The e-book, the next big thing that was supposed to kill off the local bookstore, may have peaked.
As if it wasn’t chilling enough to learn that NSA cronies are poring over your web browser history, now we discover that Barack Obama sits in bed at night and listens in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone calls to Domino’s.
Okay, maybe those are a bit of a stretch, but quite a buzz has been generated as of late about the revelation that the United States does, indeed, monitor the communications of leaders from allied nations, including the cell phone activity of Chancellor Merkel. For some, the collective reaction has been more of a collective shrug, as if such impositions should be expected from a global superpower that generally prefers to maintain that status. But for others, there’s a clear sense of shock and outrage.
For starters, let's clarify: nations cannot be friends.
“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits,” wrote the psychologist William James.
I think that may be as true online as it is in real life. We tend to do things in a fairly regular pattern; log onto email first, check the news, browse social media, read blogs, get outraged.
Some days I am amazed at how much potent vitriol gets spewed all over the Internet. (Other days I’m just used to it.)
One of the strangest of online habits may be when people repeatedly get upset with the same bloggers and websites, and exclaim their feelings in the comments section and on social media. It’s as if they are going into McDonald’s every day and complaining about all the fast food that’s in there.
The upside of websites you find horrible is that you don’t have to read them.
The new movie about Steve Jobs is short on anything explicitly religious. Like its main character, however, it’s got a thread of transcendence running through it.
The truth about Jobs and religion may be that, in this arena as in others, he was ahead of the cutting edge.
The film isn’t making the purists happy, in part because it takes too many liberties with history. But it’s not a documentary. I’ll go against many of the reviews and say that Ashton Kutcher does a pretty good job at representing the personality found in Jobs’ speeches and in what has been written about Jobs — particularly in the massive authorized biography by Walter Isaacson.
One quote in that book, from one of Jobs’ old girlfriends, pretty much captures the character in the film: “He was an enlightened being who was cruel,” she told Isaacson. “That’s a strange combination.”
For our three-night sojourn in coastal Maine, far from crowds and constructive work, we stayed at a lovely bed-and-breakfast here called the Hodgdon Island Inn.
Once a sea captain’s home, it overlooks a small drawbridge to Barter’s Island. Farther along a seacoast marked by islands and coves lies the seasonally popular town of Boothbay Harbor.
I love the world of B&Bs. Each room is furnished in eclectic style, not hotel same-old. As an early riser, I like sitting by myself in a real living room with a coffee machine and wi-fi.
It’s exhilarating to realize that I’m getting more done in less time. I got up and took a walk around the church while back, feeling pretty satisfied that I had fulfilled all of my professional duties for the day. And here it was, more than an hour before I even have to go pick up the kids!
But then I had a moment beset with pangs of anxiety. Yes, at the moment I can answer emails faster with this little gadget than most people can muster a response. It puts me slightly ahead of the curve. But then I realized this advantage is only a temporary luxury. The efficiency that a new technology affords only works as long as the majority of people you come into contact with aren't yet using the same technology. Once they are, the entire conversation accelerates, and the expectations of everyone increase to at least reach the maximum limit of the new capability everyone has just recently acquired.
When it comes to mass communication, Christians do some things well and some things horribly. Here’s a breakdown:
1) The Best
Christians have been publicly speaking for thousands of years — since Old Testament times. Church culture is inundated with motivational and inspirational presentations, sermons, illustrations, speeches, and teachings. Sunday schools, youth groups, small groups, church services, camps, retreats, and conventions all have a variety of public speakers.
Christians were experts at the art of speaking before TED Talks became popular or business presentations were commonplace. People working in full-time ministry often speak in front of groups at least two or three times a week — sometimes more. They can sense when audiences are engaged or bored and have the ability to whip stadium crowds into an emotional and spiritual frenzy.
Religious extremism will not be defeated by a primarily military response.
Hear my teaching, O my people;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
That which we have heard and known,
and what our forebears have told us,
we will not hide from their children.
We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord,
and the wonderful works he has done.
He gave his decrees to Jacob
and established a law for Israel,
which he commanded them to teach their children;
That the generations to come might know,
and the children yet unborn;
that they in their turn might tell it to their children;
So that they might put their trust in God,
and not forget the deeds of God,
but keep his commandments;
And not be like their forebears,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
I'm pondering the first few lines of this Psalm. They strike me as remarkably different from much of what we're saying these days about generations and faithfulness. It is, it seems, always the younger generations who fail us, who are stubborn and do not recognize the gifts of God. Every so often someone will throw the Baby Boomers (I mean, that's fun, right?) under the bus, but the majority of our attention has been on the future generations or those who are simply young now. We who analyze religious trends are practitioners of religious prognostication.
Comparing today with yesterday is a popular yet pointless pastime.
For one thing, we rarely remember yesterday accurately. More to the point, yesterday was so, well, yesterday — different context, different players, different period in our lives, different numbers, different stages in science, commerce, and communications.
Seeking to restore the 1950s — grafting 1950s values, lifestyles, cultural politics, educational, and religious institutions — onto 2012 is nonsense. It sounds appealing, but it is delusional.
That world didn't disappear because someone stole it and now we need to get it back. It disappeared because the nation doubled in size, white people fled racial integration in city schools, and women entered the workforce en masse. It disappeared because factory jobs proliferated and then vanished, prosperity came and went, schools soared and then soured, the rich demanded far more than their fair share, overseas competitors arose, and medical advances lengthened life spans.
The comparison worth making isn't between today and yesterday. It is between today and what could be. That comparison is truly distressing, which might explain why we don't make it.