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Should religious change be driven by technology?

Should religious change be driven by technology?

Is culture, driven to change at a breakneck speed by revolutions in technology and communications, moving so quickly that faith and religion are about to drop out of sight? Can (should?) religion in America change quickly enough to keep that from happening if it’s a real threat?

Alex Howard, a retired Episcopal priest, writing in the Pueblo Chieftain reflects on the way he believes weddings by proxy (done online with the two parties in different locations) are changing our understanding of the action of marriage. He sees a parallel movement to that in the growing tendency to have weddings solemnized outside of the church building, or without clergy and the increasing secularization of the event.

He then makes the leap to this question. (I’m not sure I follow the leap he makes, but the question is interesting.)

“I don’t have a particular ax to grind. I simply want to raise the flag of warning about the ease with which we can let technology become a god that replaces all other gods (or, in the case of the faithful, God) and thus impoverishes our lives.

Technology has its place, as does religion. Each stabilizes and enriches our life. We need to get them to work together, each for the other — not dump one for the other.”

More here.

There’s a much better discussion of this question hosted this week on the New York Times in their debate page. “Will Online Faith Communities Replace Churches?” (If you have access to the essays there, take a look).

So, is this issue a real concern? Is it more of the same concern we’ve had since communication was revolutionized by the invention of the telegraph? Should/can religious expression keep up or change?

I think you can make a good argument that a slower considered response is critical in a time of hyper-development.


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tobias haller

Few things have changed as much as marriage in Christian history, usually in response to cultural pressure. In fact, it was cultural pressure that originally got what was essentially a civil function “into” the church in the first place — and it took some centuries to do so.

As to technology, let’s not think that’s anything new. Cast metal, candles, printed books, pipe organs, sound systems (including those for the hearing impaired) — these are all human inventions, the result of technology, and yes, they changed how we worship.

Emma Pease

On the proxy marriages, I think he is making mountains out of molehills. In the US proxy marriages can happen in only 4 states and almost all seem to involve military people serving overseas (how many, I wonder, are unmarried couples where the stateside one discovers she is pregnant and the father serving overseas wants to give her and the baby to come the benefits of being legally married asap [e.g., a widow’s pension if he is killed]).

On marriages outside of churches, well where else should non-religious people get married? Or would he prefer that non-religious people such as myself mouth belief and get married in a church?

Danny Berry

Cultural changes always induce change in religion, belief systems and religious practice. After all, religion is an artifact of culture. Even the gods we worship are artifacts of culture.

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