If you are reading this blog, you are participating in one of the most significant developments in our modern age: what scholars call the ‘network society.’ In contrast to past societies that limited associations between people to populations within single areas, we live in a world connected by mass media and telecommunications. In this world, associations between people are not limited to time, place, or location, but in fact extend far beyond historic frontiers, such that this post can be read by anyone, anywhere, at anytime.
One way of thinking about this network society is as a mass global conversation. More people are talking to more people than ever before. And these network-based conversations in effect create virtual communities, consisting of conversations between people associated indirectly through some kind of trans-local communication network.
I envision TurleyTalks as a place in cyberspace that invites all of us into a conversation, one that I hope encourages us to get involved in all kinds of organizations, associations, and networks that enrich our lives and allow our faith to socially and culturally flourish.
I began this conversation with a number of my colleagues that I organized into an email list. I requested that they email me what they considered to be the two most important issues about the church and/or society that they wanted to see addressed. These issues would form a roadmap for the content addressed over the next several months on TurleyTalks.
Needless to say, they did not disappoint.
Perhaps the most represented issue of concern was on the redefinition of marriage and the family in our time. There was utter perplexity over how quickly marriage has seemed to degenerate in contemporary culture, and a real disappointment in the modern church’s inability to stem such dramatic social degeneracy.
To that end, I wrote a series of email posts on how Christians can and in fact are winning the battle over marriage. These posts are available now in an eBook which you can get free by signing up on our e-mail list.
We discovered further that marriage is connected with the wider issue: what in fact is the church, and what precisely is the church’s role in society? When it comes to social and cultural issues such as politics, economics, education, healthcare, science, immigration, and race relations, there is a concern that our pastors span a spectrum from ambivalence on the one side to reactionary on the other. With all of the problems facing our world today, the pulpit doesn’t seem to be offering to the world anything distinctively Christian in its social and cultural vision.
Related here was a common concern for the fostering of genuine redemptive community within the shared life-world of the church. A key characteristic of the modern age has been the erosion of traditional communities (for example, note how front porches of homes have been almost universally replaced with back porches). How can the church witness authentic community relationships to an alienated age?
Another set of concerns involves the loss of a sense of sin in our secularized society, and how that loss has adversely affected the moral character of the church. Many are disturbed by the pervasiveness of political correct sensibilities in the midst of congregations, let along the wider culture. There is a real anxiety that the church is in fact being redefined increasingly in relation to secular social, cultural, and moral norms.
Finally, a number of members expressed the importance of recovering the distinctively aesthetic nature of the church. Given the aesthetic relativism inherent in the modern age, there is interest in exploring the role of Christian conceptions of beauty in shaping our imaginations and moral lives. Prominent among these concerns was the state of music and worship in the church today. In its quest to be ‘relevant,’ many are disturbed by what they perceive as a sort of pandering by the church to rather crass pop cultural trends in its music, fashion, and worship.
In our next post, I want to talk about what all of these concerns actually share in common.
In the meantime, please feel free to comment on any other topics or issues that you think represent some of the most significant challenges to the church and society today. These concerns will make up the road map for our journey ahead.
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