DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Roadtrip

Written by: on April 11, 2014

Picking up this book, The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society: How Christianity Can Save Modernity From Itself by Murray Jardine, reminded me of a cross-country road trip using Google maps to plan travel from point A to point B.  Only with this trip finder rather than a direct A to B route, there are unseen ups and downs (hills and valleys) and side trips that resemble a detour more than a side trip since you aren’t quite certain when you might re-enter the original route.  There are even side trips off the side trips.  Of course when you are on a cross-country trip it helps a great deal if you start off feeling well and rested.  Since I have been fighting “something” this week, my equilibrium as been a bit off kilter, as is my sense of direction.  At times I got lost.  (There’s the disclaimer!).

Factoring in the fast pace life in industrial societies, an affluent culture with a growing and developing contingency of poverty, an absence of ecological sustainability, humankind’s ability to destroy life, and a questioning human direction Jardine asserts a societal cultural landscape in crisis.[1]  But rather than point fingers at these various directions, he asserts “that the source of this crisis is our inability to make moral sense of our scientific and technological capabilities – the very capacities that most people regard as making human progress possible.”[2]  The main highway through the book is to recover our ability to make moral sense of these capabilities.  His aim is to “recapture the original Christian ethic of unconditional love.”[3]  This unconditional love is joined with a recovered understanding of human creativity, and as humans that have received unconditional love we endeavor to be those that recognize the limits of human creativity.[4]

My trip even included an off-road excursion midway along the route.  It all began when Jardine was reflecting on the pagan concept that one’s family of origin; a person’s bloodline determined a person’s fate.[5]  On one hand this is not big deal because we recognize today that it is not necessarily so (although on the other hand in some ways it remains true[6]). However this caught my attention concerning familial fate, “It was so thoroughly entrenched in the ancient world that only the biblical tradition in any way seriously questioned it, and it took Christianity many centuries to make the idea of human equality socially effective.”[7]  I almost crashed into a rock at this point.  When it comes to “roles” within Christianity we are still along way from affirming equality.  While we wrestle with Aristotle and Greek influence upon Christian theology and praxis it seems that we have also allowed Aristotle’s perspective on happiness and virtues to relate to our perception of roles and virtues.  As Jardine explains it Aristotle sees happiness as something that is achieved as one learns and practices virtues appropriate to one’s place in the natural order.[8]  These two aspects seem to still be present, almost like a hidden thread within our organizing principles in society and as a reflection of that society in the Church.  Perhaps I am “reading” too much into the “map.”  But climbing up on a rock provided a vantage point that provided more sense.

Venturing down the road a bit (still off road, but no longer stuck) I came upon additional signage that would eventually reconnect with the main highway. For Jardine the biblical cosmology (I think of stars when I hear that word, do you?) understands the world’s reality through the spoken word.  God spoke the world into existence reflecting God’s creative source, “Thus reality is, like the spoken word, a dynamic and creative but still ordered process, with infinite but limited possibilities, spoken into existence by a speaker who is always faithful to his word.”[9]  He follows this up by reflecting upon the implication, “Since everyone speaks, humans are fundamentally equal.”[10]  In both the First Testament and the New Testament God is acknowledged as one that does not show partiality.[11] Within the biblical anthropology the orientation point is not one’s position it that we all, each one have as speakers the potential to make a contribution.[12]  This shifts the focus and provides another avenue to address the important conversations needed in our understanding of equality and roles in the Church.

Back on the main road, the concept of creator and created is one where we must hold the tension recognizing our propensity to overstep limitations or forget our responsibilities as ones created by God in God’s image.  But one we must embrace if we are to fulfill who we are as image bearers.  Humility is the posture I need to submit to and walk in if I am to hold this tension.  To see it developed and constructed in local communities (and to be invested where we are – place, vocation, and worship) it will be crucial to build capacity.  I have had several conversations in recent weeks where change was brought without the capacity to handle the change.  People were expected to adapt when their compass had been misplaced.

As Christians in community with others we have the possibility to encourage neighborhood creation.[13]  This is rubber meets the road kind of stuff.  Time, presence, and listening are essentials. Jardine gets this by highlighting significant and altering proposals including a shorter workweek.[14] But that particular proposal is not going to happen anytime soon.  So what do we do now? Perhaps we might reconsider how we “work” in the Church.  Can we restructure keeping in mind the constraints on those who participate?  How do we provide place for each person to contribute as co-creators and utilize creativity?

Just as some road trips evolve knowing that at some point you will reach your destination, this book points to the possibilities and challenges on the horizon.


            [1] Murray Jardine, The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society: How Christianity Can Save Modernity From Itself (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2004), 14.

            [2] Ibid.

            [3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 24-25.

            [5] Ibid., 147.

[6] Although we are no longer an aristocratic society, there are barriers where one’s fate is in some ways tied to their social environment, as in generational poverty.  There are “rules” both in behavior and expectation that are hidden within society and our roles that remain challenges.  

            [7] Jardine, 147.

            [8] Ibid., 153.

[9] Ibid., 182.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11

[12] Jardine, 182-183.

[13] Ibid., 262.

[14] Refer to the section 12.2 Restructuring Work, 263-269.

About the Author

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Carol McLaughlin

Carol walks this DMin journey from her locale in Gig Harbor, WA (USA). She is preparing for pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), as well as teaches in the Online Learning Community programs at GFES. Part of the DMin Leadership & Global Perspectives 4 cohort (dminlgp4) her research and dissertation focus is exploring why baby boomers leave the church and what it means for their faith development. The views expressed here are her own.

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