Church co-opting or innovating?

Is the church really following in the world’s tracks, trying to lick its boots? Or are we instead part of the human experience and experiement, and in many cases, at the forefront. Historically, I have to say the latter. Tom from disagrees.

Tom from tracked back on my WiFi Enabled Church post today, and I would rather comment on his trackback here on my blog, instead of going thru the process of registering on his blog in order to comment on it and receive his cookie on my computer.

Tom writes
“You know something is succesful when others try to co-opt it for religious purposes. Look at rock, hip-hop, teenage magazines, text messages, cartoons, pseudo-science and the education system. Well, wi-fi has finally had that blessing: wi-fi in church…(read more).”

I really have to disagree with him. Tom talks as if the church is chasing the world. My experience says otherwise. Take the examples he cites
Rock? influenced by gospel music and negro spirituals.
So was hip-hop.
Magazines? We made publishing them possible.
Teens? Who taught them to read?
Education system? The church started that. Along with the hospital system and some other nifty inventions that people don’t seem to have a problem with.

I find that the world is constantly trying to bless the things of the church. Examples that come to mind . . .
– Dressing in black – used to be just nuns and priests. Now its been blessed by the fashion industry.
– The word “professional” used to apply to ministers of the gospel. Later on doctors and lawyers were able to adopt the name. Now the business world has picked up the word and is staking its claim on it, along with other words that the church thought up also. (Seen the word “evangelist” recently?)
Doesn’t worry me though – i just dont see why people view the church as coming in behind on “worldly” cultural forms or inventions.

Besides that, the church has historically been at the forefront of revolutions and innovations, (Renaissance comes to mind, printing press . . need i continue?) so it would make sense that we would be players in the current revolutions that are going on.
Wifi? We use it at home. Not a big deal. I am using it right now as i write this in my bedroom. Why wouldn’t I also use it in church? Or at the coffee shop?

The big question is . . . why does it bother some people so much?

BACKBLOG – Tom came back and left a comment that shows he probably more of a fan than a critic. I responded . . . ” that journalists often take a critical posture in their reviews or articles in order to win a larger audience or to find a more objective standpoint from which to speak. . . . thanks for clariying” I think this is the case – my apologies to Tom for being too quick to judge.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • dan says:

    great points, andrew.

  • Hey Andrew, I guess I can see both viewpoints. From a historical and roots perspective, christianity has been a huge influence for ages -still is. But from a recent cultural perspective, ther are some things that are finding their way into the church – such as raves, techno etc and some are finding their way back into the church at the same rate as the world – such as gender equality in some aspects of the church.
    Not that it bothers me at all;-)
    And in yet others – like the church being a social and moral conscience,and its relationships and credibility with the media – the church is slipping.
    No, the church is not licking the boots of the world, but sometimes I just wish some aspects of the church – televengelists come to mind – kept their collective tongues in their mouths.

  • Andrew says:

    thanks dave
    you are right of course – the church has followers and leaders, people both pushing culture forward and also picking up the leftovers.
    I sometimes wish that the church was not always personified by the more backward group.
    i am part of the backward group in some areas of my life (diet near the top) and part of the early adopters and innovators at the other.
    It is true that sometimes parts of the church have an inferiority complex and boost their failing image with the things of the world – this is sad – and i wonder if this is the thing that makes unbelievers angry also – they have a high view of the church and when they see it slipping from its calling, it deflates their hopes and they speak out. rightly so.
    Regarding rave culture, many of us doing rave worship in USA in the 1990’s got bored with it and moved onto a broader usage of electronic tools for worship – we were not copying what the world was doing but were also experimenting and enjoying the technology – in fact, we felt we were pushing it into new territories by including the spiritual aspect.
    just a thought.

  • brad says:

    some good points on all sides, to which i’d add that christians (usually individuals or small groups of disciples) dedicated to specific concerns pioneered vastly more humane treatment of those with mental illness (Dorthea Dix), orphans (whats his name in England, and i can’t believe it won’t spin itself outta my brain, but there you go), abolition of slavery (Wilberforce in england and Woolman/Quakers in america), not to mention searching the garbage heaps for abandoned babies and children (mostly girls) in the days of the roman empire. also, many of the first wave feminists in the u.s. were christians.
    historically, our tribes have engaged in substantive cultural tranformation based in many social issues. this was a natural outgrowth of our spiritual roots and ethics. but i wonder if we will work on innovating, experimenting, and transforming society again in the arts, the arenas of personal morality and social ethics, and enterprise. are we going to become known for our styles, substance, or both? will we go countercultural instead of anti-cultural isolationism (more typical of the theological conservatives of the ‘residual camp’) or no-different-from-culture (more typical of the theological liberals of the ‘residual camp’)? will we reject the temptation to label everything in culture as dystopic and everything in church-imposes-the-kingdom as utopia? what will make ‘kingdom culture transformation’ in the future theologically distinctive from the residual-modernist categories of the past?
    i dunno … but those are some musings on this day where i’ve been reflecting some of the “so what’s” and “now what’s” from the meaning of Christ’s resurrection …

  • Tom Morris says:

    It was actually a commendation of wifi at church. Anything to get wifi out in to the community is something I applaud. The churches you referred to have seen precisely how wifi can benefit their congregations. I was mostly just annoyed that there were not more venues out there who offered it. It would be great if more cafes offered it as a free thing. And lecture halls (I go to lots of public lectures on philosophical topics, and it would be great if we could have the same sort of back tracking that goes on at events like ETCon and, now, in ecclesiastical settings).
    Sorry if it came over as an insult or a mockery – it certainly wasn’t meant at all maliciously, but in respectful jest. Of the religious issues I cover, it was one of my favourite stories, because it was good news – people using technology for enlightenment and greater understanding of their faith. I’d love to be able to write entries like that forever, but I see so much evil coming from people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and a very small, but very powerful vocal minority of ultraconservative Reconstructists (as well as their Muslim equivalent) who, if left unchecked, aim to create theocracies which would damage the rights of both those of no faith and those of other faiths than those of the majority.
    I commend you and all god bloggers, even the ones whom I intensly disagree with, because the voice they have is helping to highlight the opinions of the religious people who are far, far more intelligent and tolerant than the people I feel compelled to write about.

  • Andrew says:

    Thanks Tom
    that explains a lot. – I have noticed that journalists often take a critical posture in their reviews or articles in order to win a larger audience or to find a more objective standpoint from which to speak.
    I did the same thing with an article called “My Gripes About House Church”
    Thanks for clarifying — i will add this bit on to the original post.

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