ph.D. in marine biology doesn’t necessarily translate to reading and interpreting literature. Sadly, the author’s understanding of the Genesis poetry is as impoverished as the understanding of some fundamentalist believers. Perhaps even more so.

One of his main critiques is that the Genesis literature doesn’t make any reference whatsoever to the existence of life on other planets. Therefore, the Genesis literature cannot be true.

So sad.

Nothing ever written contains a menu of everything that exists.

In order to evaluate a written piece, we must attempt to uncover the purpose for which something was written. That goes for pieces in the New York Times. It goes for Genesis.

The purpose of what we write determines what we include and exclude.

That’s basic.

Both scientists, like the author of this piece, and fundamentalist believers should take a Humanities class. They would be enlightened by a course in comparative literature, or perhaps a class in poetry.


Genesis is not an inventory of the universe. It is a poetic peek into the meaning of the cosmos spoken in the words of people whose language did not contain the sounds needed to describe what they experienced in the wild.  I know you think that because you have a few new sounds which the ancients did not, you see more. But because of the way you approach this literature, you see even less.

Fundamentalist believers, same to you.

The Genesis community wrestled with the same questions that challenge us today. They hungered and thirsted for meaning. The discovery of Earth 2.o and the potential of life elsewhere in the universe doesn’t quench this thirst. It exacerbates it.

This is not bad news for God or religion because they’re not the issue here. It’s more basic than that.

The issue is us. The author of this piece sought to make a preemptive strike against religion and God, but it’s we who thirst to discover (or invent) meaning in the universe. We are the ones who interpret and reinterpret. We are the ones who are evolving and growing in our understanding of things. And as we invent new sounds (i.e. words) to describe what we see, it allows a little more light into the darkened lens through which we glimpse at God.


Smile: the humanizing power of technology

Technology is an extension of the hands of man.*

We fight with our fists and by extension with bombs. We heal with our hands and by extension with scalpels. With fire we warm our homes and we burn villages.

The power of humankind to hurt and to help are magnified by the technology we create.  It extends our reach.

Recently, Listerine commissioned the creation of an app that allows the blind to “see” a smile. This is an example of how technology amplifies our humanity. And this is just the beginning.

Kudos to Listerine. Sure, it’s marketing. But isn’t it an advance when corporations, who are rightly motivated by profit, tap into the best of what makes us human rather than the most vulgar and vile? Love this.

Imagine: What might a future in which technology makes us more human look like?

*For more thoughts on the “new trinity” — biology, culture, technology — see Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future by Alex McManus.

two people biking

The Future of Getting Around

tumblr_m6lkibTTQW1qbt5xfI have two recent articles in mind.

The first is from TechCrunch titled, Baby We Won’t Drive Our Cars: the future of automotive transportation. The title begs to be sung to the melody of “Drive My Car” by the Beatles.

The second is from IMN Horizon Scanner, Nic Nelson, titled, Dethroning the King of Los Angeles: the ebb of car culture.

The two together are great fodder for beginning to imagine the city of 2035.

What if, as Nic’s find suggests, major cities like Los Angeles reduce! the number of traffic lanes. What if we were to degrade the capacity of our highways in order to allow the growth of pedestrian and bicycle traffic?

Or, what if the automated car, as suggested in the Techcrunch article, dominates the future?

Imagine how an automated car (that is not dependent on fuel) might change our future landscape. Here are some thoughts. (It should go without saying for regular readers, these are not predictions…the future cannot be predicted. These are ideas to get the imagination going and to increase your personal and organization mental elasticity.)

  • Gas Stations go away.
  • Parking lots become unnecessary.
  • Homes no longer need garages.
  • Highways shrink.
  • Better air quality.
  • Cities reorganize into multiple micro-hubs.
  • More bicycles.
  • A thinner, healthier population.
  • Fewer highway deaths.
  • Fewer ambulances and highway patrol.
  • Highway adjacent property loses its value.

And the question is, of course, and what else happens because these things happen? What if, rather than a dark and dystopian “Blade Runner” style urban future, the future were greener, healthier, brighter? What are other possibilities for 2035 if we found ways to change the way we all get around?



Robot Therapist: Jobs in 2050


In the 20th century we called the Cable guy. In the 21st century, it will be the Robot Therapist. The Robot Therapist is the guy or gal who makes sure your domestic AI is feeling up to snuff.

In the last 12 months, the IMN horizon scanners have “spotted” and introduced to you the “cutting edge” of robotics.

If by 2050 robots will carry a heavy load of responsibility around the house, what job opportunities might this present for humans?

(Note: I want to be sure to recognize and give proper credit to the Inspired Minds Initiative. Along with IMN findings, we’re going to use their Careers2030 findings as fodder for our brainstorming and Ideating here.)

Given our aging population, robots will assist in elderly care. Their responsibilities will range from home security to cooking and cleaning. As some of our most vulnerable citizens become increasingly dependent on robots, maintenance and repair of these indispensable machines will become super important. That means that making sure our domestic AI is functioning properly may be a highly demanded future occupation and potential new business opportunity… for humans. Until the robots take over that job too anyway.


Check out the IMN Trend Spotting:

For Technology trend spotting 
For Society trend spotting