Bricked: When your device breaks down to the point you are left with a paperweight.
Just six chapters into the Bible you can see God’s salvific work being accomplished through technology: Noah’s Arc. There are innumerable ways God could have saved Noah and his crew. God could have simply built them an Island, but instead Noah gets a heads-up and detailed schematics for building a giant boat. This is our first clue as to how God views technology, and it was good!
Fast forward a little bit into the Genesis narrative and you get the story we call “ The Tower of Babel”. Babel was constructed from another technological phenomenon: the brick. Bricks are superior to stones in uniformity, they are easier to produce and are more structurally sound too. Bricks and bytes share a lot in common. Bytes, little binary packets of data, are the building blocks of the digital world, the foundation on which most of our new technology is built.
“Babel” is often translated as “confused” but a more common translation is “Gate of God.” There are countless ways in which those people could have used bricks to glorify God, but instead they built a city to “reach the heavens,” a gate between themselves and God. Needless to say, God was displeased.
Jump significantly into the future to the time of the Gutenberg Bible, the in/famous tool Martin Luther used to fuel the reformation some 500 years ago. Movable type ended the monopoly the Priestly orders had on the Word of God; and if the average person could get access to a Bible, they could take communion, they could preach, how dare they! The power structures were upended and church would never be same.
An Arc, then bricks, then Bibles, now bytes. We are building our churches on shifting silicon. We are poised for another reformation, and once again technology will play a play a pivotal role. The Bible is a veritable road map for using technology (both the words and the history of its use), but are we applying those lessons to bytes?
The most common digital tool a church can use is a website, and in my experience less that half of churches have a passable one, despite their site’s key role in attracting visitors (over 70% have a site, but many of those are a detriment to the church). The decline of churches in the US has led to so many church closings that it’s now common to see an old brick church whose once grand stained-glassed windows have been replaced by more bricks in order to preserve an empty shell. They’ve been bricked.
If using technology like Babel means being bricked, then perhaps we should be listening to God and build Arc’s out of bytes instead.