Thursday, May 10, 2018

In the Metricized Church Size Matters More Than Love

Mushroom, in my backyard

I have a stack of books I am reading to inform myself while writing my book Technology and Spiritual Formation. This book will be stage 2, the first being the other book I am now  writing, How God Changes the Human Heart (A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation).

Two of my tech books are by former NYU Professor of Culture and Communication, Neil Postman. They are Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1986), and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (1993). As my friend Dr. Jim Devries told me, "Postman was prescient."

Reading Postman, I am learning much and some pieces are coming together, even as regards the American Church, which in many ways has surrendered to technology.

One way this has happened is the Worship of Metrics. Of Numbers. As the way to measure "success" (beware of that word, followers of Jesus!).

This has not always been the case.

For example, teachers have not always assigned numerical grades to students' work. Postman writes, "when we use such a technology to judge someone's behavior, we have done something peculiar."

Postman continues, in explanation:

"In point of fact, the first instance of grading students' papers occurred at Cambridge University in 1792 at the suggestion of a tutor named William Farish. No one knows much about William Farish; not more than a handful have ever heard of him. And yet his idea that a quantitative value should be assigned to human thoughts was a major step toward constructing a mathematical concept of reality. If a number can be given to the quality of a thought, then a number can be given to the qualities of mercy, love, hate, beauty, creativity, intelligence, even sanity itself.." (Technopoly, p. 13)

Postman doesn't think this is stupid, just strange. Odd. Odd, that one would metricize value.

Just as odd, I think, that clergy would begin to metricize Church on a Success/Failure scale. 

More than this, punishing. Worth-killing. Striving...  to up the numbers. Because in the Metricized Church size matters more than love.

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God