The Digital Age - The spirit of an age.
The way in which the eyes of the world see all things change with the spirit of an age. The spirit of God is eternal. The will of God, the words and ways of Christ, are an unchanging melody of love, and should not be affected by the color of the lens through which the world views all things. The world around us can change much or little, and yet with a proper devotion and depth of faith, our walk should waver little. Yet, as concerns the world, it is appropriate to use the tools that are born of that age, as long as they remain useful in the execution of our work, but so long as we do not become attached to those things, or that those tools and creatures themselves do not enforce or affect any change on our overall doctrine of Love. Such attachments to the devices and vices of this world give birth to sorrow. When we allow the spirit of an age to have sway on the way of the spirit in which we dwell, then we effectively allow the social currents and political demands to impact the way of our word and will, which should be God’s alone. In this we have lost the spirit of our faith, and also our faith in the true Spirit of God. We must live in the world, but not of the world. If we allow the spirit of the Church to conform to the spirit of an age, then truly we are no longer a part of the right spirit. This is something that should be taken into careful consideration for all things.
What is the spirit of the age in which we live?
We live in a digital world, the information age as our age is commonly coming to be known. Almost every aspect of everyday life is in some way connected to the myriad devices comprising the internet of things. The whole world is connected to, and runs through, the digital information highways of the internet. It is the Appian Way of the 21st century, so to speak, and is the modern means by which information traverses the globe. Oratory has been replaced by chat rooms, social media, and texting; the understanding of philosophy (and theology) has been replaced with the readily available information through the ubiquitous Google search. Yet, this has introduced the issues and dangers of an internet assembled theology and understanding, which is one reason it is so important to ensure that truth exists out there for others to find. So, how is this understanding relevant to the common Orthodox phrase used by many, “come and see,” in relation to those seeking the Truth of Orthodoxy?
First we must understand that our networked society is a result of this digital evolution of our information age. This has lead to a number of societal and cultural changes across the globe. One such change "is the rise of the “Me-centered society,” marked by an increased focus on individual growth and a decline in community understood in terms of space, work, family, and ascription in general. But individuation does not mean isolation, or the end of community. Instead, social relationships are being reconstructed on the basis of individual interests, values, and projects. Community is formed through individuals’ quests for like-minded people in a process that combines online interaction with offline interaction, cyberspace, and the local space."1 This is perhaps the reason that many mainline and commercialized churches have allowed or succumbed to liberal ideologies, done so in an effort to become relevant to those "communities" or social identity groups in order to remain relevant to the new societal dynamic in which they live.
The internet does not isolate people, but increases their sociability. "Sociability is reconstructed as networked individualism and community through a quest for like-minded individuals in a process that combines online interaction with offline interaction, cyberspace and the local space" 2 So, the relevance and effectiveness of our sociability as both the Church and individual clergy in this modern information age requires our personality and presence to exist, on the local and personal level, as well as the networked society across cyber space.
The Orthodox Church, as we all know, is very slow to make change, and to catch up with the rest of the world. We live in the world, but not of it. Yet, even the Apostles made great and effective use of the tools of the age towards the advancement of the Gospel, and the propagation of Truth. So, likewise should we strive to do the same with those tools available to use today in this information age. We cannot hope to reach the spirit of men if we do not first pierce through the spirit of this age with the selfsame tools it has provided to us. Those who are looking for us will find us, as long as we allow ourselves to be found. Yet, we will never reach those who are not looking for us, for they do not know what they are looking for, nor can they look for something they are not aware even exists. We know they are looking for Truth, as most people are, but that will never be seen if we do not show them, and we cannot show them this Truth if we are not properly connected with the society in which we live.
The Church must step up to exist in both “planes” in which our society exists, locally, and the networked community of cyberspace. The internet is the New Appian Way, so we must work to make use of this road, and venture forth like the Apostles once did on the Roman roads of two thousand years ago.
1 - Manuel Castells, "The Impact of the Internet on Society: A Global Perspective" BBVA September 8, 2014. https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/
2 - Ibid.
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