Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Show Business, Quantification, and the American Church

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Chickadee, in my back yard
I am in the early stages of writing Technology and Spiritual Formation. I am reading, researching, and collecting.

Two important books are by Neil Postman, former professor of Culture and Communication at New York University. They are, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

As I read, I am always thinking of the American Church, which to a significant degree operates in the embrace of show business. Postman gives us "the world," the culture; Romans 12:1-2 asks us to not conform to it. 

Show business metricizes and quantifies "success." Please note: you do not have to do this. This is a relatively recent historical development. Many cultures have not looked at "success" that way. But we do. To metricize, to quantify, is the shape of "this world's mold." Mostly, Americans (to include church folk) have fully conformed to this. Metrics - this is the air we breathe.

Aristotle, for example, refused to equate truth and knowledge with numbers. Postman writes: "Indeed, to the Greeks of Aristotle's time, and for two thousand years afterward, scientific truth was best discovered and expressed by deducing the nature of things from a set of self-evident premises." (Amusing Ourselves to Death, 23)

University logic courses still teach the way of Aristotle. I know this, having taught logic at our local community college for seventeen years. I also know that, when I teach that "truth" is not a function of numbers, and hence cannot be quantified, I am speaking to students whose eyes are glazed over, having been fully captured and chained to utilitarian concepts.

We moderns embrace the "equation of truth and quantification. In this prejudice, we come astonishingly close to the mystical beliefs of Pythagoras and his followers who attempted to submit all of life to the sovereignty of numbers. Many of our psychologists, sociologists, economists and other latter-day cabalists will have numbers to tell them the truth or they will have nothing." (Ib., 23)

My two books are:

I'm working on #s 3 and 4 - hopefully out in 2019:

How God Changes the Human Heart (A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation)

Technology and Spiritual Formation

AND... I recommend two new books by two good friends: