1.27.2006

A Center Lost

The word is that Google just released a custom-made search engine for the People’s Republic of China that filters out information disapproved of by the Chinese government. Topics like human rights, democracy, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama are either filtered out or redirected to articles condemning these things by the Chinese government.

Suddenly, as Andrew Carreaga at bloggedyblog says, Google has gone from being “hero to villain in a single week.” Whereas Google was once celebrated for being revolutionary (in that it makes any information available to anyone anywhere in the world), it now runs the risk of being condemned for compromising its values.

Shame on Google!

Now let me shift gears. I have a feeling that what has happened to Google is a lot like what has happened to the church in America. And the church in Europe. And probably in other parts of the world, too.

I’m reading a book right now titled, A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society, by Rodney Clapp. I’ve only finished the first two chapters, but let me give you a nutshell summary.

Clapp argues that as soon as Constantine made Christianity the state religion, Christianity changed. It went from being counter-cultural to being the controlling force of the culture. And as soon as that happened, Christianity lost its center. A compromise was made. Clapp says that "with the Constantinian shift the church decided to derive its significance through association with the identity and purposes of the state."

So now we live in what has come to be known as Christendom, a culture in which Christianity is not only the norm, but also a requirement for social advancement. Many, of course, rightly argue that Christendom is essentially at its end (i.e., we're beginning to live in a post-Christian age), but many Christians and churches still believe that the church derives"its significance through association with the identity and purposes of the state."

As a result, we have a church that is weak and ineffective in making deep changes in people's lives. The church ought to be a force for radical change in the world. Instead, the church adjusted its expectations to allow the state to continue to consider itself respectable.

And that brings us back to Google. Google has compromised. It has made adjustments that are contrary to its purpose. One Google spokesperson rationalized their decision by saying something to the effect that they'd rather provide some information to China than no information. But in doing this, Google has become an agent of the Chinese state--just as the church became the agent of the European (and eventually the American) state.

I believe the church is at a crossroad. Either it will "retrench" (to use Clapp's word) back into the seeming safety of being an agent of the state, or it will rediscover its place in culture as a real, day-to-day way of life.

5 comments:

Dustin Reynolds said...

Hey Markus, good post! Ill think about this when its daytime or something and get back to you. Have you ever read "After Christendom" by Stanely Hauerwas?

Markus Watson said...

No, I haven't read it. But Rodney Clapp, the author of this book, makes a lot of references to Hauerwas. Sounds like I'll have to read him.

Dustin Reynolds said...

Ok, so here is what I got. I do think that Christianity changed after Constantine and really set the standard for what we know as church and state. Granted we have tried to eliminate that relationship, however, it still makes itself apparent today especially when you have a President that uses Biblical references in his speeches lol. Anyway, I do wonder however where we would be had Constantine not declared Christianity the state religion. There were those who did fight against what he did such as the Donatists and the Monasticists, however, I do not know where Christianity would be without that drastic change from persecution to Christendom. The church should be a radical change agent, keeping in mind that the "state", or our leaders, have been placed there by God. This does not mean that the church should measure itself according to the "state", but rather to the measure of God's obedience. What do you think a church functioning as a radical change agent would look like?

Dustin Reynolds said...

Hey, I was wondering how you post links in the column like you have?

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