Ants Marching (A Confession)

I’m continuing to share words on the effect of the market on Christianity. Read here, then swing on over to Amber’s for her series on revolution.

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I can see the future.

In the future, we run like ants from sucker stem to sucker stem, suck the sweet from every last discardable ideology. We pile atop each other, voraciously claw for our bit of sugar. I’m atop you; you’re atop me; we’re scratching and clawing to claim the very last speck of what’s useful, and in so doing, we claw each other to the death.

In the future, we’ve forgotten the deep well of intimacy, have traded it for a more white-washed kind. In the media, we call each other “friend,” or “brother,” which is, in all reality, our means of telling the watching world that we know each other. We are connected by this shared artifice, but I have never met your children and you have never met mine. You do not know whether I’m a good father, much less a serial killer who uses holy jargon for my own means. In the future, feigned intimacy is more a means of advancing platforms than a means for genuine human connection.

In the future, we’ve made the things of God fashionable. We’ve packaged love, mercy, and faith into a few quotable characters so that the masses know we care. We splash these talking points across the internet and claim that talking about Christian ideals is the same thing as living them. We grab a buck from the charity bucket on our way off the platform–it’s an administrative fee, we say. We call it good; duty done, we go back to buying baubles. We’ve lost the common beating of hearts.

There churches of the future have monster platforms built by commercial construction crews. The platforms rest under a network of jumbotrons, but it’s not what you think. The construction crews work more in the digital realm than they do in the tangible, and the jumbotrons comprise the millions of computer screens watched by the congregants in the isolation of their own homes. Words like “revolutionary,” and “movement,” are associated with the church, though most movement occurs with a mouse click and the typing of keys on a keyboard, and “revolutionary” pertains more to market building than overturning tables.

We’re all plugged into the marketing machine in the future; we broadcast every Coca-Cola moment, every time we blow our nose with Kleenex. We have traded the taste for eternity with the acquired taste of the temporal. More, more, more: money, followers, digital real estate, sex. We’re always looking for the instant orgasmic.

I can see the future because I can see the past, am seeing the present. What we’ve done, we’ll do again, and we’ll do it with more and more gusto. The trajectory has been set. By definition, a trajectory  is “the path followed by… an object moving under the action of given forces.” The forces that compel us now will keep compelling us unless, of course, we meet an immovable object–perhaps, say, the mountain of Zion?

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I’ve been reading Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God by Marva J. Dawn. She touches on some of these trends, recognizes them as products of the “powers” (both spiritual and worldly) influencing the life of the church. She writes:

[t]here is too much subjectivism to recognize our need for substantive doctrinal foundation, too much sexual pleasure and too many internetted multi-relationships to distract us from our need for genuine fellowship, too much luxury to enjoy a simple feast of bread and wine, too much politics to be engaged in to pray, too much technology by which to be dazzled, too much mammon to be gained, too many other gods to waste our time worshipping the crucified Christ–in short, too many competing powers for people to realize that what they long for most of all is to worship God and to be weak so that [the indwelling of God] could ensue.

I am a product of my culture. There’s no denying it. I am a distracted fellow, a man who might opt for the virtual-shallow over the present-deep. Perhaps I elevate the powers because of my own fear of weakness. Perhaps I’m afraid to be poor, unknown, or irrelevant.

This is a sort of confession, but it’s a sort of prayer too.

A blind man once screeched like a raven to the passing Jesus–“Son of David, have mercy on me!” I figure we’d better start taking up the raven’s song.

 

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  • I’ll join the raven and add an “amen”.

    • sethhaines

      Thanks for joining, Rebekah.

  • This: “I am a distracted fellow, a man who might opt for the virtual-shallow over the present-deep.”

    Aren’t we all afraid of irrelevance? Of disappearing the moment we stop feeding the machine? And worse, afraid of facing the deep of our own real-time lives?

    I see it in myself more than in anyone, and posts like this one of yours touch right to the heart of my struggle. This is not the future I want either.

    • sethhaines

      You better believe I’m afraid of irrelevance. It’s as if I wish I could create an eternal me, a me that goes on forever in the hearts and minds of people who are, themselves, only temporary. It’s a weird way of wanting to go on, I think.
      Thank you Bethany for stopping in.

  • This whole thing makes me queasy, Seth. And this? ” We’re all plugged into the marketing machine in the future; we broadcast every Coca-Cola moment, every time we blow our nose with Kleenex. We have traded the taste for eternity with the acquired taste of the temporal. More, more, more: money, followers, digital real estate, sex. We’re always looking for the instant orgasmic.”

    Positively disturbing in it’s near-reality. I feel dirty. Create in me a clean heart, oh God. Renew a right spirit within me.

    • sethhaines

      Feel dirty? You and me both, sister.

  • HisFireFly

    have mercy indeed
    your words are stark, chilling
    and far too true
    Jesus help us

    • sethhaines

      Yes.

  • Seth – I think you have seen the “now” and it’s hard to know how to solve the problem when I AM the problem, or at least part of it. Thanks for the difficult diagnosis.

    • sethhaines

      The problem… I’m afraid sometimes that the roots run too deep. I’m not sure how to get it out. You know?