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.

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Letting Go and Holding On

As we take a turn towards the 22nd century, what do we “let go of” and “to what do we hold on”?
That was a question that came out of the MAKERS OF FIRE SESSION webinar yesterday.

It was asked from the perspective of faith
and so we discussed letting go of…

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  • …truths (propositional) and holding on to trust (personal)
  • …letting go of doctrines and holding on to directions
  • …letting go of cultural power and holding on to spirit
  • …letting go of certainty and holding on to faith

14 EXAMPLES

Here are some examples of things that some of us “hold onto” and some ideas about where we might be going.

HEAVEN. Not too long ago, many Christians evangelized using heaven as an incentive (at least in the Souther part of the United States). Now Christians are beginning to flip over towards an understanding that humans are not intended for heaven but for earth. (What makes this more interesting is that these same Christians warned new converts against cults like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who teach that God is making a new heaven and a new Earth. So, at least in terms of language with regard to this one idea, we should congratulate the Jehovah’s witness for leading the way!)

WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT. From the 60’s on Pagans (Yes, the religion) led the way in terms of the role of women in society and in terms of valuing the Earth. Now Christians are adopting a more “biblical” perspective on the natural world and are rereading the scriptures about the role of women. (Again, should not Christ followers applaud the Pagans for pointing us in the right direction?)

HELL. The idea of hell as a place of eternal suffering is falling out of favor and ideas like annihilationism (also maintained by the Jehovah’s witnesses) are stepping up as viable alternatives.

CHURCH. The idea of church as a sunday morning gathering plateaus and church as a path journeyed in community rises. (Yes, the “church gathering” and the mega church will be a part of the future).

CLERGY. The idea of ministry as a career plateaus and ministry as a charism and calling rises. (Yes, there will continue to be leaders whom the “community on journey together” slingshot forward to announce the gospel where needed).

EVOLUTION. Imagine a future in which every Christ following person has evolutionary frameworks for how life emerges on Earth and works out a theology from there. Welcome to the future.

ATONEMENT. Good bye to the idea that God was getting his pound of flesh on Christ. Goodbye angry God and his angry pastors. Human evil, however, is still real and invisible to secular eyes.

HUMANKIND. Good bye to the idea that humanity is the problem and hello to the idea that humanity is the goal. This is what I call, making the world human.

ORGATHETIC.  We will let go of the idea of humanity as a purely organic creature and move towards the embrace of the human-machine merger, the melding together of the organic with the synthetic, what I call the Orgathetic future.

THE RETURN OF CHRIST. What meaning will the “soon return of Christ” have in 3000AD or 4000AD? That’s pretty much the meaning in 2014AD. Alternatives include that the coming of the spirit was the return of Christ AND that the return of Christ and the end of the universe some 14 billion years in the future are one and the same thing.

THE NATURE AND ROLE OF THE SCRIPTURES. The Bible as revelation goes away and the Bible as a culturally conditioned human witness rises. There will be a factual component — the bible is a work of humans — and a faith component — the Bible is a human witness to the Acts of God within history and life experience.

GOD. The ideas of God’s transcendence  and immanence will race to the extreme edges of the spectrum. We will become more humble as we realize that our goldfish has a better chance of understanding our calculus homework than we do of understanding God. And we will become more alert as we begin to experience God more fully within everything around us. The shifts will run from Knowing God in terms of knowledge to knowing God in terms of personal experience and from theism, in the sense of a strict separation between God and everything else, to panentheism (vs pantheism), a sense of God in all things.

EARTH. As we colonize Mars, we will let go of Earth as the final destination of life and instead embrace it as the womb of life from which life spreads across the universe. We will embrace orgathetic humanity as a multi-planetary species and possibly as the launching pad for life across the galaxy.

RISK

Letting go doesn’t mean abdicating the responsibility to articulate, embody, and name the relationship of trust, the trajectories of our journey, the meaning of the spirit, and the understanding of faith, and it certainly doesn’t mean detaching ourselves from the historical source of the Christ following movement, but it does mean recognizing that we are evolving. And, in fact, evolving makes articulating, embodying, and naming … even more important. It is a risk of love we must take because we are all feeling our way forward. And we won’t get there alone. And we won’t be alone, for Christ journeys with us.

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What do you think?

“And the word was made flesh…”

On Becoming Human

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Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1.26)

Three Ideas to Ponder on Becoming Human…

There’s a saying you’ve probably heard: God’s not finished with me yet. What if that were actually true species wide? What if the creating God began in Genesis 1 is still ongoing? Perhaps the whole of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is a creation story pointing towards the goal to be accomplished far in the future: to give birth to the human. So, this short post is just a brain twister, the kind of thing I think about late at night.

Here are the three ideas:

1. We are not human yet…

To be human is an aspiration, not a present reality. Think about this word, inhumane. It means “not human like.” Why do we even have a word that expresses the negation of what we are? When a lion makes a kill, we don’t think, how inlione. That’s just not lion like. When they maul another animal, they’re acting according to their nature. But when we are inhumane, are we acting according to our nature or contradicting it? Whichever way you answer, the result  is pretty scary. We are both “human like” and “not human like.” Perhaps somewhen down the road we will actually become human.

What do you think? Chime in on our survey below.

2. Neither are we human beings

Every now and then I’ll hear someone say, we’re not human doings, we’re human beings. Probably they’re trying to emphasize our identity, the priority of who we are, over our works, the value of what we do. However, this term human being doesn’t sit well either.  We don’t have “being” in and of ourselves. We’re not immortal “beings.” The term human creature is closer. Whether you’re a theist or not, you recognize that humans had a beginning.  Whether through an act of God or through naturally occurring evolutionary forces or both,  we came into existence. We are creatures just like all the other life forms that populate the eco system.

3. We are human becomings

Still even human creature sticks a little. How can we emphasize our creatureliness and the fact that we are not yet human? We are human becomings. We had a beginning and we are on a journey towards that which we aspire to be: human. We are a story in the middle of the telling. There is value both in what we aspire to “be” and what we “do.” Both are necessary for “becoming.”

So rejoice. God is indeed not yet finished with you. And, as I’ve often said, Jesus did not come to make the world Christian. We can set our sights higher. He came to make it (and us) human.