Barrels of ink, digital and real, have been spilled by journalists trying to convey the gravity of the high-stakes debate on church teaching in Rome this month, as the melodrama that a closed-door Vatican gathering of some 270 churchmen almost guarantees.
The synod, as it’s called, has it all: steady leaks to the press, rumors of lavish dinners and reports of intense lobbying, plus open disagreements over doctrine. It’s a steady diet of soap opera and theology, and almost too much for any reporter to keep up with.
Which is why, if you want to know what it’s like to be a player in such an event, and in the extracurricular socializing where much of the work is done, you have to read the blog of Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge.
In a tech newsletter I read, two colleagues addressed the end of the world of the personal computer that they spent three decades mastering.
There will be no more building PCs from scratch, no more tinkering with the innards, no more fine-tuning the operating system.
“The evolution of the PC industry over the last several years has not been good to the old-school PC professional, particularly for those whose careers have been heavily hardware-oriented,” said the writer.
Many clergy and lay leaders are in exactly this position.
No, this is not some new Charlie Kauffman movie that folds in on itself, creating a perpetual feedback loop. I’m serious; Christians love Top 10 Lists.
No wonder Moses did only 10 commandments.
I noticed this recently when all of the top three most popular articles on the Sojo.net at the time were lists of this kind. So I went back and did a search of my own personal blog archive. Every one of the most popular pieces started with “10 Reasons,” or “Seven Things” or the like.
Are Christians obsessed with lists? What’s the deal?
I talked to a publisher years ago who told me that the key to a successful theology book was to include something akin to “six easy steps” in the title. I never took them up on that advice, but he knew what he was talking about. So after expending a little grey matter on the issue, I came up with this list of reasons why I think Christians love these kinds of lists:
#1. We don’t want to have to think too hard: Now, before you fire up your keyboard and rattle off a protest email, this is a broader truism across our entire culture....
What matters is human ingenuity. Allow people a window of freedom, and they will fly through it.
They will buy millions of tablet computers as escape from cramped airplane seating and being tethered to desktops. They will create homegrown social networks when Facebook goes weird with their privacy. They will abandon overpriced private colleges, avoid uninspiring suburban housing, and seek investments other than the rigged game of common stocks.
If venture capitalists exact too high a price for startup funding, entrepreneurs will turn to crowd-sourcing. While civic leaders chase yesteryear solutions like industrial parks, real job creators set up shop any old place and work around stuck politicians.
In my work with mainline Protestant churches -- perhaps the most "stuck" of any enterprise -- I see two tracks diverging.
Don't get me wrong -- I love sitting behind my computer here at Sojourners, or proofreading a stack of magazine-pages-to-be, fresh from Art Director Ed Spivey's printer. But sometimes there's no substitute for being on the scene, live and in person.
One of my heroes is Frederick Douglass. I have a list of folks whose stuff I regularly read on and read about, and Frederick Douglass is one of them. Words in today's world have grown to be an interesting sensation. I believe in the power of words via teaching, preaching, blogging, writing, etc.