Friday, September 29, 2006

Christian Tribalism I: Resurgence

I recently perused the latest edition of Wired. The article, “The Rise and Fall of the Hit”, caught my attention. It was an intelligent digest of how technology has recently mutated our relatively unified cultured (via the industrial revolution) into a niche market—a market more readily designed for organization around shared interests. Technology was decentralizing the culture.

In Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves To Death, he worried that the television would be the great unifier and sustainer of mass pop culture—a culture driven by the fragmented and disjointed running images of the boob-tube instead of a culture rooted in the coherent and rationale realm of the written word. His concern was that our culture was becoming more insipid and lackadaisical in its thinking processes, being fed instead with inane sound-bytes and drowning in a sea of amusement.

Neil is correct about the sea of amusement. What Neil had not realized (at least through that book) was the coming tribalization of America--a hi-tech tribalism. Technology further facilitated rising multiculturalism and fragmentation. Age-groups dominate the social scene with the Gen Xers emailing over vast distances while their Boomer parents complain about Gen Yers who text-message. Groups geographically isolated now connected through individual and mass media to further their agendas. People no longer are American or Anglican, they are Asian-American or Green-Anglican, creating new categories of differentiation that accelerate the sub-group’s distinctions from the larger community in which it dwells.

Another name for this effect is Postmodernism. With no epistemic-center in the system of many contemporary philosophers (otherwise known as post-structuralism), and especially the lack of self-reflective thought in most Americans, balkanization in American ideology and theology was sure to follow. Technology further enhanced such an approach through the individualization of tastes: don’t like what’s on the tube? Watch your own streaming video. Finding the radio to boring? Listen to your MP3 player instead. Is the local church too humdrum? Choose your pastor on cable or online.

Thus, technology has connected people who would have otherwise been separated geographically and economically. We can talk for pennies on the dollar with those we’ve never seen and we can disseminate our views with wider audiences via blogs. Hobby-horses connect world-wide with sympathetic ears; church members follow sly blogged innuendoes instead of their own church leaders; families withdraw from local friends as they connect with those far away; ministers grow distant with their own presbyteries while bonding with outsiders. In short, we begin to fragment and tribalize.

And this modern balkanization has wormed its way into the various God-ordained spheres of life: family, church and state. It has existed in small forms over the centuries (compare Anabaptists & some Fundamentalists) and, through the help of current technology, is in resurgence today—albeit in more subtle forms.

[Next: What it Is]

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Short Review 8: Ready to Restore

Ready to Restore: The Layman’s Guide to Christian Counseling, Jay Adams

The subtitle says it all: this is an immanently useful and practical book for anyone desiring to grow as a Christian. Why do I say that?—Because we are all commanded to admonish one another in the Lord and to bare one another’s burdens (Col. 3:16; Gal. 6:1-2). This, of course, is what every good and faithful friend desires. And Adams supplies the guidelines and principles straight from the Bible for every believer’s use.

With the relatively large number of chapters and small font, this book may intimidate some and turn away others, yet Jay Adam’s irenic and simple style is conducive for a quick read—especially on a chapter-by-chapter basis. The author first starts out with the basic questions about who should counsel and what counseling actually entails (chapter 1-3); he then encourages the reader that he can and should learn to counsel (4). Chapters 5-14 are the heart of the book, expounding and explaining the details of a biblical and practical approach to counseling. The remaining chapters focus on the counselor’s own growth and any typical questions and problems one may face in a counseling situation.

Amongst the many useful aspects of this book are the twenty-five basic counseling principles (p.32), the analysis of ‘self-esteem’ and the Biblical corrective (p.55) and the simple two-fold solution to problems: helping someone out of a problem and keeping them out of the problem (p.57).

Ready to Restore is an excellent book for every believer in Christendom. In trying to teach yourself Biblical and Reformed counseling, you not only help other through their difficulties you learn to grow in Christ as well.