Wednesday, May 24, 2006

But would "Love One Another" have made it past the spam blockers?

I like to think about technology and the ways it affects how we relate to each other, in our business and personal lives and for better or worse. It has occurred to me before that things might have been quite different 2000 years ago if St. Paul traveled with a laptop--though I'm not sure email would have been a net benefit. Sure, he would have had an easier time getting those epistles out and he might have written more often, but it's also possible he would have given less thought to each letter. And though it might have been more difficult for early Christianity to compete in the broader marketplace of ideas made possible by enhanced communications, the Howard Dean phenomenon certainly demonstrates the way the Internet can provide fertile soil for the right idea at the right time.

In a modern context, I've been interested in the way the smaller churches I've come to know in the past year use email and their websites to build community. Two emails arrived yesterday from the church I attended on Sunday, a precise demonstration of both the joy and disappointment I find there. The first was a birth announcement; a young couple who are regular attenders had a baby boy, and I was glad for them and glad to hear the news. The second was an invitation from the "Ladies Group," which will be going off together to see The Da Vinci Code, a movie I have no interest in criticizing but also no interest in seeing. I mean, why would I want to get together under the auspices of a religious organization and go see a film that got bad reviews and trashes some of our (or is it just my?) fundamental beliefs? This is a wonderful, warm, caring, and inclusive church community, but still I can't help wondering if there's enough going on there spiritually and intellectually to sustain me.

This morning, thanks to the "convenience" of the Internet, I sat at my computer in my bathrobe at 8 am and spent 45 minutes banging away in an effort to enroll in a course called Christian Ethics and Modern Society next fall at the university. Although I eventually did succeed, it took three different credit cards because things kept crashing when I was in the middle of checking out, and then when I'd get back to the payment screen I'd be informed that my payment had been rejected by the credit card company as a fraudulent duplication. I can't wait to see how many times the charge appears on my bill. The error message I liked best, though, was the one that notified me after more than half hour of working away at this that I'd been logged off the registration site due to prolonged inactivity.

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